Friday, July 9, 2010

He set me free

"Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance
I just wanna praise you
I just wanna praise you
You broke the chains now I can lift my hands
And I'm gonna praise you
I'm gonna praise you

Been through the fire and the rain
Bound in every kind of way
But God has broken every chain
So let me go right now."

Warryn Campbell, Erica Atkins-Campbell and Trecina Atkins-Campbell

Standing on the platform with the Real Life Church praise & worship team one recent Sunday morning, I had a moment that might be defined as an epiphany (well, the second definition of the word; not the “feast” one): You never know how bound you have been in life until you are finally free.

That moment was truly a defining one for me and set off a process that will most likely be a continual one for the rest of my life.

It has been no great secret that I have been going through something for the past year. Although I still don’t want to talk about the entire particulars of it, I will admit that it totally changed my life as I knew it. Thankfully, it didn’t end my life since I’m much stronger than I give myself credit for being. But it did change me drastically.

Prior to this, I’d been hurt numerous times, but never at such a cataclysmic level. I was devastated. I literally felt as if someone had taken a surgically-sharpened machete, cut my legs off at the knees and then - almost gleefully - stood over where I lay and cut my heart out of my chest while staring directly into my eyes.

Dramatic? Maybe. True? Abundantly.

My heart was not just broken. It felt shattered beyond repair and felt as if the pieces were sitting heavy and almost vilely at the bottom of my torso. I guess the best way to describe how it looked to me in my mind is how one of those glass balls that hangs on Christmas trees would look on the pavement when dropped from the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building.


Worse than my heart being broken, though, I felt my spirit had been broken. Although I certainly didn’t want to harm myself, I simply couldn’t manage to care anymore. I was just numb, but painfully numb. That probably doesn’t make much sense but it seemed that I felt nothing yet I still hurt.

People closest to me reached out and tried to help. I didn’t resist, but I didn’t really receive either. I couldn’t. Oddly enough, a handful of folks who aren’t that close to me offered some words that later became very encouraging to me. And I’m honestly not certain if they even realized what they were saying or if God was just using them to messengers for Him since I wasn’t really listening closely to Him at the time.

I didn’t exactly give up on my faith, I just didn’t, well, have much faith in it. If God truly loved me, I couldn’t believe that He would allow this pain to continue. I begged Him to stop it, to fix it, to remove it and even, at times, to remove me.

In either a psychology class or sociology class at Northeast, I can remember learning about the stages of grief. I never truly believed they existed. With me, I generally lost, cried and attempted to move on. This time I experienced almost every single one of the Kubler-Ross model: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Until I started writing this paragraph, I didn’t realize I experienced them in that order, too, but I honestly believe I did although it seemed I kept revisiting the anger stage often.

Although I finally worked through four of the stages, I never could seem to settled on the fifth one: acceptance. It wasn’t that I didn’t want the pain to be over and to move on with my life. I’d prayed for that since the very beginning. I just couldn’t seem to walk there. It was like I’d almost get to what I deemed the “end,” and something would happen to propel me backwards. To say it was frustrating for me is an understatement. There were nights when I would cry out to God to remove the hurt, that I just couldn’t take it anymore. And then there were times when I would just scream because I couldn’t find the vocabulary to match my cries.

Then one Sunday morning we were singing Darlene Zschech’s song “Freedom.” Although I was “faking it until I make it,” I certainly wasn’t feeling the words until we got to the line in the lyrics which states “It is for freedom You’ve set us free.” And something within me moved. Standing there, I literally felt as if heavy, iron shackles were falling from my wrists and ankles. I really believe I saw them drop and heard them clank against the platform floor.

The final process was finally beginning.

I began delving more into the Word than ever before and it became alive to me. It was like a salve for my wounds. I learned that there truly is power in praising God, in my case, healing power. I really listened to the lyrics of “How Great Is Our God” and “Come As You Are” and began to sing them honestly and live them fully.

John 8:36 became my lifestyle.

Despite feeling free, though, I couldn’t seem to let go. I felt as if my immediate past was glued to me and I couldn’t release it. I’d pray for it to go away - for total restoration - but it seemed to me as if God wasn’t interested in completing the process.

Although I love Mercy Me, I didn’t want to continue living “Bring the Rain”:

"Bring me joy, bring me peace
Bring the chance to be free
Bring me anything that brings You glory
And I know there'll be days
When this life brings me pain
But if that's what it takes to praise You
Jesus, bring the rain."

I was ready for the sun - and the Son - to completely and fully shine in my life again.

But God doesn’t always do everything instantly. Sometimes He works by process and, well, apparently I was still a work in progress.

In January, I was invited to become a member of a team for a Walk to Emmaus. Although I didn’t feel worthy to do it, I found myself accepting anyway. Believing that God is come-as-you-are, I knew He would either get me ready or move the opportunity.

Standing in one of the team meetings, I sucked back tears as I looked around that room. We were truly a team in every sense of the word despite the fact that many of us had come into the Walk as strangers. We all had baggage. We all, it seemed, were going through something. We all were instantly bonded. We all became cohesive and undeniably close knit.

We all were at various levels of truly becoming overcomers.

The Walk weekend elevated me to a relationship level with God that I had never experienced before - not even on my own Walk. Still spiritually high, for lack of a better term, I went to Clinton for the Fourth of July weekend to visit Janet, a fellow W Girl who attended the Columbus college at the same time I had. Although I knew we would have fun, I never really dreamed it would be a weekend that was almost as spiritual for me as the one before.

I’m thankful God has provided me friends who aren’t ashamed to take my hand and approach the Throne of God with me often. I’m thankful for friends who aren’t so scared of me that they will get in my face and tell me I’m wrong. I’m thankful for friends who aren’t afraid to put on their waders and step out into the muck and gunk surrounding my life and offer to help pull me out of it. I’m thankful for friends who see value in me and deem me worthy to love even when I feel so unloveable. I’m thankful for friends who believe in me when I am unable to believe in myself. And I’m thankful for friends who are ultra persistent and refuse to give up on me even after I’ve long given up.

Bottom line, I’m just thankful ...

Monday morning came and it was time to head north to Corinth. Although I didn’t want to go, I really had no choice. Starting the car, I popped a CD in the player and Third Day’s “Mountain of God” began playing.

"Thought that I was all alone
Broken and afraid
But You were there with me
Yes, You were there with me

And I didn't even know
That I had lost my way
But You were there with me
Yes, You were there with me

'Til You opened up my eyes
I never knew
That I couldn't ever make it
Without You

Even though the journey's long
And I know the road is hard
Well, the One who's gone before me
He will help me carry on
After all that I've been through
Now I realize the truth
That I must go through the valley
To stand upon the mountain of God

As I travel on the road
That You have lead me down
You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me
I have need for nothing more
Oh, now that I have found
That You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me

I confess from time to time
I lose my way
But You are always there
To bring me back again

Sometimes I think of where it is I've come from
And the things I've left behind
But of all I've had, what I possessed
Nothing can quite compare
With what's in front of me
With what's in front of me

I thought that I was all alone
Broken and afraid
But, You are here with me
Yes, You are here with me."

Midway through the song, I began to feel a warmth start at my feet and slowly move up through my body. By the time it hit my shoulders, I was shouting and crying and praising God all at the same time.

I was finally healed.

There in the driveway of Janet’s home, the almost yearlong process was completed.

I wanted to do like the folks of the Old Testament variety and get out of the car and build a tabernacle. I didn’t literally, but figuratively, I did. And I will never, ever look at her driveway the same way again.

Stopping by Janet’s office, I had a such a huge smile on my face she asked me what was going on. Although I couldn’t fully find the words to describe it all, somehow she understood and she rejoiced with me.

Now I am looking at the world literally through different eyes and a different heart beats within my chest. Although I said I’d never trust anyone again, I’m cautiously and slowly relearning how to do that. I know I will begin to trust again soon, I will just be more careful in choosing who I allow into my life and how much of my heart I will give to those around me. I’ve hardly “arrived” yet and perfection is not even a word in my vocabulary. I’m still flawed, but I’m improved.

I’ve grown up a lot over the past few months and I honestly believe that’s a good thing. I told someone recently that I felt as if I had been to a rehab center of sorts and much of the junk that was once weighing down my life had been detoxed. I am more me today and more real than I have ever been.

And I like that feeling.

Please forgive me for sharing so many song lyrics, but music has always had the ability to speak to me more than any other form of written communication. Natalie Grant has a song that somewhat sums up where I am today. It’s called “I Will Be” and the lyrics are indicative of where I hope I am in my life - where I truly want to be.

"One heart, one voice
Living out love in this world of noise
My dream and my joy
Giving you all I have made a choice
Desperately I'm waiting
To answer your calling

I will be a candle in the darkness
I will be the hand of heaven above
I will be a mirror that reflects your
Endless love
I will be the hope among the hopeless
Where there is conflict I will be peace
Only by the power of your spirit that's living in me
I will be

Your heart, your plan
Give me your eyes help me understand
My feet, my hands
Holding out living hope to every man
Knowing what you've made me
With every single heartbeat

Gracious, Gentle and Kind
Knowing that your love will shine
Through mine."

Please be patient with me as I continue through this process we call “life.” I’m evolving every day and I like most of it. Change has never been something I enjoyed, but I now can say change was necessary.

I’m looking forward to the future and returning to look back and revisiting the pain of the past. In the present, I’m attempting to figure out just what it is that God has in store for me. I know He has a plan and I’m ready to walk in it now more than ever. I have dreams and desires that I am hoping He will see fit to fulfill soon.

Most of all, I am grateful - and so very blessed.


RAnn said...

Hi, please email me at ruthjoe at aoldot com about a feature I'd like to do on you for the MFAeA blog. Thanks

Tracy said...

Oh Kim, that was beautifully shared... and you made me cry! (In a good way :) )

I know we've never been close, but I have always admired you so much; now I admire you even more.

Your sharing of what's happened in your life helps me... and probably scores or other folks too.

Do you know the old hymn, "Praise Him, Praise Him?" Your personal story makes me want to sing that... loudly!!