My name is Patria Rector. I have many titles. I am a wife, a mama; I’m a nurse, a teacher, an aunt, a daughter, but . . . none of those titles tell you my core identity. What I really want you to know about myself is that I am God’s child. He is my Father; He has redeemed me and is transforming my life, and I am thankful.
Before I begin the story of my life up to this point, I want you to know how content I am now. Jesus is truly a miracle worker, and I have experienced Him in a way that, before, I didn’t even know was possible. He is my true north, my center, my hope, and my future.
But, Jesus wasn’t always my identity. I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t believe in God. As a child and young adult, I never questioned His existence. Whatever “they” told me, I believed. I was raised in a cocoon where I felt safe, where my worldview was established FOR me, and where all my potential questions were answered before I could even think of them. Looking back, I can see that I was truly . . . complacent.
For much of my life, I would have identified myself by what I did or how well I performed or failed to perform at . . . anything–BEING a wife–BEING a mother–How well I did my nursing jobs in comparison to those around me–My knowledge of Scripture–My HUSBAND’S job–How much money was in the bank.
My identity was certainly wrapped up in a package of pride, anger, feelings of powerlessness, and trust issues just for a thumbnail sketch. I used this performance mind-set to keep people at a distance and give me a feeling of power. It might sound strange, but because it was all I knew, I didn’t want to let those things go as I began to really hear the Gospel. Of course, the decision to hang on to the ugliness wasn’t totally conscious. It just was all I knew, and it felt “normal.” Until . . .
About 16 years ago, God began the process of systematically stripping away from me the things that I used to define and protect myself. There are four main events in my adult life that God used to show me the darkness of the pit I was in and to teach me that HE was the only way out.
- First, in May of 1996, my husband and I lost our first baby in an early pregnancy miscarriage. Those who have suffered the loss of a baby through miscarriage know the heartache of missing a life you’ve never even known. Coupled with that was my belief that after we die, we cease to exist until God re-creates us at the second coming. So, I was utterly confused about the LIFE of my child. That loss led me to question how God works. Where did my baby go? Could it be possible he or she was with Jesus? Those thoughts were evidence of God’s hand on and in my life because they were totally foreign to anything I had been taught about death and heaven.
- The second thing that happened was that in June of 1997, when I was almost ready to deliver my daughter Madalyne, my youngest brother, Michael, was in a severe head-on car collision. He wasn’t expected to live. He did survive, but suffered a life-altering traumatic brain injury. The news of his accident made my mind and emotions feel like they were at full STOP. I had no idea how I would take care of my daughter in the state of mind I was in. My brother’s accident and my struggle to be the person I felt I needed to be for my parents and also for my husband and infant daughter was partially what led to the next thing God used to jolt me out of my complacency.
- The third thing that happened was that my spiritual foundation crumbled to sand beneath my feet. I thought I was a Christian. I thought I had it (how to be a Christian) all figured out. My whole life I’d been taught that as long as I obeyed the commandments, especially the fourth commandment from what I now know is the Old Covenant, it would prove my faithfulness and loyalty to God. If I continued in faithfulness, I would one day go to heaven. As I heard the Good News of the Gospel, but before I responded to it, I felt thrown into a tailspin of epic proportions because I had so much pride in “being faithful.” To realize that HE is the faithful one actually hurt. It took some struggling and time for my heart to catch up with my mind.
So, finally, when I didn’t have the energy to struggle anymore, I came to that place of peace and real joy in the humility of knowing that I truly can’t measure up, but instead can live my life in Christ, through His power and for His purpose. And, I accepted Him as my Savior.
It was at this point that I began to imagine my future as a child of God. And when I say “imagine,” I mean to fantasize; some might even call it Delusions of Grandeur. I had how God would use me all brilliantly planned out, with dazzling lights and music in the background. I would “be somebody” for the Kingdom.
- But instead of how I had imagined my Christian walk, and this is the fourth thing that happened, Jesus ripped away an inky dark veil I had put in place in my mind. Behind that veil was a deep, dark secret called sexual abuse. One day while I was interceding on behalf of someone, I simply remembered that I was a victim of sexual abuse.
When that happened, I proverbially looked around, looked at God, and asked Him, “Ummm, Where are those dazzling lights and the background music?” The answer: silence.
I struggled for a time thinking perhaps the “memories” weren’t even true memories, but were a lie from Satan to get me off track. I even wondered if perhaps I was just seeking attention and wanting to stir up trouble. My mind lost clarity, and I felt like a miry pit.
No, I really didn’t receive the memories God restored to me with grace. My joy and peace seemed to vanish in the mist. I responded with the outright denial that I had been practicing for so much of my life.
In a direct response, over the next years, God methodically orchestrated events that brought people into my life who would minister to me right in that place that was thick with my fear, denial, and pain. He made me vulnerable and needy to the point I wondered if this Christian walk was really worth it. I didn’t like feeling like I couldn’t help people. I thought that was my sole purpose. I didn’t want to BE HELPED by people. Being vulnerable was just plain painful for me . . . and let me just say again: I really, really didn’t like it.
I came to a point where I felt truly trapped in my anger and resentment. I got that feeling in my chest–that feeling of tightness and always feeling ill at ease. It was the feeling of panic, that feeling of no way out. I realize now that God had faithfully brought me to a crossroads. Really, my only choice was to surrender and trust that God didn’t make a mistake when He created my life. That He made me and has molded me exactly the way He planned.
I have only recently settled in my heart and mind that surrender means accepting that this is HIS story. My life IS HIS story. He doesn’t NEED me. He is God, after all. No, He doesn’t need me, but He has chosen me. And, He has chosen you. The Gospel is so simple. Jesus truly accomplished everything necessary to work out His plans . . . even through broken, wounded people like you and me.
My story is not the way I would have imagined it. It’s not pretty in the way the world thinks of beauty. But to me, my story has truly become a masterpiece because Jesus is gracious enough to reside at the center of it. I know at the core of my being, that Jesus is good and part of the revealing of His goodness is letting me suffer. It’s in that suffering that my heart most intimately knows its longing for Him and that He alone can fill the void of emptiness and the fear of powerlessness.
God is my Father, and my life is not my own. I am hidden in Christ, defined by His work and faithfulness. Today, I know this more deeply than I ever have. I can also say with confidence that I will continue to know Him more.
My prayer is that we all know God as our Father, and that through the power of Jesus’s resurrected life, we will be instruments of His grace and truth.