For me the first thing that comes to mind when I hear “always” is a marriage vow: God’s blessing on the sanctity of that union, and the concept of forever united as one. In the very next micro-millisecond a huge wave of guilt and shame comes crashing over me and takes me off my feet. I’m used to the waves at this point, but I still have to lock both my feet firmly in the sand and brace myself for their force. Every once in a while a wave gets me completely and dunks me in the tide.
Growing up there were a list of things that you just don’t do – murder, abortion, divorce, renouncing God. These are things I knew I would never do, and I knew if I did them, the eternal consequences were severe. At 21 years of age I found myself facing choices I did not know how to make. I’d spent 3 days in the hospital after not eating for two months because I had decided it would be better to die than to commit the unspeakable act of divorce. I had two criteria from the doctors before I was allowed to leave the hospital – I had to eat, and I had to have a plan (and dying was not an acceptable plan). Nicotine depraved, I conceded. I ate some hospital food and left my marriage.
I go back in my mind now, even 20 years later, and try to analyze everything like it’s in a glass mason jar – I shake it and try to look at it from all different angles.
I don’t remember all the details anymore. I know some of it was my fault – I know some of it was his fault. I don’t even know what percentages to assign to that responsibility load.
I carried in a history of sexual abuse into what was my first consensual sexual relationship. I think I minimized my damage, and it wreaked havoc. I cannot really speak for him, nor do I care to at this point. All I know is I found myself knee deep in a situation I never saw myself facing, and I didn’t have the ability to face it.
I went to see my pastor who had married us in a huge beautiful wedding that cost my parents an arm and a leg just a short 11 months before. He was not only my pastor but also my swim coach, confidant and employer. I poured out my heart, my tears and my struggles. All that I heard was that no matter what the cost, I had to put that marriage back together or jeopardize my salvation. I had already been through that scenario and chosen death – I walked out of his office choosing my temporal life over my eternal.
It destroyed me. As I grappled with my actions and my choices and my consequences, my world completely upended. I was self-cutting fairly severely. I tried once more to take my life. I vividly remember puking in the nasty, filthy bathroom toilet after taking a bottle of aspirin and enough alcohol to sleep through the dying – sobbing, snot flowing, internally screaming that I couldn’t even succeed at killing myself.
I fell in with a wonderful group of friends who were predominantly atheists – they fulfilled a healing role in my life in a very critical moment that I will never not be grateful for. Ultimately I decided I had been sold a bill of goods and I rejected my faith. What kind of God was that anyway? A God who condemned someone He supposedly loved for just trying to put one foot in front of the other? I felt I had been spoon fed a faith that did not add up. I still had faith of some sort, but it was with an undefined Force and Face.
Years later, I met another man. I fell in love. We got married. It too fell to a shambles. Again, I made a choice and chose my well-being over the sanctity of marriage. Again, I broke my vows. Again, I was fighting for survival. Again, a failure. Now I take that marriage in a mason jar and turn it this way and that, trying to decide what I could have changed, what was the failure, who owns what percent of the blame.
Again, I see my own failures and I see his failures. I shake it and turn it and study it – but it’s still my jar. So I put it up on the shelf next to my other jar. I know folks that have 8 such jars – and those jars can’t really be hidden and swept under the rug when you have company over. I am filled with remorse and shame and regret and embarrassment.
Somewhere in this newest aftermath I got convicted that I was not raising my daughter in the Lord. I had sacrificed my own salvation, but I became wrought with guilt about hers. We found a church. I felt like I should be wearing an “A” on my dress every Sunday, but we went. Even though it was not for me, I was listening. This church taught about grace. Oh, I’d heard about grace – but I had never experienced it. True grace was beyond my comprehension – literally. I wanted to believe it so badly – but I didn’t understand it. And I didn’t want to give up what “sin” I had that kept me sane for a God who had already tossed me to the wind.
These people didn’t think you could lose your salvation! What??? They even had scriptural back up that was credible, verses I had likely read but never seen. Over time, I came to fervently seek a God and a Savior who was not so black and white, not so angry and unforgiving, but full of love and compassion, and guidance. A God who sought my obedience because of His wisdom and out of my love for Him, not out of an intent to destroy me or condemn me or take away my freedom.
If you want to talk about Always, that’s Always. My God is Always there for me – no matter my failures and shame. He does not drop me, even when I drop Him. If I had 12 mason jars on my mantle, He would still have His grace for me – and it’s sufficient. That’s difficult for me to accept, but I am working on it. As I fade in and out of my acceptance and obedience, He is always still right there. He is My Always, and He is all that is Always, in my experience.
Ami Dike is originally from Iowa and has lived in New Braunfels, Texas, since 2003. She has the most darling-perfect-amazing 8 year old daughter. Mom of one and friend of many, Ami lives her life as a business owner, a Girl Scout member, a PTA member, and an athlete.