I’ve been quiet around here for quite some time. The truth is, I’ve been wrestling with whether or not to share something very personal to me, but after my pastor’s sermon on Sunday, I knew I had to. The sermon series we’re currently walking through is called Make Your Mark. It’s about leaving a legacy and the sermon on Sunday dealt with generational sin (sin passed from parents to children) and what my pastor called “father wounds” (ways we have been hurt by our parents). You probably understand by now my hesitation to share this story and the tenderness of its nature, but let me give you the good news first – I’ve been healed, praise God!
I hope you don’t mind that I’ve taken the liberty of writing way more than I usually would. I knew that if I shared this, it would be for God’s glory and to show just how intimately detailed His work is in our lives. While I haven’t included every detail, I hope my story deepens your understanding of just how patient, gracious, and loving Jesus really is. You might want to grab a cup of coffee and make yourself comfortable – this is a long one!
My parents divorced when I was five – my earliest childhood memory is them fighting while we were at the dinner table. I remember I was eating corn. My mouth was still full as I ran crying to my bedroom. My brother was still a baby.
My father remarried sometime after my parents divorced and eventually moved from Pennsylvania to New York. He would call on occasion and I would visit him in the summer, but he wasn’t very involved in my life, even after he moved back to Pennsylvania years later. I remember inviting him to band and chorus concerts, award ceremonies, and sporting events where I was cheerleading, but as I looked out in the crowd, he wasn’t there. Eventually, I stopped looking for him and then I stopped inviting him altogether.
My mom was a living sacrifice for my brother and I. She scratched, and scraped, and clawed a life for us. She had a lot of support from her side of the family – who were nothing short of amazing people themselves. She was an excellent single mom, but as you might imagine, she was fighting battles of her own. As a result, I was missing some things I needed in my childhood and teenage years.
Don’t get me wrong – I didn’t have a horrible childhood – I didn’t even have a bad childhood. It was a pretty happy one and I have lots of wonderful memories. But there was pain – deeply rooted pain and insecurity. It seeped into every area of my life and I could not escape it. For years – decades really – I was held in bondage and Satan sold me lies and I bought them – until last year.
Last year – 2014 – my word was Thanksgiving. It came from Ann VosKamp’s book One Thousand Gifts: A dare to live fully right where you are. I was terrified of that word, Thanksgiving, because The Lord had challenged me with 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18
“Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
I knew from reading that passage and from Ann’s book that all circumstances meant all circumstances and if I was to learn Thanksgiving, I would need to be thankful for all things – both good and bad. And so, to be completely transparent, I was scared of what those hard things might be. I was bracing myself for all that could happen.
In the spring of 2014, I started to feel God tugging at my heart to start this blog. It triggered a rise in my deeply rooted insecurities, and those old familiar lies began haunting me again. You see, those lies had voices and they made me doubt. I wanted to obey God, and I hadn’t disobeyed completely, but I allowed those voices to drag me back into the pit of darkness I’d sat in so many times before. But this time was different. I had been tucking God’s word in my heart for the past several years, and I was learning how to use it in battle. It was right about that time that God drew my attention to a sermon series by James MacDonald called Conquering Insecurity and I began meditating on Hebrews 12:1-2.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off the everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The Lord spoke to my heart through those verses one day in early June. As I sat beneath the cross at the property where my church is planning to build, I began praying those Scriptures back to God. I wanted to run my race, but I felt so entangled. I came to realize that it wasn’t just my sin that was entangling me, but also the sins of others – generational sins and “father wounds”. In my usual meditation of Hebrews 12, I hadn’t read past verse 2, but I felt Him beckoning me on to verse 3.
“Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Yes, consider Jesus. In that moment I felt a spiritual lifting of my head. I felt Jesus whisper to my heart – I know. I understand. I’ve suffered. My heart breaks that you are suffering too, but don’t lose heart, because I have overcome and I am with you.
Yes, he was with me, and oh, how much more he had suffered than I ever had or ever would! I felt such peace knowing that He understood and that even if everyone else in this world let me down, Jesus never would. I had a deeper understanding of unconditional love and placing my hope in Him – not in people.
Oh, how I wish I could say that’s where this story ends, but it wasn’t over yet. The chains of my bondage were loosened but not broken – Satan still had a grip on me. In the weeks that followed, my family and I suffered several spiritual attacks, and through them, I began to wonder if I was somehow passing my insecurity on to my children. I knew it had to stop, but I didn’t know how. I cried out to God and began to ask Jesus for healing. Why couldn’t I get past this and would I ever? Would I have to deal with this for the rest of my life? I was weary of it.
I launched Joy Complete and continued to take steps of obedience in other areas as well. With each step it seemed like there was another emotional attack around the corner. There were highs and lows, but by mid-fall, I could feel the darkness all around me. It was pressing me in, but I didn’t feel threatened. I didn’t know how to describe it, I just kept telling friends that I could feel darkness swirling all around and that I felt like something was going to happen. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I know now that Jesus was battling in the spiritual realm for me, but I was becoming hopeless.
Two of my friends invited me to do a Beth Moore study with them called Children of the Day. I was undecided about it so I watched the first session on YouTube. As I was watching, Beth prayed that she hoped every woman doing the study would be “taught by God”. I thought, I want to be taught by God – sign me up! It was week four in the study, and as I was doing my “homework” The Lord began to speak to my heart again through Beth’s words. The lesson was about death and grief and the more I read, the more I realized that I had never really grieved my past and laid it to rest. Beth wrote,
“…grief denied would be a terror to the soul.” Yes, my soul has been terrorized.
“For a child of God, hopelessness is the most unnecessary condition in the entire bag of mind tricks, but even the most righteous can crater to it.” I’ve been tricked. I’ve felt hopeless that I could ever get over what I’d missed in my childhood.
“As spiritual people, we tend to tie our hopelessness to our belief that God has somehow let us down or refused to come through.” Oh, Lord, I have been blaming you! I thought you got it wrong. I thought you saw me in my pain and that you weren’t there for me – I thought you let me down. Forgive me, Lord…forgive me.
I cried out to Jesus and grieved for my childhood. I told Him all about my pain and my disappointment and my frustration and He took it and He said, “It is finished”. And it was. I had been healed, glory to you Jesus! Then he showed me – my memory flashed back to various people he’d lovingly placed in my life, specific moments when He was with me, and how the hurts of my past had birthed in me the passion I have for serving Him through marriages and families.
And then He very gently and lovingly whispered to my heart, “Be thankful in all things.” That was it – the hard thing I had been bracing myself for! It wasn’t something that was going to happen, it was something that had already happened.
As I finished up my homework, I flipped back to the title page for the beginning of that week. It read, Week Four: Taught By God. Do you have chills yet? I do 🙂
There will be plenty of other hard things I will need to be thankful for, but I have learned to be thankful for my past. I won’t be passing that part of myself on to my children. I have been healed and I have been taught by God.
Have you been healed of generational sin or “father wounds”? Are you facing those obstacles in your life right now? Would you share your story with me? Please leave me a comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org