who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony..."
i am at a small volunteer dinner at the lovelady center, one of our amazing, local ministry-based programs for women. over four hundred women and children call the center "home" and they come from all walks of life. they have sought refuge here. some from the streets. some from abusive relationships. some are here transitioning out of prison and others are here instead of prison. i am in humbled awe every time i walk through the doors. and it is a privilege to serve here. tonight, one of the program's graduates that now leads the development and volunteer program sits at the head of our table. and she shares her story with us. i listen intently. hanging on every word. my eyes are burning. my throat is burning. my heart is burning...
i just met her, but i know her. with each word, i know her more. her life story intersects with mine beyond this tangible realm of all that we see. we have traveled distant, but parallel paths through such similar darkness. despair. brokenness. tonight, those paths crossed and it brought such a powerful moment of awe - and reflection - and remembrance of His redemption.
our lives were so much alike. we'd faced abandonment in childhood. we had grown up, married really good men. each had two beautiful children, one boy and one girl. our lives had been idyllic. suburban. the american dream. a shiny facade shattered by sin. i would say that our sin was different, but the truth is our sin was identical. because sin, in and of itself, is turning from a holy God and trusting in ourselves, selfishly forging our own way, filling our lives and our hearts with whatever we desire. whether it's alcohol or adultery, drugs or gluttony, materialism or stealing - we have a tendency to label those things as individual sins, when the truth is, sin is the condition of our hearts. we use and abuse whatever we can get a hold of to satisfy the void within us, the void that only the Lord Himself can fill.
and so, i know the truth that she knows. sin will take you farther than you ever wanted to go, keep you there longer than you ever wanted to stay, and cost you more than you ever wanted to pay.
God has given me such a heart for this ministry and for these women because, on the inside, i am one of them. her story is my story and more importantly, her God is my God. the same Heavenly Father that pursued her heart and rescued her as she cried out from the floor of a jail cell is the same one who pursued my heart and rescued me as i cried out from the floor of my bedroom.
it's hard to imagine her any different than she is now. she is beautiful and the light of Christ shines in her eyes, her smile. her ever word reflects His glory. and my heart whispers: "Lord, thank you for saving her.... Oh, Lord, thank you for saving me."
i needed that reminder, tonight.
i had come to prepare for volunteer service, but with his layers and layers of grace, the Lord had sent me there to meet her. to hear her story. to be reminded of my own. the next day, i sent her an email to thank her for sharing:
in Him, through Him, we overcome. He delivers us from bondage. from despair. from darkness. and He ordains the path before us that crosses with others who, through their own stories of grace, simply remind us of who He is. of who we were. and are. of what He's done for us."I have to tell you that your story resonated with me on so many levels. I, too, experienced abandonment. I, too, had defined my whole life by the exterior of my life - my image and my things - houses, clothes, cars, the idol of a picture-perfect life. It was the same year as you, 2006, that I lost everything. I know what it is like to be in bondage to sin. I know what it is like to do the things that you hate over and over and not even know why. I know what it is like to feel powerless against sin to the point that it destroys your marriage, your family, your home. I know what it is like to feel so unworthy of the Father's love that you just reject and run from him until you run yourself ragged. I have lived it and by His grace alone, I have lived through it to the other side to experience His mercy and redemption.
through one simple meeting and a dozen emails since, we have forged and indelible bond as sisters in Christ. as kindred spirits. as friends. and her words ring true in my ears. and in my heart: "We overcome by the words of our testimony…indeed!".
"I will praise you, LORD,
with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done."