I have mentioned in a previous article about the class I took at my church (W.I.L.D. – Women In Leadership Development); and, that one of the projects we had was to give a short speech to the group. The title of this article is what I wrote and spoke on. It is actually what lit the fire in me to pick up my writing again and inspired me to start this blog. I decided I wanted to expand on it so that I could share it with you as part of my life story.
God had dropped the words of the title into my heart during my prayer time one morning. I jotted it down and it became the focus of what I wanted to share with the class. It caused me to think back to who I was in the past vs. who I am now. I am sure that like me, you are all aware about how everything we go through in our lives – good and bad – help to make us the people we become.
So, I am going to go back to early in my life to start my story. As I was growing up, we were not a church-going family – it was pretty much a “go to church on Easter” kind of thing. I have seen pictures of my Mom, Dad and I when I was young, dressed up in our Sunday best ready to go to church on those rare days. My Mom told me about a couple of things that I did at church and maybe this is why they did not take me more often. She said that one time when the offering plate went by I thought I was supposed to take money out of it and was very verbally upset when I was not allowed to do so and had to return what I had removed. Also, the church we attended had a huge mural of Jesus painted on the wall behind where the pastor stood. The seating was the theater-type cushioned seats with the fold up bottoms. They had left my seat up and sat me on it so I was taller and could see everything better. That was probably their first mistake, because when I spotted that mural I said in a “whisper voice” (you know, the kind that only a young child can use) while pointing at the mural, “When is the movie going to start?” I share all this to say that I did not have a “religious” upbringing.
When we moved from Lubbock, Texas to a small West Texas town the summer I turned 7, we rented a house just a block or two from a large denominational church. For some unknown reason, I was drawn to that church. Given our church attendance history, I do not even know how I knew anything about it at all; but, I asked my parents if I could go there and they allowed me to walk up there and back home alone for Sunday school each week. After a while of attending there, I asked if they would take me to a different church (another large denominational church) where I knew some of my friends went and they agreed. They would drive me up there and drop me off for Sunday school and pick me up afterward. Again, after a while, I did not want to attend there any longer. So, I asked if they would take me instead to the Methodist church where other friends went and once again they agreed. This one felt like home and I went to Sunday school every week. Eventually as I got a bit older I started attending the church services as well.
The summer when I was 9 years old I went on a church retreat and there around a campfire one evening, I had an encounter with God. I likely did not have a deep understanding of what had happened to me at that time, but my love for and my interest in church increased.
In my article last week celebrating my Dad, I told about how at the age of 13 I was baptized and became a member of that Methodist church and I was active in all of the youth group activities during my high school years. Something that I do not understand to this day, for some unexplained reason, I obviously had an early connection to God with no real guidance from adults.
After graduating from high school, I returned to Lubbock for college and I did not attend church except when I would go home on the weekends. After one year of college I got an apartment with a friend and a job there in Lubbock and still was not attending church.
At the age of 20 I got married. My husband was serving in the Navy and we were stationed in Jacksonville, FL. When he got out a couple of years later I was 7 months pregnant with our first child. We relocated to Amarillo, TX and after the birth of our daughter we started attending church regularly. Our son was born almost 6 ½ years after our daughter, so both of them were raised in the church. We were very active, attending Sunday school and church weekly. We were involved in a weekly Bible study group and also worked with the teenagers. We were faithful to the church all our married years, which is really pretty phenomenal considering that there was a dark side to our life.
My husband was a habitual cheater – starting about 3 years into our marriage. It was devastating to me each and every time it happened. I have been asked more than once why I stayed with him. My best answer was that at that time, divorce was not as easy to get as it is now and was not as socially acceptable. Plus, the idea of being alone trying to raise a child/children was scary. Of course, as is so often the case in situations like that, I totally blamed myself, thinking it had to be my fault, something was wrong with me. So I tried harder to be a “good wife”, sucked it up and basically just enabled his bad behavior by keeping it a secret from everyone. (I was too ashamed to tell any family or friends.)
At one point when we were working on things between his “escapades,” I sensed God telling me that we were going to have a ministry to couples that were dealing with infidelity issues. This gave me hope that my husband’s behavior was going to change and our lives would be better. However, his behavior did not change. So after staying in the marriage for over 31 years I had had enough and chose to get out of it. I divorced him. Then I got very angry at God – wanting to know why had He not changed my husband; and, what about the ministry we were supposed to have? Etc. You get the picture.
I tried to get back into church but found it to be so emotionally upsetting that I walked away from it. When I did attend, I would see couples together and my heart would break. Many times I would cry all the way from the church doors after the service until I got home where I could just collapse in the floor and weep. It took a long time for me to get back into church without it causing me great distress. However, I finally made it through that; and, thank goodness, God loves us even when we shout at Him, turn our backs on him and shake our fists in anger. When I allowed Him to, He would comfort me in a way that no human could.
At one point when I was studying my Bible some verses jumped off the page at me and in my spirit I felt that it was expressing at least part of my purpose in life. Paul in speaking to the church at Corinth talks to them about the God of comfort – 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (Living Bible) says: “What a wonderful God we have – He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the source of every mercy, and the one who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and trials. And why does He do this? So that when others are troubled, needing our sympathy and encouragement, we can pass on to them this same help and comfort God has given us. You can be sure that the more we undergo sufferings for Christ, the more He will shower us with His comfort and encouragement. We are in deep trouble for bringing you God’s comfort and salvation. But in our trouble God had comforted us – and this, too, to help you: to show you from our personal experience how God will tenderly comfort you when you undergo these same sufferings. He will give you the strength to endure.”
I have now been divorced for over 20 years and to put it mildly, it has been a challenge. I have had some major relationship failures during this time that caused me substantial pain. But I did not give up on God and He did not give up on me. Through the pain God helped me grow as a Christian, helped me love myself like I should and brought me out the other side a better person – a stronger woman. It helped me to become someone capable of relating to others going through the same painful life experiences and able to empathize and counsel with them.
I am definitely at the point in my life that I no longer want to look back, allowing the past to negatively affect me – I want to move forward to my God-ordained destiny.
“When looking back doesn’t interest you anymore, you’re doing something right.” (Author unknown)
“My past failures does not define me…God used them to prepare me for my destiny.” (My friend, Pastor Leta McDowell)
So now, as a Sassy Single Senior, my passion is to be the best person I can be, loving my Savior, enjoying life, living it to the fullest, having fun while I do it and hopefully helping others do the same.
I Am Becoming Who I Am Because Of Who I Was!
Written by Karran Martin
October 12, 2018