Thursday, June 2, 2016

Learning to Own My Story

"What happened?"

Hearing that question sends my stomach through the floor. Every. Single. Time.

It yanks me back to the shame and embarrassment, the confusion and darkness, that I walked through not too long ago. It punches me with the pain, the hurt, the hopelessness, and the loneliness I thought I'd never escape.

I freeze.

"It's a long story."

Why is it so hard to tell the truth? To just tell the story...

"I hurt myself."

A few years ago, I was in a dark place. I was hurting. I was numb. Life had lost its colors. Everything felt gray and lifeless.

I was struggling with an eating disorder. I was intentionally hurting myself to try and numb the feelings of frustration, anger, pain, and worthlessness that had become my constant companions. I was depressed. I had kept it all secret. I tried to convince myself (and everyone else) that I was fine. That nothing was wrong. I hadn't been hospitalized. I wasn't underweight. I didn't have any near death experiences. And more than anything, I was a Christian. I thought that I was supposed to be okay. I didn't think that I could claim to be following Jesus if I was struggling like I was. So I did everything I could to hide the truth because I was afraid of what recovery would require. And I didn't want to be a burden to anyone.

You're only as sick as your secrets. And the longer you keep your secrets secret, the sicker you become. I eventually reached a point where hiding wasn't possible anymore. My secrets started to leak. People were noticing that something wasn't right and they began to ask the questions I had been afraid to hear for so long.

I had two options: I could lie and keep running from the truth OR I could surrender and let people in to help.

Brené Brown once said,

"Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy - the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light."

My body is littered with scars. Physical, visible scars. Each one of them tells a story. Stories of pain, loneliness, frustration, shame, and emptiness can be seen etched into my skin.

But these scars tell another story. One story. A story of hope and redemption. A story of healing. A story of something broken being made beautiful. MY story.

When people ask about my scars, I shrink. The answer demands vulnerability and vulnerability is scary. It's choosing to let people see who I really am, rather than trying to convince them of something I wish I was. Vulnerability is telling the truth when the truth is too hard, too painful, or too embarrassing to tell. It's choosing to show up and be seen rather than run and hide.

Every time I tell my story, I show people the raw places of my heart. The places I so often see as ugly and painful and undesirable. It makes me feel weak and exposed. Naked. Sick.

BUT every time I work past the initial feelings of shame and embarrassment and allow people to see the story behind the scars, something incredible happens..... People see strength rather than weakness. Healing rather than brokenness. Hope rather than despair. And ultimately, life rather than death.

In telling my story, my weaknesses become my strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 is beginning to make a whole lot more sense.

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

God tells us that His power is made complete in our weaknesses. That when we let people see our failures and our flaws and our struggles, we actually get to experience God's power in the process. His healing, redemptive, life-giving power. Who doesn't want that?

I'm still learning to own my story. It's not easy. It's awkward. But I'm finding that when I tell people the truth behind my scars, I experience a little bit more freedom and healing each time. 

I want to share my story. I want people to know that there's hope. That healing and recovery are possible. That death and darkness don't have to win. 

Ultimately, I want people to see that victory is found only in Jesus. 


Have you told your story? Why or why not?

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