Consent Isn’t Always Consensual

NATIONAL SEXUAL ASSAULT HOTLINE 1-800-656-4673

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)  https://www.rainn.org

In 2012, when I started this blog, I promised God and myself that I would share my experiences with the goal of inspiring others.

So, in the wake of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, the #MeToo movement and the #WhyIDidn’tReport Twitter feed, an over 30-year old experience that I placed in a high security vault and buried deep in my memory has decided it is time to have its say. I called the event then “my humiliation,” but later the term that most aptly applied was “date rape.”

This long silent memory was reawakened with the thought: I’ve heard people recently talk about their willingness to take a lie detector test to prove their innocence or truthfulness regarding disputed “intimate interactions”: both the accused and the accuser are certain they will pass and do pass the test. This caused me to wonder how that could happen? How can both be right? The answer became abundantly clear in light of my own experience: the accused may have viewed the interaction as having the person’s consent; the accuser may have experienced it as coercsion.

I’ve written extensively about my past and, in particular, my divorce. It was during this period, I returned to college (and campus living) and began attending events with my friends. At one of these events, I met a guy, who seemed to be genuine and interesting. He asked me to dance and the rest of the evening we spent in good conversation and trying out new dance moves. I had a great time!

Before the night ended, he asked to take me out to dinner the following evening. I gave him my phone number (mistake #1 — didn’t get his) and he called shortly after I arrived at my dorm to agree on a pick up time.

When he arrived, I got in the car (mistake #2 — should have agreed to meet somewhere) and on the way to the restaurant, he said that he forgot something at home and had to stop and pick it up. He parked and asked me to wait inside his house while he retrieved it. I said okay (mistake #3 — should have stayed in the car). Shortly thereafter, I learned that he had locked the door and had no plans of opening it without a concession that included my body. My choices in that moment as I saw them were: (1) say no and demand to leave (did that, it didn’t work); (2) fight with the possibility of injury or death; or (3) capitulate and, hopefully, be released. After the first option failed and I decided not to fight my way out (this was on the heels of working through my previous domestic violence abuse), I chose #3 — the only option I thought gave me the best chance of getting out of there unhurt. (I later learned through this and other experiences that some hurts can’t be seen on the surface, but are scars that are buried deep in your soul).

Once the deed was done, he acted as if all was well, while I felt haunted in my own body! He planned to take me to the restaurant as before, but I said that I wanted to go back to my dorm.

During the ride, he kept up a steady stream of conversation, while I hugged myself and huddled in the corner of the front seat waiting for the ride to end. As soon as he parked, I jumped out of the car and walked quickly away without a backward glance.

Once in my dorm, I confided to my roommates what happened. They urged me to file a police report, but all I could think about was how humiliated I felt by the experience and the strong belief that the police would blame me for going into his house and bargaining with my body for my release (this was in the early 80s, three decades before the #MeToo movement). I was also just piecing my life back together and the thought of opening up a Pandora’s box was less than appealing to me. So, I decided to lock the experience — and it’s associated memories and feelings — away “as if it never happened.”

A year or more later, I was surprised by my resilience; I didn’t dwell on my humiliation at all! In fact, I thought  I had successfully moved on until I attended a friend’s house party and the rapist was there. I froze! My boyfriend (now my husband of 33 years) became concerned and asked me if I was alright. I finally told him about that night. Intensely angry, my boyfriend approached the guy, which opened the door to my confronting him about raping me. The guy looked seriously surprised by my accusation and then proceeded to apologize IF he did something wrong. I told him that he did and the only reason I didn’t call the police was that I didn’t know his address. I walked away feeling some closure, but also knowing, because of my response to seeing him, that the scar was (and remains) very present, and it’s a reminder to me to do everything within my power to make sure it never happens again.

Those 30-year old feelings of humiliation, powerlessness and fear resurfaced with recent stories of sexual abuse by powerful men —  I hate that!  But I can do little about those feelings other than to honor them for what they are, be thankful that I’ve survived and thrived, and to share my story so that people will know that consent is not always consensual.

If you are the victim of sexual abuse, please call the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 (https://www.rainn.org) or your local Rape Crisis Center for help and support.

When The Pain Or Despair Is Too Great To Live…Please Live Anyhow!

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE                           1-800-273-8255                 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

I woke up this morning to the news that another celebrity died of an apparent suicide. Tragic!

I’ve read that suicide is the most selfish thing anyone can do because they don’t take into account the devastation that it leaves behind for their family and friends and the unanswered questions of “How did we miss that?” or “What else could I have done to prevent it?”

If you have not been to a place in your life where all around you seems hopeless, that’s wonderful! But for those of us who have travelled this road in our minds, let me try to explain at least my journey to seriously contemplating suicide.

I’ve shared in the past a troubled upbringing with my parents: my father physically abused my mother for years. Home wasn’t always pleasant, especially when my father came home after several days of spending time with his girlfriend and her family or after having stayed out drinking with his friends. He would argue with my mother and then hit her. My sisters and I tried to stop him, but it seldom worked.

Thankfully, at about the time I turned 8 years old, my mom (and my sisters and I) had had enough; she filed for divorce! I know the decision to do so was very difficult because she was now responsible for 3 children under the age of 11 and knowing that she would get little, if any, help from my father. I admire her courage!

We struggled for a few years living on her paycheck, whatever child support my father decided to contribute and whenever he decided to pay it, and government food programs for which we were suddenly eligible.

I think my mom was looking for a real partner to help share her load. Unfortunately, she found help in the form of an alcoholic, who promised that he would buy her a house and support her children. My mom saw it as salvation, we lived it as a nightmare. They were married for almost 17 years until my mother’s untimely death from heart disease at the age of 53.

During those years, I recreated the most influential relationship I had experienced in my young life: I found two men to abuse me — one physically and one mentally— in successive relationships over a 13 year period.

I wrote about my failed marriage in my blog “Fish Don’t Know They’re In Water: So Why Should You?” (May 24, 2012):

I’ve written earlier about the abuse my mother endured and how I unwittingly recreated the same lifestyle when I was a teenager. What I didn’t mention is that I continued to try to recreate that same situation during my first marriage. Fortunately, my ex-husband asked me a profound question during an argument. He said, “Are you trying to make me hit you?” That was the first time that I became consciously aware of how my actions, unchecked, were leading me to the same abuse I had just escaped two years earlier! Thank God that my ex-husband was clear enough to know what I was unconsciously trying to do – swim in the same unhealthy, but familiar water!

The details I left out include:

  • Marrying my first husband to escape the home where my stepfather was constantly propositioning me, so I had to sleep with a chair under my doorknob because I didn’t trust the lock or him;
  • Having to leave college because I was no longer eligible to receive a financial aid package I could afford now or in the future due to the marriage, which devastated me because my hoped for future (through attending college) was the most stable thing in my life at that time;
  • Living in what quickly became a dysfunctional marriage rather than the supportive one I thought I was building;
  • Realizing that I lost a child at the same time I learned I was pregnant.  My mind processed this as another failure on my part — in addition to a failing marriage, I couldn’t even bring a child into the world!

I’ve often described to others how I felt during that time that led me to contemplate suicide: it’s like stuffing clothes in a drawer until the drawer is too full to close and everything falls out.

The loss of my child in combination with a terrible marriage and not attending college, pushed me to a mental breakdown. I couldn’t eat or sleep for two weeks; everywhere I looked I saw despair, loneliness and personal failure — the pain was too great to continue to live!

So, I decided to end my life by stepping in front of a bus. I assumed that people would think it was a terrible accident because I wasn’t paying attention, but God and I would know it wasn’t!

And here’s the thing: a bus was coming down the street and I was getting ready to step in front of it when my mother’s voice popped into my head and reminded me of her belief that she shared with me years before: God was not pleased with suicide — it was a ticket straight to hell and I couldn’t come back from hell! While I know others believe differently, that thought stopped me from stepping off the curb!

Instead, I walked to my dorm (I was separated from my husband and had returned to college) and told my roommate my plans for finding a way to kill myself so that God wouldn’t know it was suicide!

My roommate, God bless her, walked me to the counseling office, where I signed a contract to contact them if I felt suicidal and to attend daily counseling sessions.

Unpacking long packed drawers was painful…extremely painful… but absolutely necessary to healing. It was during this time that I committed to seeking counseling — regardless of anyone’s opinion about it — whenever I need it because I’m worth the investment!

My dear roommate and caring counselors changed my perspective from one of failure, despair, fear, and loneliness to one of hope for a brighter future. In fact, right before I would have stepped in front of the bus, I jokingly thought, “With my luck, as soon as I died, the day after, everything would get better!”

I can’t honestly say that the day after things got better, but with much soul searching, self- and other-truth telling and hard work, my life eventually moved forward toward reaching the goals I set for myself prior to my breakdown and the new goals I’ve set since.

With God’s grace, I eventually divorced and found my husband and soulmate Robert, who has been with me for 35 years; birthed and raised two phenomenal young women Robin and Jennifer (who I was absolutely certain I couldn’t have because of the miscarriage, but God knew otherwise); welcomed to our family to spoil and love to distraction my grandchildren Shanum and Yahya; and earned three college degrees including a Ph.D. (when I despaired of finishing just one degree) and a professional career that amazes me!

I now live everyday thankful for my ups and my downs, but mostly for my life because the despair and pain led me to get the help that I needed to “live anyhow!”

(I’ve included information above for the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. If you or someone you know needs help, please call them or seek local mental health resources. I owe my life to people who helped me find my way out of darkness so that I can share my experiences through this blog with you!)

Is Your “Pot” Too Small For Your Dreams?

I’ve been staring at my bamboo plant in my office because I know that I need to repot it; it’s too big for its current pot. It wasn’t always. It started as a small plant in a small pot, but I knew that it needed more room in order to continue to grow.

Several months ago, I went to the store and purchased a new pot and soil. I lovingly transferred the bamboo to the new pot and watered it weekly. After about 3 weeks, I noticed new shoots growing out of the soil — I didn’t expect those; I just assumed that my plant would continue to grow upward as it had been.

Now, my bamboo plant is tall and has so many new shoots, its leaves are wilting because its current environment is no longer conducive to its growth and health.

I’ve written before about the process of transformational growth (See “Personal Transformation Has a Cost: Are You Willing To Pay?,” May 6, 2012):

From the time we are born we are changing or transforming. We don’t often think about transformation in that way, we simply see it as part of a natural process. What made me think about this is the fact that I have had to transform in order to achieve the things that were important to me — e.g., good grades, college education, job, promotion, etc.– or to pursue more personal things like a happy marriage, peace of mind, a spiritual connection with God, passion and purpose.

Each pursuit required a change in my thinking and behavior, which ultimately changed who I was and how I identified me to myself and to others. I’ve come to understand my transformational process as similar to something that happens in nature… For example, when a snake matures (stay with me!), it must shed its outer skin in order to grow. It’s called molting. If it does not shed its skin, it dies — it smothers in its old skin. I believe we humans are often prone to the same thing because we choose not to change our “skin,” meaning our thinking in order to pursue something new and different, especially when we know that our old skin no longer fits us.

I realize that I didn’t go far enough in my explanation because I talked about the internal environment (i.e., thoughts, attitudes, behaviors, etc.) that must change in order to become a better you, but I neglected the external environment that is equally important to one’s growth.

This includes simple questions like, “With whom do I choose to spend time — do they help or hinder my progress toward my better self?” “What places do I choose to inhabit — do they energize me or do I feel drained when I’m there?” “What am I spending my free time doing — am I learning or doing anything that helps others or myself?” These are all important “pot” issues because they determine if your environment is nurturing or restricting your growth.

Like my bamboo plant, I wonder what new shoots are lying dormant within me because I’ve allowed my growth to be contingent upon the size of my current pot — my environment— rather than the size of my dreams, goals and aspirations. But, as many of us know, changing environments means that you have to leave the old one and venture out into a new often unknown environment, and that’s scary, especially when you don’t know what the new will bring.

Ultimately, your new growth will require an investment in a new pot/environment. This may take the form of going back to school for additional training, leaving an unfulfilling job, seeking counseling to change habitual self-defeating thought patterns, saying goodbye to relationships that constantly take more than they contribute, choosing to break “enabling” behavior patterns that keep you guilt ridden and tied to a past and people you no longer want in your life, and attending events that have your future in mind even though your present self-talk says you’re not worthy to participate.

I know that I have to invest in a new pot for my plant; it’s well past the time to do so if I want it to continue to grow.

So, how about you: have you made the decision to invest in a new “pot” for yourself? I certainly hope so because, like a potbound plant, your “roots” — dreams, goals and aspirations — may die because they have no outlet to spread beyond their current confines.

The Harlem Renaissance Poet Langston Hughes in his poem Harlem, said it this way:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Happy planting!

Dear Warrior: Courage For The Journey

WARIOR (noun)

A person engaged or experienced in warfare; a person engaged in some struggle or conflict.

COURAGE (noun)

The ability to do something that frightens one; strength in the face of pain or grief.

I recently attended a conference sponsored by the Women of Color Foundation. Its focus was on women in the C-Suite. Throughout the conference, I kept hearing in my spirit the word “courage.”

I am privileged to have some phenomenal warriors in my life, who share their stories of brokenness and triumph with me. One friend called me yesterday because God had placed me on her heart and she said that she had to contact me.

As we talked, I kept wondering what the “God ordained” message would be that necessitated the call. I was reminded of it near the end of our conversation:

Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear. (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

She related to me her 2.5 year odyssey to find and reclaim herself during the midst of a terrible divorce and dysfunctional work environment. We talked about the self-doubt one experiences when you find yourself in a professional and/or personal war someone else is waging against you that’s intended to impugn your character and destroy your reputation just because they think they have the right to do so.

What was telling in her description was the “tipping point” moment that catalyzed her transformation from victim to victor. Webster defines “tipping point” as, “the point at which a series of small changes or incidents becomes significant enough to cause a larger, more important change.” My friend defined hers as the moment she realized that her now ex-husband, who had hidden his assets that she later uncovered, had more to lose than she did. Prior to her discovery, her ex was publicly disparaging her and privately trying to take as much as he could even though his income was significantly higher.

She said that once the discovery was made, she was able to find the courage to stand and fight in a way that she felt she couldn’t before. We talked about the surge of energy she experienced as well as her newfound strength in God’s grace knowing that she had done nothing to cause the war other than to stand up for what she believed to be right.

We also talked about our biblical Job moments: the times when God pays you “double for your trouble.” In her case, God repaid her by providing her a series of “new” things: a better than expected divorce settlement, a job with unheard of benefits and a self-identity that is stronger and more confident for having experienced and won the war waged against her.

Her story served to remind me that my warrior experiences of having to demonstrate courage began with the questions: “Is what someone says about me who I am? Is it indicative of how I operate?” These are soul searching, transformative questions that require prayer and reflection in order to find the answers.

In my times of trial, God often reminds me of his message to Joshua, whom Moses mentored, upon Moses’ death:

There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage…Only be thou strong and very courageous…Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
‭‭Joshua‬ ‭1:5-9‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Dear Warrior: every war fought, every trial endured and every wilderness walked carries with it the assurance that God will give you the courage for the journey because the experience is as much about your preparation for something bigger as it is about God receiving glory because you trusted him for the victory.

 

Lessons From A “Fire Walker”

I have been recounting to friends the lessons I’ve learned and the person that I’ve become through “walking through the fire.”

As I’ve shared over the past five years on this blog, I’ve had a number of difficult experiences that have devastated me at different times in my life, but the more I thought about it, each experience gave me a mirror to myself and a lens to a future me that I could be if I chose to focus on the lessons learned instead of the hurt inflicted or what or who I lost along the way.

Fire walking is not for the faint of heart; it requires a deep belief that, eventually, “this too shall pass” if I keep putting one foot in front of the other and trusting God for the victory.  This is not always easy when you’re on the hot coals, but for me, it remains my spiritual compass.

I don’t personally know anyone who is a willing fire walker — situations just seem to pop up from time to time — but whenever life required that I put on my fire retardant foot wear, I was reminded of the truth of motivational speaker Zig Ziglar’s statement that, “It is your attitude, more than your aptitude, that will determine your altitude.”

We each have an opportunity to determine if our fire walking will make us better or make us bitter — our choice.

With each experience, I remind myself of God’s promise to me that:

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:2)

As I noted in a previous blog, steel, in order to be strengthened for use, must be heated or “tempered” (see “Refining on Purpose,” June 24, 2017). We’re no different —often my struggles led to an important victory in some part of my life that confirmed that, while I may have been singed, I was not consumed.

As a seasoned “fire walker,” my greatest lesson has been that I must consciously choose to look for the good in the walk, especially since whether or not I walk over the fire is often out of my control. I’ve also come to appreciate that my personal, and especially spiritual, growth, unfortunately, required the fire experience.

So, while I don’t enjoy the process, I am grateful for the lessons that help me inspire others that “walking it out” through the fire is worth it!

 

Thank You!…You Helped Me Become Who I Am Now

I recently had a conversation with my sister Karen about an experience one of our maternal aunts had with a friend, who she found was sharing her confidences with someone else. My aunt reportedly called her friend and said two simple words, “thank you.” My sister recounted that she didn’t explain to the friend why she was thanking her, she simply shared those two words and hung up.

I asked my sister why our aunt didn’t go into detail or deride her friend about betraying her trust. She said that our aunt didn’t think the details of what happened mattered as much as the knowledge she gained because of the experience. I was stunned by that perspective because I never considered it before!

This started me thinking about the times in my life when people I considered friends betrayed me — using lies and/or actions as weapons of my destruction or shovels to dig a hole into which they planned me to fall  — and how I responded.

The bible teaches that we should, “bless those who curse you, and pray for those who despitefully use you” (Luke 6:28), but it says nothing about thanking them.

So, like my aunt, for those (former) “friends” who willingly betrayed my trust with destruction in mind, THANK YOU…because you have helped me become who I am now!

Think On These Things

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Phillipians 4:8)

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what I’ve been thinking about. This is especially true in light of my new normal that I described in my last post.

I find myself going over the details from the past looking for new answers to old questions to ensure that, as a student, I don’t need to repeat the lesson because I’ve learned it well. However, this kind of thinking may cause me to get stuck like a Ferris Wheel viewing the same territory again and again. Unless I actively choose to think differently, I remain on the same track with little hope of viewing new vistas because I’m too busy reviewing the old ones.

This is not to say that reflection does not have a place in our lives— it most certainly does! How else will you know what you’ve learned if you don’t revisit your notes? No, what I’m talking about is the incessant thinking that comes with wanting things to have worked out differently or beating ourselves up with thoughts and outcomes that we can’t change because they are in the past.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve conditioned myself to always think about the next problem around the corner or “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” While this manner of thinking can prepare me for the next battle, it also prevents me from enjoying the battles already won or the battles I didn’t need to fight because we were in peacetime. As a result, I rarely allow myself to enjoy “where I am on my way to where I’m going” because I focus too much on the potential obstacles that may arise.

I believe this is why Phillians 4:8’s wisdom is powerful! The Apostle Paul says that we should focus our thoughts on things that are “true,” “honest,” “just,” “pure,” “lovely,” “of good report,” and that have “virtue,” or “praise.” I find that whenever I do this, I feel more hopeful, encouraged, strengthened and prepared.

I must admit though that like bad habits that require constant attention to break, my old ways of thinking often prevent me from regularly thinking in this new way, but I’m committed to this part of my spiritual journey because I know that new thoughts lead me to new revelations and new behaviors, which ultimately better reveal to me my God-given destiny, especially when I consciously focus my energy and attention and “think on these things.”

A New “Normal”

I have been thinking lately about the outcome of going through trials and tribulations: Who am I when it’s over? What is my new normal?

Initially, I was going to title this, “Revisiting Dirty Water,” but decided that “A New Normal” is better because “revisiting” anything is always in hindsight, while establishing a new normal is in the present.

In my original post on normalcy, “Fish Don’t Know They’re in Water: So Why Should You?” (May 24, 2012), I defined “normal” as the combination of our “thoughts, feelings, behaviors and self- or other-imposed limitations”:

Consider how many times you’ve advised friends to stop doing something that you could see would have terrible consequences, but they did it over and over again. You wondered to yourself: “Why do they keep making the same mistake?” The answer is simple: the situation is their “normal.”

We all have our “normals” or our routines. They include thoughts, feelings, behaviors and self- or other-imposed limitations. These make our lives somewhat predictable.

I went on to say that our normal may change as a result of becoming consciously aware of it and the God-destiny wrapped within it:

It’s only when our “normal” is exposed through some change in our routine usually because of an unforeseen event like a health scare, death or some other challenge, do we begin to examine the life that we have built and to determine if we want to stay on that particular path. We sometimes call these “Aha” moments. I prefer to call them moments of God-inspired revelation.

I believe that God brings people to this place of revelation so that they can choose — to either embrace the new consciousness or ignore it. I’ve done both at different times in my life: I chose to embrace the revelation that I had to get out of an abusive relationship because I deserved a better life. I have ignored revelation whenever the thought of change was more frightening to me than the new life that was awaiting me.

Over the past 5 years, I’ve had a number or trials (and traumas) that shook my faith to the core. Questions of “Why me?” or “How long will it last?” played over and over in my head awaiting an answer from God. However, more often than not, the trial served to strengthen me in several areas and revealed to me my values and what I truly believed because trials have a way of revealing you to yourself if you let them.

What I’ve found is that a new normal is only reached through a recognition of what remains after the trial: family, friends and other things that really matter. It is from these that we build a refined narrative, or in some cases a completely new narrative, of who we are post trial, trauma or tribulation.

Like a fish on dry land, it flops around looking for the water that it just came out of because that’s all it has known. It doesn’t stop to think: is this the best water for me? It doesn’t consider, nor can it, that there may be better water to inhabit. Its singular goal is to get back to its familiar water as soon as possible!

Thank God that we’re not fish! We get to choose to pursue conscious living if we’re willing to examine, improve or possibly leave the water we’re swimming in!

Like the fish in my original blog, I’m still seeking my new normal, but with each passing day, the water that I consciously choose to swim in after my trial is much clearer than the dirty water I left behind!

Refining On Purpose

For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined.” (Psalms 66:10 NKJV)

I was talking to my husband recently about the purpose of the trials in our lives that feel like we’re walking “through the fire.” Did you know that fire is often a necessary step in the refining process? For example, gold is heated to over 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit in order to make it 99.999% pure (or 24K for the Bruno Mars fans), while steel requires high temperatures in order to strengthen it for use.

One of the most compelling stories in the Bible about being tried by fire is Job’s. Job was a righteous man that God brought to the devil’s attention:

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil?” (Job‬ ‭1:8‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Job lost his children, his wealth and his health, but viewed it all as part of God’s refining:

Then Job answered and said:
“Even today my complaint is bitter;
My hand is listless because of my groaning.
Oh, that I knew where I might find Him,
That I might come to His seat!
I would present my case before Him,
And fill my mouth with arguments.
I would know the words which He would answer me,
And understand what He would say to me.
Would He contend with me in His great power?
No! But He would take note of me.
There the upright could reason with Him,
And I would be delivered forever from my Judge.

Look, I go forward, but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him;
When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him.
But He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.
 
(Job 23:1-10)

The refining or the testing is not made to break you, but to build and strengthen you for God’s purpose, and to show God’s glory in you as his representative on earth.

This was especially true in the case of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when the king required his subjects in Babylon to worship an idol. Their response not only demonstrated their faith in God, but God used their trial to demonstrate His majesty:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18 NKJV)
‭‭

“Therefore I (the king) make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.” (Daniel 3:29 NKJV)
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Every “refining” experience of mine was difficult and often painful, but necessary in hindsight because it prepared me for the next part of my God-ordained journey. And while I know that refining is often part of the process, being in the fire is still never easy or fun. However, when I reflect on the lessons learned and the strength I’ve gained, I’m humbled. And when I recall the glory God receives when I respond to the question, “How are you bearing up under that?!” and I respond,”God’s grace,” then all I can be is thankful for my “refining on purpose.”

 

When You’ve Done All You Can… Stand

I have heard the statement over the years, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” This is usually meant to suggest that, at different points in life, you will be required to “take a stand” or declare your position on something even when it is difficult and may cost you something like family, friends, popularity, status, credibility, etc.

I can recall several times in my life when I was required to make a decision as to whether I should or could stand, and if I was willing to pay the price either way. (This is a good place to remind you that every stand taken or not has a price associated with it.)

As a teenager, my first major stand was to confront my boyfriend, who I had allowed to physically abuse me for several years. I’ve often recounted that the choice was to continue to be abused or to stand up to him with the possibility that he could kill me. I chose to stand because to remain battered was no longer an option — my future was worth the risk of death.

My second major stand was the decision to release myself from an unhappy marriage, even though I had vowed never to divorce as my parents had. My ex-husband is a great person, but we married for all of the wrong reasons. It took my having a mental breakdown to confront myself and him with my newfound knowledge that life was too short to waste it on unhappiness when I had the ability to choose differently. Because of that stand, I went on to marry my solemate and best friend 32 years ago.

Other instances in my life that I’ve taken a stand have at times given me notoriety (or infamy, depending upon the person telling the story), but I was willing to go through the process, whatever the outcome, because I believed that the cause was worth it.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that it’s important to me to take a stand when it allows me to give a voice to those who feel they can’t be heard or when it’s necessary to “speak truth to power” — real or perceived– because to do less makes me part of the problem rather than a contributor to a solution.

In the final analysis, I have learned to take the advice of Donnie McClurkin, one of my favorite gospel artists:

STAND

What do you do,
When you’ve done all you can and it seems like it’s never enough?
And, what do you say when your friends turn away and you’re all alone?
Tell me, what do you give,
When you’ve given your all and it seems like you can’t make it through?
Well, you just stand, when there’s nothing left to do,
You just stand, watch the LORD see you through.
Yes, after you’ve done all you can, you just stand!