I walked through the doors of the church as a last resort in my life, feeling beat up from incurring one too many brutal blows to my heart.
As I inched closer to Jesus, I’ll never forget one of the first sermons I heard. The pastor used a cookies reference to explain how God takes the ‘bad’ ingredients (like baking soda that you would never dare eat alone) and mixes it with the ‘good’ ingredients (like chocolate chips that you could eat by the handful) and brings them all together to make a delicious cookie – aka our life.
He connected this illustration to Romans 8:28 that says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
When I heard this scripture my head jerked up and my eyes narrowed in on the pastor.
“Does the bible really say that?” I silently questioned in disbelief.
You mean to tell me he can take the assault, the abuse, the adultery, the addictions, and somehow use things that are not good for good?
I couldn’t comprehend how a perfect creator would want anything to do with someone who only perfected one thing in life – how to mess everything up. But, I needed this verse.
I desperately needed to know I was not a lost cause. I needed to know that my past mistakes wouldn’t define my future possibilities.
This verse became my anthem as I clutched onto it for dear life and trudged through the intense work of dissecting the harms I’d committed and those committed against me.
I slowly began to believe God could (and would) use my ugly parts to make something beautiful for His kingdom. Over the years, I have seen how Jesus has taken my pain and transformed into purpose right before my incredulous eyes.
Without Jesus redeeming the pain in my past, there wouldn’t be The Zoe House empowering young mothers to reach their dreams through skill training. To be completely honest, there would be no Tiffany in Uganda because I would most likely be in a toxic, manipulative marriage and not doing life with the most amazing faithful man this world has to offer.
These memories of my past came flooding back to me recently after a failed attempt to make scalloped potatoes. Why a failure you might ask? Well, I got so excited about how thinly sliced my potatoes were coming out that my pinky got sliced in the process.
Even with pressure applied with paper towels, blood was still spewing out all over the bathroom and we rushed to the nearest clinic. The doctor initially thought I had a blood clotting issue, but he was stumped on why my blood wouldn’t stop pumping out even after applying pressure for thirty minutes and administering anti-clotting medicine. As he began to squeeze on different parts of my finger, the blood stopped flowing and he discovered I had sliced an artery open.
I was not prepared for my first experience getting stitches to be in a small clinic in Uganda. I feebly attempted to calm my anxiety, laid down on the operating table, covered my face with my hair, and thanked God that I would be injected with numbing medicine while he stitched me up.
As I laid there on the table and the throbbing pain began to subside, I made the mental connection that this clinic was in close proximity to The Zoe House. I began to ask my doctor if they did ultrasounds there. They did.
I got excited and explained how many of our pregnant mommas don’t even get ultrasounds and how I would love to create a partnership with the clinic so that our mammas could get access to ultrasounds during their pregnancies.
He said that would be great and then his next comment really stuck with me.
“I guess you had to go through some pain to get a solution.”
In this instance, my pain was leading to a potentially life-saving option for our young mothers. If I stayed focused solely on my pain, I wouldn’t have noticed the possibilities to bring good to those around me.
In my life, my deepest pain has led to my strongest calling. Do I often wish I could erase the pain and reverse the circumstances? Of course. A lot of my pain was self-inflicted and completely avoidable, but regardless, God’s promise to use all things for good stands true.
I’ve seen the proof in this promise. It’s my prayer that you will too.