So, I thought I’d kick off a little blog series entitled, “Why I _____.” At first I wondered if, as a new blogger, I really have the right to start a “series.” I mean, it’s not as if thousands of people are hanging on my every word, checking back to see what I’ll come up with next. But in the end I figured- why not? If no one else reads this but me, it’s still worth it.
So I figured that’s where I’d start- Why I Write. (Hint: It’s not so thousands of people will hang on my every word, wondering what I’ll come up with next. Too much pressure!!)
Last year, I sat down to read a book by one of my favorite authors, Anne Jackson. I had the pleasure of sitting down with Anne in the summer of 2009, and her book “Mad Church Disease” is still one of my favorite books about ministry. I love Anne, because she allows transparency in her life to bring hope to the lives of others, so when I heard she was writing a book based on the question, “What is the one thing you feel like you can’t say in church?” I knew it was going to be amazing.
I wasn’t prepared, though, for the truth that was about to smack me across the face. I sat down with “Permission to Speak Freely,” and about 4 hours later I was a tear-drenched, snot-faced mess. This book full of poems, illustrations, letters, sketches, and confessions of people from across the nation- including Anne- revealed the stark reality of my own emotional state.
I was hiding.
See, this question: “What is the one thing you feel you can’t say in church?” revealed to me that even as a leader in a church there were things I felt I needed to hide from others.
The ugly things.
The broken things.
The dirty things.
It’s not that I had some “secret” sin or something. I just realized that there was a lot about myself that I didn’t feel was welcome in the light of day. And the worst part wasn’t that I was suffering by hiding these things away. The worst part was that- by hiding- I was cheating others out of being known, as well.
When you or I take the initiative and share something difficult about ourselves- when we open up- we give someone else the gift of going second. We let people know that they aren’t alone in their suffering. We remind people that no man is an island; we all depend upon one another.
I closed the book that day and had a conversation with God about how to move forward. We came away with two things to focus on:
Focus #1: Healing
When I came face-to-face with the hurt I was hiding it became obvious that I’d never allowed some of it to heal. I shoved it under the surface years before, when I feared it would disqualify me from leadership. I realized that I (as most Christians, in my experience) valued completion more than process. I loved the complete, healed and whole image, but a mature Christian wrestling with deep issues and pain? I just didn’t know what to do with that.
So, I made some pretty major changes in my life. I started seeing a counselor. I cut back my hours at work. I bought books, journaled, and started talking with people I’m close to about the issues in my life. It has been a long, challenging, sometimes discouraging journey, but I’m making progress.
Focus #2: Sharing
I was struck by this idea of giving others the gift of going second. The first time I publicly shared the story about an abusive relationship I had as a teenager, I was seriously amazed by the response. Hurting young women who’d felt alone in their injustice found comfort knowing I understood a portion of how they were feeling. I knew I needed to keep sharing these painful pieces of my past, as difficult as it would be.
And… that is why I write. I write with the hope and prayer that somewhere out there in the world are people like me- people who feel broken and incapable of making themselves whole again. People who feel lost and alone- as if no one in the world understands them. People who feel that the church is the last place they could go for help, or that their story can never be redeemed.
If that’s you, you are not alone. Your brokenness is not without purpose. Your chapter is not your story. Your Creator knows you, loves you, and He knows what He is doing. Don’t give up on yourself or on Him.
If that’s not you, and you consider yourself a Christian, PLEASE, live like Christ. Don’t look for and befriend people you think “have it all together.” Seek out the broken! Look for people you think are a mess, and you’ll be closer to Jesus than you’ve ever been. Share your struggles, and allow others to be transparent with you, too. We were made to live and breathe and heal in community. Your story may be the key to someone else’s hope and healing.
All for Jesus,