Monday, May 3, 2010

Amazing Love

This is a story of God's amazing love. I promise you it's true and told to the best of my ability. It's about a woman, who started out as a girl "from the wrong side of the tracks". Her family was poor but in a weird sort of way. Her parents had consciously chosen welfare as their means for supporting their family, with growing and selling marijuana as their "side job". Her dad said it was because he wanted to be there for his children (instead of out working and not being around). I don't know for sure but my guess is it had more to do with her parent's drug addiction than his desire to be with his children BUT one never knows the heart of another person or their true motivation and I am in no position to judge. So the girl's parents were home alot, staring out the big picture window in their rented home, pondering life while under the influence of various types of drugs. In some ways they appeared to be a completely normal family. The kids had chores (the girl had one younger sibling), the family had meals together every day, and there were very few incidents involving guns. I say that to lighten the mood a little, but it's true. The family lived in a small town, in Midwest USA, and their life wasn't like you picture when you hear of urban families involved in drugs. There weren't thugs driving by and shooting up the house or strung out druggies lying around - at least not most of the time. If you didn't know the family, things might appear semi-normal. Since they lived in a small town though, the community knew and the kids were often reminded that they did.

What was common in this girl's house that you hear alot about with families involved in drugs was abuse. The girl had been raped as a child, her sibling was almost molested in the town they lived in by a store owner's son, and sexual depravity was a part of every day life. There was also physical abuse. The girl's sibling was mentally handicapped and often was the brunt of the rage inside her parents that they tried to keep at bay with the drugs. (they too had seen their share of the worst of human behavior before becoming parents) As a result the girl and her sibling grew up as you might expect. The girl was promiscuous and repeatedly abused sexually and mentally by different men and the sibling became a rageful addict. It's a sad, sad story but I won't leave you there. I promise there will be a happy ending because I wouldn't be telling it unless there was. I love happy endings! BUT, I have to warn you that the tough stuff isn't over yet.

The first big turning point in the life of this family came when the girl was about to go into high school. One of her parents "customers" threatened to turn them into the police for a deal gone bad. At this time, her parents were growing marijuana in their basement and in a farmer's field a few miles from their house. There was a very frantic purging of the illegal plants from the home and by the grace of God, the parents quit the pot and pills. I think that's amazing. It's completely logical to imagine them disposing of their stash, but to quit drugs altogether is a bit of a miracle. Years and years of use and abuse ended in a moment that shook them at their core. I never asked the girl's parents what they were thinking or why this particular incident was any different than any other scary thing they had been a part of while involved with drugs, but somehow it changed everything.

After they got out of the "business" and quit using, the girl's mom got her GED and enrolled in college. Her dad also got his GED and eventually enrolled in college. Everyone was on their way to changed lives. But that doesn't happen over night and for the kids, a foundation had been laid that was not going to be changed without some big time intervention. The girl was to graduate high school the year her mom graduated from college. She got pregnant the summer between her junior and senior years and graduated before her mom. The father of her child abandoned them and she raised him as a single parent for many years. I know that she was always grateful that something inside her wanted a different life for herself and her child. It drove her to enroll in college shortly after graduating, it drove her to take 2 jobs most times, it drove her to get out of bed when she didn't feel she could. She wanted everything from her past to end with her. She was resolute that the legacy they would leave was going to be different and that came from deep inside her. I don't know what you call it, but I call that God.

It would be so neat if everything was perfect from that point on and there was no more hurt. Unfortunately, because we're all human and because there was no God in their lives, there would be more destruction. In college she dated someone and found out after the relationship ended that she was pregnant. Abortion seemed completely logical. She couldn't imagine raising another child alone. In case you don't know anyone who has ever had an abortion, it kills the child (physically) and the mother (spiritually and emotionally). Her self-esteem went from bad to worse. Thoughts of suicide were a persistent companion, as well as depression and self-loathing. She'll tell you that she believes the birth of her first child was a gift from God for many reasons, among them being a reason to keep on living. She was completely lost. Thinking that no one would want her with a child and a past, she settled when she met a man who paid attention to her in college. He was a muslim man from Pakistan and he showed her things she'd never seen before. He also used and abused her. She got pregnant after they married and this time it wasn't ok with her to consider an abortion. Even though she wasn't fully aware of what the effects of the first abortion had been on her, she didn't believe it was right to abort while she was married. There were two parents now! Her "husband" threatened to leave her and run to Pakistan if she didn't terminate the pregnancy. She asked to visit with his parents, hoping to get their support. What she hoped to accomplish quickly met reality. There was no support as the mother had had two abortions previously. Apparently in their country, abortion was an acceptable form of birth control. She was now probably in worse shape with her life than she had been the previous two times she had been pregnant and she didn't believe she'd survive a second child alone. The abortion clinic was marginally helpful in that they required her husband to leave the room when she broke down saying she didn't want to go through with the procedure and he continued to berate her. Alone in the room, crying, she didn't know at that time where her true hope could come from. She tried calling her parents and there was no answer. They were her last life line. She needed someone to say "it's ok" and "we'll help you" and "we'll do this together". There was no one else she knew to turn to and so ended the life of baby number 2.

It took a couple years for the end of that relationship to come. They lived in separate places and he used her for sex and she'd negotiate for things she needed. It was pretty much prostitution without the ugly face of actively soliciting oneself on the street with whomever would pay. And one day the Light came into her life and she was ready and she heard His voice.

Her child was watching television and she was laying on his bed in the room adjacent to the living room. She was in a deep depression. By now the episodes could last up to a month where she could barely get up. Thank God she had an uncle who lived nearby who gave her work in his business because she couldn't keep a job elsewhere. And thank God her son had school to go to and friends with "normal" parents. They lived in what was called "the slums" which was actually just the building they lived in. There really weren't any other slums. It was a very nice suburb of the largest city in the state and she would've sold a kidney to give her child a fighting chance. And on this day, laying in her son's bed, probably pondering what they could do that day, a voice in her head said "take your son for a ride". It wasn't an audible voice - no one outside of her head could hear it I'm sure, but it was very clear and it definitely wasn't her own. It was more masculine and had authority. She didn't make too much of it, except to note that it was a good idea and she decided to take him for a ride and of course it was a very good choice. That was the beginning of her relationship with the living God.

Lots of things started happening for them and life was turning a wonderful corner. She started keeping a journal of all the things she was grateful for and this one habit would keep her from and pull her out of depressive episodes until the day the Lord delivered her from it once and for all. She and her son were invited to attend church with the family of one of her son's friends and they became regular attenders. She was not sure about this Jesus who was said to be the son of God who came to die for our sins, but she was sure there was a God now and she knew He cared for them. She also knew He was involved in their lives and she began praying to him. She desired to know him, she desired to do good and sometimes she was able. She pulled out the old King James Bible that she had acquired from some place and occassionally would read it, looking for answers.

About a year into her newfound faith she and her son moved to a different state to live with a guy she had met and was dating and thought she may marry someday. It would be lovely if the moment we let God in, we could stop sinning but that is not the reality of fallen human nature. The relationship didn't last but it didn't matter. It was the vehicle that brought her and her son to where God wanted them. In their new city, far away from her past and her loved ones (all of which had a pretty antogonist view of the existence of a Creator) she would come to know the One who brings sight to the blind, hope to the hopeless, love to the broken hearted and redemption. They were getting a new life - in the physical and in the spiritual.

After the end of the relationship that brought them to the new city, she decided it was time for therapy. She knew that the coming and going of different men into her son's life was not healthy for him and she wanted that to stop and she couldn't do it alone. It was another life altering, path changing event. Her belief in and reliance upon God became more solidly grounded and she gained some very valuable life skills. She didn't date in therapy and for a few months afterward. That was the first time in her life she was alone and living for something other than the affection of a man.

During this time, they also found a church to become part of. They visited alot of churches and saw things they'd never seen. People were alive and loving the Lord - singing praises to Him at the top of their voices and being very demonstrative in their worship of Him. The music was good and she didn't fall asleep during the sermon one time! In the town where she grew up there were two flavors for church - vanilla and more vanilla (quite traditional Catholic and Lutheran). Even though her family did not attend church when she was a child, she would go with friends from time to time. In this place, church was really cool and it made learning about God fun. Funny thing is, she eventually settled on a Lutheran church with just a little more edge. I guess old habits die hard.

It would be good enough if the story ended there. We have a happy ending, complete with a good, solid, changed life and hopefully a new future for her son. But our God is so much BIGGER than a good life. He is our REDEEMER. Eventually she did find a man who truly loved her and her son and whom she married. She came to know about "this Jesus" and accepted His gift of reconciliation to God through His death on the cross. Her son had an earthly father who loved him through some difficult years as a teenager and they had a baby together. Can you imagine? They live a very good life and in all ways of the material world, they believe they "have it all". Their story together is still unfolding but if the past is any indication of the future and what they know of God, it's going to be an amazing ride!

If you're like me, you want to know how her sibling is doing. He too had challenges. I wish I had as much good to report but he still struggles. His handicaps make processing information more difficult but He is in God's hands and we know that's where he needs to be.

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