Rachel shares about a life of family brokenness that is all part of God’s perfect plan for her. Do you believe that the brokenness and suffering in your life is actually beautiful?
It’s so satisfying to experience the wisdom behind clinging to God in difficult times. The Bible tells us that we will suffer, and that Christ alone sustains us. Yet it doesn’t really sink in until we’re there in the middle of it, just like we can’t truly know that we’ll float until we’re in the water.
I accepted Jesus as my savior when I was six years old, but I’m not sure if I really knew what that meant. I grew up going to a Spanish-speaking church, which all of my cousins attended as well. We were pretty much the only youth there, and church was about seeing my cousins every week more than anything else.
I grew up in a home where my parents’ relationship was never stable. I was six the first time my mom told me that she and my dad were going to get a divorce, “on Saturday.” After mentally preparing myself for days, I woke up on Saturday morning to find my mom cooking in the kitchen and my dad eating breakfast, just like any other Saturday. I was confused, but cheerfully said, “Well, today’s the day you get a divorce.” My dad told me they weren’t going to get a divorce anymore, and that was the end of that conversation. This was the pattern as I grew up. My parents would say they were going to get a divorce, and then, for whatever reason, at the last minute, they wouldn’t, and everything would go “back to normal.”
On top of all that, I didn’t feel like God was with me. Not because He wasn’t, but because I didn’t fully understand what it meant to have a real relationship with Him. I called myself a Christian, but I couldn’t put into words what that meant. I knew that Jesus was my Savior in my head, but I hadn’t fully felt it in my heart and didn’t feel like I had a testimony to show for my faith.
Because of everything with my parents, home was not a place where I felt secure. I’d sit and wait for the divorce bomb to go off, and while I waited, the ticking agitated me so much that I built walls around myself by avoiding home as much as possible or staying in my room when I was there so that I could act like I just didn’t care. Then the bomb would go off, just as I was expecting it to. I’d rebuild a wall here and there and the pattern would continue. One day I told my mom to stop telling me when they were going to “get a divorce;” I just wanted to find out if and when they actually did and we could go from there. I grew so bitter and resentful towards my parents that I wished they would just follow through with what they’d say and get a divorce already so we could all just be done with everything.
Moving away to Santa Barbara for college was like getting a gulp of fresh air. I was no longer living at home, and I finally had Christian friends—something I lacked while I was still living at home and without a home church with people my age. In Santa Barbara, I was constantly being poured into by my church, my friends, and my campus ministry, and got to experience sweetness with the Lord that I didn’t know I needed or even wanted.
I discovered that one of my best friends from Santa Barbara had a great home life. Her parents both loved the Lord and they were a very close family. Senior year, my friend told me that her mom had cancer and asked that I pray for her and her family. I never prayed so hard for anything in my entire life. I would spend late nights in my car parked at the beach, letting the darkness and sound of the waves beating on the shore engulf me, as I begged God to heal my friend’s mom.
A few months later, my friend’s mom passed away. I couldn’t understand. While I knew that God had brought my friend’s mom ultimate healing, since she went to be with Him, I didn’t understand why God had ignored my pleas. I didn’t understand why He had broken this wonderful family apart, a family whose relationship I admired and wanted in my home life, while my family life was such a disaster.
I grew up ten minutes away from San Francisco, a city where brokenness has always been tangible. I never felt like I could relate to that, because to the outside world, my life was not tangibly broken. I grew up as a “good Christian girl,” having been raised in a “regular, nuclear family.” After graduation, I did not want to move back home. Due to my circumstances (and, in hindsight, because of God’s ultimate plan) I moved back, albeit begrudgingly. Somewhere along the way, the Lord gave me this burning desire to live in the city and be amongst His people here. I don’t always necessarily know what that looks like, but now I know that that’s the whole point. He wants us to trust Him. I am not always going to understand things, but the Lord gives us peace that goes beyond understanding.
My pastor just finished teaching a series on identity at my church. I hadn’t realized how much I had been placing my identity in being the child of an unstable family, rather than being the daughter of a loving, gracious, never-changing God. A few months ago, my parents let my sister and I know that they would be separating. True to their form, a few days after the big announcement, they let us know that they weren’t going to separate anymore. No surprises there. But this time was different. This time there were apologies, tears and prayer. Emotion wasn’t stifled and brokenness was acknowledged. My family is still not close to being, and will never be perfect, and there is still a lot of rubble to sort through, but the bombs have stopped ticking.
As I prepare to move into the city within the next few months or so, I’m grateful for the opportunity I have in Christ to build a new foundation for my life in San Francisco. I’m slowly—and I mean s l o w l y—finding joy in my suffering, because it makes it so much easier to see Jesus. Brokenness and restoration have never looked more beautiful.
Rachel can be found at Reality San Francisco. Sunday services at 9am, 11am, and 5pm. Come and learn about Jesus!