Coming from a torrential childhood, I have never had a great acknowledgement of myself. From a mentally ill mom who loved me so much she removed herself from the lives of her four children to prevent doing harm, to two stepmothers who physically, as well as mentally, abused and manipulated both myself and my three siblings. From the age of 5 and well into my adult years I was always told what I was and what I would become. Their words, words at formative years that should have been to instruct, teach, and mold me into a decent human being; taught me I would amount to nothing and most likely end up mentally ill like my beloved mother.
At the last of these two stepmothers I was in high school and found journalism. I lived and breathed layout and design, more than the words on the page. I loved to tell the story but making everything flow and look well designed was what I genuinely enjoyed. I won several first-place awards in UIL for layout and design. I guess I wrote ok, I did receive several awards for my writing. I sought journalism throughout high school and became the editor of the yearbook and held editor titles for the school newspaper throughout high school. But I never saw my talent. I never believed I was good enough to do well in anything.
I believed those who were influential in my life. I was told my highest skill set was being a good secretary. While it would have never been allowed to express my opinion without serious and harsh retribution, I felt something deep inside that told me, I could do better than that! So much better. I thought it, but I didn’t believe it.
Consequently, I married at 18. I was not pregnant. Let us be clear that I married because I felt I could do better if I were out from under the suffocating influence of mediocrity and failure. I married my high school sweetheart. He was Hispanic. Not a popular union in my day. While it did not last, I will never say it was a mistake. I had 3 beautiful, wonderful boys whom I dedicated every second of my life to, but I also found spiritual dictatorship in this marriage.
I was so happy and content to live this blissful life of being a mother to my children. It was SO fulfilling. I homeschooled to teach and raise them in God’s ways. I realized this was an opportunity to be an amazing influence. I knew I was establishing a foundation upon which they could securely build their Godly character and morals that would guide them throughout their lives. Although not reaching millions, thousands, or even hundreds with journalism, I WAS creating men of God and raising them to stand and make a difference in this world. They in turn, would influence others, and so on. There was no comparison to me in the difference of professions. I was making an impact and I gladly did it.
Meanwhile, there was an emotional and spiritual tradeoff I did not realize I was making in my marriage. I could not leave the house unless I was dressed well and wore makeup. Nor were the children allowed to appear in public as anything less than pristine. So, going grocery shopping almost meant looking like I was ready for church. The boys could not have dirt on their clothing or unkept hair. We must present ourselves in the most pristine manner. I’m not a slob by any means but I didn’t understand this. This was real life. These are children. What did it matter? They are happy and spiritually growing!
For the husband, it was all about appearances. How he “presented” himself was his utmost priority because he had the need to impress people. I didn’t realize this at the time. You know the type, ‘fight on the way to church and stroll in pretending you are the perfect couple’ kind of thing. I could never do this. I was civil in this situation but being pretentious was not me.
I was raised that the “man” of the house had authority, especially in a Godly home. He, above all, knew God’s Will and plan for his family, because he submissively put God first, above his own needs, desires, and insecurities. So, the wife and household submitted unto the husband. This is the Godly design; this IS the instruction God gives us. It is not to be contradicted unless(?) your husband does not meet all the above criteria. I naively believed mine did. He had become an ordained preacher, prominent in our church. We lived a Godly (religious) life. He presented himself in public and at church as a good and Godly Christian man. In many attributes, he was.
Meanwhile at home, I knew I would have to relinquish my children into public school at some point. Having established the Godly morals necessary to withstand the world we live in; I knew I would have to let them go so they could finish their education and become well rounded. One by one they would move on. Being with them and creating a strong relationship was most important to me. Making myself available to them to guide and spend time with them was paramount.
I thought witnessing the love and dedication I had for my family would soften the husband’s heart to allow me to go to college part time to get a teaching degree. I vowed to keep up with my perfectly clean house and spend time with the wonderfully perfect children he did not realize he had. I promised I would keep up with it all, and I would have done it! At the time, I would have been able to be in the school system while all our boys were there. After seeing the dedication to my children and family, I thought he would allow me this personal extravagance. He did NOT.
Twice he denied me a college education. Once when the boys were very young and I foresaw the coming challenge, and a second time when our oldest son was ready to enter public school. The husband was all about control. He had trust issues. Never mind that I was biblically created to walk BESIDE him, and not behind. But if I raised a question of difference or doubt, he threw upon me, “You are not being submissive unto your husband.” And therefore, I felt I was not pleasing my Heavenly Father. In those early days I lived by my husband’s religion. I allowed him to dictate my relationship with my God. Twice I conceded to his bias “wisdom” and control that was skewed by his own fears.
Let us talk about the third time. Since I was not allowed to go to college and get a degree, I proposed the option that I at least get a part time job at night so I could save money for college for our children (because they are so very smart). I would homeschool the boys during the day, keep the house immaculate as usual, and have supper on the table, and I would work a job at night. He conceded. I got a job. The day I was to start my job, he FORBADE me to go! Like an IDIOT, I once again gave in without an oppositional word to his “spiritual authority.” It was the last time.
In all fairness to his abuse of spiritual power, I will say this; when I married this man, I was young. I did not understand the difference between religion and a personal relationship with God. I thought they were one and the same. I have come to learn that religion is man’s interpretation of God’s Word, which can be misinterpreted or manipulated by man (or woman). A relationship with God is understanding His love for you and you alone. God’s desires for ME, and HIS Will for MY life. Not my neighbors’, not my friends’, not my husbands’, not congregation at church. To have communication with God and spiritually “think for yourself” is amazing! He desires a relationship with ME! Personal. Today I live FOR my personal relationship with MY Heavenly Father.
If I had had a personal relationship with my Father, I would have been wise to the errs of man and not naively followed. Not to say I would have been disrespectful or rebellious, but a man and wife both need to have God’s direction to help the other if one gets off course. Support, accountability. If I had had a personal relationship with my Father rather than religion, I would have followed HIM just as blindly as I have followed Him since my revelation 22 years ago. That was my failing.
The road I have traveled since then has had its hard and trying times. Like all, I have been forged by fire and separated from the chafe. But it has been MY journey and my RELATIONSHIP with my God. It has led me to victory and unwavering faith because He has delivered me, grown me, and SHOWN me His love every step of the way. He has given me grace and rewarded me for pursuing His love and guidance. He has given me the opportunity and privilege of raising one more son. A son I can guide through my own personal relationship with God, teaching him to seek God in this way and not to solely depend on me spiritually.
I know who I am now. I have achieved a great many things in my life. While not Pulitzer Prize worthy, I have given it my all. Before I am wife, mother, servant, or CEO, I am a daughter of the One True Risen King. My identity and purpose begin and end with Him.
I am just like you. It does not matter what your past is. Nor does it matter your color, creed, or annual income. I sincerely believe most people desire to be worthy of this life and to have a purpose. We all have the same drive to seek and discover what that is. It binds us with a mutual need. When those sincere inquisitions of purpose are shattered because we are deemed as worthless or beyond hope, it can alter or destroy a beautiful heart. I do not want that for anyone.
Whether you are man or woman, child or adult, this is what I would implore of you. Go to your churches of denomination, religion, and choice. Love those with whom God has blessed you! But seek God as your own. Not by religious laws, peer pressure, or dictation. Seek the God who made and knows YOU! Chase Him and discover His Will for YOUR life. He may lead you down a completely new and exciting path! Blindly following others or mimicking their beliefs will always lead to the same destination of complacency.
God has a life just for YOU! He desires an up close and personal relationship with YOU and only you. He has a plan for your life and will guide you through it! He is waiting for you to get to know Him.
Let us see ourselves through His eyes. Walk by faith, not by what is in front of us.
— Sandra K. Andrews