Thursday, March 11, 2021

He is Not a Cookie-cutter God

A couple of years ago I stumbled upon a ministry known as People and Songs and have followed many of the musicians on Facebook and Instagram. Recently Crystal Yates who is one of the women in the group shared her testimony and a song she had written. I loved it. With her permission I will share her story in my words, but this is the link if you want to take a moment to stop and listen to her story in her own voice. Crystal Yates- Leave Me Alone To Die - YouTube 

In her testimony she shared when she was five she often spent time with her granny who lived a couple of doors down from a little store. Her granny watched her as she walked to the store and picked out a treat and walked home. One day she went to the store for a jump rope and there were not any ropes. A stranger approached her and asked her what she was looking for and then offered to take her to another store to get one. She went with him. He snuck her out the backdoor of the store and headed to the woods with her. As they approached the woods, the man was beginning to disrobe and she sensed evil like she never had sensed it before. She became fearful and and remembered something her granny had taught her, "If you are ever in trouble or scared, say the name of Jesus." That little five year old girl began to cry out, "Jesus, help me!" The man immediately stopped and angrily said, "Do you want to go home?" She said, "Yes!" He immediately walked her to a clearing where she could see her house and she ran home.

I love Crystal's story. It shows her granny's faithfulness to teach her to call on Jesus and His power when she needed help. I love that the little girl spiritually discerned the evil presence guiding the man's actions. I love that she had the fortitude to cry out loud to Jesus and that he honored her plea. As I was listening to her testimony and the song she wrote I read through the comments people left on YouTube. Several women told her how much they appreciated the song and asked her to write one for those who weren't rescued. As a survivor I loved it that other survivors saw the beauty and the power of Jesus portrayed in this part of her story and as a result were drawn to it, even though their own stories were filled with trauma that wasn't stopped.  

I direct a ministry that serves adult women who were victimized as children. As they begin to share their stories, we come across similar situations in group. Some women cried out to Jesus and were rescued in similar ways. Some cried out to Jesus and were still victimized. And some either didn't know Jesus at the time or felt too afraid, too dirty, or too ashamed to cry out. We try to begin our groups by asking participants to draw a picture of where Jesus was when they were being abused. Those pictures give us insight into how the group members interpreted the action or seemingly inaction of God towards them during their trauma. Some of the pictures show Jesus as a defender, some show Him watching with tears streaming down His face, some show Him as a distant being without arms, without eyes, or without a mouth. Some have drawn Him with His back turned towards them and said they did it because they believed God could not look on evil or that they were too dirty to be close to Him.  

As stories are shared and women begin to talk more freely about their thoughts and feelings, they begin to uncover how they interpreted the events that took place in their life. Many of them assume that the evil they sensed and experienced was within them and that it caused the abuse to happen. They didn't realize the evil was attached to their perpetrators. As they do their work they begin to hand back the responsibility for the evil to those who harmed them and begin to more accurately interpret what has happened to them. Some of them assumed when they either asked Jesus to protect them or to stop their abusers that His lack of intervention proved they were guilty or were less loved by God than those who experienced God as Crystal and some of our ladies did. 

When we first started the ministry, I was still doing my own work and found myself struggling to trust how God works in our lives. I questioned why He seemed to answer some prayers and not others. In that wrestling I reached a place that I told Jesus I was choosing to believe He was who the Scriptures said He was and I would no longer let my experiences, my feelings, my misinterpretations about my trauma define who I thought I was and who I thought He was. I began to accept that I am deeply loved and treasured by God and that what happened to me in no way proved I was less loved. I began to fully trust that Jesus was good and I became willing to accept His sovereignty over my life meant there was not anything that wasn't filtered through His love-scarred hands. 

I saw a shift in my thinking, experienced my shame melt away, and I saw myself trusting God more with my life. I no longer believed I was an invisible second class member of God's family. The questions I voiced also changed. They were no longer protests disguised as questions, but were heart-felt questions driven by faith and a deep desire to know Jesus and His heart. Sometimes He answered questions though Scriptures, sometimes through spiritual insight during prayer times, and sometimes He answered them through people He provided to help me and to encourage me. Sometimes He answered questions right away and sometimes He waited to show me Truth and I learned to be comfortable with His timeline of answering. 

I also began to ask Him where He was in the different traumatic events I experienced and He filled my mind with pictures of the events with Him there--each one different and unique to the situation. Now, when I think of those traumatic events, I think of Him there with me and those memories no longer bring the fear, the shame, or the terror with them. They bring peace and joy and a sense of being deeply loved through some really tough stuff.   

One of the most important things I learned from the traumas I experienced was how deeply Jesus loves. As I worked with a counselor, I also studied Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. The more I studied His arrest, His trials, and His crucifixion the more I connected to His story and the more I believed He truly understood mine. Satan wants us to continue to believe we were so bad we caused our trauma, that we are still unlovable, and that God doesn't care about our suffering. However, Isaiah 52 and 53 reveal we have a traumatized Savior. He understands our pain, because He went through similar pain for us. He not only took on the sin of all men, but also God's wrath against it. He was stripped of His clothes and had people cast lots for them as He hung naked and exposed. He understands the pain of being physically wounded through violence and the emotional pain of having others blame Him for things for which He wasn't responsible. He understand heart-wrenching grief and sorrow of rejection. He understands what it is like to have those closest to Him turn their backs on Him when He was facing His worst pain and His greatest fears. He understands what it feels like to be misunderstood. He understands the feelings associated with being oppressed and suffering the pain and consequences of another's sin. He understands the feelings we have had when we say we feel forsaken by God who could have protected us, but chose not to, for on the cross He cried out, "My God, why have you forsaken me?" (Growing a Passionate Heart, by Wendy J. Mahill and Nancy Keller, LMFT, Available on 

During the beginning of my trauma work, I stayed busy so I couldn't feel the emotions and the presence of God in that area of my life. Then a freak accident caused me to be housebound with a severely broken ankle for most of a year. As I was on the way to the hospital, I sensed God saying the accident was for good and felt His love and peace wash over me. I spent time praying over my life story and reading out loud things I had written for my counselor. My tears began to flow freely and the love and peace of God overflowed and out of that overflow the Passionate Heart Ministry was born. I also learned when God, in His sovereignty, allows deep pain He invites us into a deeper knowledge of the fellowship of His suffering where we can begin to grasp that His love runs deeper than the pain residing in our hearts. I am so thankful for what the healing journey has taught me about God and HIs love. Trauma no longer controls me, my thoughts, my emotions, or my life. It is merely a tiny portion of the redemption story God has written for me to life. I have grown more comfortable and more excited to see all the different ways God works in the life of those He has called. He is not a cookie-cutter God. 

In closing, Natalie Grant sang a song that impacted my healing journey. I hope you will take a listen here: Natalie Grant - Clean (Performance Video) - YouTube 

If you have suffered sexual trauma I hope that you will lean into Jesus and keep getting help until you find peace, hope, and joy returning for it is by His stripes that we are healed. Please check our page and our Facebook page Friends of Passionate Heart Ministry | Facebook. We have resources and videos about our ministry at both places.   

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!