Thursday, September 23, 2010
Interview with Cheri Hardaway
Hi, Cheri. I am so pleased to announce the release of your debut book, Worth Every Tear. You and I “met” online through a Christian writer’s network, and instantly I was drawn to your humble spirit and your gentle sincerity. Your wisdom and compassion have blessed me over the two years since we have corresponded. I understand Worth Every Tear is a memoir of your family’s journey to healing and deliverance.
Q First, what needed healing and what was the deliverance from?
My husband Wayne and I have four children, two sons and two daughters. Both of our sons chose to go the route of the prodigal.
The oldest walked out of our lives at the age of 18, when confronted over his drug use and general rebellion to our authority – behaviors that surfaced without warning during his senior year of high school. There were so many times my husband and I looked at one another and said, “Who is this kid?” It was like he went to bed the night before his 18th birthday, our son, and woke up the next day a totally different person … someone we’d never met before.
His brother, on the other hand, had been a handful for several years. Not wanting a repeat of what happened with Son No. 1, Wayne and I ignored the obvious problem signs until we could no longer play ostrich. Finally, when he was 19, a series of events brought us to the point of no return – we had to deliver him an ultimatum: “Get help or get out.” He too was abusing drugs, on his way to addiction, if not already there. He chose to go to Teen Challenge, a faith-based drug rehabilitation program.
My mom and both of her parents were alcoholics, so the fact that our family needed healing and deliverance from issues of substance abuse and addiction is readily obvious. But that was merely the tip of the iceberg. God went so much deeper than that. In essence, He delivered us – Wayne and me – from ourselves. We were plagued with feelings of shame, inferiority, and failure – not only as parents, but as people. We were full of bitterness and disillusionment – towards both ourselves and others. We’d walked with God for two decades, but we didn’t truly know Him. God used the circumstances of our prodigal sons to meet us right where we were and teach us about His unconditional love and acceptance. He delivered us from the lies we had believed, that we had to perform to earn His love. And then He filled us with a passion to see other hurting people set free from those same lies – the lies that had imprisoned us and kept us from the abundant life He intends for each of His kids.
Q You are brave to bare your family secrets. Why are you willing to expose what some might consider skeletons in the closet?
Actually, bravery is overrated and misunderstood. It isn’t walking around feeling invincible or fearless. It’s pushing past fear to do what you must; it’s “doing it ‘afraid,’” so to speak. If I am going to be honest with you, I’m terrified.
That said, why then have I chosen to write a book that exposes the skeletons in my family’s closets? Better yet, why has my family given their consent to this project?
God impressed on my heart back in 1995 that He had something for me to write. I sensed it would be in the form of a testimony, but I had no idea I had not yet lived all of what He would ask me to share. Life went on and He called Wayne and me to the task of home education, which was an all-encompassing thirteen-year undertaking. Thoughts of writing were pushed to the back burner of life. When we reached the crisis point with our second son in 2006, I knew that the time to write was drawing closer.
So, basically, I wrote Worth Every Tear in obedience to a call from God, to be used for whatever purposes He has for it. The rest of the reason can be summed up in 2 Corinthians 1:3-5, which says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” God comforted Wayne and me through some trying times, and we want to share that same comfort with others.
Q How has your family’s struggle affected your relationship with God and with the body of Christ?
Wayne and I experienced some disillusionment with the body of Christ, as we encountered, in the midst of our struggles, almost what you might call a bi-polar response from people. Some came alongside, shoulder to shoulder with us in the trenches. They were there for us even when things weren’t pretty; they provided a safe place for us to try and process what was happening as our lives turned inside out. These precious folks exhibited the kind of response we expected from brothers and sisters in Christ. There were others who prayed for us, but who seemed afraid that our troubles might rub off on them. They kept their distance, and we felt a sting of judgment. To be honest, the judgment might have come from within ourselves, because we already felt such shame and failure … but whether these brothers and sisters in Christ meant to judge or not, their attitudes definitely reinforced our negative self-images.
God used the pain of that experience to plant the seed for a ministry in our hearts; it birthed what Wayne and I call Glass House Ministries. We’re not sure of all that God has in store for Glass House, but at present it functions as a prayer ministry and a place where hurting folks can find encouragement. We all have struggles in life, even Christians, and it is our desire to provide a safe place to be real for people who need support.
Our family’s struggles served to test and prove true my relationship with God. When Wayne and I first got saved, I was determined to prove to God that He hadn’t made a mistake in choosing me. I vowed to live the rest of my life better than I had the first 25 years … Wayne and I would raise our kids to know the Lord, and they wouldn’t fall into the traps that we had fallen into. I spent the ensuing years doing just that. When our oldest rebelled and walked out, I was shocked. What happened? God, we followed the rules and we did things the way we were supposed to … why didn’t You keep this from happening? I had a lot of bitterness to overcome at that point. God and I worked through all that, and I went on my merry way, figuring we’d passed the test.
Then our second son got in trouble. My world turned upside down. I couldn’t understand why it had happened again. And in the middle of the trials with our sons, my mom passed away from cancer. I battled with confusion, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness … but I never let go of my faith. The whole thing culminated in surrender … mine. When I finally threw my hands up and said, “God, I can’t do this anymore,” He was ready and waiting, finally able to minister His touch on my life. Please don’t misunderstand … there were victories along the way, but before He could really move, I had to let go of my self-sufficiency and embrace Him with a childlike dependence.
Though I’ve heard it my whole Christian walk, I finally understand what it means to be unconditionally loved and accepted by God. I don’t have to perform to gain His approval; I already have it. I always did, I just didn’t realize it. This whole process has brought me closer to God than I’ve ever been before, and though it may sound odd, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I’m a stubborn woman, and it took a lot for me to “let go and let God,” to borrow a well-known phrase. But it was truly “worth every tear,” to be where I am with the Lord today and to see my family where they are.
Q What do you hope your readers will take away from your family’s triumphs and tears?
When I first started to write the book, I thought it was just to be about our sons. But some months into the writing, God gave me the outline for the whole book, chapter titles and all, and He let me know that it was to cover my entire testimony, not just the story of our prodigals. He basically impressed on me that we are all prodigals in His eyes.
There’s something for everyone in this book. Maybe you have great kids, but sexual intimacy in your marriage is a struggle. Maybe as a woman, you cringe when you hear the ‘S’ word – submission! Do you ever find it hard to forgive someone who has hurt you? Have you watched a loved one die of cancer? How about the challenge of a blended family? There’s a smattering of all that and more within the pages of Worth Every Tear. In each of these scenarios, God has come alongside me and walked with me through the desert, making a way in the wilderness, shining His light into the darkness of my pain.
He’s shown me the path to peace and then supplied me with the strength to make the journey, all the while causing me to fall more and more deeply in love with Him, giving me pause to consider anew His never-ending mercy, grace, and hope – all there for anyone who will ask for it. That’s what I want my readers to take from our story: peace in the midst of pain; mercy in exchange for judgment; grace to replace shame; healing from the memories of yesterday; and hope … hope for today, hope for each new tomorrow … hope for eternity. God is for us. He is not against us.
Q If there is one thing you could tell young Cheri Hardaway when she was caught up in the midst of all the heartache and pain, knowing what you know now, what would that be?
“Cheri, you are not alone in your struggles. God sees it all. You belong to the Lord, and you have nothing to prove. You don’t have to pay for your sin; Jesus already did, with the shedding of His blood. That’s how much God loves you; He loves you just because you are. Stop trying to fix everything. Stop trying to earn God’s favor. You already have it.”
Q Do you have a website or a blog you’d like to share, and what are the links where our readers might purchase your book ?
Yes, the Glass House Ministries blog can be found at: http://blog.cherihardaway.com/
my personal website can be found at: http://www.cherihardaway.com/
To purchase Worth Every Tear ~ Forever and for Always, you can visit this post on our blog: http://blog.cherihardaway.com/2010/09/worth-every-tear-is-here.html which outlines all the different purchasing options available.
Thank you so much for being here, Cheri, and I wish you every blessing as you share your testimony through your book, Worth Every Tear.