Journey Back to God

By Melissa Owens
The Flame Volunteer Writer

My earliest memory of church was when I was five years old. My four siblings and I were being raised by a single mom, and I remember the church van coming every Sunday morning to take us to church. I never understood why my mom didn’t attend church until I became a mother. I realized that Sunday morning was time for herself.

When I was eight years old my life changed completely when I went to live with my father and stepmother in a different state. My home life was full of violence, pain and confusion about what love was. For the next seven years church became my sanctuary, the only place I felt safe and loved.  Just before my 13th birthday my mother committed suicide, and I felt life was hopeless.  When I was 15, my father left us and we continued to be raised by my stepmother, who was overwhelmed. We moved to a new town, which caused resentment and pain for me.  My self-esteem was low, and I began making teenage mistakes and fell away from the church.  I wondered how such a loving God could allow innocent children to suffer the way my siblings and I suffered.

When I was 16 I met the man to whom I am now married. His family taught me to value myself and want more from my life and, with their help, I finished high school and went on to college.  It would be 18 years before I attended church again, and during those years I made big mistakes and allowed my past to control me.  I became bitter, cold-hearted, resentful and depressed.  My relationship with my husband and children was falling apart; I was miserable and lost.

My husband and I faced a medical “life or death” situation for him that caused us to think about God and how we needed Him in our lives.  A series of events led us to the church we would call home for eight years. I immediately jumped in feet first and volunteered for many things, and also signed up for a ladies’ Bible study. When I ordered the study book, I saw that a free book would be coming.  The name of the free book was Give It All To Him by Max Lucado. I learned from this book that God did not create us to live with bitterness, anger and resentment.  We were not created to carry our life’s garbage around with us, holding us back from all the loving things He has planned for us.

I started a painful journey of learning how to forgive those in my past who had hurt me. I learned to forgive myself because some of my pain was caused by my choices, and I asked God to forgive me for my sins.  This was not an easy task, and there were a few times I wanted to give up, but I had a great group of ladies praying with me and helping me work through things.  I spent a lot of time reading scripture, and every Sunday I was on my knees at the altar praying for God to free me from all this suffering.

I remember the day it happened.  I was tired and worn down, and I prayed to God to free me from the life garbage I was carrying. When I walked back to my seat, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.  I was finally free!

I prayed to God to free me from the life garbage I was carrying. When I walked back to my seat, I felt like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

I didn’t tell my family members about my experience, and saw the confused looks on their faces when I no longer reacted with anger and bitterness.  When I finally asked them what they thought of the new me, I was shocked by some of their responses.  It was hard to believe there were people in my life who actually preferred the bitter, angry me. My husband slept with one eye open for several weeks waiting for me to snap … yet here I am 10 years later and I am still free!  It is not always easy and I sometimes find myself trying to pick up the garbage. I remember that God wants it, so I pray that God will keep my heart soft and His love will show through my actions.

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