Debbie still remembers the day her parents forgot to pick her up from school. She was in a new town, a new school, and she hardly knew anyone. That day, she waited in the spot her parents told her to, but they never came. So she walked home, and when she arrived they told her they had forgotten to set their clocks properly. No apology, no comfort, just a perfunctory congratulation on making it back all by herself. Debbie was hurt. But she was also angry. They didn’t seem to care. And Debbie recalls that incident as the beginning of a lifetime vow of independence. From then on, she wanted to prove to her parents, and everyone else, that she could handle things on her own.
Debbie became fiercely independent, a trait that was driven by anger. She explains, “Anger took over my life. I didn’t care about anybody and wouldn’t let people get close to me.” Debbie didn’t have a relationship with God either. “I didn’t want to answer to anybody, not even to God, because I was going to live my life the way I wanted to.”
A Challenge to Trust People and Pursue Relationships
Eventually God got her attention through a difficult season with her oldest son. Her patterns of control had damaged their relationship so severely that she finally surrendered to God.
By this time Debbie had started seeking God. Her church, The Fellowship, uses Faithwalking as their spiritual formation program. Debbie attended 101 thinking she needed transformation in her current relationships. What she did not expect was how much of her childhood wounds she first had to address. After a lifetime of keeping people at arm’s length, God challenged her to trust people and pursue relationships.
First it started with her family. She began looking for ways to connect with her sons and support her husband. Then, beyond her circle of family and friends, God challenged Debbie to invest in relationships with women who are seeking healing. For four years, she volunteered her time with Adelphe, a support group that is part of Merimnao, a ministry to the brokenhearted based at The Fellowship. From someone who once avoided close relationships, Debbie today finds herself in the role of gatherer and shepherd.
But even in that role, her tendencies to control would creep in. Debbie recently turned leadership of Adelphe over to another woman, and she found it was hard to let go of the reins. She also found that she wanted to fix people’s problems. Fixating on other people’s problems meant she didn’t have to deal with her own. God has challenged her in this area and given her leadership insights: “You want to go in and fix people, but now I work on myself. I also work on controlling anxiety when someone in the room triggers anxiety.” Debbie has moved into a different role with Adelphe and is now involved in the start up of a new ministry called Arise Women of Katy. It is similar to Adelphe in being a healing ministry, but aims to have a broader reach throughout the Katy community.
Although Debbie might struggle with that old independent spirit, her heart has changed. Faithwalking has helped her see that relationships and friendships are important, and now Debbie desires them. “I always took things personally and had to get my way. Now I want relationships, with my family, my children, and friends,” she says. “This is the first time in my life that I actually have good friends. In order to support the people in my life I have to depend on other people and on God.” God has given Debbie a vision for authentic community and close relationships, something she avoided for most of her life, but which now feels like a calling.