Living in reality has always been a struggle for me. I have a vivid imagination. In my childhood this meant I could happily play alone for hours. It also had a downside. Any scary graphic image that I saw or heard spoken would haunt me for years. As a child my imagination became a place of safety that I would escape to when things around me were out of control. This childhood protection mechanism, however, in my latter years became a trap. Unable to cope with the ‘adult world’ I would escape into fantasy.
Living in a fantasy world was my way of avoiding pain. I had strong belief that I had no protection and a deep sense of loneliness. Living in fantasy gave me ‘control’. In this realm I could be loved, as a victim, a heroine, or surrounded by friends and loved ones who cared. I wasn’t alone to face the pain. In fact I didn’t have to face the pain at all. In this realm if pain touched me I could overcome it or someone would save me. The problem… not only did I escape the pain; I also missed out on the magical moments that happen in the real world. My real relationships were empty and under strain. My loneliness became worse, and once I entered this realm it was almost impossible to leave. In creating this alternate world I was being robbed of my real life – the life that God had created for me. Overcoming my addiction to fantasy was a long journey.
For many years I struggled. I felt shame that I couldn’t fully live in this world. I would sit in church and listen to sermons that focused on sin, shame, my actions, my unholiness and the need to stop sinning. These sermons would grip me with fear and shame. “What if someone found out?” “What if God told someone about my sin?” I would repent to God and tell Him I will try to do better, I will stop. But I never could. Discouraged I would read my bible more, and do more ‘Christian things’ just to prove to God that I really did love Him and that I was sorry I couldn’t overcome. I believed that God deserved someone better. I was bound in shame, and afraid of God.
Many years later deep into my time of receiving counselling I was sitting in church asking God to help me with my mind, surrendering my imagination to Him. It was during this time that I saw the finger of God come down and touch my mind. I heard Him say, “Cheryl, I will use this part of your mind in a strong and powerful way”. I felt peace as a weight lifted from me. I had a hope that I would overcome this, coupled with a curiosity of how He could use this portion of my mind. I would like to say at this moment I had instant healing from fantasy, but I didn’t. What God gave me was hope and the belief that He was going to help me overcome.
That moment of surrender in church came at a time when I was learning about the wonderful power of living in God’s mercy and grace. In counseling I was discovering how much God loved me and how He longed to have me close to Him. I also discovered that in order to overcome anything in this world I had to approach Him, not run away from Him in shame. Being able to approach God is the power of the cross; the power of mercy and grace. Christ’s death and resurrection made accessing the Father’s love possible. You see I did deserve all of those condemning things that I heard from the pulpit as a young adult. I was sinning, God should have been disappointed with me. He should have punished me – I was failing and sinning miserably. Perhaps He should have told everyone, but He didn’t. He simply told me that He was going to use my mind. He looked past my sin, saw the surrendered, broken state of my heart and looked to the future that I would have in Him. God’s mercy and grace did not condemn me or give me permission to keep sinning, it empowered me to overcome.
Today when I see my sin and any associated shame, I make a choice: I decide to live in a repentant state of surrender; believing that God is going to help me overcome. I keep pursuing Him, pressing in, giving Him permission to have my heart and get to the root of the problem. I love God, I love His presence. I love that I can boldly approach my most intimate best friend and talk to Him about anything. I love His cuddles, I love His sweet fragrance and the warmth of His love. In my walk with God I have discovered that God hates sin, not because He hates the sinner, rather He hates the relational barrier it creates. Sin stops me from being able to see God clearly. I have learned that living in God’s mercy and grace means:
- To live in a continual state of brokenness; that humble reality that I can’t overcome without Him.
- To live a life of surrender; choosing to do God’s will over my own (even if it means facing pain).
- To willingly approach Him with my sin; to pursue relationship and not be satisfied with a separation between myself and God (allow repentance and forgiveness bring restoration)
God took me on journey. He slowly stripped off the layers that were preventing me from overcoming. Layers of fear, pride, control, deep childhood hurt and gave me victory over any enemy oppression. I think the biggest thing that He taught me is that in Him I have nothing to fear. I do not need to go away to an alternate reality to find safety, I have it in Him. That simply abiding in His eternal presence gives me protection. Has my imagination found a purpose in my walk with God? Yes, in a big way. With that portion of my mind He has revealed some amazing things about Himself and the beauty of His Kingdom. When I receive visions from Him they are vivid. I see them in 3D. It is not uncommon for me to feel, taste or smell what He is showing me or His presence. As well as seeing some amazing things, I have felt the pain of His broken heart, causing me to cry out in intercessory prayer and speak out God’s truth on another’s behalf. God has given me prophetic words to impart to others or to pray about. Many times He has also taken the opportunity to express His love for me. What the enemy used to harm and control me, God now uses as a blessing for myself and others. He turned my shame into His Glory.
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