Embarrassing, ashamed, regret, guilt…we all have felt those emotions at one point or another whether we care to admit it or not. Negative situations do not show favoritism to certain individuals, instead as a ramification of sin we’re all at risk of being held objective to negativity. It can come from poor self-made choices, an innocent accident, or even someone’s misconstrued idea of us.
I’ve been there, more than once, more times than I care to acknowledge. I’ve felt those negative moments of despair where you feel so lost and broken that you’ve almost become numb to feeling anything at all. Sometimes recalling those shameful experiences means revisiting dark corners where deep memories hide.
Too often we vacate the idea of “speaking up” about a difficult encounter we’ve struggled with or currently struggle with. We cower to the idea of becoming vulnerable to someone else’s opinion of us if we would happen to open-up regarding a particular situation that seems less than favorable to ourselves and society.
One of my most disconcerting memories occurred when I was just a few years over the legal drinking age, the summer of 2007. Little did I know at the time it would serve as a humbling experience and a much-needed building block for my faith to grow a few years later…
Not as a regular practice, my husband and I found ourselves at the local bar in our small town one evening. After visiting with the bar crowd and finishing off too many alcoholic beverages the night grew later and eventually the music shut down as well as the bar. With an invitation to an after-bar gathering and thinking we had more party left in us, we accepted the offer.
I have to mention while at the bar a girl that I had worked with previously was there. I felt as if I needed to befriend her all night because she was accusing me for the reason she was fired from the job we used to share. In reality a lack of quality work ethic may have been the probable cause, but nonetheless my people pleasing motives took over and I wanted to prove to her that I most certainly had nothing to do with her being let go.
Now that we were all leaving the bar I thought it the perfect opportunity to really “buddy up” with this girl if I got a ride to the after-bar party from her rather than my husband and that’s exactly what I did. However when we arrived to the party there was just one really big problem― my husband was nowhere to be found. In the mess of alcohol and inadequate communication skills, plans were lost. After a few elusive phone calls I determined my husband was at a different party.
Amongst my stupor I remember feeling so out-of-place, I was with people I hardly knew. What felt like hours must have only been a half hour or so, but either way I began having a hard time staying awake. However with my sense of time and consciousness absent, I became momentarily responsive when I realized my ride was leaving. Subconsciously I was able to collect myself, my purse, phone, and a ride with the girl I had gone to the party with. I was quickly and safely reunified with my husband at the party he was at.
From there my state of awareness diminished as I grew increasingly sleepy. If anyone was disturbed by my condition I was too tired to notice. After a careless evening that had extended into the early hours of the next day my husband and I finally made it home. When I awoke later that morning I remember feeling incredibly ashamed. Blacking out due to too much alcohol consumption with people I trusted had happened to me before, but blacking out with mostly strangers was a first for me— by the way, neither are acceptable I soon learned. My irresponsible actions were too closely related to my days as a teenager. As a teen I ran wild and free from the only thing (faith) that could set me free from the wild-now here I was again in similar circumstances only older, but certainly not wiser.
I’d like to say that I became a sold-out for Jesus, Christ-following girl immediately after that incident happened but unfortunately I didn’t. Instead I became an introvert, keeping to myself— wondering what sort of susceptible behavior could’ve occurred, if any— wondering if I’d ever gain any recollection of that evening. As a result I contacted the girl whom I rode to the party with; I desperately wanted her approval of friendship now more than ever. I questioned her with everything that overwhelmed my mind. She clearly thought I was crazy and insisted that I simply was overreacting and had nothing to worry about.
I’m not sure if the purpose of that phone call was meant to relieve me of the burden I carried or what, but it didn’t work if so. I continued to agonize over it for years― sometimes alone, sometimes involving my husband who was always sympathetic to my concerns. Eventually this anxious thought process became my new normal. I had vowed to never drink again after that regretful night but more often than not mistakes made and not replaced with Jesus many times end up in repetitive default mode. Nearly five years later without one alcoholic beverage my complacent attitude gave way to a summer of light casual drinking every now and then. My husband who was loving, but had a problem with alcohol abuse contributed to my reasoning.
Thankfully at this point drinking didn’t hold my interest for long and I quickly determined it was, without a doubt, pointless so I gave it up completely. I began to desire something more out of life. This time my default mode wouldn’t be negative, it would be Jesus. If ever questioned about my belief in God, I considered myself a Christian from the time I was a young teenager, but it wasn’t until all of those years later when I finally realized I didn’t have a clue about faith much less what a pursuant relationship with Christ looked like. Soon my random church attendance turned to weekly and felt absolutely vital to my ability of survival. By this time my husband didn’t understand, he would refer to me as a “Bible Beater” or a “Jesus Freak”, but I knew I had to make God my main priority, regardless. For the first time I wasn’t just hearing God’s word while warming the church pew seat, I was listening with the intent to grow closer to Him. Philippians 4:13 spoke boldly to me as I knew I needed Christ’ strength in me.
I began to see that God’s love ran deep through the mercy and grace He provided. I prayed fervently and studied my Bible passionately and made every effort to not only hide His word in my heart but to live it out as well. God heard my cry for help and brought comfort, He brought hope to an abandoned faith, and joy when prayers were answered. My husband soon saw the need for Jesus in place of alcohol. Our children witnessed God working in our lives through our devotion to Him.
I want to believe if it had not been for losing consciousness and feeling uncomfortable around people I was unfamiliar with at an after-bar party years ago coupled with God’s graciousness I may very likely be encumbered in the same unjustified mistakes. Even as my thoughts revisit that time in my life I make my best effort to capture the beauty behind what seemed like a paralyzing still-image.
Resulting from the time of sins’ beginning, there will always be negative situations this side of Heaven. We can all relate to that truth in one way or another. But because of God’s love shown through His Son we can feel blessed that we don’t have to feel bound in chains attached to an unpleasant time or memory. With Jesus as our Savior our chains are broken and we’re no longer a slave to sin but a slave of God receiving justice through a relationship with Him. Hebrews 8:12 says “for I will forgive their wickedness and I will remember their sins no more” and as long as God claims our sins are forgiven and He no longer remembers them then we’re free from the need to feel any amount of guilt.
There are times, inevitably, where we are reminded of unsettling moments from our past…instead of allowing Satan to have his way with our thoughts may we rise up and consider those reminders as God’s Holy Spirit whispering, “use this, speak up about this very incident, no matter how old it is or how bad it hurts, you are healed by your faith in Me.” …May it be our prayer that we deny Satan any satisfaction, rejecting his plot to scheme against us as we call out to Jesus in His name (John 14:13) and share our testimony in a way that glorifies and points to God alone.