I have a confession to make. I suffer from envy. Envy of an odd sort, but envy none the less. You see, I am jealous of those who have a story of faith that is short. Sweet and succinct, and packaged nicely with a bow on top. I am jealous of those stories, mainly because I don’t have that. I don’t have a story that is easily shared. Mine is messy, long and convoluted, twisted and full of brokenness and despair. But in all of its ugliness, there is a redeeming hope and joy, and a beauty that comes from the ashes. I have felt convicted lately to share my journey, to give of myself in this way, even though I don’t like letting people see this side of me, these jagged, broken edges. But it has been on my heart for a while, a long while, and I have learned that when the Spirit nudges (or sometimes gives a swift kick to the backside), that I should listen and obey the command.
I think that we sometimes do a disservice to our faith, to Christianity, when we sanitize our stories and make them easy to digest, easy to tell. When we don’t share the hurt, the sadness, the broken places of our lives, we show this facade of an easy life. Being a Christian is anything but easy. We live in the same sinful, broken world as everyone else, and we experience all of the same emotions: the disappointment, the shame, the despair. It is hard to be that vulnerable, to WANT to share, openly and honestly, of our journey. I admit that I don’t share, I don’t speak about my own walk with Christ . My story, my faith, is so near to my heart that I am very emotional when I talk about it, and I have difficulty putting into words what is so interwoven into who I am.
I have struggled with my faith, with a belief in a God that actually loved and cared for me. I haven’t doubted that God existed. Being raised in a religious home, I grew up with God in my life, and never questioned if He was real. He was. He is. But I doubted and questioned His love, His mercy. In episodes of depression, I raged at Him, questioned why He made me the way I was, why I was so broken and unlovable. I was angry and disappointed in the Creator, and sure that He made a mistake with me. In my college years, I numbed the hurt and rage with alcohol and poor decisions, desperately looking for affection and attention from someone, anyone. I began cutting, to divert the emotional pain into physical pain. Because that pain was easier to deal with.
Through those years, I ran from God. I thought that He wouldn’t want me to even claim Him, because I was so damaged and broken. And yet, He was always there. In the quiet stillness, I would cry out in my pain, and He would be there. His presence was tangible to me, His arms comforting me. Even so, I continued to push away. But God is not easily deterred. He is a God of mad love, crazy about me….crazy about you. In the years that followed college, I finally experienced some redemption. I found someone who loved me for me, despite the darkness of my soul. Together, we found our way to a church, and we found a home there. I found comfort within its walls, and the God that they preached about was a God of love, not condemnation. This was a new revelation for me. Rather than tell me how I was going to hell for all of my numerous sins, this place spoke of forgiveness, redemption, and the love that sent a Son to die for me.
In all of my ugliness and anger. In my bitterness and sadness. There was a place for forgiveness even in all of my hot mess.
As I grew into a relationship with Christ, there were moments, and days, and weeks that I struggled with knowing that I could trust Him and put my faith fully in Him. I lacked that deep, abiding “knowing” of the Savior that everyone around me seemed to have. My image of God was warped and bruised, and yet, He kept proving His love over and over. Small miracles would happen, little gifts of heaven, that would knock me over in astonishment. One of the turning points of my faith journey was when I went to a Walk To Emmaus retreat. It was during those 3 days that I first experienced a full realization of the love and sacrifice God made. For me. Me. I wasn’t worthy, I sure didn’t deserve the mercy or love. I was overcome with awe.
And something deep within me broke open, and I KNEW.
Knew of this crazy love that had been waiting for me my whole life, just waiting for me to accept it. A crazy grace that forgave me, washed me clean, and made me new.
In the years since, I cannot claim that I have been a perfect Christian, I can’t even claim that I have tried to be. I cannot claim that suddenly, after finding myself abiding with Christ, I have not fallen, not sinned, not found myself in a pity party for one. But I have found that He has walked through every high point and every low point with me, offering His love and forgiveness. I can witness to the power of the cross, to the great burden that is lifted from me when I offer all of my shattered self to my Heavenly Father. I can testify to the joy that comes from having a deep sense of His presence, even in the difficult times, knowing that His mercy will see me through. If all I can offer in thanksgiving is my words in praise to the Holy One, then that is what I must offer. I am compelled to share, to lay aside my pride, my fears, in order to bear witness to His power and glory.
I have to admit, this post has taken me a long time to write. What will others think of me after they read it? What will my family think? I haven’t spoken most of these thoughts aloud to anyone, other than my husband. Not very many people know my dirty laundry. It has been fear of others’ opinions of me that have sealed my lips before, that kept me quiet. It is very hard to be this vulnerable and honest with myself, much less with others. And then I remember, IT IS NOT ABOUT ME. I am a blip on the spectrum of time, but while I am here, I am to bear witness, to bring the light of Christ into darkness. If there is darkness in your world, let me be the first to tell you that you can find the light.
The Light is there.
He is there.
And He is with you. Always.