A long time ago (it feels more like a lifetime ago), I truly believed I was fulfilling my purpose in life.
So unshakeable was this conviction that anything that dared to interfere with it provoked my outrage. So self-assured was I that my path was correct, I missed my sister’s baby shower and several other key family events. They conflicted with my church obligations and church (notice I said church, not God) was numero uno.
This in itself should have been a red flag, but when you’ve invested a good deal of time and money into something, you are most resistant to hearing that, ahem, you might be wrong.
Yes, this former life of mine was wrapped around church life; I’ve detailed it previously but as my life continues to unfold, I see new layers and shades that tainted my life and my perspective…and, in keeping with our word of the week, I see where HEALING has taken place.
I’ll back up again for a very heartfelt disclaimer: My experiences are in no way an advertisement against church attendance or membership. Everyone’s got their own journey and there are certainly some wonderful houses of worship that serve as places of refuge and community that meet deep needs for so many people. Oh, and there are SO many wonderful men and women who sincerely want to help people and do so in the context of their local church.
But when my church broke my heart, the last thing I needed to do was jump back into the fray. I tried, by the way – after all, it’s pretty much all I knew in my adult life. But when I would visit a new place, I’d find myself sobbing hysterically during the music or walking out in a huff during the sermon. I no longer “fit.” And for me, in retrospect, that ended up being a good thing.
However, before it was a good thing, it was a tormenting thing. Here’s why: I was no longer “putting out” for God. That sounds crass, but hey, I’d been a productive little soldier for 15 years; spent every waking moment either ministering to, counseling someone or otherwise trying to lasso someone onto my religious team. All of a sudden, I wasn’t even going to church? My self worth was at an all time low. Something on the inside was broken and I felt like it could never be fixed.
Had I plugged right back in and gotten back to doing what I had always done for the previous 15 years, I might never have had the breathing space to question, deconstruct, assess, observe, reject and embrace what the REAL me believed. Not the me that I created to fit others’ expectations, but the real Brenda. The college girl with purple hair and a penchant for the Clash; the 100-pound kindergartener who developed a sparkling personality to withstand the taunts of her classmates; the high- school sophomore who escaped into writing and dreamed of leaving Buena, New Jersey one day…and so many other versions of me that I let die on the vine in order to become what and who supposedly spiritual people wanted me to be.
I took my leave from all things that even reminded me of my former church life. I avoided many sweet people, because I felt like I had nothing to offer them anymore.
I was certain that not only did I lack answers for them, I had nothing to say at all. About anything.
Pouring myself into my career to make up for the lost years (and finances) was a form of healing for me. To enter into discourse with intelligent people; to rediscover my creativity; to make friends with new people untainted by a memory of who I used to be…yes, like a deflated balloon slowly filling with air, I was coming back to life.
And for several years, that was more than enough.
Except for the yearning. Where was my PURPOSE? Why was I HERE?
Would I ever know the joy of feeling like I was doing what I was born to do again?
After some years had passed, my beloved friend, Cindy O’Krepki, created an amazing blog, “Simple Pleasures Everyday Love.” Cindy and I had ministered side by side, even calling each other “the bookends.” I was so happy to see her unique and lovely voice; her beautiful take on world burst forth once again. Good for her!
When she later invited me to guest blog, I was nervous, excited, fearful and hopeful – all mixed together. She knew…
In the fragments of my broken self, there were yet stories to be told – and in the telling would come healing.
I vividly recall her saying to me, “When you have your own blog…” and thinking, “WHAT?”
It was too huge a leap for me to conceive that a one or two spot guest blogging exercise could ever lead to something more.
What it did, however, was stir a yearning in me to do what I have always loved most: encourage people. Turns out, I did have something to say – though the message was far different from those long-ago days. And that message – of LOVE, love, love – was birthed from a heart that actually NEEDED to be broken so it could be re-set properly.
Would I have ever chosen my particular wound? Not a chance. Am I glad it made me who I am today? You bet.
You know what they say; your mess becomes your message. There’s no testimony without a test. Such phrases may sound cliché, but I can’t deny that within them lies truth.
So for this outpost to stir up my gift and use it again, I am grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It has been a long road to get here, but I am so glad to have found you.
And that hard and painful road you may be walking, even right now? I promise you, if you continue to choose love, choose love, choose LOVE over fear, you will get to the other side and be a better version of you, with a story that can heal others (as it heals you, too.)