This is a tribute I wrote to my Mom Combs. You can read the first one I wrote her here.
You Can Be Healed
“Melissa, you don’t have to live like this, you know.”
She sat across the table from me, dark hair falling gracefully over her shoulders, open menu in her hands. Her honest, expressive eyes gazed at me pointedly. This was only the second time we had met, and yet she was bold, direct.
As I sat hunched over on the Applebee’s bench, my body wracked with pain, agonizing over what to eat that would possibly not make me sicker, pretending to be normal, energetic, and healthy so that my boyfriend’s mom would approve of me, I suddenly realized my facade was pointless.
She could see me.
She knew I needed help, and she didn’t hesitate to tell me how to get it.
“I refuse to believe that God’s children are meant to be allergic to anything that he created. This is not God’s will for you. You don’t have to accept it.”
And then she said the words that would resonate in my subconscious for years to come.
“You can be healed and never be in pain again.”
She stated it as matter-of-factly as if she had been commenting on the weather, but with sincerity and confidence. Was it really so simple, so normal, to just choose to be healed? Her words reminded me of something I had heard before somewhere…
“Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” [John 11:40 NIV]
I’m not sure I ever would have understood if she hadn’t modeled it for me.
“It is always God’s will to heal. Always. That’s why we pray ‘your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,’” She said.
In fact, Jesus already provided everything that is necessary for the whole world to be healed 2000 years ago. He righted every wrong, forgave every sin, healed every sickness on the cross. We just have to receive it.
The timing of her entry into my life was no accident. A few short months later I walked into a healing service at my church and walked out completely healed of irritable bowel syndrome.
This miracle was a powerful repercussion of our meeting and symbolic of what our relationship would become. Little did I know that I was in for a far deeper transformation than a physical healing.
You Have the Authority
I was sitting across from her in the women’s lounge at our local gym where Audrey was participating in her weekly swimming lessons. I hadn’t seen her as much as usual since Ryan and I had recently moved out of her house, so I had taken advantage of the few quiet moments together to share my heart.
“I can feel a darkness in our home. I’m so afraid it’s going to affect the kids.”
Ryan and I were walking through the stormiest season of our married lives. Months of unemployment, loosing our apartment right after we found out we were pregnant – it all compounded our personal issues, leaving a strain on our marriage.
Sick with pregnancy and with Ryan laid up with a broken leg, I had packed our house up twice for two moves in two months time. I was emotionally and physically exhausted.
I felt helpless, scared, lost, and weak. Subconsciously I was waiting – for what, I didn’t know. For God to come in and rescue us, for someone, anyone, to step up and turn on the light.
But she wasn’t having any of that.
“Don’t lay down and put up with this Melissa!” She wasted no time getting to the point.
“You have authority over your family, your kids, and your home. Stand up and tell the devil to get out. Darkness can’t enter your home if you don’t let it.”
Her directness, to me, was a lifeline. She made things seem so simple, so doable, and that filled me with hope. She believed I was better, freer, stronger, happier than I had ever been, and that made me believe it too.
A couple weeks later, I had a revelation.
“The light [Jesus] shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” [John 1:5 NLT]
Suddenly I understood. It doesn’t matter how great the darkness is, who let it in, or who’s feeding it. All that matters is the light.
One flick of the switch and the darkness is eliminated, but the darkness – what can it do against the light? Darkness is nothing – simply an absence of the light. All you have to do to get rid of the darkness – literally all you have to do…
Is for one person to flip the switch.
That means that whoever carries the light has the say-so.
Authority. I finally understood.
“I have given you authority…to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.” [Luke 10:19 NIV]
I put my life on hold and pulled everything out of the big storage closet in the center of my home. I found a new place for all of our storage, and I turned the closet into a prayer room. I began morning worship and prayer at home with the kids in our living room. I fully opened my heart to the light of Jesus and surrendered myself as a vessel of God’s love, no matter how awkward, no matter how difficult the situations I would find myself in might be.
And I said, “This is how it will be. My home and my family belong to the light. Our home will be a place of refuge and peace. Love will grow here. Darkness will not enter.”
“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart, but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” [Mark 11:23 NIV]
The darkness lifted, literally overnight. Hearts softened. Love blossomed. Joy and purpose began to fill our lives again. Healing and provision began to sprinkle in and then to rain down. Peace flooded our home.
And I thanked God for a mother who didn’t commiserate with my troubles in the name of offering a listening ear. Instead, she reminded me that Jesus had already rescued me 2000 years ago, I just had to start acting like it.
You Are What You Believe
“The days of your silence are over.”
This is what the speaker at a women’s’ conference I had just attended had said. And when she spoke that sentence, the whole world blurred out for a moment and the words resounded like a megaphone inside my head.
I knew God was speaking to me. I had spent my whole life silent. Afraid to speak up. Afraid to step out. Afraid to show my true self. Afraid of being misunderstood.
“But I’m not good at talking,” I rationalized to her afterward in the parking lot. “I’m probably just supposed to write. (i.e. hide behind my computer and not have to interact with anyone.) It’s not like I’m ever going to get on stage and speak or anything.”
“Why not?” She responded. “Don’t limit what God can do.”
“It’s just how I am,” I argued. “You don’t understand.”
After all, I was the type of person who ignored phone calls because I didn’t feel like talking to people. I made up excuses to cancel plans on friends so I wouldn’t have to socialize. I struggled to carry on the most basic of conversations due to severe social anxiety. I avoided people like the plague. I blacked out in college due to extreme nervousness whenever I had to give a speech – went running out of the classroom and collapsed on the floor.
“Just because ‘you’ve always been’ a certain way doesn’t mean God created you that way.”
Dark hair glimmering in the light of the lowering sun and eyes ablaze with sincerity, her words tumbled over themselves in her excitement to get them out.
“God created many different personalities, but he didn’t design any of them to be afraid. You have spent too long bound by fear. You learned this as a child but it’s not who you are.
You are free. You are unhindered and innocent and full of joy – like a child spinning and dancing to her favorite song. That’s what I picture when I think of you. That’s who you were created to be. I know you Melissa. That’s who you are.”
I didn’t agree with her that day. In fact I spent a couple weeks reassuring myself that she was wrong. I wasn’t afraid. I wasn’t bound by anything. I was just a reserved person by nature, and I would always deal with certain restrictions because of that.
But her words had been spoken, and they kept nagging at the back of my mind, influencing my beliefs about myself and affecting my behavior.
Before I knew it, I found myself initiating conversation with complete strangers. I found myself stepping up to introduce myself in groups. I found myself offering hugs to people and really hugging them, the way I like to be hugged. I found myself not caring anymore whether my gestures were understood or well-received, trusting that my loving intentions would have an impact.
I found myself knocking on my neighbors’ doors. I found myself picking up the phone to call rather than shooting a text. I found myself inviting my friends to stop by, announced or otherwise, even when my house is messy and I’m busy, because people and community are what matter most.
So many little things that I myself never would have done. Because that’s not the way I was. I hated phone calls. I hated small talk. I hated socializing. I hated being in the spotlight.
And then one day I found myself up on the stage at Sunday morning church, voluntarily speaking a word I had been given.
And as I stood up there in the spotlight, facing a couple hundred people looking back at me, I realized something.
I wasn’t afraid.
How was it possible?
That was the moment I fully accepted that once again – she had been right.
We are the ones who put limitations on ourselves by believing in and identifying with certain traits. Who we become, whether by influence of our environments, our negative experiences, or our limiting beliefs, is a completely different set of traits from who we were designed to be, and because of Jesus’s provision, we can be healed and return to the harmony we were created with.
As neuroscientist Caroline Leaf is famous for saying, “We are wired for love. We learn fear.” And we can unlearn it. It’s as simple as that.
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” [2 Timothy 1:7 NLT]
“God made us plain and simple, but we have made ourselves very complicated. [Ecclesiastes 7:29 GNT]”
“For as he thinks within himself, so he is. [Proverbs 23:7 NASB]”
I began a process of letting go of all my insecurities and limiting beliefs. I decided I would react out of love in every situation and would give no place to fear. I would become whomever the great Love of all loves, Jesus Christ in me, led me to become. And I have found a freedom I never dreamed was possible.
In fact, I feel like a completely different person. But I know that’s not true – I’m just closer to my original design than I was before. I’ve shed a lot of unnecessary baggage.
All because of a mother who introduced the idea into my head that maybe, just maybe, I wasn’t wired to be afraid. All because she risked my misunderstanding to tell me that all the aspects of my “personality” were not intended by God.
All because she had seen who I truly was and made me see it too.
I Will Rise
This collection of stories I’ve shared is just the tip of the iceberg. These are the three most memorable moments picked out of the constant influence of what now adds up to a decade of day-to-day life.
As anyone who knows me will tell you, I’m far from perfect, but I’m a whole lot freer, stronger, braver, happier, more whole, more at peace, more secure, because of her influence.
And so to the woman who has had such a profound impact on my growth,
To the woman who told me she loved me when I was alone, who proudly called me her daughter in front of others, who has mothered me for my entire adult life,
To the woman who has been there every step of the way, showing me how to be a wife and mother and loving those three babies right along with me,
To the woman who has never shied away from telling me what I need to hear and has never backed down from showing me how,
To the woman who believed in who I was meant to be while still making me feel so loved just the way I was,
To the woman who saw me and accepted me and guided me from the first time we met,
I want to be a woman with your power, your grace, your strength, your compassion, your fearlessness.
Because if you’ve taught me one thing it’s this:
“I will rise
Heaven’s open over me” [Elevation Worship]
Thank you, Mom.