The World Hasn’t Changed – It’s Me Who Have Changed – Anna
Let me begin with the words St. Paul wrote in the Book of Corinthians (because I would like God to use my message to the advantage of us all):
“When I came to you, brothers, I didn't come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God” (1 Co 2:1)
I owe to God the fact of being here, and I can say it with a deep and full conviction and joy. I’m 50 years old and today I know that the better half of my life is… yet to come.
That first half – my childhood, my teenage years and 25 years of marriage – I would most willingly cover with a veil of silence. But I won’t do this because everything that has happened in my life has its meaning – without it I wouldn’t be the person I am today. And I’m proud of who I am.
If I showed you my pictures taken ten years ago, you wouldn’t believe it was me, the same person who stands before you today. And I can swear it was no face lifting that improved my looks and made me live a thousand times better than before. My transformation is so obvious and visible that when I meet my old friends, they are surprised and astonished to see me like this. Ten years ago you would be looking at an unhappy woman who would be talking only about the hurts and wrongs she had been suffering from those she loved. We would all have a good cry over my fate and I would go home with even greater pity for myself. Fortunately, I’m no longer a victim. I can laugh and I like it. I’ve decided to tell you my story not to pity myself but to show you how God can change somebody’s life. From despair and sadness to joy and happiness.
I grew up in a military family where there was no place for so called “religious superstitions.” At Christmas, we cultivated Polish tradition: there was a special wafer, a white table cloth and twelve dishes, but the tradition was cultivated separately from the essence of faith. I went to First Communion but I didn’t really know what was happening. All I knew about God was the fact that He existed somewhere there and you should be afraid of Him.
For years I desired only one thing: to not be awaken by my drunk father coming back home in the middle of the night, to not have to be ashamed of the rows and constantly tremble from fear. In the house full of violence I tried to oppose evil and to defend myself and others. I was a good girl who had been doing all she could to deserve her parents favor. Nevertheless, I always had a feeling that all my attempts and efforts were worth nothing. My father’s death didn’t bring much change. The attitude of submission which I had learned during childhood became my contribution to a marriage to… an alcoholic. I incompetently tried to deserve my drunken husband’s approval, but unfortunately I’d never been more important to him than a bottle. I quickly got bogged down in dependences he had entangled me in. And so I endured.
My father’s (and then my husband’s) alcoholism and violence were not like a sudden tsunami that would unexpectedly shatter my dreams. My dreams never had a chance to grow because everyday they had been flooded with a rushing stream that uprooted every little “plant.” It was like a paralysis. You cannot get out of that kind of a glass world. It’s a disease that kills your will and every hope.
I continually longed for a rescue and kept awaiting a savior who would make all the problems disappear. It was supposed to be someone older… a teacher… neighbors… doctors… the police… court. I was ready to face demons, and there were more and more failures in my life. Although I appeared to be a perfect wife, mother and daughter, the truth is that my life was a total disaster. The worse I was treated, the more I hated myself. I was close to eat waste, considering myself unworthy of a normal meal. I tried to meet other people’s expectations, building a beautiful fence that was to cover other’s mistakes. Their mistakes and my shame. A house, a car, a foreign trip – nothing could replace the safety which I had never experienced. For over 40 years I had been fighting against the thicker and thicker darkness, closing my eyelids tightly to not to look at that terrible world.
You might ask why I didn’t pray at this time. I did, but my wishful prayers were focused on miraculous changes in others. I was an educated, working woman who had been looking for a solution in books and psychotherapy, but I was growing lonely and hopelessly tired of that struggle. It was 2002. Now when I’m writing these words, it is 2009.
I’m here today and I want to repeat: I owe it to God.
They say that if you can’t fight the darkness, let the light in. And that’s what I did. In His grace God calmed my emotions when for many weeks I was lying in a hospital bed – without a labyrinth in my ear, unable to move. In this isolation from the world, out of peace and silence other sounds were born in me. And then God gave me a gift of courage to live.
It was the beginning of a new road. I strenuously practiced concentration. I literally learned to walk. And I went to therapy for the co-addicted, trying to save my marriage and my husband.
I slowly began to find comfort in my suffering by reading Psalms which made me cry a river of tears. At that time I also began a process of setting myself free from the sense of guilt and responsibility for others.
The first commandment – “You shall have no other gods before me” – uncovered the fact that my “gods” – my father and later my husband – had been managing my life according to their own will. “Love your neighbor like you love yourself” made me realize that I’d been treating myself like the worst enemy. I also discovered the truth of a passage from the Book of Romans: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12:2).
On that difficult path of changes I kept checking the ground under my feet and kept searching for my own solutions. I hesitated, made a step back, and then a step forward. Armed with a newly received courage, I made every effort to deal with all the adversities, trying to manage by my own strength. It wasn’t easy. I was growing weaker.
Then I happened to find myself at a meeting organized by Christians where I was given a good and precise map of life. I started to participate in regular meetings for women – we were reading the Bible and reflecting on how to make use of the truths we were finding there. I began to understand that although I had everything I needed for a beautiful journey, I was still struggling and I couldn’t make a move, and my health and nerves were in a terrible state. But still I couldn’t make a decision.
If you ever learned to swim, you might remember the moment when you first laid flat on water, which required from you to relax your whole body. My path to trust God can be compared to learning to swim when you are afraid of water.
I was just preparing to lay on water when suddenly I was thrown into a deep and raging sea. One day, when I was waiting for my son to come back from school, my world stopped. He didn’t return home. On the third day of a terrible anxiety, when I could hardly breathe out of fear, I let the light of Christ in – I turned to Him and gave Him control of my life. I fully trusted God and entrusted my son to His care. At that moment I felt a great relief. I kept praying for twelve days and finally God took me to quiet waters. He guided me through this hard time, and finally my son returned.
When I let God take the steering wheel of my life, I gained safety which I had never known before. He gave me wisdom to make the right decisions, and strength to act effectively. He surrounded me with friends and put in my way people who gave me support. In this journey with God, I learn and improve my navigation skills through daily contact with the Bible. It’s my school of navigation which protects me from being tossed about by other people’s emotions, just like in the old days. It releases me from the bitterness of the past and leads me into the future, but first of all it allows me to carry out my dreams which have sprouted and taken roots, and which are growing in the warmth of God’s love.
I started to write. I won a literary contest for the best coverage, organized by “Zwierciadło” magazine and a country-wide radio station, “Radio One.” And last February, after an eight-year lawsuit and 32 trials, I finally got divorced. God, my longed-for Savior, took all the difficult situations and used them to give me a gift of a beautiful life, full of love and joy. For it’s not the world that has changed – it’s me. I have this inner joy that allows me to enjoy my life. At the end, let me quote a passage from my favorite Book of Isaiah. These words have been a source of strength to me:
“But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:
‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you:
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior,
I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you,
I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life.’”