When God wants me to listen He will continue to bug me until I sit up and take notice. Or eventually he’ll just smack me across the head.
3 years ago after my divorce I stopped going to church. When my atheist ex husband was baptized the day he got out of jail while wearing his GPS (put on him by the DA because he was stalking me) and my church didn’t understand why I didn’t want to support him and come to his baptism (uh he’s stalking me!!) I decided it probably wasn’t the best church for me.
So I contended that God knew my heart, my hurt, my pain, and when He wanted me back in church He would let me know. Fast forward a year. I started getting a little nagging feeling. You know that little voice “Go back to church.” I questioned. (Isn’t that what we always do?) Could that really be from God? Maybe it wasn’t God at all just my catholic guilt. He couldn’t really want me to go to church? Poor me I had had such a hard year of separation. I was just getting to the end of my divorce. Really? Church now on top of it all! He couldn’t be asking me to focus on that? I summarized it was just my guilt and stopped listening. And then, I’ll never forget it, I was standing in my studio minding my own business when another MK director walked in. Walked right up to me. Looked at me and said “I don’t know why I feel I need to tell you this but I do. Go back to church.” And that was it. I guess God figured if I wouldn’t listen to His voice maybe he would speak directly to me through another voice. Hmmmm. Slam. Bang. Smacked in the head. Shut up and listen. So I did. And after searching for a few months God led me (literally) to a beautiful church that I love.
Fast forward 2 years later. God now wants to talk to me again. And again, I don’t want to listen. I’m listening to a CD from one of my favorite business mentors when she starts talking about the 3 types of victims. I think Oh geez, I don’t need to listen to this I am not a victim. I’m the one who preaches the anti- victim mentality. I hate victims. Get over it. Until she talks about the type of victim who justifies not being in their business where they want to be because of what has happened to them. I stop. Slap. In the face. Yuk. I turned it off. I never really liked her that much anyway. What does she know anyway? I put my priorities in order ~ gave up my career goals to focus on keeping my kid alive. Gave up my free car to be with her during her Bone Marrow Transplant. Who is she anyway to judge ME when she hasn’t gone through domestic violence, had her life turned upside down, slept at friends houses because she was scared to sleep in her own house, and lived on an oncology floor watching children warriors die! I’m not playing the victim. Live in my shoes for a day lady.
So that continued to bug me but it was easy to turn the CD off and just stop listening.
Fast forward 2 weeks. I get an email “I have a question for you: When do you think you’ll give yourself the gift of not being a victim anymore?”
And that was all he wrote. Period. Nothing else. Sitting there in my email. Slam. Bang. Smacked in the head. What? Who does this ass think he is? Actually this ass is George Ira Carroll a coach who I had just attended one of his seminars. He barely knew me and Denver is a small community. Did he REALLY just have the balls to call me out like that? I could be totally pissed, think he’s an ass, and bad mouth him all over town. Yet I also had to give the guy credit. I mean it was a Jersey move for sure. To be that bold. That straight up. That confident to call it like he sees it. It pissed me off. I emailed back. I respected that he was willing to go there with me when really no one else in my life has dared. He told me that we all operate on a bottom line level of pain or pleasure. I was obviously getting some pleasure out of being the victim or I wouldn’t continue it. (he also thanked me for not getting defensive which I openly admitted I did anyway). After a few emails where he continued to strike a nerve I was at a cross roads of hating him and loving him at the same time.
But his question stuck. Like gum in my hair it would be painful to get it out. What benefit was I getting from being the victim? Getting honest with myself sometimes sucks. At the core I do get a benefit of being the victim. I get sympathy. I get exceptions. I don’t need to perform at a level of excellence because, Geez my life has been hard. But mostly in some ways being a victim is freeing. For years I worked to look like I had it all together. There is something deeply gratifiying & freeing to finally pull the curtain back (like in the wizard of oz) and admit I didn’t have anything together. To be transparent. I’ve gotten support, friendship, and help being the victim. So I’ve struggled with this fine line. How do I accept that I have been dealt a crappy hand in the last 3 years? Things I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Pain that I never thought I would be strong enough to endure and fear that comes from the Devil himself. I’ve clung to God because I’ve had nowhere else to turn. Begging Him to protect me from more pain and more fear. And He has. But now he’s saying move on and I’m not listening.
So it was easy to ignore George’s emails. I kept thinking about it but just wasn’t sure what I was thinking. I don’t think I’m ready to not be the victim anymore. I’m still grieving. Mourning the loss of my lost dreams, hopes, and plans.
So it’s easy to delete George’s email and stop listening. But what I’m learning is God will speak until you listen or he’ll just smack you on the head.
3 days later I’m at church. A video of Bethany Hamilton from the movie Soul Surfer is shown. A 13 year old who loses her arm in a surfing accident (aka a shark took her down) and how she has used her tragedy to bring glory to God. (And now to holly wood with a major motion picture grossing more than $43,000,000 to date)
“When tragedy hits, real tragedy, it’s easy to justify the role of the victim.” My pastor says. I’m paraphrasing here – all I really heard was the word VICTIM. It came sailing over the heads of 100 people to the back row the church I was sitting in and slammed me in the face with such force I almost fell off my chair. Damn word again. Victim. Why won’t it leave me alone?
The pastor quoted James 1 2:4 “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
I started thinking again (I hate when that happens). Am I really playing the role of the victim? Yes I went through a horrible divorce. 1 in 3 women are affected by domestic violence in our country (ironically and loving referred to as “land of the free”) so THOUSANDS of women have gone through what I have gone through and most of them physically much worse (I can testify to this too by the countless emails of women sharing their stories with me every time I post a blog). My story, sadly, is not that uncommon. Certainly not enough to be the victim for the rest of my life. And yes my daughter had cancer. The fact that I can say she HAD cancer and not HAS cancer is reason enough to not be the victim. 1 in 8 women have cancer. In this church, as I sit there, statistically every row has a woman who has suffered the fear, pain, and worry of cancer. Am I unique? Sadly again, no.
I begin thinking of Bethany Hamilton from Soul Surfer and of Lance Armstrong. (Whose book I read during the 1st days of Emily’s diagnosis). Do we admire them because they overcame tragedy or do we admire them because of what they did AFTER tragedy? If Lance had simply survived prostate cancer would that have been his bestselling book? No it was that he won the tour de France 7 times AFTER that makes us want to read his story. It’s precisely BECAUSE these people didn’t let their tragedy define them THAT we admire them. It’s the LIVING after tragedy that inspires us not that they just lived through the tragedy.
And so I have to come face to face with the question “Do I want to be defined by these 3 years of pain or defined by the next 60 or so that will follow?” Ouch.
Our pastor is still talking. He says that when we go through trials our tendencies is to put our purpose on hold and that God asks us to do just the opposite. To keep working in our purpose regardless of our circumstances. I keep thinking. Living the role of the victim doesn’t honor God. Doesn’t bring Him glory. And doesn’t give Him a chance to show us what He can do though us in the face of tragedy. It’s like letting the Devil win. I remember when Emily was first diagnosed. How many well meaning people would say “Remember God only gives you what you can handle” and how angry that would make me. Somehow my daughter was being punished with CANCER because God thought I was strong??? What!?!? If I was weaker I would be blessed more? And then a family friend said “Go doesn’t give you what you can handle he gives you what you can’t so you have to rely on Him.” Good. God and I were in agreement. I couldn’t handle much.
And now it’s over and God is smacking me on the head. “Stop being the victim. I have blessed you. Your trials are to build your character, your perseverance, your faith. Not to define you. Your trials are small compared to others. You have been given much. And to whom much is given much is required. Start LIVING and stop settling. Do you want to me know forever as the “domestic violence victim” or “the mom who’s kid had cancer” or do you want to be known for something more? Your choice. Victim or not? It’s up to you.”
Our pastor wants to pray for us. If we are living in trails right now he asks us to raise our hands. We will pray for each other’s hardship. I can’t. Raise my hand that is. My hardships are over. My tragedy is past. (While I’ll ask you to keep praying for Emily – this being her most critical year to survive without a relapse) as for me. I’m ok. I have walked through the fire and I’m standing on the other side, singed and slightly burned but none for the worse. And I now have to choose. To live with the soot and the ashes on me forever, so everyone, everywhere will know my tragedy. Or go & clean myself off. Shower off the ashes and soot. And get on with my purpose.
Time to grab my towel.
*George Ira Caroll (also known as “the breakthrough coach”) is AMAZING. He does speaking, seminars, and private coaching. You can find out more about him at http://www.georgeiracaroll.com