I’m welcoming my friend, Amanda, here to this space today, to share her story. This is a tough subject, but I’m so thankful for her bravery in sharing her journey. For those that know her personally, I only ask that you comment directly here on this post, rather than commenting or tagging on social media feeds. I’m honored you are willing to share your story and heart here, mama! May it bless those who read it.
Ten years ago or so, I was going through one of the most difficult times of my life. I was a single mama who often times felt like I was just trying to make it through the day, living my life hour by hour, seemingly minute by minute. I felt like at times I was literally “trying to survive,” as they say, in multiple ways. I was suffering from periods of anxiety and depression, but then God gave me a life-altering revelation about myself and my life. It was while watching the daytime “Dr. Phil Show” of all things (you can laugh).
It was my day off from my usual 12 plus hours at the hospital and I was working around the house with the television on in the background. The “Dr. Phil Show” came on and what I heard at the beginning of the segment was a man complaining about his wife. He went on and on about how she was “crazy” and how her actions and what he believed “psychological issues” were ruining their relationship. I don’t remember paying much attention to the details at first, probably believing it was just going to unfold like the rest of the drama-filled daytime shows. So I went on with my business and kept the television on mostly for “company” in my empty home.
I would occasionally glance at the television and I remember at one point, early on in the segment, noticing that while her husband degraded her in front of Dr. Phil, the studio audience, and thousands of viewers at home, the wife sat mostly quiet, reserved, fearful, awkward, nearly lifeless, and seemingly empty. When she was given a chance to speak, I recall that she apologetically and with great uncertainty explained herself; who she was, and how her actions (or lack-there-of) affected their marriage. Her husband would interrupt her, declaring that most of what she was saying was a lie, and clarified his position to the host. She remained mostly silent, though she went along with having Dr. Phil, a talk show host psychologist, help save her marriage.
I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I soon found myself captivated in what was unfolding before my eyes. I was drawn to this story. As I sat on the edge of my sofa, watching and listening intently to this interview, I, too, felt the woman’s feelings of emptiness. I felt her feelings of lifelessness, shame, apology, and fear. I found myself connecting with her and empathizing with her in a seemingly strange way.
But, that’s what the media and Hollywood tries to do, right? That’s how they get you to tune in, get engaged, maybe even get hooked on spending hours in the “reality” of someone else. It’s the drama factor.
I sat very still for that hour long show. Mostly because I was numb. It was like I was seeing myself in this woman, in a very strange way.
So many thoughts were racing through my head.
Why is this episode or this woman affecting me so much?
It was so frightening, yet captivating. I needed to know how my, I mean this story was going to end.
Not long into the show, Dr. Phil met individually with the husband and wife backstage. I remember a few moments that will forever be engraved in my mind. As Dr. Phil met with the husband and calmly listened to him banter and bash his wife, then watched prerecorded videos of some physical encounters with his wife, where he was grabbing her by her arms and shoving her when he didn’t like what she said or did, Dr. Phil quickly turned the tables on him and called him out on his issues.
The husband almost immediately took a defensive posture and tone and tried his best to continue to play his role of victim while placing the blame on his wife. As Dr. Phil pointed out his roles in the destruction of their marriage and his personal issues, the husband got angry. He then turned pale and got physically ill on camera (he threw up). He eventually stormed out of the interview and completely out of the studio. As the cameras followed him outside of the television studio, this was now looking more like reality television.
Unbeknownst to the wife that her husband had abandoned the interview, as well as the victim position he intently held onto, Dr. Phil met individually with the her backstage. She continued her apologetic tone when the television host psychologist started asking her some probing questions as to how her husband treated her. She didn’t come outright with her answers, but eventually, she hesitantly and ashamedly admitted to his questions of her being emotionally, mentally, and physically abused. Though she still placed the blame for it all on herself and didn’t accept the role of the victim. After those revelations of truth, Dr. Phil McGraw said the words that to this day have greatly impacted my life. He said to her that she was a victim of domestic violence.
I swallowed hard.
Wait…what did he say?
I must have misunderstood.
Was this the same domestic violence that I was trained to assess and screen for in my patients?
I totally know what to look for in a victim of domestic violence.
I can ask the right questions.
But, but…what if that victim was…me?
At that point, I completely checked out from the television. I was now in a mental overload of sorts. My life as I knew it was flashing before my eyes. I saw myself in that woman because I WAS that woman! I related to that story because it was MY story!
After that realization hit me like a ton of bricks, I started to cry and pace around my house calling out to God. I was in a panic to know the truth.
Could this be true, God?
Is this really what has been going on?
But, look what all I’ve done to deserve it.
I’m probably just going crazy!
I have to be imagining this all and making it up in my head.
That’s what he tells me all the time.
Please God, help me!
Please give me a sign!
I had been living in such confusion and uncertainty that I needed something tangible to hold onto. So much had been stolen from me and I hid things so far deep in my heart that even I didn’t know what was there. At that point, I needed something like words written in the sky to know that the depths of my heart were being heard. I needed a sign from Heaven.
Then for some reason (I know what that reason is now), I felt this strong urge that I needed to get my Bible. So, I frantically went on a search throughout my house to find it (and yea, I hadn’t read it much up to that point).
I found my Bible and ran outside to my backyard. I fell to my knees, crying hysterically and calling out to God to hear me.
“PLEASE HEAR ME, GOD!”
The backyard at my house was by no means private, as I was surrounded by neighbors, a restaurant, and public park, all with a wide open view to my back yard.
Though I’m uncertain if anyone had seen my mascara-stained face or heard my cries and moans, I realize that God doesn’t seem to care where He chooses to humble us and show us His love and mercy. He isn’t concerned about the audience when the Holy Spirit falls.
After I composed myself some, I looked down at the book that I had been tightly gripping and weeping over. I was still in the middle of my backyard and I remember the springtime sun was so bright and warm on my back.
Things seemed so clear to me. Clearer than I could remember.
I literally flopped my Bible on the ground and the crisp pages immediately fell open to the Gospel of Luke. The first verse highlighted for me was Luke 10:17-20, which says,
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name. He replied, I saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in Heaven. (NIV)
Demons? Satan? Authority? Overcome?
He then gave me scripture of promises of blessings during troubled times in Luke 6:20-26 and reminded me not to worry in Luke 12:22-34.
Not only were verses jumping from the pages, but so were the bold subtitles throughout the chapters, like in Luke 11:29 where it’s printed in my Bible, “A Sign from God.” There was so much speaking directly to my hurting, desperate heart. So much God knew I needed to hear.
There were my signs. It felt like they all were written just for me.
I then began weeping again in thanksgiving for such a loving God that I had neglected in so many ways for so many years. I realized that regardless of what I did or didn’t do, my Father was comforting me. I was the prodigal son and He was my Father, embracing my return in the middle of my backyard. The warm sun beating down on me was Him wrapping His arms around His broken, lost child.
“I’m so sorry, God!”
“I am so sorry!”
“Please forgive me!”
After I gained enough strength to get up off of my knees that were now imprinted with blades of grass, I went into my house and got a pad of paper and a pen. I wanted to write down some of the scripture God highlighted for me as I continued to study where God was taking me through my Bible.
I still have that paper in my Bible and I smile when the paper falls from the pages or when the verses I was given that day are referenced by others. I smile, like it’s an inside joke between me and my Father.
I have tried to look up the “Dr. Phil” episode in the show’s archives before, but I wasn’t able to find it. I don’t even know if that’s exactly how that show or story unfolded, but it’s like God gave me what I needed to see and hear from Him in that moment.
I laugh now, though, knowing how God works. But at the time, in my immaturity, I thought what didn’t make sense in the natural was all part of the craziness I was experiencing and that I may have just made it all up in my head. Regardless, that particular “Dr. Phil” episode and experience lead me to more and more revelation. He lead me further into healing as I sought Him more.
He had already given me the sign I asked for. What I was seeking at the time was truth in my situation, when the world around me seemed like nothing but chaos and confusion. But my God didn’t stop there. He continued to encourage me to seek Him, His word, and His love.
For years, Matthew 7:7 kept making an appearance. Like everywhere. All the time. Not only in scripture, but in children’s songs, and words people speak. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (NIV) I know He has more in store for me to find, if I seek Him.
Oh, what a journey that has been. A blessed journey, but a very painful journey at times.
Part two of Amanda’s story continues tomorrow.