Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Where to Begin? (About Me)

I guess you could say I was your typical Christian. Some may have even deemed me a model Christian. A member of the church "9 months before I was born," and there every time the doors were open, even through the teen years.

At the still-tender age of 19, I married a young man who was studying to become a pastor. Once we were in ministry, I was the woman who did practically everything--at the church at all hours, “sacrificing." Several years of this with four kids, a painfully clean house, and "Betty Crocker" stamped on my forehead, I was living the highly esteemed life of duty. Someone actually said my life was perfect...

But I knew it wasn't. All my duty, drive, and perfectionism were a mask to the race I was running, desperate to get away from my past. Betrayal after betrayal by various abuses throughout childhood and my teenage years led me to a life of perfectionism and control. I never wanted to feel or be out of control again, which led me to this style of living and relating.

Convinced by our Enemy that the betrayals were solely my fault, I hid. And I was exhausted. Constantly keeping my world spinning on this axis of control and living in this mode of self-protection was beyond tiring.

Around the age of 27, my self-preservation began to unravel. I'm not quite sure how it started, how I began to see that something was not right. But somehow I could see Jesus coming for me, melting the steel walls I had formed unaware around my heart.

Like in Hosea 2:14, through a series of events in just a couple months of time (a significant death in the family, my husband losing a pastorate with nowhere to go, and losing my closest friendship) God thwarted me. All my raw nerve endings were exposed, and I could no longer hide them. As the scripture speaks of, He led me to the desert and walled me off...and He began to speak tenderly to me. I could no longer "save myself," as I had been trying for years. God was saving me FROM myself.

For three years I walked with God through a head-on collision with my past. Patiently and tenderly, God worked with me until I could see my past in the light of His truth. I began to understand that I lived under a crushing weight of false guilt. And under a debilitating lie that I was a disappointment…to my parents, my family, my peers, and God. Because I believed these lies, I hid my true self under the masks of duty and perfectionism to the point I forgot who I really was.

It was not easy to trade the lies for the truth. My past had become the definition of who I was, and it was painfully scary to let go of those false definitions because they felt so true. I remember the day God beautifully spoke to me as I was driving. After weeks of struggling through fear and uncertainty of my true identity and who I would be without the labels from my past, He showed me how hanging on to those labels was like keeping my 10+ year old favorite t-shirts that I still wore around the house—thin rags with big holes in them, and doing a very poor job of covering me!

In contrast, He stood before me offering His "Robes of GLORY," asking me if I would exchange the ragged t-shirts I clung to for His "rich Robes of Glory." In other words, our false view of ourselves and developed style of relating because of our past cannot present a true interpretation of who we are in Christ Jesus! The old is gone! The new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Sure, old habits tend to die hard. But that day I understood the dutiful, controlling life I had been living was not the full life Jesus promises. Through my past, our arch enemy had sought to steal, kill, and destroy me. (John 10:10a) I had been a woman in hiding running from her past and her God...and no one could tell. (Maybe because like me, many others were/are unknowingly doing the same under similar masks.) Thankfully, Jesus came to my rescue and showed me how to live life to the full. (John 10:10b). Beauty has risen from the ashes of my past. (Isaiah 61:1-3) And freedom like I have never known or heard of flooded every fiber of my being and spilled over into my home, my relationships, and my worship.

"Model Christian" took on a new meaning. No longer an exhausted woman/wife/mom/church member hiding my true life and testimony. With each passing season, Jesus takes me into greater and greater wholeness. I am learning to rest, to love, and to offer beauty and life to those around me. The beauty of a past that has been healed.

It is from this freedom, beauty, and life that I hopes that you will find freedom, beauty, and life, too.

(If you would like to learn more of this journey to life and freedom, the series begins in the December 2010 archive with the title "From Slavery to Freedom")


Marge said...

Melissa, thank you for so honestly sharing. I have been thinking you have such a helping ministry on facebook (I don't know anyone else that does.) always encouraging people, but with this I'm sure you can deeply touch the lives of many. God bless and I look forward to "reading" you.

AmyS. Trosen said...

I am SO glad you are writing!

stacy25 said...

Thanks for your words. I too found freedom in Christ about 6 years ago. The freedom He can give is like nothing in this world.

Anonymous said...

I am so glad you are writing. I am saved but Satan still has me trapped in his lies! He tells me I am not saved and I am not worthy. I am the guilty-one; the pain of my past IS my fault and the pain inflicted on me is my fault. I am as worthless as trash and people can see me in all my shame. I am hiding, suffering, pretending... I pray everyday but am not free.

Jessica Kirkland said...

Satan's lies can be a strong fortress around our hearts and minds. I have a similar story to you.

Fear. An unraveling. God walled me in too. And I'm so glad he did. I pray that prayer often for others and have for myself, "Lord come through the fire and get me. Save me from myself."

Enjoyed your testimony.