What it really means when you say, "Whatever You ask of me, Lord"
Updated: Apr 27, 2019
There are moments in my walk with the Lord that I honestly struggle to put words behind. As much as I search, I can find no way to fully express them to others. And yet, the moments are so ingrained in my soul that there is no escaping them. This morning was one such moment....
Today I find myself completely exhausted. I am so drained and so empty that I don't have the strength to do any of the things I should be doing. My to-do list lies on the floor of my bedroom where I tossed it last night, and am I'm lying here on the fold-up couch of my rental flat, wrapped in my soft blanket, letting YouTube play whatever music videos it wants to play in the background, and allowing tears to slowly find their way out of my heart and onto my pajama shirt. They aren't tears of sadness or fear, but of a form of relief I honestly never thought was possible. And in the midst of this very uncommon sight for me, when I am perfectly still, I can feel this gentle, tender, awe-inspiring, sweet kiss on my forehead and I can hear a faint whisper of a voice I've known all my life saying, "well done." All of this after three weeks of some of the hardest days and darkest nights of my life which have taken their toll on me physically, emotionally, and mentally. But for this moment, for this release, for this glimpse of freedom in a long-withstanding prison of the mind, for this and for what He brings out of it, I am thankful. Truthfully thankful.
When I began to understand the call on my heart to leave my home, leave my familiar, and find more of this God that I craved, I said to Him the words that have defined my life every day since, "Whatever you ask of me, Lord... whatever You want." Little did I know what that would require of me. But how could I have known then, in that land of protection and walls I had unknowingly built for myself as means of survival? How could I have known then just how much He would ask of me, just how much He would want to remove from me? I couldn't have known. Maybe that's the way it's meant to be. Because if I had had even a glimpse of what it would take to be who God wanted me to be here in this place, I would never have said yes. And what a sad story that would have been!
So, what led me to where I am today as I write this post (which will most definitely be a long one, sorry!)? How did I go from willing, excited, eager child of God ready to do anything my Abba asked of me, to this collapsed, fatigued, stripped down to bare bones image of a person just clinging on to the hem of His garment? And where do I go from here?
Some of you know some of my story, some of what it took to get me through life in a broken and altered world. Well, just to clarify, some of you know pieces of the story. No one knows the whole story with the exception of the God who walked through it with me. And that is by design. Only when God asks me to share, and only what He asks me to share, is shared in conversations with others. Because my story is meant to be used to bring Him glory, not to add to people's distrust of others or fuel their desire to find nothing but despair in this world. Even so, those of you who know parts and pieces most likely don't know the element of the saga that I have been wrestling with of late.
If you've read this far along, then, yes, you are correct. I'm dancing around the subject. Even now I struggle to let others know what happened then, and how much it stole from me. Bear with me. It's coming. Here we go....
Some of you know that I am a survivor of child abuse by a couple of people at different times in my early life. Some of you know that one of the hardest parts of my recovery/healing process has been because I survived repeated sexual abuse at the hands of a friend's father. And some of you know that God has been healing me of a lot of the effects of that particular abuse for the past five years now. But, the part that no one knew until it burst out of me three weeks ago like a dam with a cracked wall and spewed all over a friend here in Jbay, is that this abuse involved the use of photos and videos of me as a small child.
And before you say to me, "I had no idea" (which seems to be everyone's first response), don't. I know you didn't. That was on purpose. Before you tell me I'm brave or strong or whatever, don't. I won't believe it; not in this moment. And before you quote scriptures at me to try and encourage me, don't. I know those scriptures. I've been reading them for years and felt them deeply almost all my life.
I'm not sharing this so that you encourage me or give me sympathy. That's the opposite of what I need! I'm sharing this only because He has asked me to. For no other reason. All I need from others is patience as I walk through this with God, understanding when I pull away or react differently than most to situations, and love....lots of love! That's all. Please don't treat me differently than you always have. I promise you, I will notice. I notice more than most. And I will feel it like a dagger in my heart, even if its intention is good. I am still me, 100% the same person you've known for however long we've known each other. I've not changed. You just have a bit more of the backstory to show you just how amazing my God is. Please focus on that!
Listen, I've lived with this since it first began at age 7. I've known this truth in the back of my head for so many years. And yet I never thought it had much impact on my life. I just did what I needed to do to keep on going, to keep on surviving. Not all of my habits of protection were healthy, as I'm learning now. But I didn't think any of them really affected how I lived my life day to day, how I interacted with people, and, more importantly, how I interacted with God. I didn't think much of any of it. I've known people who have gone through so much worse things and carried on. So, in a weird, strange way, it was just... life. It is what it is, as they say. You get to a point where you either lie down and die, or you find a way to just move on. I moved on.... day after day, until I'd made a life of it. This beast just lay inside its cage in the back of my heart, stirring only occasionally but never really preventing me from doing anything that I needed or wanted to do in this world. Or so I thought....
During my first year and half in the “mission field," I quickly realized that there were several barriers I had placed around God. "You can't go there." "You can't touch that." "You can't ask me about that." "That's not really there. Just ignore it." On and on and on it went. I found my time in Plett full of reminders of all that I was not allowing God to do, all that I was not willing to give Him access to. And it became an utterly heartbreaking experience for me. Because I desperately wanted to know more of Him, but that required a sacrifice of my own walls.
I had to remove the walls I had built so long ago, brick by brick. That's the only way I could see clearly what He had designed for me. And to do that, I had to face the reasons I had built the walls in the first place. When I uttered the words, "Whatever you ask, Lord" once again in June of 2017, I meant it. I meant it more deeply than I had the first time. I WANTED Him to break through, to shine the light in the hidden corners of my mind, to release me from the darkness that I had granted permission to stay. I wanted what I saw others had, a freedom I never thought could be mine. And from that day forward, that's exactly what we've worked on.
Piece by piece God and I have examined the walls, discussed when I started building them and why, and He's shown me, memory by memory, where He was in each and every moment of my life. We were shattering the chains that the enemy had wrapped around me so tightly. And I had discovered just how joyful life is with God's version of who I am. It has been hard, but doable. There have been dark nights, but He was right there with me each and every moment. And we were making HUGE progress over the last almost two years, to a point where I thought the end might be in sight. We might have reached the last of the nightmares, the last of the fear.....
But as this year started out with an explosion of its own, the fear began to grow. "Is it really safe, Lord? Is it really safe, this life of trusting You completely? People are dangerous, Lord. I know not all of them. But still... And You ask me to trust them. So many have caused deeper and deeper wounds. And yet You ask me to trust them..... I don't know how." This is just a portion of a long conversation Abba and I have been having since I came back to Jbay in January. This conversation led to another, more important conversation with Him that began with God asking me one question, "Why are you afraid to let them notice you, My girl?"
It was this simple question that shook my very core. Was I afraid to be noticed? Was I afraid to stand up? To speak up? To be seen? In some situations that answer was no. If I was desperate to reach someone with God's love, there was no fear in speaking or standing. If I was determined to protect someone from the enemy's attacks, there was no fear. If I was in a room full of children, there was no fear in being noticed. There were areas of my life where I could see my whole character in action. But not all of them. And that insight begged for a reasoning. Why could I do it when I felt it was absolutely necessary, but not in the simple moments like connect group or socializing at church or even in every day settings like the grocery store? Why did some things cause such a crippling fear while others didn't stand a chance of preventing me?
I found my why three weeks ago. I was asked by my church's media director to participate in a short video to help the church, something I had done for my home church once in the past as well. And my immediate and loud response was, "No!" But why? I had done it before, what was I afraid of? The fear had deep roots that came down to those childhood experiences in front of the camera, those moments when an inanimate object was used to torment a small child who simply wanted to be loved and accepted. It all boiled down to the truth that being the "center of attention" was, quite often, associated with pain in my childhood. And then to add a camera to the mix was just too much to consider.
In fact, that's exactly what I said in my heart to my Father. "It's too much, Lord. I know You want me to say yes. But I don't think I can. I want to, because I know You've been hinting about this for a while now, but I don't think I can. Help me, Abba." And do you know what His reply was? Do you know His solution? Three words came repeatedly to each and every refusal I lifted up in prayer.... "Tell him why."
I had never uttered the words aloud before. And yet, God and I had been through so very much in the days, months, and years leading up to this that I knew I could, if He wanted me to. On the ride home, I asked the director to park and as I opened my mouth I heard my voice quickly, compactly, say that words, "I was used for child pornography...." followed by a quick explanation that if God insisted I do this video, I would need help to make it as safe as possible. And do you know what? The world didn't end. I didn't stop breathing. I didn't collapse and die. Nothing bad happened. The truth was spoken, it was heard by another person, and it was received very graciously. In fact, it was the response that made it much easier to share this part of the story a few more times in the weeks to come, asking more people for help in this journey and granting me more and more freedom over the darkness. It was a very freeing and God-blessed moment. So, after confirmation from God, I agreed to do the video. But that decision came with the things I was worried about, the reason the first taping for my home church became such a negative experience in my mind..... flashbacks
For those who have never experienced flashbacks, be thankful!! They are most definitely the work of the enemy in action! They come out of nowhere, have no respect for time or place or who's around you or anything! They come with such a force that they are rarely controllable. And they consume your full attention until they can complete their own thoughts for you. It's not a floating thought or background reminder of something from the past. It's a full-on face-first forced impact journey back to that moment. All the sights, all the smells, all the emotions, all the details are very vivid and very real. I've dealt with them for years individually, typically no more than a few a year, taking them in stride as part of the life of a survivor. But this time around.... they were relentless. I was blessed to be away from town for a few days after making my decision to say yes. But the minute my foot hit ground in Jeffreys Bay, the flashbacks showed up.
For six days and six nights I fought them. For six days and six nights they relentlessly attacked and I persistently prayed for them to end. No sleep. Very little food. So many worship songs and prayers and scriptures and pleas and reaching out to others for help. Six days and six nights... until the day of taping.
The flashbacks had begun to lose their power a few nights before when I discovered Jesus standing in the middle of each memory. I figured out that if I would ask Him where He was, He would show me. And the power would return to Him, causing the memory to be one of joy in seeing His protection, His compassion, His unending acceptance of me. So, when the new week started on Monday morning and I was honored to be in the community where I love to serve, I had no issues carrying on God's work with the amazing people here. I played with kids (school was out for some of them), I hugged on women, I listened to story after story of how great our God was, I joined in prayer for our schools and our kids, and I had not one flashback. Not one!!
That afternoon I completed the taping, with the help of an amazing, godly man who simply let things happen and allowed God the room He needed to ease me through it. I won't be so crazy as to tell you that it was a good experience, because it wasn't!! And it wasn't without flashbacks, STRONG ones trying to demand my attention. But it was done. I have no idea what I said or even how I was able to say anything because I was so focused on feeling Abba's hand holding mine and just clinging to that feeling. But it was done and I survived. I was relieved, and yet somehow still on edge as if I was waiting for the bottom to fall out.
The next day, while I was in the middle of wrestling with my most difficult class of students at the school, I got a text that crushed me.... the audio didn't record. We had to do it again.
I spiraled. Bad!
I lost all hope in this nightmare ending in that moment. To be fair, there was a lot of other things falling apart around me that day that I will not go into here. But, nonetheless, I was devastated! I saw absolutely no way that I could do this again and succeed. I felt as if victory was not meant to be mine. I was not meant to be released from this fear. Maybe I was not one of the chosen ones who could live a "normal" life. Maybe I was meant to forever fight this battle. Maybe there was something just so broken in me that it couldn't be fixed... ever... even by God.
I got through the day, choosing to focus on what I could affect - speak life and encouragement over those around me that I have come to love so much who were struggling with their own battles. And I made it to the night, where I felt certain sleep would not be mine again. But instead, the God of mercy looked on His wounded child and poured down grace and peace. I slept that night for the first time in more days than I care to admit. And I slept hard. I had a dreamless sleep, which never happens for me, and I awoke with a bit more hope than I had before. I didn't know how, but I knew God would make it better. He just would!
Another day of teaching, this time with much needed success in my stressful class and with the blessing of adding some special students to my computer classes. Another day of choosing to lift up others before myself in prayer. Another day of asking Him where He was, and Him never failing to show me. The video was rescheduled. So, I waited again. Honestly, I just didn't deal with any of it. I had no capacity for it. When school let out and I was dropped off at home to sit by myself in the few hours between school and connect group, I felt despair creeping in again. I felt a sense of failure that the last video was not my last video. I felt a sense of abandonment that was not truth but had found a way to creep in, nonetheless. My soul wrestled with my mind, desperately trying to reclaim the truths I had known my whole life about who God is and who He would always be. But I was so worn, so tired, so desperate for it to end that I didn't even know what to do.
But God did.
My friend Emma showed up at my door just 30 minutes before connect group and I poured my heart out to her, telling her everything. She quickly spoke against the lies that were trying to sneak past the barrier and reframed the "failed" video for me as a victory between God and me. "So what if it didn't save. It still happened."
I was shuffling this thought around in my head when connect group started. And, as the tears of exhaustion crept in, He asked me to face the fear again. "Speak, My girl. Tell them." It took all of connect group to find the courage to comply, but I did. I don't know why, as nothing all that profound came out of it. But I shared. I told them who I really was, what God and I had been through over the years, what He was doing now, and how I was completely falling apart under the weight of this wall that I wanted so badly to just be removed. They were kind. They were loving. And they were encouraging. But, that wasn't the point. It was another victory for God and me. It was another large part of the wall that was knocked down.... a room full of adults listened to me talk about the dark times (some of them) and about the God that I was clinging to with white knuckles, and about my own weakness.... and they didn't sacrifice me for their own desires.
Thursday came and went with little to no mention other than God allowing me the gift He loves to give me when I'm trapped: a chance to help others go through something He and I have conquered before. And then came Friday... the taping.
I know this story is way too long! And I'm very sorry about that! I know some of you have stopped reading by now. And that's fine. Those of you who are still with me are who I'm actually speaking to anyways. So, thank you!
The taping was yesterday morning/afternoon. Again, the director was very patient, very considerate, and just himself, someone I've come to put trust in and have enjoyed getting to know more and more. I again had a flashback during taping. But it was small and was easily controlled by the "Where are You?" question. I said whatever I needed to say to answer the questions for the video. Again, nothing profound but just a little video for the church to encourage people to serve. And, again, I don't know what I said. But I did it. It's done. And when it was done, I felt.... nothing.
I know you were expecting this great release moment. I was too! But that's not how it happened. Slowly, cautiously, over the next twelve or so hours, release came. Little by little the wall came down. Little by little the light came in. And little by little I realized that I wasn't fighting anymore, because there was nothing left to fight. Am I ready to stand on a stage and share openly about any of this? No. But the idea doesn't seem impossible anymore. Am I ready to speak again in my connect group? Yes. Am I ready to do another small video to help the church who has helped me so very much? Yes. Do I expect it to be easy? No. I don't think it ever will be easy for me to speak. But at least I know now it's possible. And I know He honestly, truthfully, 100% will never leave me, even when I think I've failed. He just won't. And when He asks something of me, He's not oblivious to the sacrifice it involves. He just knows the victory will be so much sweeter if I can lean into Him and make it through.
And now I know that too.
So, where do I go from here? I have no idea.... lol! But I know I don't go alone! I've got that figured out. Not only because He never left me. But because, through it all, He pulled people out of my background scenery and showed me that they care, that they want to get to know me, and that they can be trusted. He is with me. And He will bring His people to be with me too. That's huge progress! And now, I can rest in the knowledge that He loves me and He is proud of me.
I'm a little proud of me too.