Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Journeying from Neediness to Freedom

Leslie Basham: Paula Hendricks says that in the midst of God doing a transforming work in her heart, she began to see that her love life had become an idol.

Paula Hendricks: That was the one area that I really did not want to let go of. It was very scary to imagine giving God control over that area of my life.

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Thursday, July 3, 2014.

In the month of July, you’re getting a chance to get to know authors in the True Woman line of books. This week, Nancy’s been talking with one of those authors, Paula Hendricks. Most of our listeners know Paula as a writer at the True Woman blog. And now she’s released her first book. Here she is talking about it with Nancy.

Nancy: Paula, this book that I’m holding in my hands, Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl, is a really sharp book, but it’s cute. It just looks fun. It looks engaging. I’m not a teenager or close to it, but it just looks to me like something that teen girls would really be interested in getting into. But let me ask you this. If this book had been around when you were a teenager and your mom had handed it to you based on where you were as a boy-crazy girl, do you think that you would have been interested in it? How might you have responded?

Paula: I probably wouldn’t have been crazy about it coming from my mom, although, it’s so stinking cute that maybe when she left the room, I would read it when she wasn’t looking. But yes, it probably would have been better coming from an older sister, you know, or girl in the church who I really looked up to.

Nancy: We need to pray that this book will get out into the hands of people that these teen girls respect and feel comfortable taking something from. I’m not saying that moms shouldn’t give it to their daughter. You have to know your daughter and what she might respond to, but I just want to see so many women, young women, read this book.

It’s got such great insight. It’s so honest. It’s so engaging. I think that if they’ll get into it that it really will speak to their hearts. But if you’re a mom listening to me right now, you might just pray and ask the Lord what would be the best way to get this book into your daughter’s hands in a way that maybe she can receive it.

Paula: That’s a good idea.

Nancy: By the way, it’s not just a book for teen girls. It will help moms and dads understand their teen girls better. And you know, teen girl issues are heart issues that we all have no matter what age. I found myself, as I was reading this book about a journey from neediness to freedom, identifying areas in my own heart and my own walk now in my mid-fifties, that maybe don’t relate directly to "boy craziness," but the desires we have, how we get those met. So I think there’s probably something here for women of every age group.

I just want to thank you for writing this book. I know it was a labor of love. It’s your life message, and that’s part of what makes it really powerful.

Paula: Thanks, Nancy. I couldn’t be more pleased with it.

Nancy: I’m sorry you had to live some of what you did in order to come up with this message, but isn’t that the way it is? It is with so many of my books, it’s out of failure, it’s out of frustration that God shows us Himself and His grace and then the most powerful messages come about. So thank you for not only walking this journey yourself but being willing to share out of your life with what I think is going to be life giving to a lot of other women, as well.

Paula: My pleasure. It is amazing to serve a God who turns our ashes into beauty and redeems our stories.

Nancy: I love that. I love that in the way I’ve seen it in you—in the way God’s been redeeming you. When you came to this ministry eight years ago . . . Paula Hendricks serves on our staff as our writing and editorial coordinator. She manages our blogs which if you’re not familiar with her writing, go to TrueWoman.com. Look at the True Woman blog. Go to LiesYoungWomenBelieve.com, and you’ll see some of Paula’s writing there along with others who contribute to those blogs. But, just a great set of resources that you’re providing for younger and older women throughout the country.

So we love having you on our team. When you came here eight years ago, you had just graduated from a Christian college that had 600 Christian guys. Then you came to work in a women’s ministry. Did you feel like maybe with this craving, longing you had for guys and for marriage and for a husband, that there were going to be some slim pickings here working in a women’s ministry?

Paula: Yes. I quickly learned that it was very slim pickings. I never have too much trouble finding some guy to set my eyes on. And so I found one, a shipping clerk. Again, I didn’t know that much about him, but really was drawn to his love for the Lord. Isn’t that funny? I found that for most of my journey, rather than being drawn to the Lord, I was drawn to the guys who loved the Lord, which was just silly. But anyway . . . 

Nancy: And not that you don’t want a guy who loves the Lord.

Paula: No. No. But why not get past him and get right to the good thing, you know. Because what you see that’s great in him is really just Christ in him. Anyway, so I quickly fell for a godly guy here and was so excited when we ended up signing up for the same storm-relief trip. So we traveled in a twelve-passager van with some other people here and helped out there for a week.

I remember trying so hard not to think about him every moment of the day. Instead, I was disgusted with myself because I just tried to get his attention all day long. So in the middle of this storm-relief trip, I sat down with my journal and wrote this entry:

Everything God has given me I use as props in a giant self-glorifying production. My beauty I use to draw men’s hearts after me. My piano playing I use to set myself above other pianists. My speaking and writing I use to establish a name for myself. I wear modest clothes but still long for guys to remember my image on the back of their eyelids even after I’ve left the room. I am Paula, the masquerading servant of God who really longs to be god, to have everyone worship and adore me.

I’ve had a couple people say to me, “Well, Paula, aren’t you being a little hard on yourself?” But I really think this was God’s mercy in just beginning to really show me what was going on in my heart.

Nancy: So this is the battle that’s going on in your heart while you are on this ministry trip and this guy and you were with others in the van. Did he know what you were thinking or that you were being drawn to him?

Paula: No.

Nancy: And was there any evidence he was being drawn to you?

Paula: No. I don’t think that he had any clue. And in fact, he was drawn to another girl on that trip, and they ended up getting married. But the van ride home was where the Lord just did an amazing work in my heart. I woke up that morning and had the most heavy sense of despair that I have ever felt in my life. It was because I knew waking up that no matter how hard I tried to obey God’s command and love Him with all of my heart, I knew that I would be drawn to this guy and would give him my love instead.

So we all piled into that twelve-passenger van. My crush was right in front of me. It was the worst time in the world to have a meltdown, but I could not hold it in any longer. I just started to cry and was writing in my journal again and just told God,

If this is Christianity, I’m done. I just can’t do it. I’m twenty-two years old, but I feel like a seventy-five-year-old woman because I’ve just been trying in my own strength to do it, and I’m not succeeding. So if this is it, I’ve got to put in my retirement notice. Like—I’m done.

It was at that time that I really heard from the Lord for the first time. He just brought to mind the verse in Matthew 11. I’d heard it so many times before, but it was fresh, and it was personal this time. It’s Jesus’ invitation to me and Jesus’ invitation to you. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I’ll give you rest” (v. 28). And rest was like the greatest thing I could have possibly been offered at that moment.

He goes on and says, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (v. 29). I was like, “Who are You Jesus?” Because all my life, Christianity has been anything but light and easy. So this was just crazy. But I began to find myself asking, “Is it possible that I really don’t know You and have fooled myself?” And so that was a question that I never fathomed asking. I just always assumed that I was a Christian.

Anyway, I went home and I started studying Romans 6, 7, and 8 with a couple of people at work. What I learned there absolutely transformed my life. I had somehow missed it my whole life about not only Jesus doing these things for me like coming to earth, living a perfect life, dying on the cross, being raised from the dead. I had heard those things over and over and over every Sunday, but it didn’t really mean much to me. But suddenly it was connected to my life in a very real way.

In my boy-crazy struggle, I saw how when Jesus Christ died I, the old me, the boy-crazy Paula, died, too. And when He was buried, I was buried—that girl who was envious of all the other girls, the girl who hated guys when they didn’t like her back. Then when Jesus was raised to new life, I was raised to new life. I had a whole new identity now. I didn’t have to be the boy-crazy girl. I was dead to sin, alive to God and in Christ Jesus. That was news for me. Suddenly I realized that Jesus hadn’t just died for my sin but had died to give me power over my sin.

Nancy: That’s the gospel. That’s good news.

Paula: Yes. Incredible news.

Nancy: And it’s transformational, isn’t it?

Paula: Absolutely. Yes. So that was the beginning of the Lord changing not only my outward actions but really my heart. And I don’t know, Nancy, if I actually became a Christian at that point or if I just for the first time, really at a deeper level came to understand what I had always said I believed. But it was from that moment on that I can really see how Jesus changed everything about me. I still continue to struggle, but it wasn’t without power anymore.

Nancy: As God was changing your heart, and pointing you to Christ and giving you that rest in Christ, you began to pray that God would set you free from the idols that had had such a grip on you.

Paula: I did. I also asked Him to help me trust Him with my love life. I felt like I had learned to trust Him in a lot of other areas. But that was the one area that I really did not want to let go of. It was very scary to imagine giving God control over that area of my life.

Nancy: And to really trust that He had your best interests at heart.

Paula: Yes. I knew from Scripture that He did, but it was definitely unchartered territory. I had to learn by experience that that was true.

Nancy: So you’re praying this prayer. This is your desire, but it still didn’t happen overnight.

Paula: I see how the Lord was preparing me, though, to answer that prayer. During that time, He just laid it on my heart, gave me this desire to begin getting up extra early to spend really quality time with Him in His Word. I would not have made it through what was about to happen if I hadn’t really been getting to know Him in His Word and beginning to personalize some of His promises to me.

Nancy: So you’re asking God to free you from your idols and then God brings you into another, yet another encounter with what could have been another chance to give in to those idols.

Paula: This, Nancy, this was the big leagues, the next season that I entered. When Edward entered my life, I was blown away at him. He stood head and shoulders above all the other guys that I’d ever known. I remember going out to lunch with him and my brother and just being amazed at the way he talked about the Old Testament, these obscure books, in such a way that had everything to do with my brother’s college decisions in the twenty-first century. I fell hard. I fell fast. Right after that we ended up doing college ministry together and my pastor warned me. He said, “Paula, you need to guard your heart with him.” He was about two weeks too late in telling me that.

Anyway, Edward and I just began this working relationship. In a lot of ways he was my teacher. I was learning a ton from him. It seemed like he liked me back. Then all of a sudden this wall came up, and I didn’t know why. A little bit after that I learned that he was going to be leaving for several months, and so that was just a season of daily surrendering that to God.

He ended up coming back into town months later. About that time I went ahead and took a vacation with my sister to the other side of the country. I had no intention of this happening, but I ended up sitting across from a guy, and we just connected. Sparks flew. And so since nothing was happening with Edward, we went ahead and started communicating over Facebook, and he asked if he could call me.

He called and that first conversation went great. In the middle of it I got an incoming call. I ignored it because I was having a good conversation with him. But when I got off, I checked the phone and Edward had called. I hadn’t heard from him in so long. And so I returned his call, and he ended up asking if I would consider more than a friendship. He actually asked if I would pray about it and I was like, “I don’t need to pray about that. Yes, of course.”

So we went ahead and went out, had ice cream, walked around the lake. Just when it seemed like I was getting the relationship that I had wanted and waited for and surrendered to God countless days, we discovered that we were on two totally different pages. While we were both Christians who loved God and wanted to serve Him with our lives, Edward was doing it in a way that I was not comfortable with. And my way of life to him was . . . he just didn’t resonate with it. It quickly became apparent that this was not really a good fit.

So, I just left that night not knowing really if that relationship was going to go anywhere. Then I had to go tell this other guy that Edward had just come back into my life. So when I told him, he said, “Paula, there’s something I need to tell you.” And he told me that he had been married for seven years and was divorced. Just all of a sudden it was like I had two really great relationship options that were handed to me, and then almost as soon as they were handed to me, they were just kind of taken away.

That began a really dark season in my life—what I refer to as just winter in my soul. If I had not had God’s Word and His promises to cling to, I honestly I don’t know how I would have made it through that season.

Nancy: As you reflect on these series of relationships and hopes springing high and then hopes being dashed, what are you taking away from that now in terms of how to steady your heart, how to be free from the idols? Are you still tempted to look to guys to satisfy you? And if so, what do you do with that?

Paula: Yes. I am absolutely tempted to still look to guys. When I am not being deeply satisfied with Jesus Christ, that’s instantly where I go back to. It’s been interesting to me in reading through the Old Testament, I saw how the Israelites would set up these idols and then they would tear them down in repentance. But then just a little bit later they’d go back and build them back up. So I really believe that surrendering this area of my life, it’s not been a one-time thing. It’s a moment-by-moment choice. And it’s not something that I do by my willpower.

I love the sermon that Thomas Chalmers gave. He was a Scottish pastor in what was it, seventeenth century? Anyway, he lived a long time ago, but he wrote about something called “the expulsive power of a new affection.” Basically what he was saying was,

You can’t stop loving something or someone just by telling yourself to stop it. The only way to do that is to find someone or something you love even more and that old love fades in comparison to the new.

And Nancy, I felt like the Lord gave me really a tangible picture of that during the season. My doctor had me go on a really strict diet for health reasons, and I wasn’t able to have sugar and bread—and I have the biggest sweet tooth. I thought that month would be pure torture; that I would just be dreaming about sugar cookies and Nerds and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream all month long.

But what ended up happening was I went and researched healthy recipes. I went to the health food store. I spent hours in my kitchen. I never missed sugar that entire month because I was eating just delicious foods that God has made. That was a real picture to me of what I’ve learned since then of if I’m delighting in God, tasting and seeing how good He is, then guys just fade into the background.

Nancy: And yet not to say that they don’t matter or that you don’t notice them or that you don’t care. How do you have healthy, godly relationships, because I think the knee-jerk reaction could be, “Okay, I don’t want to fall into this boy-crazy stuff, so I’m just going to put on a sack and stay in the closet or go to the convent that you talked about yesterday. How do you have balanced, healthy relationships with guys?

Paula: Well, Nancy, I am still on my journey, and you are right. I have swung from one extreme to the other and have really just been trying to find that right balance. But lately, I just feel like the Lord has given me a desire to learn how to love my brothers. I call them brothers because . . .

Nancy: They are.

Paula: They are! We’ve all been adopted into the same family, and my desire is to learn how to be a good friend to them. It’s not easy because honestly, the guys who I’m not attracted to, why do I really want to be a friend to them? There’s nothing for me there. And the guys I am attracted to, I tend to naturally want to stay far away from. I don’t know why. I just do. But I feel like the Lord’s wanting me to move toward them in appropriate ways and love with His love that He describes in 1 Corinthians 13 that’s patient and kind. It doesn’t envy or boast.

Nancy: And in the midst of that, how do you, in a healthy way, guard your heart?

Paula: You taught me one really practical way to do that. Through one of your teaching series you mentioned that your dad, as a little girl, encouraged you guys when you were out to not look sideways all the time but to look straight ahead.

Nancy: That actually came from Proverbs.

Paula: It did. I think I heard it first from you, but then I found the verse in Proverbs 4:25, I believe, where we’re told to have our eyes look straight ahead and to ponder the path of our feet. That might sound so silly. But that has been so helpful to me because most of my life I would constantly be looking around to see.

For example, when I was walking past the store window, I would check myself out and see how I looked. And I would look to see if any guy was checking me out. Then I would base my worth on, “Oh, no guy is looking at me so I must not be worth much.” So it’s done.

Every morning, Nancy, what I pray is, “Lord, satisfy me with Your love this morning in fresh ways.” And then in just a really practical way, I say, “God, would You help my eyes to look straight ahead today?” That’s been enormously helpful.

Nancy: So, now you’re thirty years old. Still single. Do you still have a desire to be married?

Paula: I do.

Nancy: I assumed that was the answer. So is it wrong to ask God for that?

Paula: Well, that’s a question that I was asking myself recently. I just felt like the Lord had shut that door so many times so clearly that I was like, “God, am I being rebellious or just pushing where I shouldn’t be pushing?” I felt like, for me, at least, the answer He gave me was . . . I was just reading through the Bible and I stumbled across Jesus when He was about to go to the cross.

He was in the garden just crying out to God in agony, crying out to His Father. He told God honestly, “If there’s any way that I can get out of this, please remove this from me.” So I felt like God said, “Paula, you can be honest with me.” And then I saw Jesus repeating Himself three times, same prayer. I felt like God gave me permission to be a broken record. And yet every single time Jesus always came back to, “Not my will, Father, but Your will be done.” And so I’ve felt like the Lord said, “Ask me over and over, but just do it with surrendered, open hands.”

Nancy: And what a fine line there is between making that request known to God which He tells us to do, the desires of our hearts, and stepping over that line and it becoming a demand. And, "If I can’t have this, or if You don’t give this to me, then I won’t be happy, I won’t be satisfied." That’s when it becomes a little “g” god or an idol in our lives. Boy, that’s such a razor-thin edge, isn’t it?

Paula: It is.

Nancy: And so easy to step over. At one point it can just be a holy request and a surrendered humble request. And then within moments it can become something that emotionally becomes a demand.

Paula: Yes. I think the key is to just keep running to God with it and keep pouring our hearts out to Him honestly. I feel like so much of my life I just maybe tried to stuff it or deal with it myself. And you know, as long as you’re communicating with Him openly and honestly, He’s going to show you what you need to know.

Nancy: So, let me ask you a hard question. What if God never were to grant your desire to have a husband? Two questions. One, can you live with that and how? And what do you do in this waiting period where you don’t know if that’s what God has for you or not? How do you grapple with that these days?

Paula: Well, if you had asked me that question years earlier, Nancy, I would have said there’s no reason to live if I do not end up with a guy. I couldn’t imagine life like that. Now, after all that I’ve been through with God, I would be absolutely okay. Now, I don’t want to sound trivial or trite when I say that. I know that it would be hard. There would be days when it would be very hard, and I’d have to continue to surrender that to the Lord.

But I really do trust Him. I really am experiencing fullness of joy in this season of life. And I know that He’s not going to leave me. By His grace our relationship is just going to continue to grow, and so I know that I’ll be okay because He’s in my life.

Nancy: And as a friend of mine whose wife has just been diagnosed with serious cancer, he’s been signing his letters in this hard time or his updates by saying, “The best is yet to come.”

Paula: Absolutely.

Nancy: And when it comes to this thing of marriage, singleness, whether you ever get married, or a woman who’s widowed young as one of our staff women just lost her husband suddenly, if you look to the end of the story, there’s something there that is the best that is yet to come. And keeping your eye on that gives you courage and grace for today.

Paula: Yes. Which is why it is so important to be in the Word. Otherwise I just focus on the here and now, and I just see this story. But when I get into the Word and I see the whole story, I realize this is so much bigger than me. And my life, my story is now intertwined with King Jesus’ story.

And He is coming back soon. He is coming back for His Bride, the Church, of which I am a part and you are a part. We are going to experience the relationship that we were made for, and He’s promised to marry us. I mean, crazy. The marriages that we see right now, the most intimate relationships that we see are just a faint representation of just that closeness that we’re going to experience with Him.

Nancy: We’ve been chosen.

Paula: Yes. Chosen, pursued . . .

Nancy: Accepted, pursued. And in a relationship that is for all of eternity which can’t be said about human marriage. It’s temporary. But God has His eye on His people, and He’s picked us as a Bride for His Son, part of that Bride. I love how keeping an eye on that last chapter which never ends, they do live happily ever after. I love what I’ve seen that do for you in yielding up these unfulfilled longings to the Lord. Not just stuffing them. Being honest about them, but also letting God give you that . . . what did you call it? The expulsive power . . .

Paula: . . . of a new affection.

Leslie: Nancy Leigh DeMoss has been talking with Paula Hendricks about trusting all of life to the Lord including all of our relationships. Paula has written about these themes in a new book called Confessions of a Boy-Crazy Girl: On Her Journey from Neediness to Freedom. We’d like to send you a copy when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any amount. I think it will challenge you to run from idolatry in your life.

If you have younger women looking up to you, it would be a good book to go through with them. Ask for it when you call with your donation of any amount. Our number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com. We’re happy to send one book per household. Today is July 3 and the last day we will be sharing this offer. So let us hear from you right away.

Well, our guest Paula Hendricks is available to communicate with you today. She’ll join the Revive Our Hearts listener blog. When you go to the bottom of today’s transcript at ReviveOurHearts.com, you can ask Paula a question and read her responses.

How can you encourage your husband to lead? A panel of wives will share their insights tomorrow. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries. 

 

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.