Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Will Never Be

I will never be the same again
I can never return
I've closed the door
I will walk the path
I will run the race
And I will never be the same again

We sing this worship song at my church, and tonight as we practiced it, my friend Kami said, "You know, that song just never gets old. I know it's an old song, but it never gets old."

I agree. But not just because it's a great song. It has special significance in my life.

Nearly four years ago, God delivered me from a debilitating addiction which had festered and permeated my existence for many years. I didn't even know how lost I was until I found freedom.

But shortly before God freed me from the clutches of my addiction, He did an interesting work in my life. He moved me and my family to a new church and plugged us straight into a small group. A good small group. The kind of small group described here:

A context in which the masks of self-deception and distrust will be maintained only with difficulty and in which men and women will begin to relate to each other at the level of their true humanity in Christ.

--George W. Webber

Every week, our small group leader or his wife or one of our new friends would ask me how I was doing, how my week had gone, what was going on in my life, etc. As my husband and I got to know the people in our small group, who genuinely cared about us, it became harder and harder for me to maintain my 'during the week' habits and then show up to small group on Sunday night and say my week had gone fine.

I remember specifically at one point our small group leader asking pointedly, "So, how's your weekend been so far?" I knew I had dragged my soul through the mud during my weekend 'so far', and because of the sincere relationship being formed, I felt so uncomfortable lying about it. The worst part was that for whatever reason, it seemed like the leader knew I was hiding something. There was no way, in reality, that he could have known what I was hiding.

But it struck me. I started to think, "Who am I kidding?" I began to feel as though my muck and mire were emblazoned across my forehead. I felt ashamed. The kind of shame a person experiences when their deeds of darkness are exposed to the light of Christ.

That was the turning point for me. I suddenly knew, unequivocally, that I wanted to be in the light. To dwell in the light. To cast off my darkness and be washed clean and made pure and shining white by the blood of Christ.

Through a series of events, that is exactly what happened. One day, I'd simply had enough. I said, "No more." God led me immediately to a support group which carried me through the first month of giving up my addiction cold turkey, and He gave me Velma, who has helped God carry me along ever since.

One of the first things I had to do as part of my recovery was to share my testimony. I remember vividly the mixed feelings I had, trying to figure out what in the world I was going to say.

As I went through a period of mulling it over, I attended my church's women's retreat. The music spoke to me especially, as music does, and two songs in particular seemed to be messages straight from God. The first was Beautiful One. I soaked up the line, "Your cross has spoken mercy over me." I knew that to be true in my life.

The second song was I Will Never Be the Same Again. The first time I heard it, the floodgates opened up and I simply began to bawl. I can still hear my tremulous voice attempting to croak out the chorus and utterly failing. It described me so perfectly, my journey, my turning point, my resolve to never look back. It said everything I wanted to say.

The following Sunday, with fresh clarity and peaceful confidence, I walked up onto the stage of my church and proclaimed to them that God had freed me from my addiction, and that any of them with similar struggles could find freedom too.

An open-mouthed, wide-eyed, frozen congregation stared back, hanging on my every word.

After I sat back down in my front row seat, that day's worship leader asked the congregation to take a few minutes to encourage me during the next song.

I was flooded with love. More people than I could count lined up to hug me, cry with me, share their own struggles, encourage me, thank me, and hug me some more. I still remember a few of the comments they made that day.

And all the while, in the background, the worship team sang and played I Will Never Be the Same Again. I don't know who planned the worship service that day, and I'm sure that person didn't know the impact that song would have on me. But my life did change forever as I listened to my new resolve belted out in triumphant musical form, surrounded by the support of people who would never let me slip through the cracks again, and covered by the intimate love and care of my Abba.

So I guess you could say this song is sort of like my Amazing Grace. It reminds me as nothing else does that I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.

And as God continues to form and shape me, the words of this song resonate still:

Fall like fire
Soak like rain
Flow like mighty waters again and again
Sweep away the darkness
Burn away the chaff
And let a flame burn to glorify Your name

There are higher heights
There are deeper seas
Whatever You need to do
Lord, do it in me
The glory of God fills my life
And I will never be the same again