I have been so eagerly waiting to get this series started! “Different Walk, Same Talk” will (hopefully) be a weekly series where people from different backgrounds or experiences answer the same questions, in radically different and also wonderfully similar ways. I believe that when a stereotype or situation becomes a person, we aren’t so quick to be harsh. That’s my end goal here- compassion and maybe those of us in the body of Christ taking some notes on how to leave others less bruised.
Before we start, I just need to say that all comments will be moderated. These brave people are putting themselves out into the world because I asked them to, and I will be protective: level Mama Bear with that vulnerability. And, as my pastor said just this week, sometimes the irritation we feel means we have more to learn. Pray about it and be thoughtful with your words.
I also need to say that I will not censor these voices. The goal here is to grow, to know better and to do better. And some of the pain you may read is very very raw. We need to be willing to hear it in its unfiltered condition to understand it. Again, I ask that you pray about the parts that may potentially leave you feeling uncomfortable; maybe God is showing you something you haven’t wanted to see. Or maybe you just disagree, and that’s fine. But…pray.
Okay! Here we go.
1. Hi there! Nice shoes. Let’s just jump right in: how does your walk differ from mine? I guess that if I had to say how my walk may differ, it would have to be the journey that lead me here to my current walk. So you know how you hear all these stories about people coming from a devastated past, or overcoming huge obstacles and find God in spite of what they went through? Well I was one of those people. I came from a very messed up childhood, I was abused, abandoned, and hated God for what I went through. I struggled with the idea of how a just and loving God could allow something so horrible to happen to a child. I was ALONE and I was HURT by everyone around me….where was He? I remember I even went to a Christian to talk about some of the abuse and their response was, “What have you done that God would allow this to happen?” I can’t properly describe what happened in that moment other then simply saying something broke in me. I had been deeply hurt by those who had claimed Christ, but didn’t truly understand Him. I took their behavior and it lead me to assume that He was not real. I began to look to other things to cover my broken self. I even came to the point where I began to believe that God was a myth to help soothe those that were too weak to deal with things on their own. I was lost and running in whatever direction I could find a moments peace. Through what I can only describe as a miracle, I came to know Him through a friend. The transition wasn’t over night, but over the course of a few months I was actively searching for Him. I can still remember that terrifying moment when I first felt my walls falling down. It was both paralyzing and beautiful. I was seen as a victory by those believers around me.They saw me as a victim of things that were outside of my control and in the end choose God in despite of what the world was offering me. In the beginning, everyone was very quick to come and speak to me about my decision. I was offered kind words on what a great choice I had made. I began to read His word and surround myself with other believers. I was deeply involved in our church, mostly pouring myself into our youth group. From the outside I was a stand up Christian…a reformed human being, a victory to point to Gods love. Over the course of the next few years, I was unable to really hide the past that I had experienced. There would be moments where the old self would rise so hard and so fast that I feared for the life that I had built. I struggled with the scars that I had inflicted, as well the behaviors I had put in place as defense mechanisms as a child. I didn’t address the issues because I was afraid of what those around me would say if they knew how truly broken I remained. Perhaps they wouldn’t see me as a victory anymore, maybe they wouldn’t let me be around the children if they knew just how confused and hurt I was. I was more concerned about how my brothers and sisters saw me rather than I was about letting true healing take place. I had seen so many others share such deep and dark things about their self looking for help from the body and instead find themselves outcast. I mean if you come to God it’s suppose to be this instant healing balm right? I shouldn’t be hurting still right? We should be redeemed and healed…but I wasn’t. This lead me to live in such a way that I honestly didn’t know who I was anymore. I kept going through the motions even though they felt hollow so others couldn’t see my true self. This lead to my pulling away from God because I KNEW he saw my filth…my struggle. I can still remember sitting through a sermon thinking that this was now how it had to be, that I was going to be destined to pretend I was fine.…but that wasn’t the case for me at that moment. So I did what I did best…I ran. I ran from God, my husband, my church…I just RAN. It wasn’t long before I found myself in old habits…relying on myself, keeping people pushed back, except this time I knew that God was real. I knew I was hurting Him and those I was around, but how do you come back from the pit? How do you come back only this time not a victim from things outside of your control, but this lost because of your OWN decisions? I convinced myself that no one would want to help me with that story. During this time I received hurtful emails from my church family, degrading texts, and looks that would pierce me. Now, I want to take a moment to make one thing very clear: I am not bashing my brothers and sisters or the church. They were hurt and confused as well and they didn’t know what to do either. I am also not saying that everyone was cruel to me…there were a few people that still showed me incredible kindness in that time, but what stuck with me was the rougher encounters. The darkness seemed to crush any light that tried to rise. This lead to me really beginning to believe what the voice inside was telling me about myself. I had hurt those around me in a deep and unforgivable way…I had lied, betrayed, and abandoned those closest to me…I DESERVED to feel this way. I DESERVED to be separated from my Father. Months pass by and now I am now churchless, divorced, and spiraling into a very real depression. I had amazing people around me, but because of my disconnect from God I was never at peace. I even began to self harm through starvation…I honestly couldn’t have even began to see the way out of the mess that I was surrounded by, but then…in the middle of all that mess, something wonderful happened. I still remember sitting in the bathroom shaking and crying…I was pregnant. I was going to be a mom. My son saved me. Something inside me changed…forced me to pull myself up. I knew that I wanted more for that child and I had to do something to change. I stopped hurting myself…I knew that he would need to eat and to keep him healthy, that meant I would have to eat. I began looking for other churches to attend. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I knew I needed to come back to my Father if I was going to be a good parent. When my son was born I had this moment that I swear almost crushed me, it was the first time I saw him. He was finally here, and he was perfect. I loved him more than I possibly knew I could EVER love someone. It was in that moment that God choose to show me just a glimpse of what he felt for me…his daughter. This was the moment that I started my walk home. It wasn’t easy because those around me were hesitant to believe the change (understandable), but with the help of God and a few very close friends I was able to stand firm, perhaps not making direct eye contact, but I was standing. What changed for me was how I was in relationship with God. I no longer felt that I had to be instantly healed, or unaffected by my past, but rather I knew that it was going to be a process. I am still struggling with certain things, but there isn’t a day that goes by that God doesn’t show me something else about His love…about His forgiveness…about his grace. While my choice to walk away had a horrible price, I also know that God was not surprised by it. He knew what would happen and He was faithful to continue to use it for good. I can honestly say that while it was a painful chapter in my life, that I am truly thankful for it. It changed my heart in a way that I cant explain. I needed to see that choosing God wasn’t just a good decision, or a way to escape my past, but rather that he is the ONLY decision and the ONLY way I will overhim more than I possibly knew I could EVER love someone. It was in that moment that God choose to show me just a glimpse of what he felt for me…his daughter. This was the moment that I started my walk home. It wasn’t easy because those around me were hesitant to believe the change (understandable), but with the help of God and a few very close friends I was able to stand firm, perhaps not making direct eye contact, but I was standing. What changed for me was how I was in relationship with God. I no longer felt that I had to be instantly healed, or unaffected by my past, but rather I knew that it was going to be a process. I am still struggling with certain things, but there isn’t a day that goes by that God doesn’t show me something else about His love…about His forgiveness…about his grace. While my choice to walk away had a horrible price, I also know that God was not surprised by it. He knew what would happen and He was faithful to continue to use it for good. I can honestly say that while it was a painful chapter in my life, that I am truly thankful for it. It changed my heart in a way that I cant explain. I needed to see that choosing God wasn’t just a good decision, or a way to escape my past, but rather that he is the ONLY decision and the ONLY way I will overcome the darkness of my past.
2. What do you think people would be surprised to know about you?
I think people would be surprised at how thankful I am for that brief time of despair. I think people thought that I was a good person before, but to be honest…I was relying WAY to much on my own strength. I now see that it is only through surrender that I can truly be free. God has really been causing me to look inward and to ask Him to remove the parts of me that don’t line up with what He says I should be. It has been a crazy process of basically cutting away parts of me that don’t align with His Word. Those pieces of me that were good, such as my ability to connect with children, or my compassion, are still there, but God has come alongside it and is putting it with pieces of Himself…it’s been a wonderfully bizarre change…difficult but wonderful. This process has changed me and freed me in areas I wasn’t even aware I was captive.
3. What breaks your heart? What breaks my heart the most would have to be seeing people who know God, not living in the full power of God.(This includes myself) To look around and see believers still living as captives when they have been giving life. I can remember how broken and hopeless I felt due to a huge misconception of what it truly meant to be a Christian, and it pains me to see other brothers and sisters falling for the same lies I did. I want to shake them and say,” YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE HERE! RUN….YOU ARE FREE!” Now this doesn’t mean we will be instantly healed, but rather we are opening up every part of ourselves and allowing God to move in and pour his goodness in there.
4. What heals it? There is nothing in this world that heals my heart the way that seeing other find what I found…Gods true, merciful, never-ending, love and forgiveness. Seeing someone come out of the darkness and into the light makes my heart feel like it could burst from happiness. There is just something so incredibly beautiful about watching someone take their first steps toward healing. Watching God bring that about in his children, heals me in ways i wasn’t even aware I needed.
5. Jesus’ commands were to love God with all of your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself. I’m on a journey to see what that looks like. In your opinion, what could the Christian community do to better reach out and love their neighbors, maybe others walking in shoes similar to yours? I want to say that I am aware of the fact that what I am going to say is easier said than done, but something I feel that we must work towards as a church. I think we have to start believing in the healing power of God. What I mean is we have to stop treating those in our body as if they still need to feel inferior because of their journey. Too often those who do come back or seek redemption are made to feel that they are somehow not as deserving of that forgiveness. Now we may not come out and say it with our words, but rather in our actions…through our unwillingness to see past their sins. We can’t keep sending this message to our brothers and sisters, and expect God to really show up. I will admit that I too struggle with this. I have been trying to be very intentional within my interactions. I have experienced this hurt, and have seen others go through it as well, and it leads to so much hurt and misconception. I think if we all stop and remember just how much grace is extended to us then we wouldn’t be able to do anything short of loving those around us in an infectious way. This type of love is both life changing and powerful…its the love that God extends to us and when we show it to others they are drawn to Him and His healing.
6. How positive or negative has your experience been with Christians, and what has contributed to that? I would have to say that if I really thought about it, I would have to say it would be more positive than negative. There have been so many people who have reached out to me and shown me so much grace and love. God has placed people in my life that showed me just how wonderful He is. While there has been more positive people, the negative encounters imprinted deeper. Those moments cut deep and reinforced the lies I was being told. There are moments where I still have to quote the truth about what scripture say about me, because those moments haunt me.
7. What, if anything, makes you hopeful that things are changing in a positive way for those on the same path as you? Honestly? Moments like this make me hopeful. People investing in other people and coming along side each other to discuss our lives and walk. I think that as long as their are people who are so willing to discuss and love openly, then there will be those who see the real healing power of God and His love. I look around and I see those in the body who are willing to be the love that God calls us to be and it makes me hopeful of whats to come.
8. Anything else you’d like readers to know? I think that’s it 🙂