Last night my oldest daughter, Ashley, sent me some pictures of her dad, who passed away 15 years ago. My response to her text message was: ‘WOW!! Be still my heart… I remember that young man. I was so in love with him! Well, as much as you can be in love at 14!’ Seeing the pictures of him sent my mind on a rare journey back to my high school days.
I was by no stretch of the imagination among the popular or well known girls for one reason or another in high school. I was the girl who came and went without any fanfare, mostly unnoticed. And that suit me just fine. I’ve never been a spotlight, center stage, everybody-look-at-me kind of person. I guess that is one of the reasons joining the rest of the free world on Social Media has been such a struggle for me. I always thought my desire to fade into the background as much as possible was just part of my personality. But as Jesus and I strolled back down memory lane I was able to see teenaged me differently.
I have been a Jesus lover since I was five years old. I distinctly remember responding to the alter call that invited me to accept the free gift of salvation. I didn’t know or understand what salvation really meant. I just knew I loved Jesus and I believed He was the Son of God, born through a virgin, was crucified, died, and raised to life on the third day just like the pastor preached. If asking Him to live in my heart and being baptized meant He would not only be with me always, but one day He would come take me from this crazy place I was all in! I was also five when I began being molested.
According to Wikipedia, Italy’s Tower of Pisa’s “tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized (and the tilt partially corrected) by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.”
My fifth year of life began the pouring of a foundation that was inadequate and too soft on one side to properly support the weight of the abuse I was suffering. As a result I began to tilt. On the one side, I absolutely loved Jesus and tried to believe He loved me, but on the other side I just could not understand how this One that I loved so much who was powerful enough walk out of a tomb did not prevent or stop what was happening to me. As my life progressed I became a “tower” of strength for anyone who needed a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to, someone to just listen or pray for them… anything anyone needed, just ask me. I guess I figured since Jesus wasn’t able to be who He said and I believed He was for me, I would try to be Him for anyone who needed Him as much as I did. I was just going to ride out the turmoil in my life that seemed to be never-ending until I died or Jesus returned, whichever came first. In either case, I would finally be free to LIVE!
What I have considered just “existing” most of my life really has been living all a long. Jesus and I have lived through molestation, a broken family, having three beautiful daughters by age 21, abuse, abandonment, more surgeries than I can count, and we’re steadily moving forward in our breast cancer journey. Though I haven’t been a fan of the tools He has used, the cancer hammer has helped me see how much construction Jesus has done to level out the foundation of my heart that began 41 years ago. Never did I imagine He would use the very thing that I thought compromised the foundation of who He created me to be so much that I was unrepairable, to ultimately stabilize all of the construction he has done on my heart.
This morning I am able to see how without being molested, all of the poor choices and painful things that have occurred over the course of my living thus far, you end up with a different me. I don’t know that I would be as compassionate as I am now or love so fiercely and unconditionally. I’m not sure I would have a passion for teenage moms, women’s issues, and young people in general. Though I can’t say that my tilt is completely level just yet, I am still actively under construction. Well, probably more like deconstruction and reconstruction. In the areas where I still lean, I know Jesus is holding me up, because Proverbs 18:10 (NIV) promises, “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.”
There is a tremendous difference between being childish and child-like. For today, I am thanking Jesus that with all the work He has and continues to do on me He has helped me keep my child-like heart. Although I am excitedly looking forward to His return, I am just as excited to live out my life with Him right here on earth until he does.
(SN: Every since I typed the words “back down memory lane” in the second paragraph I have not been able to get Minnie Ripperton’s song, “Memory Lane” out of my head. I have already downloaded it and listened to it on repeat twice! If you are too young to know who she is or the song, she is Mya Rudolph’s (the actress and comedienne) mother and a fellow breast cancer warrior. She was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy in 1976, at age 28. The cancer had already spread to her lymphatic system and she was given six months to live. She died three years later. If you’ve never heard her voice. You don’t know what you are missing! She’s definitely worth checking out. You’ve probably already heard some version of her song “Lovin’ You.” It’s been sampled a lot.)