Posted by: Rex Boyles | February 17, 2008

“My name is Stephanie …”

(Among this fellowship of prodigals are people, who want their story to be told – not to wear their shame but to offer others hope. My sister and friend, Stephanie, sent this statement to be shared with “sinners”, believing that someone might learn from her mistakes or might find hope in her deliverance. I have posted it “for sinners only”.) 

I grew up in a Christian home. Our life revolved around church. When the doors were open, we were there. I went on all of the mission trips with the youth group. I taught VBS. I went to Christian camp, both as a camper and a counselor. I mean, my word, I was even an AIM student. Bad things were not supposed to happen to me. But they did anyway. I remember one particular day, as I was watching my marriage crumble around me, that I fell to the floor crying and pleading with God to save my marriage. And why wouldn’t He? I did everything I was supposed to do. I tried to make the right decisions. Why wouldn’t He bless me in that way? At least that is what I was thinking at the time. My ex-husband wanted the marriage to end. And it did.  

My daughter and I moved back into our house after the judge ordered my ex-husband to move out. We had been separated for several months. Things had gotten pretty difficult and I wanted my ex-husband to make a decision. So my daughter and I moved out. I was told by my preacher that if I moved out, and we ended up getting a divorce, I would definitely spend eternity in hell. But I didn’t know what else to do. So the judge ordered him out of the house and my daughter and I moved back in. That was a turning point for me. I remember feeling a sorrow that I had never felt before but that would become a very familiar feeling for me. God had abandoned me. My husband had abandoned me. And my preacher said that I was going to hell. What was there to live for? 

I very quickly began to spiral downhill. I was in a depression so deep and I would not let anyone help me. I didn’t care about anyone except myself. That’s what depression does to you. I started thinking about death. At first, still trying to hang on to God as a last effort, I prayed that He would let my life end. That some way He would take me away from this world and the pain that I was in, even if I was going to hell. But as I spiraled further down, my thoughts slowly turned to suicide.  I remember every time that I tried it. And how I felt when I did it. I had never felt such peace before. Or so I thought. But God had different plans for me. He would not let me die. Even though I wanted to so badly.  

It hurts me so badly now that I had so little regard for my daughter, my parents, my sister, anyone that loved me. After my third suicide attempt, The Passion of the Christ came out. I think it was even the next week. I went to see it with a friend. I was still open to God, trying to find any little glimmer of hope in my life. I was touched by the movie. Touched enough to make a conscious decision not to hurt myself again. But not touched enough to leave the life of sin that I was living.  

I cared about God, a little. I continued going through all of the Christian motions. I went to church. After being rejected by the preacher and congregation that I grew up at, I placed membership at another congregation. I even frequently prayed with the elders at my new church home. I was going through the motions. But my life was a mess. I was heavily medicated. I lost my job because of my depression. I almost lost my house. I had to move in with my parents, who had lost all trust and faith in me, and with good reason. My ex-husband was suing me for full custody of my daughter. I was still deep in sin. The God that I had known all of my life, that would not let bad things happen to good people, was dead to me. The person that I had been was dead. I looked for anything that would give me just a little bit of joy. Of course, I looked in all of the wrong places. And I still believed that it didn’t really matter what I did, because I was going to hell anyway.  

Things began to settle down in my life. My daughter my ex-husband and I got into the first, third and fifth routine. But still with a custody hearing hanging over my head. I found employment but because of my hours, I wasn’t able to spend much time with my daughter. Again, going through the motions, I looked for other employment and found and 8-5, Monday through Friday job. It turned out that the owner of the company at my new job was a Christian and he made a point of keeping a Christian atmosphere. That was the beginning of my change. It was not by chance that I ended up where I did. It was by the grace of God. And then my sister and her family moved to town. I was nervous. We had been so out of touch since my change. And I wasn’t the person that I used to be. But my sister and brother-in-law treated me like I was the person that they had always loved. They accepted that I am not the same person but expected me to be better. They pushed me…in a good way. They encouraged me and talked with me about spiritual things. My parents did what they could all along. They loved me when I was unlovable.  

Suddenly, I woke up one day and made some realizations. I have a wonderful daughter that needs me and loves me. I have a wonderful, supportive family that loves me very much. I have a support group at work that loves God. What did I have to be sad about? NOTHING! I needed to make some changes and come to some decisions. I decided that I would not let that preacher, who said that I was going to hell, have any more power over me. It is up to me if I spend my eternity in heaven or hell. I decided that I would not let the depression have any more control over me. I would not let the devil and sin have more control over me. I was taking charge of my life and giving it back to God. And it was about time. 

Over the course of those five years that were full of sin and depression, the custody hearing had been hanging over me. It was constantly in the back of my thoughts. If we had gone to court in those early years, my ex-husband would have probably won the suit. And he would have custody. But again, God was working even when I had turned my back on him. It looked like this time, we were going to court. But I was ready. It had been over three years since my last suicide attempt. The clinic that I go to for my depression had recently declared my to be in partial remission. And I knew this time, that no matter what happened in court, even if my ex-husband ended up with custody, I would still love God.  

God did amazing things in that hearing. I admit that it was rough. My past was on trial. All of the terrible things that I felt and said in my darkest days were on paper in my medical records and were being read out loud. I had to confirm them all. But I was not alone. I felt God carrying me in those moments on the stand. He was holding me in His hand and telling me that it was going to be okay. I found out that the only witness that I had on my behalf was not going to be able to come due to scheduling conflicts. But just like Gideon, I was going to war with more than God. He would show me that all I needed was Him. God used my lawyer, who used my ex-husband’s own witness against him. And it was all over. Well, it’s not really over, we still have papers to sign and things to agree on. But God used time to be on our side before, and I have faith that when the time is right to sign the final papers, it will happen. 

I have told you my long story. I tell it now because I want others to know that the God that healed the man with the demons in Mark 5, also gave me the strength to overcome some demons in my life. I want them to know that this God is alive and well and that there is hope. There is rejection and pain in this world. Even where you would least expect it. But God can overcome all of that. He is the King who saved my physical life three times. And my soul…He renews my strength every day. I am new every morning. 

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