The older I get the more I realize how God uses a good marriage as a healing salve on so many of our old hurts.

My husband and I will be empty nesters in the fall, and we’re planning on doing some major changes to our house–rooms used for different things, different people staying with us for a time, and much more. And so I’ve decided it’s time to purge. Because there is just So Much Crap in my house. Sorry for the language, but that’s what I think when I look in all the closets. It’s overwhelming. So. Much. Crap.

My husband was on call at the hospital in another city all weekend, so I took the time to myself to weed through a ton of stuff. And it was very therapeutic and productive! But in the process of all this weeding I came across several old photo albums of my grandfather from after he died. The album contained photos of me from my birth to age 10. And as I looked through them I realized something: very one of them made me feel sad.

I was such a lonely child.

And such a sad child. You can’t always see it in the pictures, but as I look through I remember. I remember what I felt.

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I was sad because it was just my mom and me, and she was sad. She was an amazing mother who loved me and who never wanted things to turn out as they did. But she had very little say in it. She had always wanted a big family, and to be a stay at home mom, but instead she just had me, and she had to go out and support us, leaving me in day care, when I was just a little over 2.

And I always felt like there was something missing. It was hard being an only child. It was hard with my mom sad. It was hard having to go to baby-sitter’s and camp and relatives’ homes in the summer because my mom had to work and she didn’t have a choice. It was just hard.

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Here we were right after the CN Tower was built in Toronto–my mom and my grandfather and me.

And here I am at Christmas, decorating the tree–just with my mom taking the picture.

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And because of that sadness and loneliness I leaned too hard on friends in high school. Every minor rejection was blown out of proportion. Heartaches never seemed to go away.

And when I met the man who would share my life, I was so intense I scared him off for a time. And his rejection–even though he changed his mind and came back–still hurt me horribly.

What struck me the most, though, as I looked through those pictures is that my story today is different.

If I look back on photo albums now, it’s not loneliness I see.

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It’s two little girls who love each other and who played and who had laughed.

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And who have grown into beautiful young women.

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When I think of childhood now, I don’t think of loneliness. I think of ballet tutus and cousins and parties and laughter.

Being a mother has been a healing thing for me, because I see how childhood was supposed to be. I see how confident little girls should be when they’re in a safe place. And I see my girls go through heartaches and disappointments and confrontations and handle them so much better than I did, because they have a greater sense of who they are and of who God is in their lives.

And yet it is not motherhood that has healed me.

It is, instead, their father.

God did most of the healing in my life before I was married. He taught me to see that I am of infinite worth; He taught me that only He can love me perfectly. He wrapped His arms around me when I was 19 and 20 and 21 and helped me overcome so much. When I truly encountered Jesus and understood the way Jesus hurt when I was hurt, a part of me began to heal. I saw Jesus as a wounded warrior–someone who would go to battle for me. But in the meantime my hurts were also His hurts. I was not alone.

But God didn’t stop it there. He sent me a man who has always epitomized safety to me. I am completely safe in his arms.

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I know that we are to find our total worth in God, and that only He can complete us. I absolutely know that. But I also firmly believe that God uses the relationships in our lives as healing balms to soothe some of the hurts and the rough edges and the scars of our past. That is what God has done with my marriage.

I feel safe.

And I know that even if I were to lose Keith, I would never really feel alone again, because I know what it is to be truly loved.

That’s a beautiful gift of marriage.

We’ve been talking a lot on this blog lately about past hurts and abuse and healing from that, and I think that one of the ways that God sends healing to us is to send us a really good man. If a man has hurt you in the past, then being with a man who cherishes you can soothe so much of that. I’m not saying that we don’t need God, or that it’s not God who heals; I’m just saying that I think marriage is one of His tools. And it’s really lovely.

Yet the story doesn’t end there.

I was speaking to my mother before church yesterday morning and telling her about my grandfather’s photo album. We started reminiscing and got a little nostalgic, and she told me that she really is healed too–even though she never remarried.

After church yesterday she was driving two hours to a missions team meeting for a trip she’s going on in August–her eighth one to the Mulli Children’s Family in Kenya (we’ve been with  her three of those times). And she’s taking her 15-year-old adopted granddaughter with her. My mother’s life is just so big. God has brought so many opportunities into her life to love others and to share and to serve and she has taken them. And she is so busy, and so happy, and so full of life.

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We’ve come a long way, the two of us. My mom only had one child, but she has six grandchildren–and three aren’t even mine. She supports other children all over the world. She’s helped so many people out of crises and counseled so many women in pain.

God uses time, too, to help us put things in perspective and to use our hurts as the ingredients to help us help others.

I still get sad when I look at my photo albums from childhood–but I love looking through my daughters’ albums. This is who I am today.

I don’t know where you are, but I do know this: God can take  your hurts and He can heal them.

Maybe He’ll use a wonderful man to be part of that healing. Maybe He’ll use your children growing up well to show you what life is supposed to be. Maybe He’ll show you how He created you for a purpose, and He has so much that you can do to bring more life and more love into this world. I don’t know what He’ll do–but He will do something big in you.

I did not have a great childhood. Some of you, I know, are mourning the childhood that your kids have. Things didn’t work out as you wanted them to.

They didn’t work out as my mom wanted them to, either. But her life is so full today. God was big enough to take care of me, and He is big enough to take care of your kids, too.

And maybe, just maybe, He’ll use a really great man to bring some healing into your life, too.

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P.S. If you want to see my girls in action–here’s Katie’s video with Becca titled “Why I Don’t Hate My Sister“!

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