March 10, 2016

He Never Leaves Us

It is often said that we find our greatest strengths in our lowest moments. I would have to agree with that. When I was three years old my father passed away from health complications. Throughout elementary and middle school I was teased for it. I wouldn’t necessarily say I was bullied, I just didn’t click anywhere very well.

When I started high school, I was pretty well like any other teenager. I was just trying to find my place. I clicked with a group of kids that were more the “wild” crowd. I went to parties here and there on occasion. I tested rebellion a little bit, but I tried to live two lives; the spiritual and the adventurous.

When I was sixteen years old, all of that changed. One night, after going to a local dance, I was invited to a party by a friend of a friend. When I got to the “party” it was just me and three guys. I remember feeling a sense of dread as I sat up a canyon not ten miles from my house, knowing that I was no longer safe. I always believed that bad things only happened in cities, not small rural towns like where I lived.

I couldn’t fight them, and I had nowhere to run. I tried praying in my head to be saved but no answer ever came. That night was the first time since my dad died that I felt my life spinning out of control. The difference was that my dad had no more control than I did. That night someone used his need for control to completely remove mine.

I never reported what happened, I didn’t think anyone would believe me. Over the next year I let go of my life in an effort to control my life. I dove head first into a life of prescription medication and alcohol. When I went to parties, I did everything I could to drown out the pain. I would use pills and alcohol I bought from others to start and end each day, most of the time completely alone.

When I didn’t have my substances available or my fears and emotions were too strong, I would do what I could to cause myself physical pain. I wanted to be released from the prison inside my head. To avoid the terror of being alone at night. To stop jumping every time I was in a crowded place. I felt trapped. I didn’t feel like Heavenly Father loved me. How could He love me and let that happen?

Just about a year later, I had to rely on my Savior more than ever. When I found out I was pregnant, I was terrified. I had spent the last year of my life recklessly, and now an innocent life would have to suffer for it. I knew my baby deserved so much more but how could I give him that? I made the choice to place my baby for adoption.

I had always understood that if you were living in sin, the Holy Ghost would remove himself from you. I assumed that was the same with the Savior. However, I learned more about what the atonement truly meant in those months of my pregnancy than ever before. I felt like the woman in the temple, taken in adultery. I did not deserve my Savior’s love but there He was kneeling beside me.

The day of placement was nothing short of miserable. On that day I placed complete faith in my Heavenly Father and my Savior, and handed my perfect baby boy to the individuals that I knew he was meant to be with. When he was Heavenly Father’s gift to save me from my own destruction, he was always meant to be their son.

Fast forward seven years. I was finally back in a place where I felt I was on “good terms” with my Heavenly Father. I got married at nineteen, and my husband was baptized six months 
later. Three years after that we were sealed in the temple. Shortly after, we were blessed with our fourth child. I felt that my life was complete.

One evening, while my husband was at work, I realized that he had left his phone home. Whether it was curiosity, or intuition, I don’t know, but I felt the urge to go through his messages. Inside I found a conversation with another woman. My heart stopped. I felt the same confused whirlwind of emotions that I had the night my attack. How could he do this me? I brought his phone to his work and told him that he would have thirty minutes to tell me everything or lose his family forever.

I called my bishop and met with him for an hour while my parents watched my kids. He followed me home, and he and my step­dad gave me a blessing. My mom helped me put my kids to bed, and after my parents left, I fell to my knees on my living room floor and prayed. I prayed for it all to go away, for it all to be a bad dream. I got up and paced the room, then fell to my knees again. This time I prayed for clarity of mind to hear my husband out. I prayed for control on my emotions. I prayed for strength that my Savior would hold me up when I knew the information I was going to receive was so much more than what I had found in those text messages.

When my husband got home, I waited for my anger to take control, it never did. As he confessed years worth of affairs and his addictions, instead of feeling angry, I felt compassion. The more he confessed, the more I felt my Savior surrounding me. I felt Him holding me up, offering me peace in this turmoil.

Through all of these experiences, I have learned that we emphasize too much of the atonement being about sin, and not enough of it being about our Savior’s love and grace. Trials come, either by our own doing, by the hands of others, by the nature of mortality, trials come. However, the Savior never leaves us. Often we forget He is standing by us and we lose our way. Whether we forget because life blinds us from remembering He’s there, we are trapped in the depths of mental/emotional issues, or we avoid Him because of guilt, He never leaves us.

As it says in John 14:18, “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you”, He does not leave us. He is always there to offer His love, support and strength. It is something that has already been given to us, we just have to remember where to turn. 

My name is Shanna Spuhler. Through the good times and the bad I have known God is there, and with that faith . . . I will stand. 


Laurie said...

Wow! I can so relate to all that you have gone through and I'm old enough to be your mom. May you be blessed for having the courage to share your story. Thank you. Thank you. You've given me much to think about.

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