Meet Emily Wagoner. Wendy got to know Emily through blogging and being asked to review her wonderful ebook. She has an amazing story, and so many beautiful places that God shines from her scars.
Wendy: What is one of your favorite Scriptures and why does it mean so much to you?
Emily: One of my favorite passages of Scripture is Isaiah 49:1-2.
“God put me to work from the day I was born. The moment I entered the world, he named me. He gave me speech that would cut and penetrate. He kept his hand on me to protect me.” – Isaiah 49:1-2 (The Message)
I went through a very dark period of time when I deeply questioned my purpose, identity, and significance. I was adopted as a baby, and it was sometimes tempting to believe I was just someone’s terrible mistake. I believe the Lord showed me this verse at a critical time. Even though this verse describes Isaiah’s life, I felt as though God was giving me permission to apply it to myself! I exist for a purpose. He named me. He gave me words. And He protected me. This verse showed me God’s heart for me when I most desperately needed it, and I look back on it often as a reminder of His grace.
Wendy: Emily, this is a beautiful passage, what a wonderful promise.
What events, circumstances or struggles in your life have been and/or continue to be your deepest valleys?
Emily: Perhaps the greatest struggles in my life have stemmed from years of childhood sexual abuse by someone I was supposed to be able to trust. I won’t get into details, but it was incredibly damaging to the development of my understanding of the world. I learned that I was worth nothing more than what my body could provide someone. I learned that no one was trustworthy – or at least that I wasn’t worth their kindness or truth. I learned that I shouldn’t hope for things or trust my own thoughts or intuition. These lessons (and many others) ran deeply as an undercurrent in my understanding, wreaking havoc well into my adulthood. God miraculously intervened and set me free from many, many damaging beliefs. However, I still find areas of my heart where I am believing a lie based in that childhood pain, and He continues to heal me.
Wendy: Oh Emily, God’s goodness shines in even this, your vulnerability has encouraged me in my steps even now and you know it will encourage others who read here.
In what ways have you experienced God’s nearness in these valleys?
Emily: I mentioned above that God miraculously intervened and brought about significant healing in my life. There is more story than I could possibly describe here, but in a residential treatment program for girls, God met me in a new and profound way. That season was unique in that I was able to get away completely and immerse myself in worship, Scripture, teaching, and counseling. God was so near to me during that time, I can only describe it as being wooed by a suitor. He opened my eyes to revelations of His love and grace. He let me know that I didn’t need to strive for His affection – that He loved me before I was born. And He reassured me of His truth and perspectives, over and over and over again. It was a beautiful time.
Wendy: I love the way you put that, you “Didn’t need to strive for His affection.” How extraordinary and amazing His Love is, and how wonderful you have shared here.
Often, people apologize to us for these deep valleys: for the loss, the grief or the hard of our journey, wishing they could take it all away. What would you like to say to people whose hearts ache reading of your valley?
Emily: I’ve heard some say, if they could do it all over again, they wouldn’t change a thing – even the hard stuff. I would. I would change a lot of things. 😉 But I’ve also seen how God has taken some of the most offensive “ashes” in my life and turned them into profound beauty. We all have journeys to walk, and we needn’t apologize for those journeys. We are each watching God write the precious, unique, world-changing stories of our lives, and He is an incredible, trustworthy author.
Wendy: Your honesty is so refreshing. When you stated that you would change things if you could, but that you also saw God’s “profound beauty” in those ashes.
In what ways have you seen God minister to others through your deep valleys?
Emily: My story is one of deep tragedy, but also of unwavering hope. I was deemed a “hopeless case” by doctors, but here I am, married to a loving and safe man who is the father of my five beautiful children, and I am truly enjoying my life. God has definitely used my experiences to ignite hope in others.
My experiences have also allowed me to see others’ actions as separate from their personhood. (I know that my pain caused me to do some pretty outrageous things.) People have said to me that they appreciate my non-judgmental heart and ability to listen without shock or disdain to their stories. I don’t know how God will continue to use my valleys, but the sum total of my life – the good, the bad, and the ugly – are all available for whatever He has planned.
Wendy: I love that you have been so open to God’s leading.
How have you seen God build community through your deepest valleys?
Emily: There’s a sisterhood in suffering. We all need to know that we are not alone. God is just now beginning to show me glimpses of the community He is building, but I am excited and ready for any way He can use me!
Wendy: Yes, this is so true.
What one piece of advice or kernel of wisdom would you like to leave with our readers from your journey through your hard thus far?
Emily: Please do not give up hope. I tried to give up so many times, and I’m grateful for every time God held fast to me and didn’t let me go over the ledge. There is so much good in Him. Don’t give up until you are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is utterly smitten with you (Because by then, you won’t want to give up.)