Sherry’s Story of Regeneration
My story began hard; a childhood riddled with dysfunction, conflict, and confusion. My first memory is of my father divorcing my mom, my brother, and myself as he walked out the door of our life. The main skill I learned at home was survival. I was, however, blessed with grandparents who saw the situation and showered me with teaching and nurture they knew I wasn’t getting at home. We attended church as a family for about six months of my childhood, but that was enough for me to make it down the aisle of that little church on the eleventh verse of “Just as I Am” because I felt like my seat was on fire! I never questioned if God existed, but I certainly didn’t understand a personal relationship or dependence on Him. I was just hoping to stay out of hell.
Feelings and fear dominated my decisions during my teenage and young adult years, leading me to marry too young and for the wrong reasons. It was during these years that I made some decisions that would bring me shame and guilt; decisions based on logic and self-preservation instead of God’s will. We struggled to do marriage in our own strength, and with limited skills and no real role models, we were drowning. The bright spot in that marriage was having a son, but it wasn’t enough to save us. We would end that marriage after 13 years.
It was during this really low point in my life that I felt God pursuing me. Newly divorced, a single parent, and scared, He got my attention. I asked Him to be Lord of my life, not just as Savior. At the altar, I asked Him to take me back, to which I heard in my spirit, “I never left you.” That was 30 years ago, when my regeneration process began. I hungered to know this God who had never left me. I had tried my way long enough and had come up empty. I longed to become the woman and mother God had intended for me to be and I shared my heart’s desire with Him that I wanted a family life and wanted to learn to be a Godly wife. God, in His mercy, saw fit to answer that prayer and brought a man into my life who had walked a very similar path. He had believed in God, but was walking his own way. He, too, was ready to turn his life over to God as a man, husband, and role model for my son. Our marriage belonged to God from the very beginning, because we knew we were bankrupt in our own power. We committed ourselves to developing a personal relationship with this God we now knew loved us and pursued us, despite our past failings and present shortcomings.
God used men and women in our first church to demonstrate His love for us in so many ways, but most importantly, He showed us through their love and respect for each other what a Christian marriage looked like. We were being discipled just by watching them live out their lives in Christ. Just as Matt said in his Reproducing Faith sermon, “Life in Christ comes to us on the way to someone else.” The body of Christ became our refuge where we learned parenting skills, how to serve each other and the body, and how patient God is when we miss the mark and seek forgiveness in humility.
Meanwhile, inside I struggled to forgive my parents for not being there and protecting me. I couldn’t face some things I had done in those years of walking my own way. I felt out of control inside, so I tried to control myself, people in my life, and situations to look good on the outside. If you asked how I was doing, “I was fine.” I had bought into the lie of the enemy that guilt and shame was my cross to bear and I was supposed to live with it quietly to be a good Christian.
God continued to grow us in our faith as we would make three job transfers. We had our first “wilderness experience” as we made our initial move to East Tennessee, leaving everything familiar to us. God led us to the comfort of the body of Christ and has proved faithful wherever we have made our home. It was in our second move to Gainesville, Georgia that God introduced me to the discipleship ministry of recovery. I had a new neighbor I had begun walking with who shared with me her husband’s drinking addiction and I could see how it had paralyzed her. I could feel her pain, but had spent enough time trying to fix others, to no avail, to know I didn’t know how to help her. I know God directed me to invite her to our new church which had a big Celebrate Recovery banner across its front lawn. It was about the third meeting that I realized that God had me there for me, not just my friend! I sensed at that moment that He wanted to do a new work in me and take me deeper than my feet could ever wander! Again, I didn’t understand what he was going to do, but I trusted Him.
My regeneration has been about bringing all my sin, bad choices, wounds from my childhood, lack of forgiveness, control of people, and situations to the surface, into the light of God’s love. I have willingly brought it to Him in confession, grieving my past and accepting His forgiveness. On the cross, once and for all, it is finished. And because I know this, I can speak that same truth into other’s lives who find themselves bound by sin. God didn’t sacrifice the life of His Son for us to judge whose sin is worse, but rather for us all to be free of whatever has entrapped us!
And that, my friend, is why we open the doors every Monday night to re:generation, GFC’s recovery group. Just because life doesn’t start out well doesn’t mean it can’t end well. My recovery story began about 10 years ago and I still find myself drawn to be with those who may come broken, confused, doubting, feeling unworthy, and unloved. I love to see the change God makes in the lives of those who begin to let him have the old so that the new can come. I want to tempt you to “come and see”. Just come and sit in on a group for a few weeks. God will show you your next steps.
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law
of the spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 8:1
Sherry with Hannah Howell at a recent
Re:generation commencement ceremony.
Whether you are at the beginning of your recovery journey or are considering joining our team to walk alongside someone else as a mentor, you can click here to learn more and sign up. Re:generation… a catalyst for Struggling Well and Reproducing Faith.