My cousin Michele had the coolest bedroom walls in the 1980’s. Though she spent much of her formative years trapped in a dead-end town known for being the turtle capital of the world, the bedroom of her lakefront home was a haven I yearned to capture.
Michele was introspective, philosophical and artsy, always looking for beauty in the boring old nooks and crannies of life. Her most whimsical poster featured a cat sandwiched in the crotch of a tree, perilously encouraging those of us at our wits’ ends to “HANG IN THERE, FRIDAY’S COMING!” Michele’s room had a serious side, too. Alongside a round dressing mirror decorated with puffy rainbow stickers, a picture was carefully secured by Magic tape. A graceful dove was taking flight, and its message read: “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be.”
The suggestion of unbridled surrender produced a queerly unsettled feeling even back when I was ten. Throwing caution to the wind in such an impulsive manner required a high level of trust. What if the dove got lost along the way, went crazy, or – God forbid – met a new, better looking bird mate?
Perhaps this was a symptom of my already brewing codependency, a pattern that would soon become fruitless attempts to control people and outcomes. The idea of thoughtlessly trusting the game of life to some power greater than myself felt horrifically risky.
Sure, I believed in God. I had “officially” accepted him a year earlier. Michele’s dad was a pastor and every time I visited my uncle he’d surreptitiously pass me a tinny pocket cross stamped with “GOD LOVES YOU.” The idea that God and Jesus loved me had been a familiar refrain for as long as I could remember. But did I TRUST Him to have my back? Hardly. He was simply a Bible figure others seemed to know. Until I experienced the true love of the Father, I would remain lost in a suffocating world of trying to make things happen through my own power.
Much of my life from fifteen until my mid 20’s was spent desperately seeking the security of a man, someone placid and easy to control who’d elevate me to the queenly status I felt I needed from a mate. For many years, my useless plan was the temporary remedy to the fear of abandonment I carried from my family of origin. Starting with my first serious boyfriend, I hopscotched from one male to another, ensuring that a substitute was always waiting in the wings. The thought of being “left” was nearly paralyzing, making backups essential.
Soon, I set out on a quest to get married, not caring whether my future spouse was a willing participant. I figured once I convinced him, he’d get used to the idea of being my prisoner for life. When my first victim balked at my increasing pressure to commit, I quickly moved on to a more impressionable subject. After forcing a shopping trip for an engagement ring, I was soon pregnant, married, and living six hundred miles away, as miserable as could be.
I didn’t know then that God was unlikely to bless something He had never arranged in the first place, and my young husband was soon stifled, smothered, and determined to escape my confinement, like that dove clawing to break free from the cage. Shortly before we reached our second wedding anniversary, he’d had enough and I was soon a divorced single mother of a toddler.
A difficult season filled with consequences of my binge drinking followed, along with endless financial crises and a general pattern of chaos. Though I dated a few people, I spent the majority of the next six years learning how to live alone – without a man.
During that time, my mother gave me a book called “Write it Down, Make it Happen” by Henriette Anne Klauser. The author described writing letters to God, and in one section specifically – petitioned Him for a true soul mate. “It was like it fell off the shelf into my hands. I know it’s for you,” Mom revealed.
Since I am a writer, I was intrigued, and began filling journals with letters to the husband I didn’t yet know – describing his qualities, values, and our life together. Meantime, I entered into my first long period of sobriety, turned back to the Bible, focused on my daughter, and began to discover my true identity as a daughter of Jesus Christ.
Unfortunately, I still had a few more lessons to learn. After the death of my father from alcohol-related liver failure, I slipped back into the world of addiction, and several painful relapses followed before I came to the end of myself.
On the morning of 8-22-03, I came to after a terrible blackout to find myself in a strange motel room – not knowing how I ended up there. I’d completely exhausted all attempts to control my drinking and in desperation and surrender I begged God to remove my desire to drink. He answered my prayer. I have not been compelled to touch a drop of alcohol since.
Confident I had fully surrendered “the drink,” God knew I was finally ready for a relationship built on a foundation of love and shared values with Christ as the cornerstone – and delivered the subject of my letters. The man I’d prayed for loved Jesus, wanted to raise my daughter with me, and also wished for more children. Most importantly, he desired to pursue the Lord and to grow old together. His name is Mike Huray. We were married one year later.
When we try to control the outcomes of people and things, we smother God’s power in our life. Usually, we need to be patient and get out of the way as God works and readies others poised to become part of our lives.
I wish I could say that after learning this valuable life lesson that I fully adopted the old saying from Michele’s poster, “If you love something, set it free” but no… I still try to control things at times. As a human work in progress, I keep learning through my mistakes and God’s gentle redirection. I was filled with the Holy Spirit in 2013 and the experience allowed me to finally experience His presence in a powerful and intimate way. I have not been the same since.
In 2015, I prematurely tried to force an outcome by self-publishing my testimony, and was disappointed when my lack of marketing skills resulted in a flat reception of the book for which I held such high hopes. The self-publishing outfit I’d worked with went out of business, and it seemed my aspirations were crushed.
But I waited, I prayed, and I kept hoping. My parents used to warn: “Don’t get your hopes up!” I’ll admit, they were sky-high. I just couldn’t let go of what God had planted in my heart – the dream of having a writing ministry which would point others to freedom from every type of bondage.
“There are bestselling authors in the congregation!” My pastor shouted one Sunday morning several months ago, revealing a prophetic word he’d received. I decided to claim it for myself!
Not long after, I was approached for an interview by Charisma Media, who then invited me to begin this weekly column. I am thrilled beyond belief to share we are now working on the release of my first book, and I couldn’t be more grateful to God and the people he has strategically placed into my path.
Living surrendered to Jesus enables you to let life FREE – to release the bird from the cage without fear. The Bible says “who the Son sets free is free indeed.” Free from the opinions of others, fears about the future, or the stress that accompanies trying to make things happen outside of God’s will. He knows what is best for us, and when we let Him work, there are no limits to what He can do.
“Look at the nations and watch – and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.” Habakkuk 1:5
If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction or stronghold, log on to www.lindellrecoverynetwork.org and watch the featured hope video at the bottom of the main page to gain access to hundreds of powerful testimonials, vetted churches and treatment centers, and free online help including the Operation Restored Warrior course.