I refuse to live the remainder of my life where I am right now, stagnating at this point. – Francis Chan
Reading these words filled my heart with several conflicting emotions. A longing to live up to them, a thankfulness that my heart had already cried them three years ago and an angst that I had almost forgotten them.
It has taken me a long time to get to this point – willing to share what is truly in my heart. This blog will be rather raw – a surprising confession to some and hopefully encouraging to others who find themselves where I have been.
I want to say something right up front before I start this story – just in case you don’t get to the end. I have lived so many lies that I did not realize were lies, and hurt so many of you with them in my 33 years.
For those I have hurt along the way I confess to you an apology & ask that you might forgive me. I was not honest with myself for so long – so how could I be honest with you? I promise to do my best, with God’s help, to be honest and open from now on and pray that God would use my struggles to bring you closer to Him.
The story begins on a freezing, iced over night in January 2007….
the weekend of my thirtieth birthday, I found myself sitting at the feet of a woman who loves me deeply and who I trusted to confess the true state of my heart. I sat weeping almost uncontrollably as I confessed to her that I didn’t really know who God was, wasn’t sure I cared, and had no idea how to get to know Him better if I did care. I had lived a life of doing the “God thing” because I was the granddaughter of two pastors and the daughter of a missionary. I was supposed to believe in God. I knew how to talk to the talk, walk the walk and deceive everyone around me into thinking I was this amazing Godly kid.
At 30, I was simply a walking lie.
At 30, I really had no desire to participate in a life that I was finding to be mundane and joyless – even though others around me seemed to be finding joy within it. I did not get it. What drove them to study the Bible – I found it so extremely boring (especially since I knew it all anyway). What drove them to serve – I did it for the purely selfish reason of being noticed and admired. What drove them to sacrifice – I was just trying to get by on my own and wasn’t sure about giving till it hurt.
At 30, I was an empty shell, doing the hobby of Christianity – doing what Christians did, saying what Christians say, walking in my own strength, fooling everyone into thinking I was an amazing Godly woman.
That night, instead of looking on me with horror, pulling out her Bible to cast out all of the demons in me, condemning my actions and judging my parents (a very real pride-filled fear of mine) for somehow failing in their raising of me – this amazing woman simply held me like a child. She cried with me, she held my hands and let me know that it was perfectly ok to not be ok, she didn’t try to have all the right words, she simply loved me right where I was in that moment.
That confession that night began a very long, treacherous, journey over the past three years. I’d like to say that night I was instantaneously set free from the fake life I was living and everything was all better. That I started living an authentic life rather than a lie, that I began to be real and vulnerable rather than fake and proud, but that is sadly not the case – I have a hard head and sometimes it takes a long time for me to learn.
After that sweet time of confession – I went right back to living exactly how I had been for another year. Pursuing the empty false “pleasures” of life and being completely miserable. Putting on the face I thought everyone wanted to see. I know that those of you who have known me, or those who follow this blog may think “What miserable? – I never saw that.” I can only say that I had become and expert at masking who I was on the inside. I went to church, blogged about the amazing things God was doing in my life, began to lead a bible study and a prayer ministry, showed my “sweet angelic” face to the world – yet inside I was hollow. I didn’t believe most of the stuff I was dishing out and I was about as deep as a tide pool at low tide.
This went on till October of 2008. I looked up in the midst of yet another change in my life and realized I did not like me. In fact, I pretty much hated myself. I hated who I was, I hated the game I was playing with a God I wasn’t sure I believed in, and I had few real friends – as the people I surrounded myself with were toxic co-dependent taking up space relationships that were literally sucking the life out of me slowly and steadily. I spent hours in front of the television watching fake lives and wishing they were my own, but had no desire to go make one for myself. “How could people like me if I was such a loser and didn’t even like myself”, was my constant thought. I wanted OUT! I- me- the REAL ME! – the girl inside was screaming to be found. “Stop ignoring me.” – she would cry to my fake self, “Stop trying so hard and just let me out – its ok.”
And the dark night – got darker.
Over the next few months, I made some very difficult decisions regarding the people I called “friend”. I thought that would be the answer – get rid of the life sucking relationships in my life – find new ones – and things would be better. Oh my silly naive self – hadn’t I tried this a few dozen times already in life.
The good part of that decision was getting rid of the bad relationships. However, as I looked around I didn’t know how to “get new ones”. So, I was lonely and my heart ached for companionship that I couldn’t seem to find.
I got rid of my TV. This was an amazing step in my life because it was fun to watch the reactions of people when I said “I don’t have a TV.” No one was quite sure what I did with all of the time that I now had on my hands – and to be honest at first I didn’t either.
I started being honest with myself. I looked in the mirror and saw a person that acted selfless to get praise, who was “proudly” humble, and had no idea who God was. So I stopped the lies. I stopped acting selfless yet actually being selfish and began to question my motives before acting out. (Amazingly this helped me stay out of a few more codependent “friendships” that tried to creep back in). I looked at those that I know that truly walk in humility and began to watch the characteristics of their lives so that I could begin to live that out truthfully. I decided to “get to know God”.
I came face to face with the fact that though I had proclaimed God as King for virtually all of my life, I, in fact, was only mimicking words and beliefs of others. I began to walk through very dark nights of the soul where I battled and wrestled with whom and what I believed. Again, even looking back at my blogging during this time – so few of you would know this because I am good at wearing the mask. I am good at putting on the appropriate face and using the correct vocabulary for whatever the current situation is. I’d been doing it all of my life.
At this point I finally got “honest” enough to stop leading at church. If I didn’t know if I believed then I probably shouldn’t be teaching others.
First – Jesus – who is this guy? I know what I had been taught, but I wasn’t so sure. So I started in Matthew and began to read the New Testament just as I would read any other book. What I found – Jesus is a whole lot different than what my mind knew to be “truth”. I found someone who didn’t condemn the poor for being poor – He LOVED them. He didn’t judge the prostitute, whore, tax collector, drunkard, thief, crippled, different, ignorant, unfaithful, doubting, broken, seeking yet so far away person….He LOVED them. As I looked closer the ones that Jesus condemned looked a lot like me. The shallow, glory stealing, religious zealot who acted like he knew it all but in reality knew very little and simply judged the rest of the world because of his selfish pride. In fact, the Jesus of the Bible would most likely walk into 98% of our church buildings here in the west and either start “cleaning up the temple”, turn and walk away in shame of those that say they follow him, or be turned away at the door for not looking like he belonged there. With this reality check came some seriously dark nights. I didn’t want to be this person any more. I battled, I struggled, I studied, I doubted, I cried, I yelled, I talked to those who loved me enough to meet me right where I am. More and more I began to agree with Donald Miller’s statement – The more I trust Christ with redemption, the less I’m impressed with religious zeal and posturing.
I simply fell in love with Jesus, because He is so in love with me – and He is enough. It took me so long to be able to say that and mean it – I’d said it for so long with no meaning – HE IS ENOUGH.
In every question, every moment of doubt,fear, anxiety, unbelief, untruth I was living in – He was there – He was/is the answer, assurance, joy, peace, belief and Truth.
Where I am now….
This year (past three years really) has been a long, rough journey. I have gone to the darkest moment of my life and screamed out to just know Truth if there was any out there. I have battled depression, anxiety, and fear of Truth. I have doubted the God of my childhood and questioned things I have never let myself question before. In early fall, I had an amazing 4 hour conversation with a friend that I love dearly who lives as an atheist and very much liked his way of thinking – yet found that when I walked in that direction I found no Hope and Joy in a lack of a God – rather I found paralyzing fear in trusting in my own wisdom. When I sought Him I found Him just as He promised I would. I have come face to face with the God of the Bible and decided for myself -not because I am a ministry kid or church goer – but truly for myself what I believe and how that lines up with my life.
In this journey I have come to sweet moments of Grace. In studying I have found promises I never knew existed and in living I have found a God that lives up to them in ways that I did not expect. I have been surrounded – not of my own seeking out of them but by God’s grace – by Godly people who love me exactly where I am. I have been given friends – real friends – the kind you can call at 3 in the morning because you are sad and you just need to talk. I have learned how to be vulnerable and honest. At one point I went to my pastor and said – I don’t know about all of this God stuff – and he loved me enough to say I have been there, I know exactly where you are and it sucks. Those were the words I need to hear! Perhaps no one else heard the Hope in them – but here was a man who had walked as an agnostic for so long – came to Christ – and even after coming to Christ battled the darkness of the soul. That he was honest about that rather than condemning towards me was a picture of Christ to my soul.
I know more of who I am, and I like her. I am still battling pride, learning to trust, heartbroken over my own actions at times, still broken in so many ways. But I am learning that He never gets tired of my brokenness – He is patient and loving and willing to heal me if I am willing to stop trying to control it all and let Him do His perfect Work.
As for you, my friends – my heart’s cry is that this spoke to you in some way wherever you may be on your own journey. That my battle would ease some of your own doubts. If you are walking where I have walked that you would simply keep walking towards Truth. I know that some read this and think, “Three years that is all? I’ve been battling for so much longer.” The truth is – so was I – I was just not honest enough to say so.
I love you more than you know – honestly.