This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.
I’ve told my story to a few friends, and I thought I would finally get it down on paper to share with my kids someday. It’s not an in the beginning type story, I’ll start in the middle of His pursuit of me. And I, in my limited knowledge thought it was in the midst of His forsaking me. Oh but what a glorious God we have, who writes each of our stories in a unique way.
This is my story…
I have ALWAYS LOVED the gym. I can remember my Dad taking me to Alvin’s Gym in Savannah, GA when I was just a little girl. I also have early memories of people complimenting my mother’s legs. (Sorry Mom, I can feel you blushing reading those words.) So I’ve always wanted biceps like my Dad and calves like my Mom. I loved weights, and as fate would have it there was a local Weightlifting Team in Savannah. Some of the kids on the team went to my church and some went to my school. It was right up my alley, so at 14 I started competing in the sport of Olympic Weightlifting. (Clarification- I was NOT in the Olympics…it is a style of weightlifting that is an Olympic sport.) I loved it. I can’t say I was a GREAT lifter, but I won a few medals and really enjoyed the sport. It gave me a lot of confidence as a kid. I continued lifting my first year at Georgia Tech on a local team in Marietta, GA. And then I met a bodybuilder.
I was intrigued…a little smitten…and naïve. I stopped weightlifting and started bodybuilding. I loved bodybuilding. It was still lifting weights, just with a different purpose. Unfortunately for me, however, it was the beginning of the unraveling of me. I can see now in hindsight, that this unraveling was being overseen by the Grand Weaver (Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias) who was pursuing me. All of me. As he worked on the tapestry of my life…
I stopped and started a lot of things during this time of my life. I stopped going to school and started doing recreational drugs. I stopped going to church and I started hanging out in the wrong places. And then I made a decision that changed the trajectory of my life.
I started using steroids.
This of course was all new territory for me and like I said, I was naïve. When people think of women and steroids they think of the big masculine look and clearly I don’t look like that. Fortunately for me I didn’t do enough to negatively alter my appearance in any way, BUT I did do enough to get a major wake up call. To explain, I’ll need to back the story up a bit. In addition to introducing me to the gym and working out, my parents were also very musically inclined. My Dad was in the Atlanta boy’s choir as kid and my mother grew up playing the piano and singing. So it was only natural that I inherited the music gene. I LOVED music. I sang ALL OF THE TIME. At church, at home, at school. My Mom told me once that one of her favorite memories of me was overhearing me sing Jesus Loves Me when I was very small, in perfect pitch. I have fond memories of my Dad and I singing in church together, and later my brother and I would sing in beautiful harmony at school concerts and church functions. We were the stand-around-the-piano-and-sing kind of family. When I moved to Atlanta I would sing Karaoke any chance I got, and enter into singing competitions. (This was pre-American Idol, but you can bet I would have auditioned!)
Music was a love, and a gift and an idol.
Well, I think you can see where this is headed. It’s a pretty well-known stereotype of female bodybuilders to have deeper voices. My voice changed. Suddenly I could no longer sing. Music was my life. It was my Whisper (so I thought). And now it was gone. The idea that I had somehow changed the trajectory of my life with a single decision was something I couldn’t wrap my head around. The only think I can compare it to would be a professional athlete losing a limb. It was a loss of identity. And I spiraled into depression. Unraveling.
I saw an advertisement one day in a bodybuilding magazine for a contest. A writing contest about steroid experiences so I wrote about mine: I Am a Woman who used Steroids and Lost a Precious Gift. And I won. $100. Yippee for me. $100 for my ruined life. Years later I searched “steroids and women” in Google and that same article I wrote came up. Haunting me. I can’t find the original post online, but it is still floating around in cyber space and in few discussion threads. Here is one: http://www.leanbodiesfitness.com/threads/i-am-a-women-who-used-steroids-and-lost-a-precious-gift.8723/ .
I found it in on a couple sites, complete and referenced. Some of the responses were, “How sad”, “She was old enough to know better”, and “These are the drugs she should have done…” Anyway, my article that has survived all of these years has been read and thought about and discussed, and I can only hope that my story has helped other young people think before they act. Decisions when you’re young and uninformed can affect the older wiser you. Let me be clear, I am not against YOU using steroids. I am, however, against ME using steroids. (By the way- I feel the same way about alcohol.) I AM FOR a guilt-free life which requires wise decision making and that can look different for each of us.
So I competed in two bodybuilding shows and won my first one. After the distraction of bodybuilding I was left with the “normal” me and my new voice. And I didn’t like either one. I could no longer sing and I couldn’t even listen to music. Music made me depressed. It was like an echo of my former self. I didn’t think I could live without it. I ran from the pain and tried to numb it with drugs and alcohol. I wasn’t Bonnie the Bodybuilder and I wasn’t Bonnie the Singer. I didn’t know who I was.
But the Grand Weaver kept weaving and whispering.
Years went by and Mr. Right and I started going to North Point Community church and 7:22. God was calling us into the light. We were finally making some wise decisions and we got married. I thought I would finally be happy, but I had not dealt with my pain. Finally I sought out professional help from a Christian counselor who my mom found through a friend. Best. Decision. Ever.
Kathy listened as I sobbed my story. “If God made me just the way he wanted me to be, and then I damaged me…how can I ever be whole? What can I do to get my voice back?! What magic prayer can I say so that he will hear me? And heal me?”
I said a lot and she said a lot. She drew some pictures and explained that as long as I keep “filling my cup” with talents, hobbies, relationships, drugs…I would never be whole. And then she asked me a question that I will never forget, “Bonnie, have you ever asked God to give you the GRACE to be OK if he NEVER gives you your voice back?” I unraveled. That was never an ending that I had entertained. I had already decided (apparently from my response) that I was not going to be happy until HE healed me. The tears came hot and hard. I wanted to fire her. I wanted to scream and I wanted to run out of that office.
I had entered into The Brokenness.
And then she showed me a verse from the Bible:
They do not cry out to me from their hearts but wail on their beds. Hosea 7:14
I had done my share of wailing and whining to God about what he allowed to be taken from me.
And then this one:
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18
It’s hard to explain what I actually felt in her office right then. It was the deepest sense of loss and pain I had ever experienced, but I knew I wasn’t alone. For the first time I felt His sadness for me. His child, who was brokenhearted and who he desperately wanted to comfort. I cried and I prayed out loud for God to comfort me, to give me grace, to fill my cup and to make me whole. And a wave of love rushed over me. I felt “hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” 2 Corinthians 4: 8,9
And God healed me.
…but not in the way I had hoped. He healed my heart. He met me in my brokenness and reminded me of who I am and who I am not. I am not a singer. I am not a sport. I am not a hobby. I am not a wife or mother. Those roles can bring great joy but they can never replace my HOPE. My Savior. He sustains me.
I am a daughter of the Most High King and HE will forever be ALL THAT I NEED.
Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.
P.S. I still LOVE lifting weights and I LOVE music. I sing all of the time…just not very well. And I’ve learned that music, as Ravi Zacharias puts it, “is not the totality of worship”. When I love on my husband and my children, the four most important people in my life, it is music to my Heavenly Father’s ears…and that is my new song.