Isaiah 64:8- But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
When I look back at my life, I see over and over that this verse is describing me. Even when I acted more like jello, incapable of being shaped into anything, I was always moldable clay in the hand of the Creator. Welcome to part two of a five part journey sharing about myself and taking you through my “clay” journey.
In August of the early 2000s, I had graduated high school, turned 18 and started taking classes at my town’s local community college. I also started working daily at my parent’s locally owned florist. I would attend classes first thing in the morning, go to work, back to college for night classes until 8:00 pm then home. I don’t know how I did it!
In October of that year, I met the brother of my sister’s school friend. He was a seven years older than me which automatically caught my attention! He asked me out to dinner for the following week and a relationship soon formed.
I can not tell you how precious this guy was. He called me at the same time every night, sent me at least one card in the mail every week, always showed up with thoughtful little gifts, loved my parents and sisters and I could go on and on. Could anything so perfect ever change? The answer is yes.
On a bitter cold February morning, my mom texted me while I was in my computer class and said she was on her way to my college building. I walked down to the glassed in lobby to wait for her. Within a few minutes, I saw my mom and my dad walking toward me. My dad had left work to come with my mom to see me, so I knew immediately that something was terribly wrong. They had come to tell me that the wonderful guy who had only been in my life for four months had unexpectedly died.
I was in complete shock. The only thing I remember thinking was that I had to check on his family. The next few days were absolutely heartbreaking. I cried so much that my eyes were swollen more than half way shut. I dealt with every emotion, but the greatest was fear. If you read part one of this story, you will remember that fear was one on my greatest struggles and I had just finally started to get beyond it. Now it was coming right back.
I started sleeping in the living room because I didn’t want to be in my room alone. I pulled away from everyone except my family. I failed one of my college classes that semester. I visited the cemetery all that winter despite freezing cold temperatures. I felt like I had just stopped.
Even though I was 18, I started feeling like an old woman. Grief had robbed my youth and joy and I simply gave in to it’s theft. Day blended into week and into year. Sadly, most of this fog of misery went on for about four years.
I am ashamed to admit that not once did I ask God for help. Fear, shame, guilt, emotionally walled off, all of my old enemies showed back up to pull me away from God and deeper into myself. I believed that God’s will was perfect and always prevailed. Therefore, this whole situation must be His will. I certainly did not want to pray against His will as I felt I had already disappointed God enough growing up. I believed the best thing to do was to just wait on Him to move me beyond my current circumstances.
Can I just say God is so kind! Even with all of my backwards thinking, God still had mercy on me. About two years after my friend’s death, I had a particularly hard day. My mind and heart were being tortured by so many lies.- “My life was over, I could never be the same, I feel so old, I have no right to be in a relationship after this….” you get the picture. I was working at our florist that day delivering a bouquet to the hospital. I got on the elevator with a delivery person from another local florist. As we rode up in silence, I noticed her reflection in the metal elevator door. There we were, both holding floral bouquets, but there was a distinct difference between us. Age. This lady was probably in her 60s. In the quickness of one breath, my whole outlook changed. I wasn’t old, she was! (Disclaimer: 60 is not old, but I was too young to be identifying myself with that age group yet!) I felt this boulder of burden lift from my chest. I was young and it was ok to enjoy it. I was allowed to move beyond this loss and bask in life’s simple little pleasures. By the time I left the hospital, I was a new girl. God had provided the visual example and the emotional release I needed to get on with my life.
Unfortunately, I behaved like one of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19. Rather than going back to God to thank Him for His healing hand in my life and drawing near to Him, I was selfish. I took my new lease on life and invested it in what I loved.
I loved our family florist. Floral designing had been my mindless job for the last few years, but with my joy restored, my work became my passion. I felt like it was my creation of art, my Picasso. I had finally found something that I could do with my own two hands that turned out great. Do you know what an electric feeling that is for a girl who had spent all her life believing she couldn’t do anything right? I finally had something that I could excel with.
Although it is good to take your work seriously and to work as you are doing it for the Lord (Colossians 3:23) my work became my idol. It was the successful experience I had always longed for but also a place of escape from what was really going on in my heart. I knew God was calling out to me. He was on my mind all the time, but it was different. I was different.
I wanted to scream, but I didn’t dare. I wanted Him to stop nagging me with His quiet whispers and making me feel guilty for not spending time with Him. What did He want from me? I was busy with a job that was incredibly demanding because God had obviously blessed it. I knew God could clearly see that I was so committed that I didn’t even have time for myself much less someone else. I became a work machine and oddly enough, loved every minute of it. I mean what young person at 24 treats their job like it is their food and water? One who is drawing their literal life from it.
I had just walked through four years of indescribable misery and I was not going to allow anything, not even my Heavenly Father to disrupt this new happiness. I had found something that I was good at, something that worked for me. There was no way I was letting it go. I finally had the security and the fulfillment of purpose and talent that I had been waiting for all my life. The bottom line was that I needed something tangible, not the invisible faith and hope in God. Emotions had spun my life out of control for four years and I was not letting God or anyone else near them again. I knew I was saved and would be going to Heaven when I died and that was good enough for me. I felt that I had wasted so many years hoping and waiting for a God who did nothing to comfort a terrified child. Now I had a way to take care of myself, provide for my own needs and establish a future. I was going to hold on to this and make it last.
Even after everything God has done for me, my faith was still so shallow and I was becoming hard hearted.
I will close with that for today. Please join me again for part three as I continue to share my testimony. I will be talking about one of the most difficult and devastating experiences of my life, my engagement.