Consider It All Joy
I opened my Bible the other morning to the book of James. When I paused to read my comment in the margin, my heart rate increased and my hands got sweaty: March 9, 2006. Ladies’ retreat, Gatlinburg. The weekend I shared my testimony with a group for the very first time.
My thoughts traveled back to that cold weekend in the hills of Gatlinburg. I was there at the request of a longtime friend, and mentor, who had moved to Tennessee. For years, she told me I had a story that needed to be shared; finally, I agreed to share it at her church’s retreat. The ladies warmly welcomed me, and soon, I felt as if I had known them for years. Yet I trembled anxiously…no, I was terrified. By the time I stood up to speak, I was a mess. A.big.mess.
I struggled to keep from ugly crying. So I avoided eye contact and concentrated on reading my carefully written script.
I shared how I grew up living in fear.
How every decision I made was fear-driven.
I was afraid I was not good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough.
I was desperate to be loved and deemed worthy by a husband.
Because I was not good enough, smart enough or pretty enough, I had not been chosen by a man.
My desperation led met to compromise my faith values and marry the first man that considered me worthy.
I married unequally yoked.
I gradually walked away from my faith.
My life belonged to my husband.
My identity was in my husband.
He made me worthy.
Then my husband made a choice.
And the choice was not me.
I was rejected.
My heart was broken and my world shattered into a million pieces.
My husband’s choice confirmed my fears.
He had made another choice because I was not good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, worthy enough or loveable enough.
I lost my identity.
I was ashamed of my failure.
I was defeated.
I had walked away from my God.
But God — my God — forgave me.
He met me in my brokenness.
He began to lavishly pour mercy and grace into the broken places.
His love became a balm to my wounded heart.
Piece by piece, He began to put my world back together.
Time would reveal that my Lord had loved me enough to remove me out of a faithless marriage.
He wanted to be my first love.
He is my first love.
By the time I finished sharing my testimony, I was overwhelmed by emotion. My carefully written story had been received well. I was told my words challenged and encouraged. Relieved, I cried ugly tears.
Early the next morning, I slipped out of the cabin for a quiet walk. A meandering creek called to me and I made my way out on a dry stone. The Lord’s presence was tangible. I felt it. I breathed it. I felt loved. Worthy. Affirmed. Chosen. Called. I thanked Him for giving me a testimony and for using my words to encourage. I sensed the weekend marked a turning point in my life. Not wanting to forget any moment of it, I hauled a large stone from the creekbed home as a memorial stone. Sometimes I will stand on it and remember what God did that weekend.
As I now reflect back on that weekend, I realize that it was not a turning point in my life, but it was a starting point.
Sharing my testimony that weekend was the start of me fullfilling my life mission statement: to encourage, either by spoken or written word, those that the Lord puts in my path or brings to mind; and to earn the right to share with them the source of my joy and peace.
I had taken the step of faith and shared in a small, safe group. Encouraged, I shared it with a larger, less safe group. Then I started my blog...and I am working on what I think is the next step.
And yet, without my various trials, testing and learning to endure, I would not have a story to tell. I would not have the opportunity to encourage others.
And I consider it ALL joy.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
And let endurance have its perfect result,
so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.