My first memory of feeling the presence of The Holy Spirit was when I was 5 years old.
I was asked to pray at a gathering of families from our church. Being raised in a Christian home, it certainly was not the first time I prayed but it was the first time I prayed amongst people who were not my immediate family. I couldn’t tell you what I said in my prayer that day however I will never forget the sense of peace, unconditional love, and acceptance on that. The feeling of belonging to Jesus was overwhelming. This was the first time I felt I didn’t belong to the world as I knew it. At 5!!
I believe that day God reached out to me for a reason that day. The reason would take almost 30 years for me to begin to understand his presence in my life.
By the time I was 16 years old my life was a free-for-all. I was a teenager in the ’70s. Sexual promiscuity, drugs, and the general sense that anything goes prevailed. The old adage “I’m okay, you’re okay” was very popular during that time. There was no accountability. We all just did whatever.
By the time I was 21 years old I was a mother and a wife.
By 25 years old I was divorced and involved with another man.
That relationship was steeped in anger, fear, abuse, confusion. He was an abusive alcoholic. My family feared for my life. What keeps a woman in such a situation? Back then I could have given you several reasons. Today I praise our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for protection during that time. I prayed and called on the name of Jesus claiming “My life belongs to Jesus, not you. Leave me alone.” as I stared into the eyes of my abuser.
It took me 16 years to leave the abusive marriage. On the day of my divorce, I was sitting in the courtroom waiting to be called by the judge. My then-husband came and sat next to me. He took my hand and begged me not to go through with the divorce. I began crying uncontrollably and ran out of the courtroom. I ran to the ladies' room. As I got to the door a woman was coming out and I was running in. I stood in the middle of the room crying hysterically. I heard the door open and the same woman who had just walked out came back in. She opened her arms and pulled me in. This woman was at least 6 feet tall. An amazon of a woman! As I’m crying she said to me, “I love you. Jesus loves you. Now tell me what the matter is.” I pulled away and looked into her face. I said, “I have to do something today that I don’t want to do but I have to do.” She took me by my shoulders and said “Now, you go and wash your face, put yourself together and go do what you have to do. I will be praying for you.” She left me in that restroom and I did as she instructed.
While I was going through the divorce process I was living with my parents. When I arrived home that day of the divorce I went to my father’s bedroom. This room is where Dad spent most of his day. I would see him reading the Bible, writing letters to his family and friends in Ukraine, and frequently praying or singing. As soon as I saw him the tears began again. I told him what had happened in the courtroom and how difficult it was. He explained to me that from the moment I left the house to the moment he heard me come home he had been in non-stop prayer for me. I then told him about the woman I encountered in the bathroom. We held each other and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving knowing the deep impact his praying had that day.
From that time forward for the next 14 years, I lived alone. Those years alone were necessary for growth and healing.
Forgiveness was the first and most powerful lesson I was graced with. Receiving forgiveness from those who I sinned against and giving mercy to those who sinned against me. When I saw the truth of God’s perfect love for me I couldn’t help but see the depth of darkness that so many people live in.
One of the first things I purchased for my new home was a wall hanging. The picture was not particularly aesthetically pleasing. I bought it for what was written on it.
“In the garden of peace life begins.”
That had profound meaning for me. I had lost myself in other people’s expectations, desires, fears, and delusions. It was time for me to reconnect with my creator, my heavenly Father, my Savior.
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving against another, even as Christ forgave you so you also must do. But above all these thigs put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts to which also you were called in one body and be thankful. ~Colossians 3:12-15
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. ~Ephesians 4:30-32