I have the privilege and permission to share this very difficult and amazing email with you from Candace. And here she is, the beauty behind the beautiful words.
Before you read this, Candace wanted me to remind you that this is all about God and what He has done. He gets all the glory (and for that I am happy to share!)
A friend sent me your emailed blog a few months back. I have enjoyed reading them. I have been encouraged to obey the Lord in stepping out and being vulnerable. Last Sunday, while at church, they were asking for volunteers to give testimonies. I felt the Holy Spirit poke me. All week I have made excuses for WHY I cannot speak in front of 30 people I do not know…I have been telling the Lord I am too busy, still have to do my taxes, have only been to the class 3 times…blah, blah, blah. But, I do things terrified when God calls- this included. So, this morning, He woke me up with this on my heart. I speak tomorrow morning:
Most kids, when they are little say their prayers at night. They ask for things like trucks, dolls, things like that. I prayed a lot when I was little. I prayed and prayed, night after night, day after day, that God would let me die. I just wanted it to end.
I can’t remember a beginning, only that every day, I was abused by my father and later by my brother. At first, my father told me if I let him hurt ME, he would not hurt my little brother. So, I let him, year after year, until he lied. He hurt my little brother anyway. Then, he told me that he would not hurt my mother. Saving HER became my life’s purpose. As a little girl, I became the protector of my family.
My mother was a schizophrenic and my father a pedophile. Our home was not only spiritually black, but also physically black as all of the windows were covered with foil to keep out the light. My mother was afraid people could see inside our house.
She was also afraid they would try to come in. So, on the windows were locks and over the foil were heavy, blackout shades and over those, heavy drapes. To me, it felt like prison. I felt locked-in, trapped. Inside our house were many animals- 15-20 cats, dogs, a rabbit, a turtle. There was a heavy stench of urine, which filled the air.
My mother was also a hoarder. So, there were piles and piles of things- everywhere. But, on the outside, where people could see, our yard was perfect. Not a weed, not a leaf laid on the meticulously, raked desert ground on our acre of land. We lived in the middle of nowhere in a small desert town where the houses were far apart. This made it even harder to run away. There was nowhere to go- just miles of hot, barren desert.
As a child, I knew little of God other than the “jesus” my parents used with outside people to cover their lies. I lied too. My life inside my house was so ugly, so dark that I knew if anyone ever found out the truth, they could never love me. Inside of me, I felt like a filthy rag that had been used and used to the point…it should be thrown away, I should be thrown away.
So I lied to everyone. I wanted them to think I was good- I was normal. I worked hard in school and made A’s. My teachers liked me. I got along with the other kids. No one knew the truth. No one knew what I really was, the things I did, the way I lived.
As I grew up, continuously sick from infections and pain, my heart grew hard. It was a hardened pride that only I could hold our family together. My brothers and mother would try to commit suicide and I would come in as the nurse, keeping everyone alive, trying to make everything all right. I was the peacemaker, but I was alone inside, surrounded by 3 people who used me and one who never hurt me, but who I could not protect from the evil.
God was gracious, despite my hardened heart, to keep me protected during those difficult years. He brought older Christian women who befriended me and took me to church, listened to me, just spent time with me. Most were teachers who had compassion on me. Their care soothed my longing for nurturing and the time in church kept me hearing the Word of God even though it did not penetrate my heart. I tried though.
I “accepted Jesus into my heart” many times, waiting to be changed instantly into something else, someone else. But, there was no change. So, I used Christianity as another way to cover the truth of how I was living. I was very persuasive, so people believed me, just like they believed my parents. It was easy to lie, yet I so wanted someone to see through the lies and rescue me.
At 20, an older married friend offered to rescue me from my home. I jumped. The very next day, I left home with only a bag of clothes and a few dollars. This couple said they were Christians too, but I quickly found out I had jumped out of the frying pan and into a fire of another kind of abuse- spiritual abuse and legalism. I didn’t know what it was then. I was so glad to be out of my “hell” that anything seemed better. I went along with them, memorizing Scripture, doing my daily Bible studies, going to church, following all of their rules, but inside…I hated God.
By 24, I could not take it anymore. I was isolated from all family, other relatives and all of my friends, as this woman had convinced me to end every relationship on the grounds they were not “biblical”. I followed her, with her family around the country, moving several times with the Air Force. Yet, I was never “good” enough for her though I tried to follow every rule.
I had perfected the art of faking, lying for many years, yet it was never enough for her. She held me in a different prison, threatening constantly to end our relationship, if I wouldn’t “repent”. I verbally apologized and would try so hard to DO what the Bible said, but I failed again and again. No matter how many Scriptures I memorized, I could not DO them. I could not LIVE them. Finally, I just gave up.
I remember looking up at the ceiling of my apartment and telling God to, “LEAVE ME ALONE!” I was done. I was alone. I wanted to die. “Why don’t you just let me die?!!!”, I would scream at Him. I was sick of the lies, sick of Christianity, sick of a god who did nothing to help me be good. I blamed everyone else. I justified my own behavior by all that I had been through and by how “I” had survived.
For 1 year, I lived alone in life. I worked and came home in despair. I would spend my weekends at the movies since I had no television. I would go to the gym and exercise for hours. I could not make the pain in my very core, end. It hurt so much. I hurt so much. I felt worthless, ugly, black, lonely, rejected, abandoned, used.
God did not give up. He pursued me with a jealous love. He would speak so clearly to my heart, asking me questions like, “Do you want to BE that bitter woman you see on that movie screen?” “LEAVE ME ALONE!” I would scream back in my heart.
One night, I angrily questioned God, asking Him, “Why do you send people to Hell? What kind of a loving God does that?!!!” “Where were you all of those years? Why didn’t you kill me and end my suffering? Did you get some kind of kick out of my pain?”
Oh, my bitter, angry heart. And oh, the deep, deep, love of Jesus…..
He did answer me. He told me, “I do not send people to Hell. They deny me and choose Hell. People love their sin and they follow it rather than follow Me.” Then, He showed me a verse in Corinthians- “For He who knew NO SIN, became sin, on our behalf, that we might BECOME the righteousness of God in Christ”. Seriously? I could BECOME righteous? How could that be possible? Then, He brought me to 1st John, “And in Him there is NO DARKNESS AT ALL”. No darkness? At ALL? How could that be? All I had ever known was darkness.
On December 14, 1997, after spending a very long night at the movies, I came back to my empty apartment and lay across the bed, crying. I fell asleep around 2am. Around 6am, God woke me up. Suddenly, my heart was tender. My sins, one after another, flooded my mind- lying, manipulation, anger, bitterness, selfishness, pride, hate. I realized for the very first time, that “I” had sinned against a HOLY God.
I knew 1st John 1:9 and I started confessing. It took 2 hours, as I sat up in bed, telling Jesus I was so sorry for hurting Him, for grieving Him with my hateful words and rebellious behavior. I talked and talked to Him until I was done. And, then I asked Him, “Can you make ME righteous? Can you make ME clean? Will you teach me to trust? I don’t know how.” I thought of the verse that talks about the “height and length and depth and breadth of God”…I asked Him if I could KNOW Him like THAT. I didn’t want the “fake Christianity”. I wanted the “real thing”.
I got up from bed that morning, new. I was new! Different! My empty heart had been filled up to overflowing. There was hope where there had only been despair. There was life where there had only been death. I was overwhelmed with a strong desire to sing! So I did. I sat on the couch and sang songs to Jesus. I knew He was listening.
I remember that first day so well. Every hour I told Him, “I cannot trust You for a lifetime. I don’t know how. That seems like such a long time. But I can trust you for an hour.” So I did. That day, I trusted Him one hour at a time. Hours became days and days have become years.
Last December was 15 years He has held me tight and not let go of my wandering heart. He has taught me what love is. He has taught me what is truly good. He has given me a tender, compassionate heart for others. He has filled me with a hope that anchors my very core. He is light when things get dark. He fills my mind with Psalms that He is My Shepherd, My Keeper, The Guardian of my soul, My Light, My Salvation, My Comforter.
Over the years, He has done many, many things to heal me from my past. He has taken away, piece by piece, the layers of shame. He has given me courage and supernatural strength to face the realities of what happened to me and the blessed opportunities to encourage other wounded hearts that there is a HOPE- Jesus. He has asked me to do very difficult things, like give my testimony to complete strangers and I have obeyed, because I trust Him.
I know His ways are good. I know that He loves in a greater way than I can ever comprehend. I know that someone here needs to hear this. He loves you. There is no ugly too ugly for God. There is no darkness too dark for Jesus. He overcomes the darkness. He fills up the empty. He carries those who have fallen. He is GRACE. It is His KINDNESS that brings us to repentance. He is not waiting to hammer you with rules and regulations. He is waiting to HOLD you and HEAL you from your sin. He LOVES you, each one of you, to your very core.
Being bold for a very BOLD God,