There I was. My confidence? Destroyed. My esteem? Decimated. My dreams? Derailed. My energy? Drained. My spirit? Defeated. I was drowning in a sea of depression and a shell of the vibrant and joyful person I once was. I literally felt dead inside. I was in an extremely toxic and abusive relationship. The type of covert, insidious psychological and emotional abuse I was enduring day after day slowly eroded my spirit to the point that I was like the frog in the pot of water that is set to a slow boil. The gradual increase is so subtle, the frog doesn’t realize that he’s being cooked! I was that frog, and I was drowning, and did not have the strength to jump out! How could my ‘happily-ever-after’ turn into my worst nightmare? As I began educating myself on the effects of this type of abuse, I learned that our brains are physically impacted by trauma, creating unhealthy mental bonds that I was unable to shake. I was not only depleted and confused. My life was at a point of complete desolation.
Then He spoke. In the midst of my despair, God used the familiar in a profound way. Now, I know what you may be thinking: “Please spare me the religious platitudes.” You may be questioning what kind of God could allow ‘toxicity’ to seemingly run amok in relationships. Or perhaps you experienced spiritual abuse where the words of God were distorted and even used against you to justify the abuse! The last thing you may want to hear about is God. I understand. I am not here to offer you ‘pat’ passages, pithy phrases or a simplistic, superficial approach to the horrors of toxic relationships. This road has by no means been easy. What I am sharing with you is the truth of God’s intervening power that paved my path to freedom. Whatever your perspective, I invite you to simply peak in.
Through circumstances only God could have orchestrated, He used the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead to show me I had some ‘stones’ that I needed to roll away in order to be set free from the damage and destruction that was tearing me apart. As He did with Lazarus, He would similarly raise everything that was now dead in me ‘back to life’! As heavy as some of those stones were, with His help, I began to do just that and was able to break away and continue a journey to healing and wholeness.
Here I am. My life today? Destined and determined. I had to completely lose myself in order to find myself and a renewed calling in life. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, it was not just for Lazarus’ benefit! And, I know that what I went through was not just a lesson for me. God weaved together my life experiences and graduate degree in counseling so that I could in turn help bring hope to others who have gone through similar experiences. And, today I am determined to also bring awareness to the issue of toxic and abusive relationships.
The road to wholeness is a journey. There have been many other stones God has continued to call me to roll along the way – some big and some small. But that has been one of the most powerful lessons that I have learned from this. You see, God calls us each day to do something — that is what’s possible for us to do. And then, with eager expectation, we have the wonderful opportunity to watch Him step in and do what only He can do. While it is not always easy, there is a freedom that comes in approaching relationships and living life in this way. One day at a time. One stone at a time.
I am a StoneRoller. Will you join me?
Cheryl Taylor is a speaker, teacher, counselor and founder of StoneRoller. Through her lay counseling and own personal experiences, Cheryl is passionate about bringing awareness and hope to survivors of toxic relationships. Cheryl has a master’s degree in Christian Counseling and Discipleship from Capital Bible Seminary and is also a member of the Association of Biblical Counselors. Cheryl is also a sports fanatic with a (nerd alert!) love for problem solving. She holds a BS degree in Systems Engineering from the University of Virginia and a MS in Health Systems from the Georgia Institute of Technology.