Setting: a quiet, Sunday afternoon, tucked into a small Starbucks table
Behind-the-scenes: I could argue that Melinda helped raise me–through the awkward middle school days, entitled high school years, and into my young adult adventures. She is a loyal lover of my–and many other souls–and currently works at West Salem High School in their library. Today, I offer you a glimpse into her story of broken intimacy and how it brought her to death and back into life.
What is your story?
“My wake-up to the reality of being in Christ, and not just wearing the name tag was about four years ago. I lived my life out for Christ, but I was always holding the hand of someone; my twin sister or my spouse. But, four years ago we came through what the world would call trauma or *tragedy.”
*Melinda learned four years ago that her husband had been unfaithful to her. Her world was shattered for months as the pair–and their three sons–maneuvered through reconciliation and healing.
“What this looked like was me crying out for other people to come alongside me, because that is what I was used to. I reached out to church after church for someone to relate to, someone who had dwelled in similar anguish or loss. I needed one woman who was a few steps ahead of me so I could know I was headed in the right direction. Church after church said, “We don’t have anyone.” So, I said, ‘God, I would be so, so grateful for someone, anyone.’ And that is when He led me to the garden. What I was walking through was what really led Christ to the Cross; and what I identified with, what He showed me, was the kiss of betrayal Jesus received. It was from someone on the inside, someone He had intimately known. And yet, Jesus still allowed that person in.
And, yes, I was given, if I can even say it, this gift of betrayal. In reality, it was seeing my husband and me a little bit slower and remade. I think if I hadn’t seen that, if I hadn’t seen God work in the heart of my husband, I don’t know how sweetly I could have come through this portion.”
How have you overcome brokenness?
“Don’t fight against it. Acknowledge it for what it is. Live fully in it because that is absolutely what brings the sweetness of what we call, ‘healing’–the beauty from ashes. Legitimately, if you don’t set that time, ‘I am broken, stop the clocks.’ Rip the clothes. Stop the clocks. There are times in life that you put the clothe over the clock and put the sackcloth on and recognize, ‘I am broken in this place and it is by the hand of God. He is allowing this beloved to be broken and He will draw me out of this to find such beauty.'”
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster, but the Lord was my support. He brought me out into a spacious place; He rescued me because he delighted in me.
“Through the most difficult times, I allowed myself to be in that place of sheer utter deepness and not drowning but you felt like it… and I did die. And that was a death that needed to happen. And then, He drew me out of those deep places.”
If God were to show you your heart, what do you think He has written into it?
“‘You are my beloved in whom I greatly love.’ “
“I was on a short walk, devastated. I spend my life taking care of other people, and through the hardest parts, I wanted to take care of the people that betrayed me. As I was walking up a hill, God took my face into His hands and said, ‘Let me love you.’ It seemed so simple and ridiculous. I needed to stop, and revel in His love. He also wrote something on my left arm, and I don’t know what it is. But I know that I will see it one day, but I know that it is a promise. I am branded by His promise.”
When did you experience the deepest intimacy with God?
“The most intimate place is when you have to fully trust. For me, it was when I went through that death process with my husband, trusting Him to give me breath. I watched him do it. I think to lay down your life, and to trust that next breath was the most intimate place. He has just been building on that ever since but to know I didn’t even want to breathe anymore. And that He chose for me to breath, to live…and it was all about Him. Then, someone told me, ‘You, Melinda, Just shimmer.’ I think those words were the highest compliment because it was just nothing about me. That was when I knew He was fully in me and through me and there was nothing left of me. Nothing left. That is the most intimate place, when you do lay your life down.”
How is it possible that intimacy and brokenness are so tightly woven with one another?
“Those two together are the most fearful thing. I want to rebel against intimacy and I want to beat brokenness out of my life. And, I want to run because it is the riskiest, most painful thing…to trust someone to break you, but not destroy you. To bring you to a place of desperation, and practically, almost, death. And still, by your will, God, may it be so. When I think of that, it truly is the cross. There is nothing in His sacrifice we are capable of…with the same purposes of saving what Jesus did. He did this–died on our behalf–for people that hurt him the most. It doesn’t make any sense. Yet, it is the most meaningful display of love, brokenness, and intimacy I will ever know.’