It's Only a Game...

Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 8.54.30 PM.png

My marriage to my first husband, Bob, seemed straight out of a fairytale for the first decade or so. One another’s best friends, we loved playing tennis, video games, river rafting, listening to sermons—almost anything, as long as it was together.

Twelve years into our marriage, the spring morning dawned bright and sunny and, as was my habit, I was sitting in my wonderful "King Arthur" recliner, enjoying my time with the Lord. Bob also practiced daily quiet time. Seated on the couch in the same room, his eyes were closed in prayer, bible open on his lap.

At this early hour when the children were still in bed, all seemed so serene. How like a picture of our marriage this scene seemed to me. During those years, I praised God so often that he had given me a godly husband, that our marriage was based on a solid foundation. As I looked back over my life it seemed that God had given me a precious gift of having done this one thing right...I had married such a wonderful man—a great father, a patient, kind person, and a great provider. Given my past history of abuse of all kinds, I considered this very precious — and exceptional!

Recently, I had noticed that Bob had begun to struggle keeping a lid on his temper—something that had never been a problem. He also seemed somewhat depressed.  I had consoled myself that this had to do with having recently left our church home of fifteen years. He went from a place of great responsibility and value in a struggling church to a thriving church home that had thousands of people, but we both felt somewhat anonymous. I assumed there was a void or vacuum in his life that he was struggling to fill where church service had once been. I had further convinced myself that before long we would be "plugged in" to leadership there and all would once again be well. 

On that particular morning, I looked ahead at the day that the Lord had made. I was “rejoicing and being glad” in it, and Bob looked up from his praying.  The night before, we had returned from a weekend of wonderful time together at our new church's leadership conference. We had relished the joy and excitement of being together with people who love the Lord. All that time together had reminded us of times we had had earlier in our marriage—before his temper began to intensify. Before he seemed increasingly depressed.

Bob's face reflected concern. He invited me to join him on the couch with outstretched arms. Holding me close, he began to speak: "There is something I need to tell you..." 

Unsettled upon hearing those words, nothing could have prepared me for what Bob shared with me at that moment.

"I have dabbled in internet pornography. I need to tell you. I need to confess it...I need your forgiveness..."

Now, two decades later, I know that disclosure was woefully incomplete and that what was no less than sex addiction brought about the ultimate death of our “storybook” marriage after 33 years. Bob ultimately gave in to the enemy of his soul. Sixteen years after he had first admitted his “flirtation” with internet porn, he announced that he no longer wanted to have anything to do with God and that he was no longer committed to our marriage. Within four years of that admission, we were divorced. 

I never dreamed that it would happen to us...to me.

And it all began with: 

“There is something I need to tell you...”

So, when, in June of this year, Michael, the man I was engaged to marry in a few weeks said to me “I have something I need to tell you...” Like an echo in a long dark hallway, the words were vaguely familiar and not just a little alarming. Internally, I panicked. Adrenaline surged through my system. I felt a very real urge to run...before I even heard what it was that Michael wanted to tell me.

Between the end of Michael’s sentence and the time he got the next words out...moments stretched out like hours...I had plenty of time to go to toxic places in my head.

I remember feeling a heaviness in my chest and realizing I needed to breathe. Reminding myself that I had just been triggered or, like one counselor calls it, “bungeed back to a point in the past,” I attempted to tell myself what is true. To think God’s thoughts after Him. The challenging experience of my past was in my face, demanding a hearing…now

BUT…

 “Michael is devoted to me.”

“He has worked long and hard to bring his very best to our relationship.”

“If he drifts, the Lord will get us through it.”

 Michael completed his thought. “I bought some purple gems.”

He had just made reference to an online game that we both enjoy playing for free without purchasing any of the add-ons available to help a player progress faster in the game..

GOOD GRIEF! My internal reaction was way out of proportion to what Michael disclosed—all because of a past trauma associated with the destruction of my marriage and my family.

As you can imagine, I was so relieved that his “disclosure” wasn’t about viewing pornography or some equally disturbing truth, but that it was only that he had spent $10 on a game we had agreed with one another we would only play for free.

Triggers are like this. They hit us out of nowhere. They take us right back to a space in time where we may need to forgive someone, process a wound, meet with the Lord. We may need to renew our minds about a very specific experience in order not to relive it again and again and again.

Sometimes, before we speak out and do damage in the present because of damage done to us in the past we can quietly pray and ask God to direct our thoughts . Fortunately, that was what happened in this example. 

But there are many, many *other* examples I could share where I have been triggered and the one stumbling over my “trip wire” was NOT so fortunate.

When this happens, it reminds me that I have a need to go to the Lord to process pain when it happens. Or like one woman in our Fresh Wind Fresh Desire coaching groups said, “To feel the feel.” To deal with disappointment, to forgive...There is work to be done and God is calling me to take His hand as we walk through it together.

How about you?

Do you have any triggers that bungee you back to a place in your distant past? Is there something there that the Lord may want you to bring to Him so he can comfort you as you face into it? He wants to heal. Like Dr. Carolyn Leaf says, we need to feel in order to heal.

What will you do to experience the “more-than-conqueror” type of victory that the Lord intends?

~ Heidi Bylsma-Epperson

Not Heard...

mannequin-1208188_1920.jpg

Freedom to feel for me has more to do with having the ability to know that the people in my life are safe for me to be with, to talk to, to be emotionally honest with. So many times in my life I have heard, in one way or another, “Suck it up. That’s life,” but that statement isn’t always true or helpful. 

How many times did I reach out for help or guidance and was met with blank stares or something like, “Yeah that would be hard,”  or was just ignored? 

I have often asked myself the question of why did my parents punish me for things like not finishing my chores, but then, when I did something really stupid or got into legal trouble, they had nothing to say. To his credit, my dad did go to court with me after I was arrested once (as a teenager), but neither of my parents asked me a most important question: “What is going on with you that you would do these things?” Incidents like these confirmed in my mind that they really didn’t care and that my cries for help were not heard. 

I remember a little drawing I did when I was a teenager, of a guy sitting on the ground with his knees up. He was doing something with on object coming from his midsection. One of my brothers saw the drawing and thought I drew a picture of a guy doing something sexual to himself, which wasn’t the case at all. 

The drawing was actually of a guy stabbing himself in the stomach. What was my brother’s response when I told him what the picture was of? He had no response. 

How often do we call out for help, maybe in the only way we can, or even  know how, and how many times are we actually heard?

This week, at the summer camp where I am working, one camper is non-communicative except for a noise he makes continuously. It makes me wonder what he is trying to say, or what thoughts are going through his head, but because of this inability to communicate he is stuck in a shell, remaining misunderstood and ridiculed for the ability he does have. 

Have you ever felt like that? Maybe you are even trying your best to scream for help, but you are only met with blank stares, ridicule and silence because others can’t understand the way you reach out for help or what you are  going through.

It is things like this, traumas, that get us into patterns of retracting ourselves, isolating, and returning to hiding how we really feel. 

Jesus calls us to come out. Dare to step into the light. Ask God for His guidance and find a person or a group of people that you can trust and confide in, where you can feel safe and where you are able to process those thoughts, feelings and emotions that cause you to withdraw from this world, hiding your light that God has given you. 

The Word tells us to be strong and very courageous, if today is not the day for you, the day is coming when the powers and principalities of this world will no longer be able to restrain you and the person that God has called you to be. Be empowered, renew your mind and gain your freedom to feel. 

~ Michael Epperson

How Did I Get Here?

nap.png

Proverbs 24:30-34 tells a story of a man passing by a vineyard owned by a slacker who lacked sense and judgement. His vineyard was over grown and in great disrepair. When I read this story, I can’t help but think of myself and the way I handled my life for a number of years. It was easier to not look at the decay that was going on around me than to face the truth of my situation.

 This story shows us truth and helps us to gain understanding about how easy it is to allow ourselves to fall into a trap of: “Maybe tomorrow I will work on……,” or, as the Scripture puts it: “…a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest….” Before you know it you find yourself wondering, “How did I get here?”

…a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest…

It is easy for me to look back on my life and see with clarity where I started going off track. As they say, hind-sight is 20/20. Hind-sight does not and will not fix where I am today, but I do have the opportunity on this day to awaken from my slumber and get to work on renewing and restoring my life. God has given us a blueprint for returning to Him and how to break free from those things that held us captive—by feeding on His word and by renewing our minds. 

Michael

The Underlying Wound

truck.png

Christmas morning my brother and I were running late to meet my mom at a gas station about thirty miles from her house. Living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains all the roads are curvy as they wind their way through the foothills. It was foggy that morning, which made the road wet. I figured my mom was probably getting impatient, so I was driving faster then I should have been. This of course doesn’t make a good combination, windy roads, foggy conditions and a truck with bald tires, disaster is bound to occur, and it did. I ended up destroying my dad’s pride and joy—when we finally stopped rolling, we had picked up about 135 feet of barbed wire, which was wrapped nicely right behind the cab. There wasn’t a straight panel on that old Dodge Powerwagon. 

  Seemingly we were, overall, no worse for wear. My brother suffered a separated shoulder and received several lacerations running down the length of his arm, graciously given to him by an overzealous man, just trying to help. As for me? I seemed fine, joking about how dad was going to kill me for wrecking the truck

  I wandered around the accident site for about forty-five minutes thinking I escaped uninjured. People on the scene asked me if I was alright, and I told them I was fine. But there was a sign that something was wrong—my brother had blood on the front of his shirt, and nobody could figure out where it came from. I was wearing a long, dark-colored sweater on that day, that was perfect for covering the wound. A woman who stopped to help us happened to be a nurse and she asked again if I was sure I was ok. I said “Yes, but my back does sting a little bit.” 

 I lifted the back of my sweater to discover the top four inches of my blue jeans were red— crimson red. I calmly, in almost a joking voice, said “Oh, oh.” The nurse told me to let her see. I lifted the back of my sweater and in a very panicked voice she yelled “Sit down right now!!!” She asked a man to apply pressure to my back and that’s when the pain hit me.

Isn’t that the way it always is? You can go along in your life thinking everything is just fine, “I’m ok,” you say, but once that veil has been lifted and the wound has been discovered, that’s when the pain of our trauma begins. Just under that sweater laid a thirteen-inch gash across my lower back. It would take a surgeon more than five hours and nearly 3000 stitches to sew me back up. 

How many of us walk around thinking everything is ok, when we’re actually so hyped-up on our own adrenalin that we are totally unaware that, just under our own self-imposed veil of secrecy, lays a potentially life-altering, debilitating wound that won’t just go away. Until we address the wound, healing cannot and will not begin.

From what I am told that surgeon painstakingly sewed every layer of muscle back together, one at a time. What an example of what Jesus wants to do in each of our lives. Jesus wants to take every broken, shattered, piece of your life that has torn you apart and left you with a gaping wound in your very soul—a wound so deep that it becomes debilitating, like you’re bleeding out and don’t even know it. “I am fine,” you say. The truth is that you were millimeters from death, but God held back the hand of death and preserved your life. He painstakingly put all the pieces back together, bit by bit, layer after layer and healed you.

It amazes me to think how prideful and arrogant I was back then. Ten months after the accident I started wrestling at a community college, disregarding sound advice from my physical therapist, who happened to by my mom. Why would I listen to her? 

There is no doubt I should have “red-shirted” that year! I can’t tell you how many matches I lost because in the middle of the match my back said, “I’m done,” and just quit working. My body would just collapse. 

How many times have you said to yourself, “I’m healed now!” and gone on with life like nothing ever happened only to find yourself later laying on your back defeated?

After that wrestling season ended, I hit the gym hard and came back a beast. I gained about twenty pounds of muscle and made sure there was going to be no repeat of last year. I worked on area-specific strength training to strengthen my lower back, and worked my abs like a mad man, even though I hate working abs!

Until you take the time and work on the areas of your life that help you to heal from your past wounds, you will find yourself failing over and over again.

  God is trying to do a work in us, to heal us, to make us whole, but we must allow for the healing process to occur. We must do the work—hit the gym as it were—do all we can to address and rebuild those areas of our life that were affected. 

 But the scars do still remain. It took years for me to regain feeling in my lower back. Even today, some 30 plus years later, the scars still remind me of that past trauma. I amhealed. I dohave full function of my body. God has healed me, but that doesn’t mean that I, at times, don’t have to spend a little extra time stretching that area where the wound occurred or that at times, I don’t get strange pins and needles sensations in that area. 

In Christ, youare healed. God is doing a new thing in you, but that doesn’t mean that those wounds don’t have life-long side effects. God hasrestored you, but that doesn’t mean that you will never be without scars from your past wound.

  The account of Jesus after he rose from the dead is amazing to me. There are several accounts were Jesus showed people his scars, disclosing the things that pierced him so deeply, but he wasn’t ashamed to show them his scars as a testimony of his overcoming victory. 

Let us never be ashamed of our wounds. Because of Jesus Christ we too have victory over every wound that we have endured. Your scars are your proof that you are more than a conquerer!

~ Michael