I let the opinions of others rule my life.
I succumbed to the fear and the pressure I felt around me to be a certain way, or follow a certain path instead of listening and trusting the Lord. I let the core of my being slip away, out of reach, because I wanted to make everyone else around me happy before anything else. I felt neglected, as though I wasn’t as valuable or worthy, like I just do not matter to anyone. I fought so hard, put my soul through so much turmoil, just to win the approval of others. I thought if I could at least have that, it might fill the empty void that has grown in my heart. I thought if I could just distract myself with the pleasures of this world, the material things, I could make it day by day. If I just stopped fighting against the current and fell in step with the world, maybe I would feel better. Maybe things would start to make sense again.
I avoid writing when I know I do not want to deal with what is going on inside. I forget that this blog is not at all about you reading it, but about the time I intentionally spend sitting with the Lord, reflecting on what He is speaking to me. When I don’t write, it is an active cry for help that never gets answered.
The ugly truth comes out when I write, when I finally become honest with myself. I know that vulnerability and transparency have become the new “fad” in this young, Christian culture, so it’s hard to for me to differentiate myself from those trying to gain recognition or sympathy. That is not ever my intention. Because this is a side of me that I find the ugliest within myself. When I finally admit the mistakes I’ve made, when I finally realize I cannot continue to blame others when it is in fact my very own fault, when I open my eyes and let my heart feel the pain it needs to feel.
Throughout the last few months, maybe even years, I have been struggling with my faith. I used to be someone considered so strong in her faith, a real woman of God, I could feel the Holy Spirit moving in my life and others could see it in me. Not lately. I disobeyed God in quite a few areas, ignored the work that needed to be done to get myself right with Him, and have felt such a distance from Him ever since. These last few months especially I knew I was settling for less than what God wanted for me. I knew I desired the stability and the safety of the materialistic than the confidence and comfort of the everlasting God of the universe. I knew I was filling a hole with temporary distractions; I knew I was chasing after my own selfish desires out of spite. I got so low, I sat up on the couch in the middle of the night with Jeremy and said “I do not care about God anymore. I have no desire to fight for my faith.” I knew then the truth of what I had done to myself.
And through it all, I avoided coming to God. I felt uncomfortable going to church, I misplaced my bible, I filled my mind with things not of Him, and I did it intentionally.
Yesterday, I sat at a church service at the LifeCenter Church in Orangevale. The entire morning prior to the service, I could feel the enemies attacks heavier than I have in years. I knew I needed to get to church, but everything that could have gone wrong did and I was very close to just turning my truck around and going home. But I didn’t. I got there. And I am so glad I did.
I couldn’t tell you a direct quote from any part of the service, I couldn’t even tell you what the pastor was speaking on or what songs were sung. What I do know, is that I sat there in that church, throat tight as I held back all the tears fighting to come out. Every ugly, disgusting lie that I have been believing came to the forefront of my thoughts. And I sat there and took it. I knew it was time to face what I had been pretending didn’t exist. Each thought felt like a knife in my stomach. I was in physical pain.
“God has forgotten you.”
“Look at those people up there on stage. You aren’t good enough to do anything for the kingdom.”
“You messed up too bad, it’s too late.”
“You are so alone. No one likes you. And it’s all your fault.”
“You are a disappoint to God, to your family, to Jeremy, to his family.”
I couldn’t believe that I believed all of that. But as I looked back on my life, I realized that that is exactly how I have been living. I let all my friendships fall out because I believed nobody cared about me. I avoided God because I thought He avoided me. I strived to please my family, Jeremy and his family and keep them happy because I did not want to disappoint them. But I did it at the expense of my relationship with the Lord. I pulled out of all ministry because I did not believe I was good enough to work for God.
I became bitter out of spite. And here is the ugly truth. I got fed up. It got hard for me, the fact that everything about me has been everything about Jeremy for the past almost two years. Anytime I run into anyone, the first question out of their mouth is, “How’s Jeremy doing?” I can’t remember the last time someone asked how I was. When people come up to us, I stand next to Jeremy, completely ignored, as they chat away about his life; I stand there as others prayer for Jeremy, speak truth and encouragement over Jeremy, love on Jeremy. And after experiencing this for the past two years, I started believing the message it was sending me. People only pray for me to be the best support for Jeremy, for God to strengthen me to better love and encourage Jeremy, for perseverance with Jeremy.
It got hard.
The ugly truth is that it is very hard for me. I feel bad for saying it, I feel bad for admitting that sometimes I want support for MY struggles, even though they never can be worse than Jeremy’s. I have felt so alone, so abandoned. I have been watching God move in Jeremy’s life, at the gifting he has, at the incredible community he has, at the positive attitude he maintains through it all, but I haven’t seen it in my own life. And that has been really hard.
I have pushed myself and put so much pressure on myself to fit the role of supporter, at the expense of myself. I forgot that it is okay to have my own needs. I forgot that it is okay to still chase after my dreams, my callings, my passions. I forgot that it is okay to ask for help. I forgot that it is okay to ask for prayer for ME. I forgot that I am my own person. I feel as though my identity became “Jeremy’s Girlfriend” when there is so much more to my life than that.
And I feel so ugly and horrible for admitting all that.
But because of that subliminal message, I became so bitter and decided that I will stop fighting so hard and accept where I was in life, even when I could feel the Lord whispering “I have so much more for you.” Jeremy is a part of my life, but he is not my whole life.
And this translated to my relationship with God. I believed God did not love me as much as Jeremy, that I did not need Him as much as Jeremy, that I did not matter to Him as much as Jeremy. I felt that my value in everyone’s eyes would go down if I wasn’t the perfect support for Jeremy 24/7. I believed that I had to prove myself, not only to his family, but to my own that I could handle it, that I could do everything perfectly and never need anything and consistently and always put Jeremy above myself.
But the ugly truth is that I can’t. It is impossible for me to be perfect all the time. Or anytime really. But I forreal put the pressure on myself, because I was so afraid of what others would think of me if I didn’t.
Now, I finally allowed myself to be honest with this within the span of that one church service. Toward the end, I walked up to the altar as the pastor spoke freedom over us in the name of the Holy Spirit. I remember him saying that there were some who would experience freedom from the idol of approval, I remember him saying that I mattered to God, that He was madly in love with me. And I clearly remember the Lord moving in my heart. I clearly remember God allowing me to feel the intense pain and sting of my mistakes, of the blatant lies I let myself believe, of the shame of who I have become. But He did not let me feel that without purpose.
God breathed life back into the emptiness of my soul. God whispered truth into the depths of my heart, a truth that can heal all wounds. He gently reminded me of how much I truly do mean to Him, of how much I matter in His eyes, of how much value I hold. He stirred my heart to remember sweet moments I had with Him almost two years ago, before all this started. Moments when I felt His presence so strong, when my thoughts were so clear, when I knew the calling God had on my life. Those moments of pure confidence and trust in the Lord, no thing and no one could waver my strength.
I know He is calling me back to Him. And I know that it is going to require that I follow Him despite what others may say or think about me.
Yesterday I made some big steps to get back on the right track, starting with reconciliation for relationships that have long been broken. I sat before the Lord, in my desperation and shame, asking Him what my first step is to turning this around. He directed me to Matthew 5:23-24. “So, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled with your brother, and then come, and offer your gift.” And I knew exactly who this was referring to in my life. So, with heart beating and sweaty palms, I did what I needed to. (Prayers for that would be wonderful). But now, I feel the peace in my heart to come back to the altar and present my gifts to the Lord.
So there it is, all the ugly parts I’ve been too afraid to confront. I know it may seem weird to write this all out on a blog but to me, this is living out (in the modern world) James 5:16, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” As lame as it sounds, the reality is, I lack community in my life right now. So, here I am, doing what God asks of me, even if it is weird.
I don’t think this was meant to be an encouragement. I think what was more important was the time with God writing it.
“Whoever loves his life, loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there my servant will be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him”
(John 12: 25-26)