We all have a story, don't we? And everyone's story has a past, a present, and a future. I want to begin my story by telling you about my past, to give you some context for where I am today.
On October 30, 1950, I was born, the only daughter of Ann and Don. My brother was a only year older – but even as children, we were never close. As we grew older, he began to abuse me verbally and emotionally. I never felt secure about who I was, and my drive to obtain approval and love started at a very early age. I was a shy, insecure, overly sensitive, and moody child.
When I was nine, we moved to the Chicago area due to a change in my dad's job. During that time, we lived in a great neighborhood, made friends and attended superb schools all within walking distance of our house. Most importantly, we were involved in a wonderful church. Despite all this, my brother and I maintained a contentious relationship.
After about five years in Chicago, my dad received another job opportunity, and we moved to New York City. I will always believe that this was the turning point in which my brother and I began a sharp, downward spiral. It was an absolute culture shock for us. We were plunged into a new world of affluence with very difficult schools, no church, and complete isolation. My brother and I quickly made connections with kids who led us into the world of underage drinking and drugs.
My dad was an absentee father, and before long, my mom was losing control of us. Their solution was to ship my brother off to military school and me to a “Christian” prep school. For all intents and purposes, this was the last time that my brother and I would live at home, except for brief holiday vacations.
Continuously driven by my need for approval and affirmation, I finished my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college with excellent grades. But there was still a part of my life that was constantly unsettled. I thought if I could just find someone to love me, I would be complete. I bounced from relationship to relationship, seeking to fill the void I felt.
In 1971, I began my sophomore year at Samford University and pledged a sorority. There, I met the handsome football player I was to marry. Finally, I was loved by someone, and my childhood dream of being a wife and someday a mother was being realized. But I was totally unprepared for marriage at the age of 21, and it ended in divorce only a short time later.
I moved to Maryland and, in 1977, married for a second time. My parents knew this man and approved – surely it would last. Four years later, however, we divorced. I continued to feel the void ache inside me.
Following my pattern, I found another man to love me and make me feel secure. This time, I figured I would live with him before getting married, just to make sure it would work. This went against everything I was raised to believe, and my decision devastated my parents. After two tumultuous years of living together, we were married in 1984. Several months into the marriage, I knew I had made another mistake. Against the advice of everyone I knew, I had married a man who physically abused me. I had refused to listen. Like the Israelites in the wilderness, I was stiff-necked and stubborn, and I had to do things my way no matter the cost. My life was a mess. I felt completely miserable and empty.
Then, during a particularly dark time in my marriage, God got my attention.
I remember it so vividly. I took a week off of work to paint the rooms in our new house. I was alone, just painting and listening to – of all things – a recording of hymns.
Early in my life, my heart was drawn to God, but in my rebellion, I had no room for Him in my life and didn't want to live by His rules. Now, I was empty and desperate. Worst of all, I had no hope. I wanted to die. I saw no other way out, and I told God that I wanted to kill myself. I blamed my parents and brother for not giving me the secure, affirming love I so craved. I was a sinner and had played the role of a Christian when it seemed advantageous, but I had never surrendered my will and life to Christ because I wanted to be in control. The thing is, I was never in control. God was orchestrating everything from the beginning, though I was totally unaware of it.
It was in that moment of desperation, as I painted, that a well-known hymn entitled, “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” began to play. It was as if I was hearing the words for the very first time. God was speaking directly into my heart of His steadfast love for me even when I did not love Him – His faithfulness even when I was faithless.
The light finally went on in my spirit, and I knew the Lord Jesus was my only hope for redemption and a transformed life. I remember falling on my knees in that room and just weeping, repenting openly of all my sin, pleading with God to change me, and promising to obey and serve Him no matter what.
My life changed forever that September day in 1984. God began to put people in my life to disciple me. I got actively involved in a local church, began going to a Bible study, and developed close Christian friendships.
But, I have to be honest with you, my marriage got worse. My husband was agnostic and an alcoholic. As I grew closer to the Lord, my husband and I grew further apart. When my third marriage failed due to physical abuse, it was hard to endure another divorce. But, I knew that God had transformed me. I no longer needed a man to prove to myself that I was worthy of love. I had come to know the love of my heavenly Father. God liberated me with the truth after I had been bound for years by the need for approval and fear of rejection.
As far as my present is concerned, I am a work in progress. I've remained single for 28 years, and life is not as I dreamed it would be. It took a great deal of rebellion and brokenness to bring me to that moment where the Lord opened my eyes. Jesus is my life, and I am so grateful for what He has done and what He is doing in me. It has not always been easy, but God sees it all from the beginning to the end. He has taken me on a journey to finally know Him as my Father and to trust His plan for my life.
I want to fast forward through the years to end on a note about my future. My future is secure. I know that when I take my last breath on this earth, I will be in the presence of my Lord and Savior with joy unspeakable and full of glory. I cannot tell you how much I look forward to that day!
The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”
When it's all said and done, this is the only thing that will matter.
Georganne Canterbury moved back to Birmingham in 2003 and has been a member of Brook Hills since 2008. She is currently serving as a Small Group leader of a multi-generational women’s group. Her desire is to share her story in the hope that others will come to know Jesus too.