under Secret Stories, Written on February 22, 2011

I just wanted to share a bit of the transformation that I have been experiencing over the course of these last few months. As part of working through my journey my pastor recommended that I read your book. It was really helpful for me as it helped me to wrestle with and make sense of my identity in Christ.

My pastor helped me work through a series of “exercises” as I read through your book which allowed me to take your ideas and make them real for me. I labelled myself with names both good and bad, grouped those names together, worked through the process of rooting out those names and finally with replacing the names that I put on myself with the Secret Name that God has for me.

Many of the names that I initially gave to myself were connected to my family. I grew up in a home with an alcoholic mother, a father who was oriented around maintaining control and preserving pride and a sister who became hardened by the chaos that was our household.

I kept my head above water by trying to fix everyone’s problems and focusing all of my energy on never allowing anyone outside of my family know our secret. To the world we looked pretty average, but on the inside our family was in turmoil.

About four years ago my Mom left and since then I have not had any type of a real relationship with her. I  have wanted to get in touch with her, but truthfully I have been afraid. Afraid that she would be in the same state that she was in when I last saw her. For reasons that I can only attribute to self-preservation, I have not been able to reach out to her.

Truthfully, I have allowed her addiction to define me over these past few years. I am not trusting of people, I am not open about this part of my life and I am fearful of becoming close to people because I think that they might hurt me in the same way that she did. I have allowed her problem cast a shadow across my otherwise ordinary life, it is the skeleton in my closet, the secret that I feel like I need to hide from the world.

While I was not actively contacting my Mom, she was also not contacting me and for me that is what hurt the most. And so I told myself lies: If my own mother didn’t want a relationship with me, then why would anyone else. If my own mother doesn’t love me enough to make a change, then I must not be worth it. If my own mother doesn’t love me, then I must not be lovable.

I felt: broken and above all worthless.

Despite all of this I had I grown up in the church. It’s funny because I never felt like I had a testimony. I always heard people talk about their testimony but I never felt like I “had that”.

I believe that in my past God has most definitely been at work in my life, present, faithful, loving, but in my own suffering and my own quest for self-identity I couldn’t see Him. God however, was patient with me, He continued to bless me, specifically by putting the right people along my path to ensure that I could be reminded that He was never far. After a period of trying to make life go on my own, facing challenges, being unfulfilled, scared, broken and alone.

I came to my church for about 8 months before I talked to anyone. I came and listened and worshiped and was quiet before God. I heard the message about community, to support to be supported, to encourage to be encouraged, and saw that happening but at that time I was on the fringe.

I remember having conversation with a member of the pastoral staff here about how this church has a big set of front doors. This is a church that is different, people want to come and see what is happening here. The discussion progressed to acknowledge that for young adults especially this is a church that often has a big set of back doors too a space where people can sometimes can pass through without being noticed.

Truthfully, I was on my way to the back door… after 8 months of being here I was still feeling disconnected, feeling that God wasn’t hearing my prayers, feeling maybe like it was time to check out.

I love that my church is a huge church and here is why. You have to be intentional about connecting, deliberate about buying in, purposeful about becoming engaged. It doesn’t just happen. Everyone will remain nameless and faceless if that is what you choose. Community happens not as an accident but as a choice.

So then, literally one day, I offered up a simple prayer to God in my prayer journal “God please motivate me to take chances”. Not the most articulate of prayers, not the most deeply spiritual words, no one will be rushing to embroider that on a pillow anytime soon, but that prayer represented a deep yearning within me,  a last ditch attempt for the courage necessary to lurch forward.

And here’s the thing: God provided. Every time, every opportunity, every risk that I took in the name of getting connected God was present, sometimes giving me the words to say in conversation, or the words to write on a volunteer form or the plain and simple courage to just show up.

And God didn’t just give me courage to take chances because when I spoke, people answered back, and my words became part of a conversation, relationships formed, they shared, I shared and now, I get to serve along side of them in the Body of Christ.

In my world everything changed.

My faith, my relationship with Jesus, I was changed.  Because suddenly I wasn’t in this alone. My relationship with Jesus was able to be manifested in my relationship with others. 

It would seem that God had another plan for me on my way to the back door. 

These past few months have been amazing for me with Jesus at the center of my life I have reexamined everything, my identity, my job, my salvation through grace, my experiences with suffering, my understanding and relationship with joy, and then a deep and profound calling to respond to learn to live compassionately.

I do not have to conform any longer to the patterns of this world, I am renewed. Jesus died for me – and now I get to live differently.

I love this story and for me the best part is that it it is still happening. And am I part of God’s story. We are God’s stories, these stories are still being written, the plots thickening, God is revealing Himself in our lives and above all He is showing us His love and faithfulness.

I have actually has been transformed from the inside. I believe that the best way to live is the way of Jesus, submitting myself to Jesus allowing Him to live in me and through me because the old has passed away and the new has come.

And now I know that I am worthy, whole and that I am truly and deeply loved by God.