New International Version (NIV)
I needed clothes and You clothed me, I was sick and You looked after me, I was in prison and You came to visit me.
Many years ago I came across a poster that said "It Shouldn't Hurt to be a Child' and this really resonated with me because I grew up in a very dysfunctional home ridden with uncertainty, abuse, pain, and turmoil.
As early as four years old I attempted to run away from home and by the age of seven I got pretty good at it. At 14 years of age I was given an ultimatum to either conform and accept the status-quo or to leave. I chose the latter. Homeless, heartbroken, horrified, and humiliated I felt so alone, but God never left my side.
I thought I had found my solace at a nearby farm where I was able to help care for the animals, but even the farm was not a safe place to be even though God used my relationship with animals to nurture my ability to form meaningful bonds. Sadly, someone I trusted and looked up to wounded me very deeply. My place of refuge had failed me, but God didn't.
As God would have it animals continued to be a significant part of my life I was like a magnet drawing abandoned, abused, and injured critters that I was more than happy to nurture and care for. Bringing them home was not an option, but eventually my dad gave in and permitted me to have a dog. One thing my dad and I held in common was that we both really liked animals, but his painful childhood memories and the abusive home he came from led to him having to leave his dog behind. He never wanted to feel that kind of loss again hence why he kept resisting. I didn't know this at the time, but later learned about what he had endured in his formative years and in his youth and my heart was filled with empathy and compassion as I watched his tormented soul suffer silently as he attempted to drown his sorrows through substance abuse.
My mother was also no stranger to abuse which made it hard for her to get close to me. My brother's reaction to this overall toxic environment eventually led to severe mental illness, homelessness, and sudden death at the age of 50.
I always preferred to confront issues rather than run from them, nevertheless I had to ask God to grant me the serenity to accept the things I could not change and to give me the courage to change what I could - my part was to do what was/is possible leaving the impossible to Him.
Letting go has been a process that took trusting God to a whole new level. It meant completely surrendering my will in exchange for His. Someone once told me be careful what you pray for you just might get it. It wasn't too long before I knew what they meant. Change was scary, difficult, and painful because my loving Creator began purging my life of everything and everyone so that all that was left was Him. His Holy Spirit helped me to stay the course and gradually I began to engage with others that were also trying to find their way. There was something supernatural about the pain and uncertainty and it wasn't until much later that I came to realize that I was born-again a new creation whose deeply ingrained wounds were being cauterized to foster healing. I had to surrender my heart, will, and emotions (my soul) to God in order to find it in Him.
God was working in and through me “not by might nor by power, but by His Spirit” (Zechariah 4:6). I began to see that what the enemy (the devil) had meant for my harm God used to nurture the ambassador in me (2 Corinthians 5). But for the grace of God not only did I survive homelessness I went on to serve others who were homeless and unstably housed, while becoming a life-long advocate for and with vulnerable persons, their families, and animals.
In God's economy nothing adds up because He does not worship money the way the world does. I had nothing but found everything. I was lost and then found. I have worked to live not lived to work and as I have tended after God's business He took care of mine.
God taught me how to guard my heart by restoring my self respect. He gave me strength to carry on against all odds and He taught me not to give up on my family who eventually came to know the God of all Creation as their loving Messiah too.
So much has happened along the way but suffice to say that He is my shalom, my salvation and my Knight in Shining Armour. He is replacing the desires of my heart with His and I can say with sincere conviction and confidence that His ways are higher than my ways and His understanding is beyond my fallible comprehension. The illusion of self sufficiency no longer has a place in my life, because I am God-dependent and I wouldn't have it any other way.
The void within me could only be filled by God. He taught me what true love was by teaching me what it wasn't. He showed me how to have appropriate needs met, appropriately. He restored my faith, redeemed me, and reconciled me to set me apart for His glory in order to fulfill the desires of His Heart. I am His disciple and He is my righteousness - the lover of my soul, my provider, and my protector.
May the God of hope fill you (also) with all joy and peace as you put your trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of His Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13). JM