Last week I started an 8-week women's support group at my church. I wasn't sure what to expect, but things got off to an awesome start and I am certain that my presence there was not by happenstance. The group is structured around a wonderful book, "Still on the Journey", which takes a Biblical and spirital approach to dealing with the challenges, both big and small, that women face along this journey called "life."
We have homework assignments each week that will involve journaling. I decided to do my journaling here since the work we're doing is directly relevant to what's going on in my life. So, at some point each week, I'll post my thoughts on what we're learning here.
Our first assignment was a reading in Genesis 16 about Hagar, who after being treated unjustly by her mistriss Sarah [sp], ran away into the desert. I doubt that Hagar intended to end up in the hot, dry, miserable desert, I suspect she simply wanted to get away from the people and the circumstances that had caused her so much pain. I know that feeling well. Been there... Done that.
Of course, I never ran into the desert, but my "running" was quite literal. I moved to another city, sometimes to another state, when things got too difficult or too painful where I was. The problem is that once the excitement and the newness of moving to a new home, exploring a new city, making new friends and settling into a new job wore off, problems started to creep back into my life again. It took a long time, but I finally realized that no matter where I went, I was always there.
While Hagar was in the desert, an angel found her, called her by name, and asked her two very important questions: Where have you come from and where are you going? While discussing Hagar's predicament in the group, I realized that I've been where Hagar was at that moment and I've spent the better part of the last two years finding answers to those very questions for myself.
I've come from a place of unresolved pain, anger and bitterness. As a long-term survivor of a violent assault, I felt helpless, hopeless, afraid and ashamed. In my rush to put it behind me and move on with my life, I never dealt with the source of my pain and instead pushed it deep down inside. While I temporarily plugged a gaping hole in the dam, I failed to realize that the water was still rushing on the other side, building force, only to create cracks in other parts of the carefully-erected wall I'd built. Failed relationships, stress-induced illnesses, severe and chronic insomnia, job-hopping, spiritual isolation and countless other "holes" started appearing in my life until finally the dam burst.
It certainly hasn't been easy, and it hasn't been quick, but by God's grace, I am recovering. I am healing, one challenge at a time. With God's help, I've figured out where I'm going, ultimately. By that I don't mean that I know what city I'll ultimately live in or what job I'll have, but I have a very clear understanding of what's important in my life. I'm able to say "No" to things and people that are not good for me, I'm able to love myself - warts and all, and most importantly, I'm able to recognize and be thankful for God's blessings, even in the midst of a storm. I don't know the particulars of what God has in store for me, but I finally know in my heart that He does have a plan for my life and that as long as He is my guide and my compass, that I'll always be exactly where He wants me to be.