Pastor is doing a sermon series on Prayer. Last Sunday, he asked me to bring in my prayer journals and he wanted me to talk about them the next Sunday. He said from the first time he was getting to know me he was touched that I kept a prayer journal, wrote in it daily and went back and reviewed what I had written every year to see how God had answered prayers.
When he talked to me, I told him I was much more consistent in his head than I was in reality. In fact, I told him I had not written in my journals or even thought about them in several years. I didn’t even know where they were. I went home from church that day convicted and grieving. What had happened? How could it be that I had not even thought about those journals? I went home and began to look for them. At first I couldn’t even find them. Then, I saw 3 journals on the bookshelf in my office. I pulled them down. I called Pastor right away and told him I had found a few. He told me to read through the first one I pulled down and prepare to be amazed. Well, I thought, I’ll read through the one that comes first chronologically. (I am a little OCD that way.) But, then, I stopped myself and thought, ‘No, Pastor said the first one I pulled down.’ That might be significant. So, I pulled out the middle journal, which began in 2006. I read through it and saw some good stories that brought back some memories, I saw God answer a lot of prayers, but it all seemed random. I really didn’t get an overall amazing picture. So, I asked to meet with him.
We met at church and I told him I had read the journal and really did not get anything particularly amazing. I said, “I’m sure it’s right under my nose and might be clear to you, but I don’t get it.” I told him some things that were in the journal. He immediately saw a bigger picture. A lot of what was in that journal was about my feelings of struggling to be accepted, to be good enough, to please people and not let them down. He said that had been a lifelong struggle and heart cry for me and he was right. I was always a ‘good girl’. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone or let anyone down. That in itself is a good thing, but for me I let that determine my worth, value and identity. I was afraid if I let someone down or disappointed them, they wouldn’t like me, think highly of me or want to be my friend.
A backstory—in about 1998--2000, a lot changed for me. Because of a destructive, nasty church conflict at my previous church, I left that church, where I had been for 32 years, since I was about 14 years old. The church family I had loved for so many years hugely disappointed me, let me down, and I left. In that church split, I also lost my best friend of 25 years. At the same time, the circumstances at my office changed and I left my job, where I had been totally committed for 25 years. I adored my boss and leaving him felt like getting a divorce. Many important things in my life changed. Many people left me. As we started Spirit of Life and I began developing close relationships there, I was terrified that if I disappointed these people, they would leave, too. So I pulled my friends so close and held on so tight, I was smothering them. That caused some issues and some more hurt feelings.
As I was talking to Pastor, he asked me when this journal was written and what was going on in my life then. At first, I thought, I don’t know what happened yesterday, much less 10 years ago! But I remembered we moved to Fulshear in 2011, so 2006 was 5 years before that. For that previous 5 years, a friend of ours moved in with us and lived with us. She was a single mom and I wanted to help her out until she could get on her feet following a divorce. I never dreamed it would be for 5 years. When she moved in, the stress level and anxiety increased off the charts. What I realize now is that she had a lot of the same issues I did, although greatly magnified. I was trying to show her unconditional love, that I would stay with her, no matter what, that she had value and a purpose. I was determined to prove to her that I could do it. I was trying to fix her. I was trying to do for her what I wanted someone to do for me--to prove to me that they would hang in there with me, that I was worth it. Obviously, we can’t fix anyone and we can’t be everything for anyone. Jesus is the only one who can fill that void and love us unconditionally.
This is what Pastor helped me to see. He told me that what grows us up is the very thing that drives us to pray. Essentially, God turned up the heat when my friend moved in to show me that no one can take His place. No one can fill that void. No one can do that for us and we can’t do it for anyone else.
When I suffered all my personal losses, I suffered intense emotional pain. It took me years to get past it. Through a process of many things, including Theophostic prayer, counseling, lots of personal prayer, time, maturing, support of my church family and friends, I can honestly say that when I think of things now, there is no more pain. In all that struggle and pain, God grew me up. Growing can be so painful at times, but so worth it!
In the time since Pastor initially asked me about those journals, I have started journaling again. And my relationship with Jesus has grown by leaps and bounds. I didn’t know how much I missed that time with Him. I was still close to Him and talked to Him daily, but if you want an intimate relationship with someone, you have to stop and spend time with them. You can’t just be aware of their presence and say an occasional ‘hello’. My time with the Lord takes time, yes, but He is worth it and so am I!