Picture it, Orlando, 2016. The day before New Year's Eve. The sun is shining, and despite its warmth, my soul is chilled. I look up, the rays on my face, God is there, somewhere, right? He has to be. My chest is tight. Breathing hurt, everything hurt. My life had become a prison, walls built one by one from my own decision making, and I was tired. I could not take anymore. I said a prayer, the exact words, escape me. But, I begged God for a sign, clarity, to save me. My marriage was killing me.
I'd said prayers before, the grueling kind, with tears. I'd yelled them, and written them, and pleaded. Nothing. Why aren't you answering me?
Because marriage is holy, right? And divorce is sinful, right? And you would want this to work, for me? For the kids who would inevitably be broken? God, this is what is right what YOU said to do. And I've done everything. I followed the rules, and I played the game and so I would be blessed with a long, healthy, marriage. The desires of my heart.
A favorite thought leader of mine, Glennon Doyle Melton, once said, "God does not value marriage more than he values the individual souls inside of marriage."
God, most certainly saw my crushed soul, heart breaking after every lie, and stories that didn't add up, and children not of my womb. I became angry with my marriage, with God for not hearing me, for not changing him, for not saving me. I was broken, and hurting, and I couldn't breathe, trapped.
I said my desperate prayer, spent New Year's Eve alone, at church...and the next morning my husband told me he didn't want to "be here anymore."
New Year's Day 2017, and the room is spinning. "You...don't...want to be here? What does that mean? What do you mean! What about the kids? I have nobody down here. How will I survive? Surely this can be fixed. Let me fix this!" My soul felt like it left my body, and the world around me was closing in. The man standing in front of me was blank, I didn't even recognize him. I'd never see the person who loved me, a naive 17-year-old girl, again. In fact, I don't think I'd seen that person in a long time. I no longer knew who he was, and I didn't recognize myself.
The next morning, I picked myself up out of a tear filled pillow and started running. Running and crying, and praying, and listening on repeat to Crystal Aikin "So Amazing" the lyrics, music, my only connection to God. She adlibs "You have the power to heal, power to forgive, mend a broken heart, put me back together again."
I resolved, this would not kill me.
I packed my kids, booked a resort beachside an hour and a half away in Tampa, and I let the water heal me. My tears could have filled the ocean. But, I felt God and his vast love, and I knew he answered my prayers.
However, I've gained more than I could have ever imagined. A strength and resolve that could have only been pulled from my ancestors, the women who raised me, and God himself. Peace that now rules my existence, you could not pay me to give it up. Wisdom. FREEDOM. I was in bondage, enough that I couldn't hear or feel God. My heart opened up again to the universe, to God's love, to be loved and love again. And God sustained me, not once have I struggled. He placed amazing friends in my life who I honestly could not thank enough, who came through emotionally, spiritually, and financially. My friends, Erica Crigler, Erica Redmond, and Jazz Keyes helped save my life. My tribe, the women in my family, I could never repay.
If I didn't know what it meant to be strong, to be powerful, to be woman, to be mother...I know now. I learned to trust and extend myself to God in ways that were beyond my present comprehension. I wish I could bottle all the lessons I learned, to get the fullness of all of it. I cannot. But, I can begin to share, to pull other women over to wholeness and healing with me. To empower others, as I am empowered to reveal layers of my life.
I look forward now, to 2018. I'm calling it the #YearOfManifestation. I'm going for everything God has for me.
Happy New Year.