Lately I’ve been having countless dreams of being naked in front of people.
These dreams are so not fun. We’re supposed to picture other people in their underwear, right? Isn’t that the advice they give us when we’re nervous to give a speech or whatever?
But me? Lately I feel exposed. Vulnerable. And I am battling wanting to run back into the cocoon of my former “safe” (yet depressing and lonely) life in which I lived by myself, worked for myself, and pretty much only ventured outside to drive to Starbucks for a coffee and to continue working (this being my only people time and fresh air for the day).
But didn’t I pray for a richer life???
Now it seems every night my schedule is filled with an activity or tacos with a friend (I am a serious taco-holic). I was asked to join a church worship team and to co-lead a small group. I go to 2–3 groups a week along with worship practice, Sunday church, date night, and girlfriend time. My life is becoming more rich and full. So why am I fighting the desire to run back to my cocoon???
As someone who has battled anxiety, depression, and panic, this is all very brave. In the fall of 2015, I ventured back into a recovery group—Celebrate Recovery—after depression, countless rejections, and a job loss left me struggling. I knew I needed help—I needed community.
There I found myself in the corner of a church nursery sobbing after having just revealed to a circle of women that I didn’t have enough money for food. Talk about humbling when you’re an independent, professional woman. Not too long into my time there, God sent an amazing, patient man who would bless me with boxes of food and kind words. My knight in shining armor came to me when I had literal snot running from my nose after another sob session in my small group. He would lug boxes of food to my car. He helped provide not only sweet smiles and walks to my car but also food to nourish my body. And I would often get to our meetings late and sit off to the side, eating while others were worshipping, and he would sit with me. I later confided that I felt that nourishing my body with a good meal felt like a sort of personal worship offering.
So over the next months we started dating—very slowly and prayerfully—two Christ-centered people in recovery who saw God confirming our partnership over and over again, through the ups and downs and habits and hang-ups we had been working in community to overcome. And since then, I have found God using this relationship and these communities to do a number of things:
- To teach me self-love and acceptance
- To show me His love
- To heal from the deep wounds of my past that are hindering me from relationship and my calling
- To encourage me out of my self-protective shell
- To show me what it really means to have a Christ-centered relationship (stuff like love that endures and is patient, love that prays for the other and wants his or her best, love that grows you into a closer relationship with Christ and into a stronger and better human being)
- To show me what it is like to be truly treasured and understood in a relationship
- To teach me to trust Him
- So many other things …
But the enemy has whispered into my ear time and again that I am not worthy to be writing on this blog or in the book I feel God calling me to write, that I am not put together enough to encourage a group of women as a co-leader. That I am too raw. Vulnerable. That because my man and I met in recovery we are disqualified to be considered a “healthy” relationship. We have pasts and are recovering from hang-ups.
I realize as I write this now that we are probably exactly what others are longing to see—two imperfect people with two individual hearts beating for God’s best, wanting in our hearts to honor God and each other, and showing each other and those close enough to know us how a relationship centered in Christ can survive, grow, and thrive.
I have battled the desire to flee my relationship because of fear of getting hurt, something I feel God finally spoke healing into. And now I am battling the desire to leave these communities for fear of being vulnerable and misunderstood, something that has already happened a few times and will happen when you step out into your callings or into positions of leadership. You will be more vulnerable to opinions and criticism, BUT there is also growth in being open to listening to others and not being so self-protective.
The amount of growth and the community and friends I have made in the past year or so are real. The growth and healing occurring is deep stuff, the kind that will last. The callings I feel are here and ahead will require me to love more deeply and care more deeply. They will require me to love and encourage people whom my deeply wounded self wouldn’t have been able to. They’ll require me to have a more stable assurance of God’s love and that of the one He has partnered me with.
Today I asked my beautifully imperfect man whose heart I am in love with to be strong for me in something. I asked him to help me not run away from these communities or the places God is taking me. I asked him to help remind me of what God is doing in my life. He reminded me of Noah and Abraham and how God loves to pick the ones with impediments, people who feel they are not worthy or good enough, to do His work. He encouraged me again that he believes I am ready for this, that if God led me to it, then I am ready and He will give me what I need.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
I have not yet arrived, but I am straining ahead, though I shake in my boots at times. And honestly, a large part of me just wants to sit here on my couch with coffee and a blanket—just me and my tuxedo cat, Alfred—as I have most of this past weekend after months of supercharged community time (or at least supercharged to me!). 😛
Yes, there is definitely balance. And I am getting there.
But I know this heart work is good stuff. This community- and relationship-building are worth it. People are worth it. Good stuff is happening, even though it’s been more brave to me than scaling a mountain or bungee jumping. Okay, emotionally brave; I still think those things are terrifying. 😛
This past week I went to a worship night, and the pastor asked us to close our eyes and reflect back on when Christ found us, when Christ became real to us. As I sat there, eyes closed, I thought of myself sitting alone a few years ago in my apartment in a little two-stoplight college town in the country. I thought of how I was surrounded by families and retired folks and seemingly put-together, wholesome people and how I felt like the weird one. I would do dishes and look out my window into the huge backyard and see the family from next door tossing a football around, big smiles and hearty laughs. It made me miss my dad, who had recently passed away. I felt alone and isolated, and though I was in a small community full of close-knit people who knew one another and seemingly supported one another, I just didn’t feel worthy to be a part. I felt like the odd duck, the single, overly emotional girl with secondhand furniture and clothes and anxieties and griefs that kept her from venturing out into the sunshine of full, healthy relationship.
So I stayed inside, hidden, venturing outside only when I felt together enough physically and emotionally to do so.
And there God found me, and here is where God has taken me as I have let Him guide my life and healing. I am in community. I am letting others, including my romantic partner, see me as I grow and heal. I am loved in the messy moments of growth. I am still loved. I am forgiven. I am encouraged. I am trusted.
So while I am learning I do need to build some alone time into my week so as to recharge, I need to just breathe through these moments of discomfort and be thankful for where God has taken me from and to.
And I am not ashamed of who I am nor my relationship’s beginnings. Transparency/authenticity is one of my most precious gifts from the Lord, and while I am learning to wield it more wisely, I will not let the enemy make me feel less than in the very gift God wants me to use to help set others free.
I am getting more and more comfortable with wearing the robes the Lord is gently placing on my shoulders—robes like belovedness, special, uniquely and wonderfully made, beautiful, worthy, a shining star, fun, theatrical, creative, kind and compassionate. And I am getting closer and closer to shedding the other robes like rejection, too much, less than, not as worthy of, weird, strange, etc. Robes I am getting more and more tired of, robes that are fading from too many wearings, that are tattered and tired and less and less appealing.
I promise not every post will be a longform essay like this one, but oh how good it feels to write again from the heart!!!
I hope something in here has blessed you. Have a wonderful week!!! And be brave as God takes you through His journey of complete and total healing. It is worth it!!!