Share your story

Today marks another milestone along my journey of recovery. The abuse I experienced which resulted in PTSD, trauma, and many years of struggle occurred six years ago today. In some ways it feels like six decades of struggle I have walked through, but in other ways it feels like it just happened.

Each year has held milestones along my journey, but this year more than any other has been the turning point. It has been a year of big steps, significant change and healing, and moving clearly in a new direction.

  • Joined the core leadership team of a church plant, one that really wants to reach the lost and broken
  • Started actively serving with six organizations in my community (most of these organizations sought me out which was an answer to a prayer that the Lord would open doors when he felt I was ready)
  • Began networking with people in my community and all over the nation
  • Helped run a major medical/dental clinic to serve my community
  • Joined with a group addressing human trafficking and hoping to raise awareness in the church about trauma
  • Started a book about what I have learned through my journey
  • Recognized the roots of my issues come from deep shame and started that recovery journey
  • Began openly speaking about and sharing the testimony of the changes Christ has brought into my life this year+
  • Last week I was notified that the pastor from my last church is finally ready to meet and attempt to reconcile

As I move into next year I already know of two major milestones that lie ahead

  • I will be leading a recovery group for abuse and trauma
  • I will be a part of a special program. Through that I hope there are outcomes that raise awareness of trauma and recovery, and teaches that brokenness and “not being okay” are beautiful things.

Tonight I had a chance to share part of my testimony with a friend who didn’t know anything about my past. He listened and personally identified with parts of my journey of trauma and recovery.

As I left, he stopped me and going out of his way to make an impact he looked he straight in the eyes and said, “You are a hero. It is incredible to hear the story and learn more about the depth that exists. You truly are a hero.”

To those of you who are also on this journey of recovery, and who face the daily struggle to recover from abuse, I want to say “You are a hero!” You daily face challenges that others don’t understand. You find courage to keep trying. You stand up for others who face injustice. You take steps forward, even when you don’t want to. Thank you for your courage and strength. You are heroes, and you are making an impact and a difference.

Later this week I will be participating in an event where I may cross paths with my old pastor. I know he is connected with others who will be attending the event. The fact our paths may cross is really weighing on my heart.

Near the end of April I had communicated with the pastor and elders that I could not remain in silence any longer about the situation because I knew that God was calling me to step up, to share my story, and to proclaim to others about the amazing healing the Lord had done in my life. They have been unwilling to work through and resolve issues. The response I received was that I was unstable and irrational, did not understand the Gospel, again was showing I was unrepentant, and that if I spoke I would actually damage God’s kingdom.

I have continued to try to respond in love and patience to these leaders, and have offered over and over again to resolve the issues with no progress. It took until the beginning of July for those leaders and my current pastor to agree to meet. My pastor has not wanted me to meet with these leaders because he does not believe they are willing to reconcile, and he believes it would be unhealthy for me to share with them. So far, even after meeting with him, they have not shown any openness or willingness to reconcile. I also know some others that were key in my story are no longer at the church. They also have been hurt and are dealing with a difficult road of healing.

I am not sure how to respond if I see my pastor. The last face-to-face interaction I had with him was last December when he had an uncontrolled outburst and made a public scene. I do not want to cause any disruption at the event, and I have concerns that the pastor will try to speak to me. His elders told me not to speak to him, and after the run in last December I clearly defined that he was not to speak to me again without witnesses (on my side) due to his outburst. If he tries to speak to me the only thing I know to do is to calmly remind him that we are not allowed to speak, and then to involve others if he tries to communicate further.

My heart is heavy with concerns for all involved. I am walking in faith, still knowing that God is capable of healing and restoring everything if we would surrender, so he is definitely capable of taking care of much smaller pieces of this, such as this even.  I am going to the event with a very open and hope-filled heart, trusting that the Lord will use it mightily to change things, and believing that He can be glorified in all situations.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

I have a testimony. It is something I should share….because sharing it brings glory to God.

I have been reflecting a lot lately on how to share my testimony and how to do my part in making sure it is focused on God and his work instead of on what has changed in me.

My testimony, like most, is about change. I was this….God touched my life….I am now this.

So, how did that change happen? What caused the change in my life? I think this is what many testimonies are missing. We explain that God changed us which is inspiring, but neglect to tell how so others can experience that change too. How did we get to the point that allowed that to happen? Were we just in the right place at the right time because we choose to go to a church service? Were we at the end of our ropes and crying out in despair? Had we tried everything else first and this was the last option? Did someone cross your path and rescue you? Did you read or study something?

The church I was attending last year taught me about God. The pastor is a very good preacher going through a specific passage of a book every week and teaching what it says. I learned a lot about those passages we were introduced to, and in that way it affected my life. I am extremely thankful for that and the gift it was in my life. While I was taught about God, something was missing. I was not introduced to God. I love that church and pastor and would defend them if I ever needed to, but when I most needed to be taken to God they were not there for me. They told me about God, but outside of one person they did not share with me in prayer, and no one ever opened up Scripture to show me who God was or what he was doing in my life. They looked for outward fruit in my life showing my faith in Christ, but I was not led to a relationship with a Lord and Savior that changed my heart.

I was presented things on the outside and asked to change from the outside in. I was not led into a relationship where the Holy Spirit was released into my life to change my heart, mind, and perspective from the inside out. Too many churches do not understand that this is where change happens. Outward conformity doesn’t lead to change. God leads us to change from the inside. Too many churches are teaching about God, but not leading people to relationship with God. They are teaching a message that can lead people to feel condemnation, shame, guilt, compliance, and comformity. There are messages being shared that do not bring freedom and are not really a message of good news and hope. Often this is because the message has been changed to be about us instead of about the Lord.

I have a testimony.

It is something I should share.

It is something I want to share.

It is something I am excited to share.

Not because it is about me and anything I did.

Not because I am now changed and different.

I have a testimony to share because I believe it brings glory to God.

I have a testimony to share because I believe it changes the world, one life at a time.

I have a testimony to share because I believe that what I have found is so valuable I want to share it with others.

I received information today about the “charges” from my last church. The information still is not concrete with specific actions that I did and how that was sinful, but instead are vague generalities about the pastors’ struggle to communicate with me and how he had heard from others in the church that I was sharing that there were communication difficulties between us. So I have been charged with 1) lack of submission 2) spreading discord.

The counselor who communicated this to me has again asked for specifics from the elders about who I spoke to and what discord I spread but as it took eight months to reach this point I doubt we will get anything more. They have stated that I am not repentant and that my communication to others about what has occurred is clear evidence of that. They are very upset that I have expressed to them that others who I have turned to for counsel feel I have been abused, and that there are unhealthy and inappropriate things in how the church is lead and how I have been treated. Those are not my statements, but have come from others. The leaders will not communicate with me directly, but they do not want me communicating to others to process through things, seek input about what I have done and how I can change, or even share my story and glorify God.

I again struggle to know where that line is between sharing openly and transparently about our journey and story, and not spreading discord. It seems like it comes down to the heart that it is shared with. If we are sharing with a heart to hurt others or slanders their name then that is wrong, but if we are seeking to be open and transparent it seems like that is honest and can be used to help others grow and heal. I recently heard someone express that we are called to be open and vulnerable, but we don’t need to be naked (share everything).

Does anyone have thoughts about what is appropriate to share and in what settings?

I don’t want to hurt anyone or cause disunity but it doesn’t seem right that I never am able to share about my story either. I want to glorify God and be obedient to him in all I do, and I feel like my story could bring hope and healing to some others who have walked through similar paths of pain and disillusionment.

One of the most powerful things I have seen through my recovery is the power of the voice of survivors. When others tell their story, show their determination to recover, and share their hope and successes with others it builds momentum. This is exactly why support groups exist. They have learned that life is so much easier when we do not walk it alone. God designed us this way! He made us want and need others and one of the tricks the enemy uses through abuse and trauma is to isolate, separate, and discourage us.

Hearing the recovery stories of others is powerful. It can leave us feeling that recovery truly is possible and there can be a different future. It reminds us that while the abuse and trauma may be a part of our past it doesn’t need to define us and determine our future.

This week I have been listening to the stories from:

These stories give me courage and hope. They inspire me and remind me that the future is different as we walk with God and choose to believe. They show me that it is okay to trust again and that I do not have to live separated, alone, or lost.

Last night I publically stepped on board with a new ministry that is starting near my home. I have been in discussions with the leadership for a couple months and they know my story but they still believe in me and believe that God has changed my life and made me a new creation. Thanks to the stories of others and the unconditional love, grace, and mercy of the Lord Almighty I am able to take new steps and move forward too. My heart is full of hope, joy, and life today. It feels so good to know that the future can and will be different!