Sunday, January 19, 2014

He's Not Finished With Me Yet

© Chantelle Henderson

This is perhaps the most personal post I’ve put on both my personal and public Facebook page in a while.  It started out as a paragraph and morphed into this book-size blog.  If I had my own way, would NOT post this.  Like a person who’s injured their legs having to re-learn to walk, I’m wobbling my way back to obedience to the Lord instead of my comfortably numb disobedience.

If you know my testimony, then you know the Lord has brought me through sexual abuse, sexual promiscuity, drug and alcohol addiction, being a former adult entertainer, angry, hate-filled, bitter woman.  Even typing these things out at this very moment my heart is racing with fear.  Fear of what people may think or say.  The judgment of those who don’t understand.  And the gasps of those who do not understand why I will be transparent about the things I’ve gone through in my life. 

Years ago I could travel to different churches and share my testimony in front of a gathering of 30 or 300, but slowly, over the years I’ve chosen to silence myself.  Somewhere along the way these past few years I have decided that I need to put that part of my life on the shelf, in the basement of my soul, and nail the door to that sucker shut and not talk about it anymore-ever.  I figured the older I got, there were other things I needed to start speaking out about, such as mental illness, marriage, the importance of boundaries in relationships, and seasons of shifting and how to adjust.

Recently, through a series of EXTREMELY unexpected events I was invited to come out of the shadows and share “that” part of my life in a very public way.  I was in no way seeking a platform.  It began with me responding to an author’s blog she had written about childhood sexual abuse and how it affects us even as we grow into our 30’s and 40’s and beyond.  The next thing I know, I receive an email from the author.  She was incredibly kind and gentle; extremely sensitive and full of grace when she asked if I would be willing to participate in part of a campaign that is falling in line with the launch of her book release. We’re talking about in a way that thousands will see my face and my words.  Years ago, I would have accepted the invitation quickly and without hesitation.  But now……Now I had a decision to make.  Did I want to take that dusty box off the shelf of all that I wanted to forget and not talk about anymore and remain silent, or choose to re-open the very painful contents of so that other women may find healing. 

What came so naturally and easily to share in the past had now become something that I no longer wanted to talk about.  PERIOD. Why?  Because a few years ago something triggered painful and vivid details and memories of my childhood innocence lost.  Even in my sleep I cannot escape the sights, the sounds, and the receptiveness of what had happened to me and as a result the foolish decisions I’d made after getting out of the grips of my abuser.  I was diagnosed with PTSD several years ago because of one bad episode of flashbacks, but something I don’t think I’ve ever shared is that for the last two years it has been triggered once again and it has been a fierce battle.  I have been suffering in silence and no one really knows that for months there are nights I wake up screaming with sweat pouring down my face and my husband has had to hold me as I wailed in frustration that I wish it would just all go away.  That my many nights of insomnia are sometimes due to me not wanting to fall asleep because I’m afraid of the nightmares.  Here’s an outright admission.  I am jealous and envious of women who have suffered the same things I have and have somehow been able to seemingly move forward as if it never happened to them.  Feelings of guilt engulf me as I ask myself, “Why am I still dealing with it?”  The quote “Comparison is the thief of joy.” is no lie!  Let me interject here.  Please don’t judge.  I know as a Christian most people would say, you haven’t prayed about it enough.  You haven’t fasted because this wouldn’t be happening if you had.  You keep going over and over it. You just need deliverance.  You need to move on.  There’s nothing anyone can say that I haven’t thought of, heard, or done myself.  Do people not realize that when something so traumatic happens you are so desperate to be freed from the memories that you will do whatever it takes?  No matter how many times you speak peace and rest over your sleep, nightmares will find their way into reminding you of everything and anything you’d ever want erased from your memory.  I’ve finally reconciled myself to the fact that even in the midst of the pitch black dark of night, He is still with me and that His grace is sufficient.  That I don’t have to understand why or how the memories came back all these years later, but that I have to trust that He is my refuge and strength in my time of trouble.

Without notice, it’s as if shame and fear, and insecurity showed up at my door, and while I tried to close it, they forced their way in – through memories, nightmares, and triggers.  I found out something else too.  I have been prideful.  I would boldly proclaim that “I AM NOT A VICTIM.  I AM A VICTOR!”  And while I do believe and know that with every fiber of my being on a physical and spiritual level, I wasn’t saying it for the right reasons.  I was saying it because I did not want to be viewed as a weak woman in her 40’s still “hung up” on things from her early teens through her early twenties.   For years I have gone out of my way and yelled from the mountain tops that I am no one’s victim; that on the contrary I am a victor!!!!!!  Through the years my resolve was to shout even louder, “I AM NOT A VICTIM!”.  The nightmares and memories would say differently and there have been times that I have doubted those truths and therefore was trying to say it in a way of wanting to appear like Wonderwoman.  You see, It  [my proclamation of freedom from victimhood] was about me, me, me and not HIM.  The difference now is that when I proclaim it, it is not with the pride and arrogance of, “Look at me.  I’Mso “strong” that no one is going to hurt me ever again.  Rather, it’s in humility, at the foot of the cross, with thanksgiving and hands lifted high to the One who made the way for me to be victorious and to be an overcomer even on the days I do still feel like a victim.  At the cross there is no room for my pride and arrogance, thinking I overcame because of my own strength because the cross is a blaring reminder that were it not for Him, I would still be lost.

I digress.  Back to the decision to move forward with accepting the author’s invitation.  I responded......without counting the cost at the moment, that I would be honored to participate in her campaign.  I had a deadline of 5 days.  Every time I started preparations to do my part, I froze up.  My thoughts began to convince me that I should just leave that chapter of my life closed;  that it would only deepen the PTSD; that I’d spoken about it as much as I needed to for years and now it was time to just …..LEAVE. IT. ALONE. 

The deadline day came, and I emailed the author and told her I couldn’t get it done in time.  She shared that she would extend the deadline.  The word that went through my mind at that moment cannot be said here because I’m sure many would find it offensive.  I was BUSTED!  I realized I had ran out of excuses and just sat and cried.  I had to let go of my blanket of “I don’t have to do this so I won’t.”  I knew in my spirit what I had to do because the Lord had been dealing with me about it since the arrival of her initial email.  I just ignored Him because I didn’t want the memories and the nightmares to grow even stronger.  There at my desk I cried because I knew it would mean I would have to open my box and share it’s content, that only my husband and God were aware of that I was still dealing with.

What happened next is what I call “the peeling back of another layer of the onion” moment.  Well, actually it FELT more like taking a wound, slashing it open, and watching while blood spurt out all over the place.  That’s just one of the perks of being artistic.  You see things on a much more dramatic level than most.  Back to what I was saying…..I recalled two things.  One was Revelation 12:11 “And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony.  And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” I remembered writing a blog years ago based, not on the front end of the scripture, but the ending, “They did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.”  I penned that my testimony; what I went through, every single part of it, did not belong to me.  It belonged to God who purchased my freedom and deliverance by the blood of Jesus.  That meant I could no longer love myself (my reputation, people’s perception, my little private world) so much so that I was not willing to die to my flesh screaming, “REMAIN SILENT”.  I could not cling to loving my earthly life at the expense of sharing how He set me free so that others would be set free.  I had to die to self.

Secondly, it’s a scripture Christians proclaim, and speak, and know by heart.  It’s a part of every Christian’s calling without argument.  Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”  So there it was.  I didn’t need a stone tablet to fall from Heaven with instructions as to what my responsibility was, for it was right there, written in the Word of God and inscribed on the tablet of my heart, one which has recently been hard and cold and selfish.

If you’re like me, the older you get, you feel that your best days of ministry are behind you and that you’ve made far too many mistakes to be used of God……ever again.  After all I’m approaching my mid 40’s.  Why would anyone need to hear about something that happened over 20+ years ago?  Yet again, the answers were in the word.  God does not put an age restriction on your testimony.  He doesn’t allow your current flaws and shortcomings interfere with His ability to open a door that you have nailed shut.  He does not look at me and say, “You’ve really been screwing up for the past few months or years so I’m not using you.”  NO!  He is God and God alone, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Creator of the universe, and who am I to tell HIM no? Who am I to decide that I will rob another man or woman of their deliverance because I refuse to share my own?  Joyce Meyer has a saying, “Do it afraid.”, meaning even if you are full of fear in stepping out and doing something God has clearly told you to do, be obedient and do it afraid. 

I wish I could tell you that these revelations snapped me out of my desire to send the author another email just declining the offer (which is NOT paid by the way).  It was enough for me to step out of my disobedience and say okay.  I MUST DO THIS.  My life does not belong to me.  It belongs to Him.  I’m always saying less of me and more of Him.  My heart’s cry is to see the broken restored and to have compassion for others and see them the way He does.  I could just see Him yanking wide open the one foot thick bolted and nailed door of the room that had my testimony box in it.  The fear had to go.  The selfishness had to go.  The shame I was dealing with had to go.  My insecurities had to go.  The fear of PTSD triggers had to go.  My lofty ideas and calculations about being too old to share the “same old story” had to go.  The lie of the enemy telling me to remain silent had to go.  I’m always encouraging others to be Brave, so here’s my chance to be brave.  Was I going to be a hypocrite?  Like the woman with the issue of blood who pushed through the crowd just to touch the hem of His garment having full faith that it would be enough to heal her, I pushed through my hesitation and excuses and inconsistencies and flaws knowing full well that if I just stepped out in my desperation to become unstuck and to be obedient, He would see my heart and perhaps continue healing me from my own recent struggles.

I will interject that we, as Christians have a propensity to act as if we’ve always been saved, set free, looking fine, and unblemished.  We pretend that the person we are today has nothing to do with who we were yesterday; that if we wear just the right clothes and shoes and makeup; that if we say “Amen” and raise our hands up to heaven in church at just the right time that we've arrived. 

We forget.

I forgot. 

I forgot the day I walked into a man’s office in Atlanta and took off my clothes so I could get a job at a premiere strip club.  I forgot the countless men I slept with so I would be the one in control.  I forgot the night that I was in the fetal position, high on cocaine and thinking I was going to die.  I forgot the times I was so drunk I blacked out.  I forgot that DUI.  I forgot all the pits he pulled me out of with his righteous right hand.  I forgot that he pulled me off the stage naked and ashamed and clothed me with His robe of righteousness.  That He delivered me from alcoholism and a 2 pack a day smoking habit.  I forgot that when I looked in the mirror and said, “Ugly”, He called me beautiful.  I forgot that he took a 25 year old Virgin named Ryan Henderson who had never been in the world and told him on our first date that this former stripper, alcoholic, druggie, promiscuous, hard-hearted, controlling, bitter, angry, and hateful woman and single mother would be his wife.  I forgot that when this same man left me, He was the very God who told him to return to me, his wife, and to never ever leave me again.  I forgot that he was the one who taught me to love my husband and gave me the revelation of what it would take to fall in love with a husband I did not love when I said, “I do.”.  I forgot that no matter how many times it looked like we were going to go without, He always had provision.  I forgot that were it not for a mentor who took a 20 year-old pregnant, soon-to-be single mother out to dinner every Friday during her pregnancy and then took her home and taught her how to pray the word of God over her life and that of her unborn son.  I forgot that He placed me in a body of believers who held a baby shower for me and blessed me so much that there was hardly enough room in my parent’s living room to hold it all.  I forgot that He healed both of my sons who had physical issues at birth that put them in the NICU.  Oh, I could go on and on and on.  My point is that we easily forget where we came from.  As Christians, whether intentionally or unintentionally slowly separate ourselves from the understanding that the things that happened to us yesterday shaped us into the man or woman of God we are today who God desires to use for His glory; that what the devil meant to harm us, kill us, steal from us, and destroy us are the very things God has turned around for our good and to His glory. 

We forget to be the mentor.  We forget to be the one who is so full of love that we cover the multitude of a person’s sin, rather than pointing them out and then have nerve enough to judge them.  We forget that someone had to be patient enough with us to stay with us and not give up on us so we should be that person to someone else.  We forget to stop gossiping about someone because someone stopped the gossip about us.  We forgot and then we forget.  We’d rather stand aloof in our arrogance and pride than be bothered with the inconvenience of actually taking off our masks so that someone else who is bound up can actually look at you and say, “You too?  I thought I was alone.”

And so it was with me.  I forgot all the people, places, things, circumstances, and seasons it took for Him to bring me from then to now.  Who am I that I have decided and outright refused to be that person or appointment for someone else?  Who am I that I should be so selfish with what He has done for me, to me, in me, and when He opens a door, through me?  Who knew that one email would lead to such deep convictions?  I will no longer subscribe to the thought process of “not looking back” ever.  No.  For me, I now know that it was for lack of me looking back and remembering all that the Lord has done that brought me to a self-centered universe where I decided what I would and would not do despite the instruction and leading of the Spirit Of God.  I don’t look back to get sad, and depressed, and to get a poor, pitiful me mindset.  I look back to say, “LOOK WHAT THE LORD HAS DONE!” 

There is a difference between looking back and going back. 

When we LOOK back it’s to observe and glean insight.  We learn lessons and gain wisdom because we see what we could have done differently or how we should have handled a particular situation.

When we GO back we end up “experiencing” it again.  We pitch a tent and try to live in the past attempting to “fix” it fully knowing that what’s done is done and there is absolutely nothing you or anybody else can do to change it.

We move forward based on the revelation of our observation [looking back], but we get stuck when we go back to the same thoughts and mindsets of the experience thinking we can hurt those who hurt us or remain full of unforgiveness.

Sorry I got off track for a minute.  Back to the opportunity……Afraid but full of faith I finished my portion of the project and pressed the send button.  I felt relieved and released of a burden I didn’t even realize I was carrying.  It still wasn't easy and my heart was still racing.  It still made me uncomfortable but it was also an opportunity to be brave and give other women hope.

What lead me to even begin this blog?  It was a confirmation of something that occurred earlier today.  I had my day planned with my coffee and Hulu Plus when I was looking something up on Youtube.  To the side there was a clip of Bishop T.D. Jakes and the name of the sermon, “The Plight Of The Scarlet Housewife”.  It sounded so very familiar.  Then it clicked.  About 8 years ago Ryan and I were watching one of his sermons on TV.  It was so profound and relatable to me on so many levels that I never forgot it.  For YEARS I had been googling trying to find this sermon.  Then today, two days after I pressed that send button for the world to see me without my mask, there was the sermon I’d be seeking to find.  For the next hour and a half I held on to every word that fell down like manna from Heaven.  It was me.  What he was saying was me.  It was talking to me! Who I was, am, and am becoming.  Even with my flaws, shortcomings, faults, and disobedience He still wants to use me in ways that I don’t know.  It encouraged me to get back to being about my Father’s business; to come out of my cave of isolation and anti-socialism; to acknowledge that I’ve made some pretty big spiritual screw-ups lately, but that it’s okay because His mercies are new EVERY morning.  The sermon is based on the book of Hosea.  Like Gomer, I’ve been a slave to my self-erected, deceptive wall of isolation and self-preservation.  But like Hosea, God is knocking down those walls and removing me from my self-imposed slavery and breaking the chains that I wrapped around myself with my actions, attitudes, and lies of the enemy.  He wants me to be His.  He longs to redeem all that is still broken within me and around me.  He calls me His beloved.  He wants to restore to me the joy of my salvation.  He wants me to get out of bed and gather with other believers.  He wants me to be whole and restored and free.  The question I found myself asking is, “Do I want for myself what He wants for me?”  The answer is a resounding “YES!”

If you have an hour and a half to watch this sermon which is the only reason I started this blog in the first place, please do.  While watching, forsake the tendency we all seem to have when seeing someone physically worship or preaching in a way we are not used to.  We don’t know what it took for them to get to the point of breaking free.  I am the first one to criticize the “emotionalism” and my perceived “lights, camera, action” disdain I have for the modern day church (which is one of the major things I have to work on).  I have been criticizing that which I do not understand and I suspect that as some of you watch this video you will end up doing the same, but don’t.  Don’t let your external views and beliefs rob you of what will become internal truths. 

My prayer is that even if you don’t watch Bishop Jake’s sermon, that something, somewhere, in the many words, run-on sentences, misspelled words, and improper use of grammar on this page has ministered to you in some way.  Usually I would care.  But today……well today I can’t.  I simply cannot afford to if I am going to walk in the freedom and liberty that I so desperately desire.  I must, YOU must, be a voice for those who are not ready or cannot speak for themselves right now.  We may not be perfect. We may still be wrestling with our ever-present, unrelenting thorn in the flesh, but that does not disqualify us from the calling of God on our lives.

In closing, can I ask a favor?  Pray for me.  I have much healing and restoration that needs to take place that I thought I didn’t need until last week.  It doesn’t have to be lofty, theological, long-winded prayer.  Just pray Ephesians 1:17-20.  Rarely do I use the Amplified version of the Bible when blogging, but this is serious business people.  J   So here it is.  Pray that, “Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may grant you a spirit of wisdom and revelation [of insight into mysteries and secrets] in the [deep and intimate] knowledge of Him, By having the eyes of your heart flooded with light, so that you can know and understand the hope to which He has called you, and how rich is His glorious inheritance in the saints (His set-apart ones),  And [so that you can know and understand] what is the immeasurable and unlimited and surpassing greatness of His power in and for us who believe, as demonstrated in the working of His mighty strength, Which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His [own] right hand in the heavenly [places].”  There.  I will pray this for you and I would be honored if you would pray it for me. 

Lesson #1 in all of this.  I can’t do it alone anymore.  I need my brothers and sisters in the faith……I need prayer warriors and people who are able and willing to see past my many flaws, mistakes, shortcomings, and imperfections and stand with me as I am on my road to spiritual and mental recovery.  Would you please speak truth and life over my life?  Will you choose to see me through the eyes of the Father instead of your natural eyes? There is no such thing as an army of one.  I know there are other troops on the same battlefield of myself and they need you too.  

Thank you in advance for allowing me to share my story and the challenges I am facing in this season of my life. Thank you for not judging me.  Thank you for extending grace and mercy.  Thank you for loving me, if for no other reason than the fact that I am a child of God and that binds us together in the faith. Thank you for allowing me to BE BRAVE.

Much Love And Because Of Christ,
Chantelle







The actual link is:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KFiYP2QarUI