During our third session on May 5, 2020, we had been outside on my neighbor’s patio where we were meeting to allow for “social distancing”, but it had started to rain, so we went inside with the computer housing our Zoomers and continued our discussion of chapters 5-7. The discussion moved to times when we felt God’s faithfulness, our “Testimony”. Everyone was asked to share theirs, and I literally started panicking on the inside. “What am I going to say, I’ve never experienced God before, I have no testimony” I thought to myself. Everyone was sharing and I could feel my hands getting sweaty as my turn quickly approached.
And then like a bolt of lightning striking me in the heart, I knew exactly what to say.
(By the way, I cannot share this story without tears streaming down my face, so there’s your visual, as I try to type this story through tear filled glasses!) It was my turn to share and here is the story that came out of my mouth that night (okay, this is not verbatim, but you get the idea):
In 2009 I was living in Los Angeles, stuck in a relationship with an emotionally abusive boyfriend, unable to leave him due to financial dependency. I had been with him for 5 years and had lived in LA for almost 7. My mom had been diagnosed with ovarian Cancer about 2 years prior and had encountered many ups and downs. Unfortunately, she was nearing the end and I had been informed there was nothing else we could do but make her comfortable. I knew I needed to be home with her, and I also knew I wanted out of this relationship. My dad flew out and drove the 3000 miles home to Georgia with me in early April of that year just in time for my brother’s wedding. My mom died on May 19, 2009, about a month and a half after I returned home, and I broke up with my boyfriend over email about a week after I got home (he had no idea it was ending when I left, but I did). Losing my mom was really hard, but I cherish those weeks I had with her before she left us. I just realized that her death brought so much beauty into my life that would not have happened had she not left us. I was able to remove myself from an abusive relationship, I started dating the love of my life (who I had met about 11 years earlier when I was just a teenager), and eventually we got married and had our 2 beautiful children.
That night, I saw God’s presence in all that happened 11 years prior. He was there removing me from where I did not belong and putting me into the life that he had chosen for me. I finally saw it, but more importantly, I finally felt Him. It was like a switch flipped and I just got it. Not long before that, we had read Isaiah 61 during our discussions and hearing that scripture clued me into the method that the Lord used in my life during that dark time.
Isaiah 61:2-3 tells us …to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor.” (NIV)
Having heard this scripture before my revelation, I understood that from my despair of losing my mother, the Lord bestowed upon me a crown of beauty in place of the ashes of my broken heart. He replaced my mourning with the joy of a new family, and in this moment, he turned my shame from my past mistakes into glory for His honor.
I finally got it, it finally made sense.
I was a new person from that day forward. I was the butterfly who had been trapped within her cocoon for years, trying to scratch my way out, feeling suffocated and alone. But He had a plan for me, He needed to transform my heart before I could be freed from the prison of the cocoon and emerge as the beautiful creature He designed me to be.