We’ve all heard the saying, “sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me!” I’m not sure I ever believed that. Growing up a little fat latina girl and going to school where no one looked like me, I learned to build walls around myself and to use humor as a moat to keep a safe distance from those who might use words to hurt me.
I was 19 when I had my first daughter. For some reason people took the liberty to openly criticize me. Family, friends, and even church folk called me an array of colorful names. On the flip side there were also family, friends and church folk who showed me love and support. I Find it interesting that looking back I realize that I believed a lot of those hurtful words. I think I started acting like and became some of those names that people called me.
Why is it so easy for women to so easily believe other people’s definition of beauty or success? Why is it so easy to believe the negative and doubt reality or ourselves for that matter? By choosing to keep my daughter at 19 it seemed to me that not only was I wearing my own infamous scarlet letter, but in the eyes of the world I had become an epic failure.
As I grew into my 20’s I was working jobs that offered night shifts or graveyard shifts. My daughter would stay with my mom while I went to work. In the morning I would come home to sleep and care for my daughter. By the time I was 25 I had my second daughter and I chose to continue being a single mom. I worked an office job through my pregnancy. After she was born and around the time she was 3 months old, I went to work doing hard labor. I started working loading mail, cargo and baggage at the airport.
By that time I worked hard, partied just as hard and believed that I was every poisonous thing that people and family had ever said about me. I convinced myself that “breaking men” was a sport. I would befriend a confident and self assured man. I would get to know him, learn his fears and weaknesses, seduce his emotions, trust,and need for attention. Then when he had softened up and started to change I would destroy his ego. Mind games…they gave me such a rush.
Eventually the stakes kept getting higher and higher. The last time I broke a man’s spirit I also broke mine. As a result of that disastrous game, my youngest was conceived. That was almost 12 years ago.
How many times can a person’s heart break? During the period that God was working on my restoration, the scripture that kept coming up was Isaiah 45:9. It’s about the potter and the clay. The messages were always about how the potter works on his clay to mold beautiful work. Sometimes the clay is molded into a beautiful piece. Sometimes it will change shape while it is being molded and it is scrapped. Always the potter starts over and continues to work.
I began to accept that I was a work in progress and that broken hearts were all a part of spiritual growth. So while God was breaking me and remaking me, I found a book that completely changed my perspective.
I don’t know how this book crossed my path, but it completely changed the way I understood my relations with people. It’s called, “The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruis.”
The four agreements are these:
“Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dreams. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
“Don’t make assumptions. Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama.”
“Always do your best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstances, simply do your best, and you will avoid self judgement, self-abuse, and regret.”
The book went into extensive detail and truly enlightened me. It was as if these pages full of wisdom had found the weakest point of the walls I had built around me and annihilated them. Since I don’t believe in accidents or coincidences, I asked God, “You mean to tell me I’m not all those things that people said I was? All their opinions, criticisms, all the gossip and ugliness…that was them? Not me?”
He simply asked, “Do you trust me?”
I replied “sure, but…”
He continued to reveal to me who he was as creator. Another recurring scripture was Mark 5:25-34. It’s where Jesus is walking through a large crowd and a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years came up behind him and touched his cloak. She believed that if she could just touch his cloak she would be healed. Jesus at once feels the power go out of him and he asks who touched him. She tells him the truth and he tells her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Goo in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
I wanted that faith. In the months before the trip to Thailand I must have heard that message at least 4 times. Each time God asked if I trusted him. I began to ask myself if I trusted him.
When I started sharing with people that I was going on a missionary encounter trip to Thailand and Myanmar I began to get two very clear messages. One was of support and prayer. The other was of fear and doubt.
The media here in the US was reporting of the protests that were sweeping Thailand. In the days leading up to my departure the protests seemed to be escalating in urgency and violence. Myanmar’s history with missionaries was not as promising either. Decades before all the missionaries had been kicked out of then Burma, and it wasn’t until a year before that they had been allowed to return. Unfortunately christians were still being persecuted as were people of various native tribes. Everyone asked how God could possibly be sending 17 women into these situations unarmed and proclaiming their christianity.
One Saturday evening at a youth revival, Billy, the youth pastor told of a scenario where an armed man walked into a church during a service. The gunman stood in front of the congregation and pointed the gun at the congregation. He gave the people a choice to walk out or to continue listening to the message and be killed. Some people walked out and others stayed seated. When most had left he turned to the pastor and told him to continue preaching to the true believers. It had been a test of faith.
Important conversations were set into motion with my daughters. My youngest knew of the concerns regarding the trip. Imagine what it was like telling my 7 year old that I could be killed for being a christian. There was also the risk of being arrested or who knows what else I could possibly face on this trip. There were a lot of tears and she begged me not to go.
My 2 older daughters understood that there might be genuine safety concerns. They seemed to understand that God opened doors for me to go. They accepted the fact that I was going, but weren’t necessarily thrilled with the idea of something going wrong. They also knew we had to have faith and believe that I was meant to go.
The weight of the situation didn’t fully sink in until my bags were checked and I walked through the security checkpoint and left my girls behind. I was headed for LAX. I would meet my travel companions. We would spend the night in LA and leave extremely early the following morning for NRT.
I took a leap of faith and finally answered in total submission…”I trust you Lord.”
Trusting God doesn’t mean that everything is clear skies and smooth sailing. For me it simply meant that I was trusting everything over to him, my life, my safety, my daughters…everything. It also meant that life could take a turn for more challenging obstacles.
When I left for LAX, I had laryngitis. I couldn’t speak or even utter a sound. I had absolutely no voice, I couldn’t even whisper. When I exerted my voice I would have a terrible bout of coughing. I started to get scared. How was I going to communicate with these women?