A few years ago, I sat in front of a group of women and teenage girls at my church’s Christmas Breakfast. My hands were shaking, and I could barely see the words in front of me. I had listed out many of my life struggles, the things I liked to keep secret.
“God, I don’t want to do this.” I thought.
“Please.” Clear as day, I heard Him. Asking me to share my story. It was my choice, but it was His command.
So I told them. I told them about my issues with confidence and jealousy. I told them about being verbally, physically, and sexually abused by an ex-boyfriend. I told them that I used to suffer from self-loathing and depression, so much so that I would drive around without a seat belt, praying for a car accident. I told them about my miscarriage. I told them about my most painful experiences and my most shameful sins.
I told a bunch of good, little Christian girls that these things weren’t okay, and I was putting my business out there so that people would know there was redemption and recovery. I encouraged them to be open and ask for help when they needed it, because they were not alone. I was positive that I was telling my story needlessly (because Christian girls live easy lives, right?), but I told them anyway.
I stepped off that stool and breathed for the first time in twenty minutes. Someone prayed. The party commenced. I had shared my testimony, and that was that. Then, women started pulling me aside.
“I was raped.”
“I used to cut myself.”
“I have had multiple miscarriages, and the doctors cannot figure out why.”
I left that day feeling grateful for God’s voice, and feeling closer to the women in the room. I still thought the conversation was over. But a week later, a man was arrested for abusing a minor. A minor who was in that room, and heard my story. Who reached out to a trusted adult and finally broke free. I wept.
I can’t claim to have impacted that girl’s life. For all I know, it was mere coincidence that she shared her story so quickly after hearing mine. Still, I wept for her, ashamed that I almost said nothing just because I was uncomfortable. Other women need to know that they are not alone, that they will be heard, and that they will not be judged. When we fail to openly share our struggles and temptations, we are setting others up to struggle as well.
Growing up, I looked at all the beautiful, perfect women around me and strived to be just like them. My mom grew up in a Christian home, was valedictorian of her high school class, cooked well, and kept the house clean. She took us to the library and volunteered in our schools. My mom looked young enough to be my older sister and- other than a few regrettable perms and a 90’s fashion sense- was [is] a gorgeous woman. People said wonderful things about her. She was, by definition, a good, little Christian girl.
I wanted to be like that. But I was strong-willed, impatient, and prideful. Not sweet, well-mannered, and submissive. No matter how hard I tried, I never quite fit the image of the good, Christian girl. I know now that I never will. She doesn’t exist.
The problem with the archetype of the Christian girl is that it perpetuates the idea of a black and white world. Either you fit into the mold of goodness, or you don’t. Should you commit one sin outside of the mold, there is no redemption. You may as well just embrace your badness. It took me years to see that this world is full of colorful people with multiple dimensions.
No one is completely good, and no one is completely bad. We all have the potential for generosity, peace-making, and kindness, just as we have the potential to lash out, manipulate, and lie. When we admit that we aren’t perfect, we become accessible to other imperfect people.
When I finally sat down and confessed all my struggles to my mom, her shocked response was, “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have helped you.” She didn’t judge me, and she immediately denounced my perception of her perfection. As she sat there and talked about some of her mistakes, I found a new respect for my mom. Her openness made me trust her more, love her more, and (honestly) it made her more interesting.
I have gone to church since I was an infant, and I have heard the preacher talk about the power of salvation and the evilness of human nature countless times. Yet it took me years to realize that salvation didn’t miraculously fix my life. God doesn’t fix us this side of heaven. He just gives us the equipment to thrive in Him despite our scars and bruises. You still need the Great Doctor to stitch you up daily.
Divorced or married, prostitute or virgin, educated or illiterate, rich or poor– there is no earthly label that disqualifies you from the love and salvation of Christ. While salvation through Christ is the only path to heaven, each person walks a different path to salvation.
It took me a long time to be comfortable with being imperfect and to stop comparing my life to that of others. But when I finally broke down that self-made wall, I found a whole community of people waiting to embrace me.
So show off your scars and your open wounds. The pieces of you that God has redeemed and the pieces that He is still sewing up. You never know who needs to hear that story.
Some Bible verses for thought:
Mark 10:18 ‘And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.’
Ecclesiastes 7:20 “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.”
1 John 2:1 “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
Daniel 4:2 “It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.”
Philippians 1:6 “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.”