If you came over from Encouragement for Today’s devo or Crosswalk, welcome! In today’s devo, I introduce you to my friend, Michelle.
Our common ground 30 years ago was our love for each other, and our love for Christ. At that time, our families were messy and our road to Christianity wasn’t always smooth.
When we reconnected, she told me how grateful she was for the depths of God’s mercy over her life.
This is Michelle’s story:
by Michelle Bechtold
I have a college degree, nice income, a great home in the suburbs. . . but you would never guess my secret.
I have a son incarcerated for alcohol related charges– multiple times. My other son struggles with raising his family due to bad choices as well.
But this is the hard part. I know that their struggles are a direct impact from my parenting failures.
How does a parent forgive herself when her past has impacted her child’s future?
When Suzie asked me to tell my story, I thought, “I’d love that!”
But then reality hit. When you talk about forgiving others, that’s one thing. But this is hard. I’m sharing it because I hope it will help someone else.
When I was in college I started wild partying and I fell away from my relationship with Christ. I attracted negative male attention. I had children and then demonstrated inconsistent values.
It was hard because I once was such a strong disciple. I led at my church youth group. I had strong Bible knowledge. I walked close as you can. . . and still let Satan have a front row seat at a critical time in my life.
My list of regrets is pretty extensive.
After all the disappointments I put Holy Spirit through, am I really past my past, I sometimes wonder?
I have accepted His forgiveness with His help. But I needed His strength to overcome the guilt I put on myself for the negative impact on my kids. Even though I got my life right, it’s hard to know that my children went down the same path I did.
Drugs. Abuse. Court system. Prison. Suspension from public school. Military school. Teenage pregnancy. Their children being raised by their mom.
How could I have seen where my life would go way back then?
When I read The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness, I related to the journey of recycling of emotions. Suzie said:
Once you forgive, then it’s over’, is easy to say but hard to do. Life brings up reminders or reveals new shades of the situation and surprises you. Then you’re right back in the forgiveness process to work through it one more time.
That’s so true. Recently, my ex mother-in-law passed away and I reconnected with those family members. I had chosen not to keep close because of the addictions of my ex-husband. While preparing to go to the funeral, my youngest son shared with his wife some of the trauma he went through.
When it was shared with me, I was shocked. I was not aware that this had happened. I discovered that my ex had used my children in their grade school years to help sell drugs in order to finance his own use. He had provided drugs to my kids at that same age.
Emotionally I was thrown back into that hard place as I tried to figure out when it happened, and asked, ‘how could I have not seen it’.
There’s so much potential for guilt.
I was so wrong to try to keep a doomed relationship with a flawed person together so long, when all I was doing was destroying my sons’ lives.
I can’t go back, so what can I do?
I can take full responsibility for allowing this to happen on my watch.
I didn’t know it them, but I do now: One of the markers with co-dependency is ‘not seeing’ the obvious. But I see it now.
Though I cannot go back and try to fix the past, I can make amends for what happened and once again claim the forgiveness that God has ready for me.
God knows me. He knew that when I heard what took place with my sons that I would struggle with recrimination and blame.
I know that my adult sons are responsible for their own recovery and they have the tools and spiritual background to let Christ overcome in their lives.
But I want them to see what Jesus can do in me.
Recently I read Psalms 25:6-7, and it reassured me that forgiveness was ready for each of us even before we sinned.
Remember, Lord, Your compassion and Your faithful love, for they have existed from antiquity. Do not remember my sins of my youth or my acts of rebellion; in keeping with Your faithful love, remember me.
God did this for all of us!! He did it for me. He did it for my sons. He did it for you.
In my book, The Mom I Want to Be: Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future, my mom shares her story at the beginning of each chapter.
Her story shows how dysfunction is not only a cycle, but how you can get trapped in that cycle, even though you desperately want out. So many don’t make it out of a cycle of abuse or dysfunction.
But my mom did.
So did Michelle.
And for that I want to stand so tall and lift my hands and praise God for His love. He REACHES for us, even if that means He goes deep to find us in those places we want to hide.
Maybe, like Michelle, your struggle isn’t totally about forgiving others, but working through the afteraffects on those you love.
You see, when God reaches for us and we reach back, that’s not the end of the story. There may be some hard work to do, but as your life is impacted, it can also impact those you love.
Will you join me today to pray for Michelle’s sons, so loved by God?
Will you pray with me for Michelle, and thank her for her courage in being real. It would be easy to hide behind a nice job, respect, and a life in the suburbs, but that’s not where Michelle took it.
She is shining a light on her past and God’s healing power.
Michelle Bechtold is a grandmother of four granddaughters, mother of two grown sons, married to her husband Norman for almost 6 years. She is an IT professional. She also volunteers at a women’s shelter in Oklahoma that ministers to women who have been abused and/or are homeless.
She leads a Celebrate Recovery small group, Boundaries study and Bible studies, and listens and loves a lot. She is taking a mission trip with her oldest granddaughter next summer!
Michelle will be checking in throughout today if you have questions or comments.