I started this blog 3 years ago, with a desire to be authentic, exposing my real struggles as a Christian and share my faith in God, so that I might encourage others and bring glory to His name, as well as shatter any expectation that Christians are perfect. We are not, but by the grace of God, we are forgiven. This next story is not an easy for me to tell, but I believe it needs to be told.
There are many stories in my past, none of which, reveal who I am, but they have all made me who I am. I played so many different characters in my life, due in part, to my own insecurities. Finding my identity became like shopping for clothes. I’d try them on, only to realize how grossly mis-fit they were, but not before getting stuck. Getting out usually meant tearing them off and unfortunately, many hearts were left in need of a great mender. Thank God, there is one.
I have not talked about this particular story much, mostly because I’ve denied it having any relevance at all. For 25 years, it remained, as I saw it; a wasted fragment of my youth too embarrassing to talk about. But God has a gentle way of revealing the significance of everything in my life to teach and grow me closer to Him. And at 45, I can now say with confidence that nothing is ever without meaning or purpose. So, here it goes…
Once upon a time, there was a young girl who began ‘shopping’ for identity, purpose and love to fill her empty closet. She was 18, raised in a Christian home and preparing for high school graduation when she met a popular college pastor at a church in San Diego. In her very young and naive eyes, he was a leader and she was drawn to him, like a groupie to a rock star. He was 10 years older and many thought she’d never gain his attention, nor should she, but because she was a determined little girl, she set out to prove them all wrong. However, her passion became an obsession that she misinterpreted for love and devotion, that ultimately led to marriage at the age of 20. She thought she loved him. She also thought she loved God, but at that age, love for man or God are not truly understood.
Before this man proposed to her, he was offered a job as Sr. Associate Pastor at a mega, inter-city church in Kansas City, MO. with one requirement; he had to have a wife. So, in the blink of an eye, she went from a Senior in high school to the Senior Associate Pastor’s wife living in Kansas City, Missouri, with a closet full of ugly church clothes. She had no idea what she was doing, nor what was about to happen, but being determined and believing in ministry, she committed herself to her new role, for her man and for her God. She sang, she spoke to women, prayed with people, sat through 5 services a week, waited in darkened hallways while he counseled people, she ate alone, went to bed alone, wore her hair in ridiculous buns and dressed in her oversized, Kansas City church clothes, more suited for a woman than a young girl in her 20’s. No more bikinis, no more giggling at boys or running through the mall with girlfriends. This was her life now and she quickly realized it was not what she wanted. She’d look at the stranger in the mirror and ask, “who are you?”. She felt completely lost.
Yes, that girl was me. I spoke in third person, because for the past 25 years, it was not my life, it was someone else’s. I refused to own it. I was too embarrassed and ashamed of how foolish I was, who I became and the way in which I abandoned it, blaming everyone but myself, believing I was the victim. I was not a victim. I was an immature and prideful little girl who thought I knew best, ignoring the advice of those who loved me. I couldn’t admit I was wrong and the consequences where too great, so I ran like a coward. The man I married was not a bad guy and even though he may have married me for all the wrong reasons, too, I’m sure I still shattered his world as he knew it. I spent a lot of time dealing with that truth, and admitting my responsibility in it, but not without first having to face and erase the resentments I had developed towards the church and God while in Kansas City.
The politics, hypocrisy and judgement were far too common. It’s unfortunate that those things still exist today, in some churches more than others. But even more unfortunate, is the people who put their faith in church and being a good person, rather than a having a real relationship with God. People will fail, God will not. Of course, I didn’t know any of this back then, nor did I know what to expect, but it wasn’t at all what I had hoped. I remember one morning at church, someone criticized my dress for being too short, saying, “as a pastor’s wife, your dress should be below your knees”. I was shocked at first, then hurt and then really angry. Still, I asked God to show me if I was wrong in any way. I was so consumed with what she thought of me, that I missed any answer God may have had for me that day.
Over time, I sought to please people and to be what they wanted me to be instead of who God wanted me to be. More criticism came about my clothes, my hair, my makeup, something I said or did. I lived in a fish bowl, as others freely looked in to cast their stones. Don’t get me wrong, there were some genuine people who cared about me, but I simply let the bad outweigh any good. Finally, one day, after going out to my car and finding a note that said “IF you were really a christian, you wouldn’t drive 40 in a 25 mph zone.” That was it! I had enough of these critical people playing church and trying to be good enough for them. I resolved in my heart, that I was only chosen to be this man’s wife because he wanted a better job and a trophy wife. Knowing I did not love him, combined with feeling unfit and unloved, I left everything behind, clothes and all.
The year that followed, I ran from God and the church. I hid behind my resentments, justifying every one of them. I only saw myself as a failure. I began crossing moral boundaries that I previously had set, until I found myself looking in the mirror once again, asking the same questions. “Who am I?” I was still very lost. Today, I believe that God, in all His sovereignty, allowed me come full circle, so I could finally see the truth about who He REALLY is and who I was in HIS eyes. I did eventually see the truth and the truth set me free.
That young girl became lost because she tried filling her empty closet (heart) with a wardrobe unfit for her (man’s approval). She desired garments of value, worth and significance that were readily available to her, for free, from a loving and gracious God, but instead she sought after counterfeits, trying to uphold the laws, without a real relationship with Christ, much like the Pharisees did, and it cost her a great price, with no lasting value.
Who is she now? She is a child of the King, fearfully and wonderfully made. She has a purpose and it is NOT winning man’s favor, NOR is it trying to win God’s favor. Favor is freely given to those who ask. She is loved, bought with a price, clothed in His righteousness and sealed for eternity. She is me. (She can also be you, if you want it to be). 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.
If this story only helps one person, then it is worth telling. I do not carry any residual resentments towards the church, because my faith and security are in Christ alone. I attend my local, humble church with gratitude, rather than judgment. I go with a hunger and thirst for righteousness, for HIS name’s sake, not man’s. If I am judged by a brother or sister in Christ, I will not harden my heart, as I once did, but I will, instead listen for the conviction of His Holy Spirit in me. (Good-intending people are not always right, but it doesn’t mean that God can’t still use them to speak to us). Lastly, I will never let failure in man ever push me away from God again.
We all have skeletons in our closet that we’re afraid of facing, but from my own experience, it’s worth the effort to clean up your spiritual house before the smell of rotten bones take over. What have I learned from all of this, that I hope to share with you? Know who God made you to be and be authentic. Don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t try to please everyone; just know that you won’t. Have confidence in Christ. Don’t follow people; follow God. Don’t blame others for your circumstances, instead take responsibility for your own actions and let God deal with the rest. (There will be times we fall victim to someone else’s bad choices, but we can still have victory in Christ Jesus our LORD. Romans 8:27 In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.)
Don’t hold onto resentments. Judge not, lest you be judged. Forgive and pray for those who hurt you. Don’t blame God when bad things happen. It’s human nature to fail and make mistakes, and the consequences of those mistakes often ripple into the hearts and lives of others. It’s part of life and growing up, but KNOW that growing up and growing mature are not equal. If we are not learning from our mistakes, and making positive changes, then we are just getting good at making bad decisions, while getting old and more stupid. If you want to know what God wants from & for you, then ask HIM. Don’t believe everything people tell you. Ask HIM for discernment and know God’s written Word, so wisdom is already in your heart. Don’t let the voice of man override the voice of God. Seek with all your heart to know HIM and HIS truth and the Truth WILL set you free.
(Disclosure and apology: I am still a student of these lessons and in my last blog, I posted a photo that was perceived, by a reader, as offensive and he felt it discredited me as a Christian. I explained that it was merely symbolic of an emotion relative to the story about my sister. I must admit, it triggered some of these old feelings, so I edited the photo, but it also gave me the courage to write this post, so for that I am thankful for his comments and concern for my walk with God. I sincerely hope I’ve not offended anyone else and pray that no one lets their disappointment in me, push them away from the only true, living and perfect God).
1 Peter 1:3-7 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.