Monday, May 28, 2012

Perfect Love - Hannah's Story Part 8

Hannah's Redemption Story

Perfect Love
Part 8

Life without purpose.  Or passion.  
Is it a life worth remembering?  Reliving?  Retelling?
Are the sordid memories worth anything more than to bring shame and guilt?
I lived those years.  I have those memories.  I feel that shame.  And while I find no glory in reliving or retelling the sins of my past, I must recall them if only to remind myself of where I once was.
As John Newton proclaimed in his timeless song, I too can say that I once was lost, but now am found.
Too many people find themselves in the same places I’ve been.  Too many feel the relentless pain of the ache deep within - the ache that begs to be loved.  Too many search for ways to fill that void with imitations of the real thing.
I know this to be true.
After the birth of my son, I gave up.  I no longer cared about anyone or anything.  I had wasted too much of my life offering up myself as a sacrifice in an effort to gain the love and approval of the men in my life.  And I was done.
My expectations for others had been faithfully crushed through my life and I was certain the only person I could trust was myself.  So I partied.  And I partied hard.  When you don’t care, you don’t care.  And I no longer cared.  
I met another man, Thomas.  His love for me felt genuine, but still I wondered.  I had been used and abandoned so often before, what made Thomas different?  I was convinced in my heart of hearts that the day would come when he too would reject the little girl in the garden.
So try as he might to win my heart, I refused to allow myself that vulnerability again.  By appearances, my life seemed full of happiness and golden days, but deep inside I knew the reality of darkness.
And then, one morning, I woke up.
I remember stirring slightly, confused by my surroundings.  Memories from the night before were hazy at best.  I turned over and stared into the face of a stranger.
I was stunned.  
I stumbled out into the morning light, confused, shaken.  Disappointed and ashamed. How had I allowed myself to get to this point?  This was not who I wanted to be!
For so long I had believed I was the only one I could trust, and, now, even I had let myself down.
Thomas was gone when I walked in the door of our tiny apartment.   I didn’t mind.  Somehow I knew this was a moment I needed alone.  I sat down at the kitchen table, head in my hands.  What had I done to get to this place in life?  How had I let things get so... so out of control?
The woman sitting here, was not the woman I wanted to be.  Memories flipped through my mind, pictures of days gone by.  The little girl in the garden, watching for daddy’s arrival.  Then... watching him drive away.  Scene after scene played out in my mind and I began to see a pattern.  A constant need for acceptance... approval... love.  I simply wanted to be wanted, I just ran to different sources to get it.
I had turned to God from time to time in my life, but always feared His rejection of me as well.  After all, when I considered all I’d done wrong, I wondered what Almighty God would find in me that was right!  But in that moment, there in my tiny kitchen I felt His presence.  I knew He was with me.
A verse I’d memorized as a child filled my mind, and I melted.  “There is no fear in love.”  Somehow I knew God was speaking to me.  “There is no fear in love, Hannah.  Perfect love casts out fear.”
There was more to it, I was sure of it.  My Bible was in the night stand drawer next to my bed and I retrieved it quickly.  The concordance was my friend and soon I had found it.  1 John 4, verse 18.  “There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives our fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
I stopped.  Perfect love.  The love I had searched for from so many.  The love that was unattainable.  It was here before me, freely offered.  I had run from God for so long.  After all I had experienced in my life, I was sure that He too would find me flawed... undesirable... unloveable.
Tears filled my eyes and I began to cry.  Perfect love.  This love from God was not a cheap imitation.  I had placed such high expectations on the approval of my father, yet here, my Heavenly Father stood waiting, longing for a relationship with me!  
“I have loved you with an everlasting love,” He whispered.  Again I flipped back to the concordance and soon found myself drinking in the love song He’d decreed to Israel in Jeremiah 31, yet somehow I knew it was for me as well.

“I have loved you with an everlasting love.  I have drawn you with loving-kindness. I will build you up again, and you will be rebuilt, O virgin Israel.”
His words were a balm upon my soul, soothing the fiery wounds I’d carried so long.  I didn’t know how to pray, or what to do, so finally, I dropped to my knees there in the warmth of the morning rays drifting through my kitchen window, “I need You, Jesus.  I want You in my life.  Please, Jesus, pull me out of this pit of misery and pain, and help me learn to trust in Your love for... for me.”
I knelt there for some time.  Weakened from the tears.  Emptied, yet bursting with joy.  The relief I felt was incredible.  Almost tangible!  
More times than I cared to recall, I had been certain I’d found acceptance and love.   I’d hung on, white knuckled, fearful of the coming rejection.  But this... this was different.
This was a love that required nothing of me, but took all of Him.
It was pure.
It was perfect love.

Note: Through the following weeks, we will walk through "Hannah's" journey as she continues to search for acceptance and meaning in her life and her story will conclude on June 10th at Firm Foundation Ministries - my home church. Hannah will be coming to reveal her true identity as well as testify to the grace of God in her life.

I invite you to come, as I know you will be able to appreciate the life that Hannah now lives. She is an amazing person who inspires me daily! Hannah's story conclusion will be posted here as well.

Please feel free to share this link with others. As I've listened to Hannah tell me her story... as I write these words, I am struck over and over again at the importance of father/daughter relationships. I began this series, praying it would encourage young women - teenage women... that it would help them find their value in Christ alone. But the more I listen, the more I write, the more I realize the lesson in here for fathers as well.

If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to Walking on Water (top right corner), and plan to join us each Monday as Hannah's story continues to unfold.

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