Danielle’s Christian Testimony

For so many years I fought the urge to believe. I convinced myself that I knew what I needed to know and that I didn’t need God or religion. Things I believed were nothing more than a crutch. Like the Indigo Girls “Closer to Fine” says:  there’s more than one answer to these question- pointing me a crooked line . . .

I got my Philosophy degree and believed that I was smarter. I used my mind to think about the meaning of life. At least I had tried to figure things out and was all the better for that. But in the confusion I began to judge; I began to move away from what was in my heart. The love that I felt for others was clouded by the pain I felt for myself and how badly I wanted to stop hurting inside. I stopped caring about easing the pain of others.

After years of marriage and three children and two degrees, I was lost and more confused than ever. I was in a lonely marriage, in a lonely world – just alone – until one night I sat in my bed and I begged God to help me. Over the next few months things began to happen in my life – painful things, hideous things; the darkness was revealed and I was unable to hide from it ny longer. My husband of 15 years was having an affair with one of my closest friends. It was the woman who worked with him and cared for my kids before and after school. Our finances were a mess from overspending and the belief that material things would calm our restlessness. Relationships were shallow and meaningless; I had lost concern for myself and realized that I had gained 80 pounds. I was disgusting, living a disgusting life, blaming others and hating most eveything about myself. I was truly horrified and disgusted by myself. I was, of course, pretty horrified by the affair and the breakdown of my family and my marriage.

I guess I am writing this because no one that has known me understands the change in me. The non-believers, they look at me with the most alarmed looks of fear, like I am infected or insane or something. It’s the way I used to look at believers. These are my friends and family, the people that I believed my whole life was centered around, and they had once again let me down. But I have been so blessed by God’s love and by learning about Jesus that I have begun to forgive those around me. Before, I held to my anger and hatred like it was all that I had to protect me, all that I had to defend myself. I thought if I gave it up I would lose somehting more than what they had already taken from me.

Months later, as my husband and I were struggling to reconcile and learn how to save our family, I was confronted with two of the most painful and difficult things that I am still working on learning. One is the idea that we must love unconditionally; I had always thought that as the liberal, tree hugging, hippie chick that I was, that I knew about loving others. But when confronted with my husband’s sin and the fact that he was not perfect, but flawed in some very big ways, I had to address the idea that I did not know what true unconditional love was or how to do it, or if I could. And then I had to learn how to forgive someone who offends you in the most painful and debilitating ways. Unconditional love and forgiveness.

I am Sicilian, Irish, and Polish, my father is Sicilian and Irish, and my mom is Irish and Polish. They were alcoholics and drug addicts, and divorced when I was four. They were hippies who believed that true enlightenment was found in releasing the mind to psychotropic drugs, hallucinations, and states of mild unconsciousness. I was smacked around, neglected, sexually molested, drugged, free to live however and whatever way I wanted, forced to care for myself at a young age, and brought up to believe that this abnormal state was normal. So when my life as an adult was chaotic, I was comfortable with that; it was normal for me. I also had no chance of ever learning about true unselfish love or forgiveness. But here I am having to learn the two hardest lessons of my life.

The other night I was praying to God to help me in my fight to forgive. I don’t mean in the sense that I hold any grudges against those that have hurt me but in the fact that I have very little sympathy or empathy or love for those that have hurt me. I want to be obedient to God and I try to force myself but it’s not real for me and I will never again be anything but genuine and authentic in the things that I believe. So I was asking God why was this so hard for me. And . . . bear with me, this is a big one . . .

I was reminded of a small girl in a homemade cotton nightgown who had snuggled in with her favorite cousin to tell scary stories after a day of having a blast in the treehouse together. She was quiet and shy and liked me because I was fun and free-spirited; I had very little fear and was very open (one influence from my hippy parents). She got up suddenly and left the room saying she needed to go to the bathroom, just as her father entered the room. He sat on the bed next to me and instantly I remembered how scared he made me. The look in his eyes wasn’t human; it was evil and base. He touched the top of my nightgown under my chin and I blacked out.

We learned many years later that he had been molesting my cousin, her friends and me for years. All my life I had hated him, and I smiled when I learned that he had died in prison of a horrible muscular disease that was incredibly painful and made him hideous. I asked God that night to help me and I asked Him why He had allowed others to hurt me. God reminded me that his wife, my aunt, a beautiful and kind women, had died after a long and gallant fight with cancer soon after these encounters. And at this moment I felt sympathy for him. I thought about how sad and devastating it must have been to watch her die. She was in the other room and you could hear the sound of the oxygen tank and the alarms beeping on her IV. The love of his life was dying in front of his eyes; it must have been so lonely and sad for him.

I mean to tell you I am not one for forgiving monsters. I have held my anger and hatred very close to me all these years. It was my comfort and security; it was all I had against the ones that had hurt me. But for a moment and for the moments since my eyes water thinking of the pain he must have been in to have inflicted such pain upon others. My soul aches for him – what sadness. Now I believe that God released something in me that opened a flood gate of emotion and pain, and strangely enough it also opened my heart to a special love and peace that I had not known before. I am working on forgiving the others in my life, not in the way that I don’t want to cause them bodily injury for their offense (that one I have mastered), but in this soul cleansing way. When you give something to someone that doesn’t deserve it, you feel love and sympathy for them; you understand their pain. I want to release the demons that are in my heart against those that have offended me. I want to learn to love like Jesus loved. I want to learn to forgive like Jesus forgave. Because in doing what he did for us, we are supposed to have learned to do this for one another. And I am going to listen to God and let Jesus continue to touch my heart, because nothing on this earth has ever felt so good or so right and true.

That night that I called to God to save me, He did. It was painful and humiliating but with His grace and mercy my heart was changed forever. I don’t know exactly why I was so adamant not to believe because it made my life meaningless. Now I live my life with purpose, learning to love each day, learning to love others and appreciate the beauty in them and myself. My life is important because God created me for a reason; He loves me, and I can feel it. Even when the people around me are hurtful and selfish I can feel His love and I overcome. The Holy Spirit has whispered in my ear that my life is an example for those around me. Jesus lived a pure life of love and unselfishness and that is my goal. Of course I know that I am not capable, not without my greatest love, my Father.

I hope that someone understands this and that you can relate. It has been so difficult to find anyone who understands.

Now I work for a not-for-profit organization that provides care to children in Uganda that have been orphaned and abandoned. I have three beautiful children, friends that love me, fellowship, and the love of our Savior. God has so blessed me, I hope I can honor him with my life.

Danielle

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