Seven years ago, I left my family. A year after moving out of Los Angeles, I just had enough of Las Vegas. It wasn’t because of the partying as I could hardly even leave the house. It wasn’t because of all the worldliness anyone could associate with living in such a city. I was trying to figure out this whole Christian thing. I was struggling because I had a father who just could not comprehend my desire for sharing the Lord with him. Not having many activities to do nor close relatives and friends to confide in made me hate the town even more. My asthma and insomnia got worse. I knew God was my only hope. Every chance I took to be a better daughter to him, he refused to see that I had God as my help. He insisted on believing my “I love yous” were insincere. He insisted on believing that I’d never change my stubborn ways. My attitude, “I couldn’t have learned any better than from the best” wasn’t helping either. But still, I could not understand him and he could not understand me. I didn’t feel whole. I was desperate for a godly father figure. It was clear to me that a better relationship with my dad would make me feel more whole. The more I drew myself closer to him, the more I sensed he did not want me around. I did not understand it and it hurt me deeply, so much more than the bruises he left on head, my arms, and legs. More often than not, I would be back in my room, watching myself cry in the mirror and telling myself, “It’s okay, I still love you.” That would always be the last thing I would tell myself after reasoning for my dad that it’s not his fault, that he had a much rougher upbringing, after arguing with myself for not being good enough, and after reasoning for myself that I was. I wanted a better relationship with my father and I knew that if I really wanted it, I would have to have an even better relationship with my bigger Father. However, Las Vegas didn’t allow for that.
My older sister who was in Oregon at the time for her last year of college weeped and begged me to leave the house, and go back to California. I would never have done it without her persistence over the phone. It was dawn when I quietly snuck out to a taxi cab. The driver had pity written all over his face, but was more relieved that he was able to drop me off to the Greyhound station. I didn’t have to pay a single dime. I was almost molested while trying to fall asleep on the bus. But on the brighter side, in a matter of a few hours, I knew I would be somewhere safe. An aunt took me in and some of my relatives rushed to my care. I lived with her and family for a couple of months. That was 2006 and the first time I left home. Two years later a second time would come around. It was the best decision I had ever made in my life. I slept from couch to couch, but finally settled in with a good friend after one month, and for the next six months, I was living every minute of every hour I was up and about for no one else but the Lord. I felt closer to God than ever before. I found myself a job as a sales associate in a retail clothing store. It was an hour worth of commuting on the bus, journaling and reading the Word of God. I was often put at the front of the shop, greeting customers. I was extremely happy doing the everyday tasks. It was a genuine happiness with nothing to hide. I was relieved to escape from an abusive home, but I was even happier knowing God was watching me and guiding me, and He couldn’t be happier knowing that my joy came from clinging onto Him.
I can’t ever forget. It was six straight months on the mountaintop with God and not a day went by that wasn’t significantly positive. I had a glow about me that people couldn’t understand, but that it made them want in for the ride. I made a couple of friends whom I shared God with. One was my manager who was inspired to start going to church again. Another was a stranger, who became a good friend, and believed with all his heart that I was his angel. He became a big brother to me. There were afternoons and nights I would take to the high school track and field near a friend’s house and I would run for three hours on end, crying because I had never felt a kind of love so high and profound at the same time. God’s love hit me big time and my simple act of joy inspired people everywhere I went. I admit I haven’t surrendered every day since those six months, but I’m glad for the experience because He shows me that I could basically have Heaven on Earth if I truly take Him seriously. My asthma went away but my insomnia remained. I didn’t complain, because the cause of my sleeplessness was a massive overflow of joy, peace, and love. I would talk all night to God, laugh, and smile.
To this day, I don’t know how I’m still alive not sleeping like normal people do. My mom says I have a lot of energy because the Spirit lives in me. I’ll take that. One year of sweet freedom (2009) and I returned home. Any woman in her mid-twenties would have stayed out of the house, but God wanted me to reconcile with my dad, and so I must do what I was told. Our relationship improved by a lot, although nothing was ever perfect. I’ve entertained suicide many times before, but this time it had no hold on me. God reminded me that things will eventually turn out fine if I keep seeking Him. The indescribable joy that would ooze out of me would just be a bonus.
When I left Las Vegas that second time, I promised myself never to forgive him. But the 15 years he had physically and verbally hurt me is nothing compared to all the sins God has pardoned me for. God was gentle with me and taught me how to forgive. I learned that when I forgive anyone even for the smallest wrongdoing against me, wether or not they had intentions of doing it, I was doing myself a favor by letting my heart free thereby creating a better future. The friends or deeper relationships that I would attain had much more worth than shutting myself from the rest of the world. The act of taking care of my heart showed that I cared about what He cared for. I took that and brought it to the next level by offering my heart to God everyday, and when I focus on surrendering to Him, He takes care of everything else. I am indifferent to gossip, judgment, and petty little things that would otherwise bother other people, because it doesn’t compare to the trauma that I dealt with then. When I completely gave my life to God in 2008, I knew that I would have a lot of positive self-talk to do to make up for the discouragement I received from my dad. I admit that many times I have made it about myself more than God, but if I didn’t have that struggle to pray about, I would be a lukewarm Christian today. God’s grace is so good. I didn’t have to beg for it. I just surrendered and instantly, I came to understand it. This is what I try to apply today, everyday. I would not be a strong person today if I never forgave my father. Now in the early mornings, I hear him sing out to God. My parents set aside time just for praying and studying the Bible not once but twice daily, and I join them when I can. In the past three years, I’ve become a daddy’s girl, and I literally feel like the most happiest and healthiest, innocent child any parent could want. He is making up for the first 8 years of my life he was not around…and well, for those 15 years too. I am so proud of him because for the first time in his life, he can pray so confidently and is now receiving that love he’s been looking for all his life. For 20 years my mom prayed for his salvation. The Lord is the greatest Father I know. 🙂
By His Grace, Sheela (via sheelaleigh.com)