Chapter 6 – Copyright 2023 – Carla J. Wood
First Glimpse of My Humanity
I used to think my weakness
Was something I should hide
I used to see my value
Through other people’s eyes
I used to think my failures
Were how I’d be defined
It took some time to break through
The lies that I believed
But You showed me my savior was never really me
You’ve always gone before me
And You are with me now
You’ve never let me down
I used to think salvation
Was based upon my works
I thought that my acceptance
Was something I had to earn
But now I have assurance
No I am not afraid
You already made a way
Yeah, the hero of my story has always been You
By Bryan Fowler and Ryan Stevenson
The lessons from this song I only began to learn in my teen years. As those years unfolded, I trusted God more than the average adolescent, but that didn’t mean there weren’t struggles. My mom’s traumatic childhood, with an angry abusive alcoholic stepfather, led her to find Jesus in junior high but she lived a lot of her life with fear and a desperate faith. I believe this caused her to parent me as a teen frightened that the same terrible things which happened to her would happen to me. So, everything I did was overly scrutinized and criticized. Trying to maintain great faith and be a “good girl” was my constant exercise. Between my mom’s judgement and anxiety and my own realization that I wasn’t perfect, times of extreme highs and extreme lows became my routine.
For the first time, I began to learn that having faith didn’t always remove the disappointments in life and keep me from making mistakes. That bothered me at times, thinking I wasn’t a “good Christian”.
At the end of sixth grade, we moved again, a very difficult move for me to leave precious friends of three years. Then at the beginning of eighth grade, I had just started to feel at home at another new school when we moved again. This time, my parents decided to take us to the new town first for a visit to a small farming community about three hours away. Dad and Mom thoughtfully let us have a part in the moving decision. Strangely, after visiting the church and schools for a couple days, Carolyn and I fell in love with the tiny community. We were so warmly welcomed and sensed it was a beautiful place full of love.
It was here I was given wings to fly in music and confidence with good friends. God touched me in many ways during this season, but I really thought I would be more perfect by the time I was in high school. The struggle began with “not being enough” started to grow.
I attended three different churches of different evangelical denominations, not because I felt I had to but because I had friends at each church and loved being at each place. This experience of immersing myself in several different congregations would end up being helpful later in life, especially as a teacher and worship leader in a Christian school with many denominations represented.
Beautiful encounters began to happen with God on an even more personal level than I had before. The Jesus movement of the late 1970’s was inspiring people who were mentors to me. They had a huge impact on my spiritual life introducing me to a deeper personal relationship I could have throughout my day with the Holy Spirit. I realized time with God was not just reading the Bible and trying to live by it, but it was sitting quietly thinking about what I’d read in the Bible and telling God how amazing he is, sometimes through worship music. I would then listen for his quiet voice whispering into my mind and spirit wisdom and his love for me. When I practiced this and gave space for those quiet moments with God, his love and wisdom began to help me stop and think before I made decisions and gave me peace in not being “perfect”.
Finishing my sophomore year, I had a closer relationship with God, a great job at the golf course pro-shop, three very close friends plus many others, and three great churches where I felt loved unconditionally. Life outside our home felt almost perfect. Then another whammy hit me after my junior year as we had to move again back to the Seattle area. This time re-framing my disappointment was more difficult and the thoughts of ways to stay in my happy precious community life began to form in my mind. My parents would not even begin to consider me living with friends with our family moving away. So, tapping into my desire for musical success, they offered to move us to a town south of Seattle that had one of the best high school music programs in the world.
In, this, my last move back to Seattle, my junior year, transitioning from a secondary school with 500 students to a high school with 2,000, was difficult. Rather than get depressed, I began to devote more time to my new church, studies, and music. Although great friendships were made through my new community, I struggled with attaching myself to another group of people knowing I would graduate in another eighteen months, only to go to college and be painfully pulled away from one more community. The resolve in my heart to make sure my children would have one place to remain rooted in their teen years was established that year.
As I wrestled with the pain of the most recent move, my parents’ marriage became even more estranged. An eagerness to learn as much as I could about growing a healthy marriage and family began to develop. Praying for my spouse-to-be began when I was twelve but during my senior year of high school, my prayers were upped a level. The tug-of-war between what God wanted for my future and what I wanted began in earnest at that moment. Sometimes I got so frustrated with myself, knowing what I should do but letting my wants pull me in the opposite direction. Throughout the remainder of high school, I longed to be loved.
So, you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free.
Romans 7: 25b TLB
I could write a whole novel on my struggle for identity and love in the new high school, but suffice it to say, I wasn’t perfect and had a rollercoaster relationship with God where he always reminded me he was faithfully close to forgive and strengthen me.
Home was not a peaceful place so filling my life with any activity I could find outside of home continued. School, church, and work were my safest places. Glimpses of God’s deep love from my sporadic quiet time did keep me from getting totally off track but I always felt like I was treading water with God. I continued to see myself in my weaknesses as being “not good enough”.
Of course, God never treads water; he saw my desire to be his child and put good people and teachers in my life. As my senior year was ending, our church began a spring Sunday night film series that re-focused my life. It was James Dobson’s Focus on the Family, which clearly defined God’s perfect plan for family and marriage. From these enlightening videos a determination to be a loving seeker of truth – and raise a godly family was established in my heart.
My plan was formed: Go to a Christian college, find a Christian man, have the perfect family environment that would produce perfect children – basically, expecting the idealistic Christian Cinderella story. Every book I could find on marriage and family was added to my books on Heaven. I dove into the Bible deeper than I ever had before, expecting that if I did everything God asked me to do, my life on Earth – especially family life – would be perfect. My ideas about this idyllic outcome didn’t allow room for disobedience and sin in family life. Time would soon reveal that he doesn’t call us to a perfect life, he calls us to him. We humans and our world are hopelessly fallen without Christ our Overcomer. Nevertheless, God was so good to provide me, as a very young woman, with solid wisdom and insight that birthed in my heart the beginning of a great foundation for a healthy family.