Like most high school senior girls I’d prepared for prom months before it ever happened. After hours of shopping, I found the perfect, off the shoulders, electric blue, Jessica Mclintock dress.
After spending most of the day in the sun with Sun-In in my hair I’d transformed myself into a sun-kissed blonde. I put on my dress and walked into the prom with the perfect date, the man who is now my husband, by my side. For a few hours, it felt like I was living in a dream. Later, gathered around the tables my graduating class laughed heartily as we listened to made up stories of what our lives might be like ten years into the future at our high school reunion. As you can imagine, they were wildly exaggerated stories based on who we’d like to become. I still remember the story about me. I’d be the next Stephen King arriving at our ten year reunion in a stretch limousine.
I remember thinking that night how amazing it’d be for that to happen. For most of my life, I’d been dreaming of rising above the circumstances in my life and one day becoming a successful person that everyone liked and respected. It was dreams like this that kept me going and getting through life’s disappointments.
I learned as I grew older to have more realistic dreams like ones of a nice home and kids and a good church to attend. I imagined myself being a good mom to my kids. I hoped for them to live a life without all the traumas I’d had to live with. I wanted to be happy just being their Mom and my husband’s wife.
In my thirties, I did what I set out to do. We built a beautiful cabin with a wrap around porch where you could watch the sun rise from the back porch and set from the front and filled it with three lively children. I can still imagine the sound of their feet running around the porch like it was yesterday. Sometimes when the sadness is more than I can bear, I’d give anything to have those moments back again and a chance at a do over. But the reality is I can’t.
There are so many things I’d do differently now if I knew then what I know now. I’d have seen a real counselor. I’d have gone to another church. I’d have asked my husband to go to marriage counseling. I’d have stopped living in denial that everything was fine when it wasn’t. I’d have spoken up more about the things I didn’t like. But I didn’t know then what I know now. I thought what I was doing was right. I truly believed meeting with my pastor that day was going to help me get better.
But then bad things happened and all I felt was shame and the need to hold it all together so no one would know what I’d done. There was no going back to being the good wife and mother I’d believed I was. No way to undo what I’d become. So I covered it up and over compensated at home putting myself under constant pressure to keep everyone happy so they wouldn’t suspect what I’d been doing. Deep inside I was just learning to hate myself more.
But then one day, ten years after I’d first met my abusive pastor, I couldn’t live the lie anymore. Something had to change. I confessed to the Lord, confessed to another pastor and then to my husband. I knew when I told the truth that things would get worse before they got better. I knew I stood to lose everything I’d worked so hard to gain. But I decided I’d rather tell the truth than live another day in a lie.
But what I didn’t imagine was that a year later people would still be talking about what I did, and that a family member would call other family to share with them what I’d done. I didn’t imagine that our attempt to move away from all the mess, heal and start over would not be successful. What I did just followed me here. No longer can I go to a family gathering here with the hope that maybe they don’t know and that maybe they’ll give me a chance before they judge. Now I just feel the worry that they are talking about me behind my back like they’ve talked about other people who’ve screwed it up really bad.
My dream of becoming someone liked and respected for all my great accomplishments has taken a big fall like Humpty Dumpty. I’ve fallen from the wall and cracked into what feels like thousands of pieces. Yes, I feel sorry for myself. Losing oneself is a huge loss.
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
I’ve read and heard these verses so many times as a Christian, but I don’t think I really understood what they meant until this past year. I think somehow I imagined losing myself meant being a little uncomfortable, because I was a Christian and that it’d be hard doing the right thing in an ungodly world. I never thought these verses meant I’d carry around the cross of a tarnished reputation of a woman who’d fallen into such shameful situation. I never imagined Jesus meant I’d lose the reputation I’d worked so hard to keep. I understand now why so many wanted to follow Jesus until they really understood what He was asking from them.
The rich young ruler understood what Jesus was asking. He was astonished that after he told Jesus he’d done all right things and worked so hard, that Jesus would ask him to sell all he had and give it to the poor. I imagine the rich young ruler looked at Jesus with wide eyes and might have even thought a few cuss words to himself. This was his life, his reputation, and the dreams he’d fulfilled. He was at the top of his game. People would think he’d lost his mind if he gave it all away to the poor. Then he’d be just them; broken and empty handed. The Bible says:
http://bible.com/59/mrk.10.22.ESV Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Others did the same.
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.
Lately as I’ve thought about all I’ve lost I’ve tried to think of how I could get it back. I told my husband the other day I was never going to be able to escape what I’d done unless I changed my identity and moved somewhere else. I wrote my friend Steve Brown a letter and he told me that God had me by the “short hair” and I might as well deal with it. I know Steve’s right. I know this is where God has me and I know He’s reminding me once again that I have no righteousness on my own. There’s none good without God. No not one. He is all the righteousness I need. He says no matter what I am child of the King. I am a part of God’s royal kingdom. What more could I possibly need?
I can almost imagine the day Jesus turned to Peter and asked him if he wanted to turn and stop following Him like some of the others had. I imagine Peter thought about all the difficult things Jesus had told them that he didn’t understand. I’m sure it crossed his mind that Jesus had told him things would only get worse. Yet, Peter didn’t turn, because he knew there was no where else to go.
http://bible.com/59/jhn.6.61-69.ESV But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
As Steve said, I’ve come too far to turn back now. So I’ll carry this cross of a tarnished reputation and recognize from God’s perspective it’s already a crown. He has the words of real life and there’s just no where else I’d rather be.