Thursday, January 12, 2017

Testimony Hangover

I am in a women’s group that meets monthly and each time we meet another woman shares her story, her testimony. Last month it was my turn. Let me rewind a bit to my early years in the church…

I always felt that to be part of the church, to really be included, one must obey certain rules and do certain things and if you deviated from any of them that you were not worthy of the church...and God. This may have been my perception or it may have been reality. It is a perception that I think I share with many. The church has rules and to be worthy you must follow them. All of them. I heard a lot about rules, not much about relationship with Jesus. And so, after high school graduation I went off the deep end. I broke all the rules - you name them, I broke them. I even ended up pregnant at 20 years old, an unwed college drop out. And it seemed that my poor decision making continued for many, many years to come. My intentions were almost always good, but because my self-worth was so low, I just continued to make one bad decision after another. Many of them would prove to have long term effects. 

Fast forward twenty years - by the time I had learned about having a relationship with Jesus I was still pretty certain that I was not fit for the church and their rules. So for about a year after I “found Jesus” it was just Him and me. I had Jesus, I didn’t really need community. But eventually He convinced me that if I was going to keep growing in my faith I needed to find a church family…and “family” was really what I knew I wanted my church home to feel like to me. 

Exactly one year ago, my significant other and I together found our church home and we truly feel like it is our “church family.” We have support as a couple, as parents, as individuals, for our children. We are blessed. And one year after finding this church family it’s time for me to tell my story to this small group of ladies. I’m going to tell them the things that only those in my “inner circle” know about me. But all of these things I am going to share with them are an important part of God’s story of my redemption. I was on a broken path. I was broken. And at rock bottom, He reached down into the pit I was in and saved me. And the things that led me to rock bottom were all relevant to who I am today and my story is a great testimony to God’s grace. 

But then I woke up the next morning and the best way I can describe it (if you were ever a partier you will get this) is a hangover from a big night where you really don’t remember much. Did I DO that? Did I SAY that? That’s how I felt. Shame. Insecurity. Guilt. I have an abbreviated version of my story that I tell when I speak or guest write but this time I gave them the details. Would I still be accepted? Would they think less of me? 

I shared with my group at the next meeting how I had felt the next day after sharing my story. And what I found is that I wasn’t alone. That’s the thing about brokenness - we feel like it’s just us. We’re the only broken ones and everybody else has it together. We don’t wear a sign around our neck with a list detailing our brokenness. We don’t wear our scars on the outside - most of the time, anyway. Our scars are on the inside and the only way others know that they’re there is when we share our story and tell of what broke us and how we’ve been redeemed. And the only way we can heal is to let others share in our brokenness. 

Our stories are all unique and different but our common ground is that we’ve all experienced pain and suffering and as long as we walk this earth we will continue to do so. When we share our story we can walk together in community with our broken sisters and brothers. I don’t know if it will ever get easier to share my story but I’m convinced it something we all must do with “safe people” so that we can journey towards healing. 

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