Thursday, March 15, 2018

This is Me!

The song, This is Me, has had a big impact on our ministry leaders. We serve women who have been wounded by emotional, verbal, physical, spiritual, and sexual abuse. Most of the ladies that come to our groups can identify with the messages in the song. They come in to our groups as broken, bruised women, deeply ashamed of the physical and emotional scars they bear. Many believed the only way they could survive was to either run away or to hide their broken parts because they feared no one could really love them as they are. Some of them have heard or even hear now words that are so sharp they cut into the very core of who they were created to be, blanketing them in layers of shame.

No matter what stories they have lived, most of them come into the group apologizing. They  apologize for being inadequate and not giving the "right" answer to questions asked. They apologize for being crazy when the strong emotions they have been stuffing start to surface. They apologize for not being smart enough or pretty enough. They apologize for the personality the Creator gave them because they believe they are too much, too little, or not good enough. Some apologize for the space they take up in group, the amount of words they share, or for not being able to find the perfect words that describe how they feel. Some even apologize for the tears that spill over and stream down their cheeks, believing they don't have a right to grieve the loss of innocence, friendship, and the healthy family of which they each dreamed.

If ladies stick with the group, share their stories, and do their work, we have the honor of witnessing God do mighty works in their hearts, their minds, emotions, and lives. We get to see them find their voices and tell their stories, often for the first time. We get to observe them mustering up the courage to face their broken, bruised parts as they begin to allow God into those areas so He can begin to heal their pain. We get to see them observe how they have responded to their past traumas and watch them begin to replace maladaptive, sometimes sinful ways they had of reacting an protecting their hearts with healthy, more godly ways.

Sadly, some of them still have people in their lives who continue to do harm or who demand they continue to hide their broken parts to make their family or church "look better." Some of them have people who even want them to hide their personalities behind a mask as if God made a mistake when He created them. What people have done and said and what they sometimes still do or say is absolutely wrong. Some of the abusive people change when the ladies confront and put godly boundaries in place, but many more don't. Some of the gals forgive and choose to live mostly separate lives. Others set some strong boundaries and continue to try to engage with those who have the potential to continue to hurt them. Those who continue to engage have to grow enough that they can purpose in their hearts to not let hateful words and actions feed and regrow the shame they have come out of. The have to purpose in their hearts to believe what God says about them and refuse to let others' words or actions define them or shame them. As the song says the words may be bullets striking their skin, but they have a choice on whether or not they will let the shame attached to those bullets sink in.

Many of the ladies have heard harsh words over and over until those words became "truth" to them. Many were broken and bruised by the dark actions of others and those actions themselves carried ugly messages with them, that the ladies began to believe and rehearse. Some of them suffered severe neglect and that neglect had messages that were loud and clear. All the messages they received became "truth" to them and then they too began to reinforce those hurtful things. Because of this, it is hard for them to give up the lies and the shame as the lies feel more real than the truth we see and the truth of God's word.

The ladies become warriors who have to take every single thought captive and replace it with God's truth. As God begins to heal their hearts, they find themselves in spiritual battles on a daily basis because the enemy doesn't want them to find freedom from the shame they've carried for so long. Some of the prettiest women believe they are ugly. Some of the most intelligent women believe they are dumb and inadequate. Some of the most gifted gals believe their lives are not significant and they don't have anything to offer. Some of the most likeable women believe they are unlovable. Even those who have trusted Christ to be their Savior wonder if He is powerful enough to cleanse them from the stain of their abuse.

As the ladies grow, they begin to recognize and replace the shaming messages running through their heads and begin to believe the truth. And just as they begin to experience joy they face something hard and the old messages start replaying like broken records. In group when we listen carefully and watch their body language and facial expressions, we can often see the moment they hear a lie in their head. Some times it is just a flicker, sometimes they speak it out, refute it and move on. However, sometimes we see them play with the lie and begin to hold on to it as if it is more true than Gods' truth and we remind them they have the power to drown out those ugly messages with the God's truth.

Some may hold on to the old messages because they feel familiar like an old pair of comfortable house shoes. As they are gaining freedom, the freedom can feel too risky and too scary. About a year and a half ago one of our sons got a dog from a shelter. Her mother was pregnant with a litter when they were confiscated in a drug bust. They had to keep the mother dog and her puppies until the courts settled everything. So when he picked up Sweet Dee, she had lived in the kennel for fourteen months. The drive home scared her. The house scared her and she sat at his feet instead of exploring it. The big back yard turned her into a trembling hot mess. It took awhile for her to believe that she was loved and safe enough to explore her new world and her new life. It is no different for the women who grew up in unsafe homes and come into our groups. Sometimes they return to the shame because it feels safer than confronting or setting boundaries.

Helping women learn what their true identity is has become my favorite parts of the healing process we take the ladies through. That is because I remember well the words that fed my own toxic shame. Those words were invisible, ugly, fat, stupid, inadequate, dirty, unheard, week, and unlovable. Oh and that toxic shame. It felt like a hot iron searing my heart and my soul. But, praise God, I am not marching to the sound of those ugly words any more. I am now marching to the truth that because of Jesus and what he did for me I can declare that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. That I am chosen and clean. That I am redeemed, reconciled, and restored. That I am gifted and my life has significance. That I am strong and brave. And I no longer apologize for being me. As the song says, "I am  not afraid to be seen. This is who I am meant to be, this is me!"

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!