The Heather Murdock Story by Heather Murdock
Deep calls to deep In the roar of your waterfalls; All your waves and breakers have swept over me. Psalm 42:7
December 18, 1994. A day I will never forget. A day marked by such horrific pain I doubted I would ever escape its onslaught. Soul suffocation. My heart hammered into a million pieces. I dropped the phone and sunk to the floor, as darkness closed in around me like the blackest night. I don’t remember much about the following hours except that Sheila, my dear friend, picked me up and didn’t let go until I ended up in the seat of an airplane for a flight home. A drunk driver had killed my sister. She and three friends had been driving home from The Nutcracker ballet in Sacramento, when a man on his way home from his company Christmas party hit them head on. I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to die. Why couldn’t it have been me?
That dark day collided with a wounded girl running from her past. A past scarred by shame, poverty, guilt and isolation. I had run all the way to the other side of the country, running to outdistance the confusion and hurt caused by my father. I was a girl with stars in my eyes, hoping to find myself in the glittering lights of fame and fortune.
Ironically, before the accident I wanted to come home, but didn’t know how. I was afraid of coming home and admitting I failed, that I didn’t make it in the Big City, the city that promised you everything and left you with nothing. Willow’s death took me home.
The road to redemption was long and winding and full of detours. For many years after her death, I made choices that hurt me and others. I grieved in self-sabotage, secretly blaming myself, God and ultimately the man who gave the keys to the drunk driver. If only I’d been there, if only God had intervened, if only he hadn’t been so stupid. If only…
My eyes grow weak with sorrow
My soul and body with grief
My life is consumed by anguish
and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
and my bones grow weak.
In 2000 I was 29 years old and felt like I’d already lived several lives. That year, I met the man I would marry. Marriage, children, career. I’d grown up. I was deeply blessed. But in many ways, I still lived in the past. A confirmed perfectionist, I wore my mask well and pretended to move on with my life. Worldly success came easy. But many nights my husband would find me late in the evening, lying on the bed, tucked into the fetal position, crying. He would ask me what was wrong, and I couldn’t say. Depression had been an unwanted traveling companion for years, and sometimes it got into the driver’s seat.
Jesus pursues us even in our greatest unworthiness. At seventeen I entered a local beauty pageant, and a friend confided how she’d been throwing up to lose weight. I never had a weight problem, but I would be walking on stage in a bathing suit. What could it hurt to drop a few pounds? What started as an experiment became an addiction, an addiction that caused self-loathing, deceit and more shame. Bulimia became more than a way to stay perfect; it became a way to control my circumstances. It became a way to purge my pain. Bulimia was my secret drug of choice for many years. And even as a wife and mom, it was the crutch I would go to to deal with the self-inflicted pain of perfectionism. Always performing for love.
The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them.
People judge by outward appearance,
but the Lord looks at the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7
Right in the center of my storm, I gave my life to Jesus. That’s a powerful story and one I will write another day but let me just say that it was like I had been wandering in the dark all my life, in fear of the light. Then the Light came, and fear fled. Light filled my heart, my vision, my mind. Light penetrated the darkness. From the moment I experienced, believed and received the total forgiveness and love of Jesus, I gave myself fully to Him, and I haven’t stopped.
In him was life, and that life
Was the light of all mankind.
The light shines in the darkness,
And the darkness has not overcome it.
A few months after this glorious surrender, I was at a business meeting that I wasn’t going to attend and met a wonderful Christian couple. All we did was rave to each other about Jesus. When we finally got down to business, they told me they had recently retired from the mortgage industry. When I asked where they had worked, it turned out to be the same company that had the Christmas party fifteen years before!
My heart raced as I said the name of the driver. They hesitated and looked at each other with uncertain recognition. Finally, she said, “Yes, there was an accident!” I told them that was my sister. We all stood in stunned amazement. They told me they started working there only a few months after the accident and the owner of the company, the man responsible for giving the keys to the drunk driver, had become their best friend. The next moment was like an out of body experience. It felt like all the air had been sucked out of the room. “Can I have his number?” They looked confused and I quickly said, “I want to forgive him.” As soon as the words poured from my lips, I panicked. What? Wait! I don’t want to do that! How can I possibly do that!? But the Holy Spirit had a hold on me.
But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes,
he will guide you into all truth.
He will not speak on his own;
he will speak only what he hears,
and he will tell you what is yet to come.
I stared at the number scrawled on a yellow sticky note, trembling inside with fear. What would I say? What would he say? For years I had blamed him! Every year he and his wife threw company Christmas parties at their home. They had a rule that if their employees were going to drink, they had to turn in their keys and stay at their home. At some point during the night, the employee approached his boss and said he wanted to leave. There was a discussion about his level of intoxication, but his keys were given to him anyway. Witnesses later testified that he was too drunk to drive. That night he killed my sister, her best friend, Cathy, and himself. My sister’s boyfriend and Cathy’s sister still daily endure the physical pain of that fatal night.
For several days I struggled with fear. My husband and I went to our pastors for guidance and prayer. They encouraged me this was an invitation to break the chains of the enemy, to set the captives free. Not just my chains, but his chains too. This was a calling from God to heal the sins of the past, to bring God’s Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven.
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness
and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,
whom we have redemption,
the forgiveness of sins.
A week later I called him. It was a conversation I will never forget and testify about often. I mostly listened as he went through a myriad of emotions on the other end of the line. Shock, anger, remorse, indignance, surrender. He asked me how I had the courage to call him. No one from the tragedy ever had. I told him Jesus. Jesus had forgiven me so much, how could I not extend the same forgiveness?
I never thought about what he and his family lost that night. I never thought about what he might have had to live through. The guilt. The regret. I only blamed. I told him I had made bad decisions in my life, that I was lucky none of them ever took a life. I was given grace, even when I didn’t deserve it. He made a bad decision, and there is grace for that, too.
I hung up the phone and sat in awe as revelation and healing swept over my body. In that moment, I felt as though a thousand pounds lifted from my shoulders. Weight I didn’t even realize I carried. Burden that had become a part of me. I forgave my father. I finally saw him as a broken man who loved me to the capacity he was able to.
I was able to forgive God. I had carried anger because He didn’t prevent the accident. And I was able to forgive myself. I had learned to be so hard on myself. I carried responsibility that was not mine to carry. Responsibility groomed by codependency from my childhood.
A couple months later I was praising Jesus as I read my journal entries. He had been so faithful! I was captivated by an intense love, joy and peace that I’d never known. A freedom I didn’t think possible. As I reflected, I sat upright. Wait! I hadn’t been counting calories. I hadn’t’ been consumed with worry about what I would eat, or how I would get rid of it. In fact, I hadn’t purged in months! I had good spans of time in the past where I didn’t indulge in my eating disorder, but I’d always obsessed about food and its consequences. But it was gone! No thought. No worry. No obsession.
To this day, I have not had one thought, one incident of my Bulimia. I’m completely free and healed of the eating disorder that imprisoned me for almost twenty years. The power of forgiveness is unstoppable, unshakable and unsurpassable. We are completely forgiven in Christ when we accept His gift of forgiveness and trust Him with our past, present and future. When we trust Him with our heart and allow Him to be the Lord of our lives, forsaking our own way so that we may walk in His will. Then, we become a new human being. As followers of Jesus, we are a new race of human being walking this Earth with Kingdom influence and power. Forgiven and free forever.
When we extend that same grace and mercy through forgiveness, we walk in the anointing of the Peacemaker. We walk side by side with our Messiah, empowered by the Holy Spirit to move mountains and build bridges to restoration and healing. Forgiveness is not a feeling, but a choice. A life-giving choice. It’s not a one time event, but often a series of choices made out of obedience to God. As Christians, we often pray for restoration; for Jesus to heal our hearts, repair our relationships and renew our purpose. But, sometimes we refuse to forgive and there is no restoration without forgiveness.
Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against a very real enemy in the spiritual realm. The devil’s strategy is to lock us up in resentment, bitterness and confusion. To be made useless. But forgiveness is a weapon of Heaven’s army, forged by the King of Kings Himself to set the captives free. Will you pick up your weapon today?
Now my beloved ones,
I have saved these most important truths for last:
Be supernaturally infused with strength through your life-union with the Lord Jesus. Stand victorious with the force of his explosive power flowing in and through you. Put on God’s complete set of armor[ provided for us, so that you will be protected as you fight against the evil strategies of the accuser! Your hand-to-hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. For they are a powerful class of demons and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage. Because of this, you must wear all the armor that God provides so you’re protected as you confront the slanderer, for you are destined for all things and will rise victorious.