The Love Story Series is my journal of the events that led to Eric and I falling in love. You can find all the Love Story chapters here.
When you tell someone that God spoke to you, some people nod knowingly, while others will just look at you like you’ve lost your mind. I guess I can understand it. As a teenager, if someone told me they’d talked to demons, I would have thought they were just crazy. But several years of volunteering in various countries taught me that you can’t discount someone’s spiritual experience (good or bad), just because you haven’t experienced it yourself.
I don’t think you can really know what God sounds like until you hear actually hear from Him. But I knew it was Him. It was a pain in my heart, a feeling of fear and shame, not from Him but from my own mistakes and hurts that felt like a giant scarlet letter that I knew He alone could see.
“If you don’t come back to Me now, you never will.” I felt/heard it again, and knew exactly what He meant. I hung my head in shame.
“I can’t God.” I whispered. “I’m too messed up, you don’t want me.” Even as I said the words, I knew they weren’t true. I was the one who’d been running away. The pain of things that had been done to me and things I’d done to myself overwhelmed me. I wanted so desperately to pretend they’d never happened that I’d done everything I could to separate myself from them. But you can’t hide the truth from God, so instead of asking for His help to deal with everything, I ran.
It wasn’t until this moment that I was able to truly recognize that all my running just led me into more hurt.
“I don’t know what to do.” I said, a little louder, looking up at the ceiling.
“Give Me your pain.”
I strangled a sob that tried to escape, I didn’t cry, people who cried were weak and easier to hurt. “I can’t do that. I can’t think about it, I can’t tell you about it. It’s too much, I can’t take it!”
Yet in my heart I knew that He wasn’t asking me to relive it alone. I suddenly remembered the time I stepped on a piece of glass as a child. It was embedded so deeply in my foot that the doctor completely missed it and thought it was just a deep cut. He cleaned the wound and bandaged it up and soon scar tissue began to grow. But even though my foot began to look normal from the outside, the pain was excruciating. Every step I took sent shock waves through my foot.
But soon the pain became normal. I learned how to walk favoring that sore spot, even though it was hurting the rest of my body by throwing everything out of alignment to protect the hidden pain. But then the infection became visible. The bottom of my foot was red and swelling. The doctor realized that there must have been something in the cut, and that he would have to cut me open to remove it.
I remembered the feeling of terror when I heard him say what he was going to do. Even though he said he’d numb me, I still felt it when he cut into my foot, and when he began digging around with the tweezers. Finally he pulled out a piece of glass that seemed much too tiny to have caused such agony.
It took another couple of weeks before I could walk normally, but before I knew it the pain was completely gone. No more favoring that spot on my foot, no more trying to ignore what I thought would be a lifelong burden. The process hurt more than the initial pain, but once I went through it, I was done. The healing was able to truly start.
I realized, remembering the relief of having the glass removed, that this was what God was trying to do with my emotional pain. He wasn’t promising it would be easy, but He was promising to help me begin to truly heal. In that moment, I knew that was exactly what I wanted. To be free from feeling like I had to hide from so many things in my life. To be able to figure out who I really was without all the negative labels I’d given myself over the years.
“I don’t know what you want me to do, but I’ll do it.” In that moment, the dam broke and years of hurt and grief came pouring out of my soul like a tsunami. I sobbed for hours, uncontrollably, until I somehow fell asleep on the floor of my bedroom.
When I woke up, it was after 7pm and I should have been starving, but all I wanted to do was talk to God. I could hear my roommate banging around, cleaning up from last night’s party. So I grabbed a notebook and pen, waited until I heard him go into the bathroom, and rushed out the door.
I drove to a beach, spread out on the sand, and opened up the notebook.
“Dear God, I don’t really know what I’m doing, but You said to give You my hurts, so I thought maybe I should just start writing them to You.”
As the sun set, I started pouring my heart out onto the page, moving closer to a street lamp when it was too dark to see what I was writing. I started with easy things, friends who’d hurt my feelings by not being very good friends, name callers in elementary and middle school who made me self conscious about my appearance, a teacher who told me I was a waste of time. I not only described what they did, but how it affected at the time and even to that day. How it shaped who I’d become. Within an hour I’d filled eight pages front and back.
I felt such a sense of relief! Even though I knew there were still some hurts buried so deeply I didn’t think I could ever write them down, I felt like I’d made a start in the right direction, and had a sense of peace I hadn’t ever felt before.
Over the next few months, I’d journal to God regularly, working through deeper and deeper hurts, finally able to write down the things I’d never been able to talk to anyone about. I also found a new church, and began making friends, true friends who I could actually talk to about hard things.
I made a decision to focus on fixing myself first and foremost. In fact I even made God a promise. I promised that I would guard my heart, learn to have boundaries with guys, and not date anyone until I was 25. I don’t know why 25 was the magic number. Perhaps I picked it because it seemed like a milestone year and I felt like I could really change a lot in the next two and half years if I was focusing on God and myself instead of guys, or maybe because a quarter of a century sounded so old!
Or (and probably more likely), perhaps God gave me that year because He knew exactly when I’d be moving to live just minutes from my future husband instead of an ocean away.
Either way, that was a pivotal time in my life, and the next time I went to visit my family, I was a completely different person.
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