The Story Inside of Us

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” — Maya Angelou

We’re all familiar with brokenness to one degree or another. It doesn’t matter if we grew up with the white picket fence or in the drug addicted streets of the big city, hurt has somehow found us. As many as there are of you and I, there are that many ways we can respond to the pain. I personally found comfort in anger and callousness, which served me pretty well for a while, that is I guess if you enjoy living life terrified, insecure and lacking any sort of depth. Living on the defense and running from every scary emotion is exhausting. I wonder how many of us spend too many of our days dodging life, rather than living it? Living doesn’t mean bypassing the hard stuff, it means embracing it. It means staring the painful things down until the fear bows to our relentless pursuit of healing. I’ve spent much of my adult life trying to figure out why I do the things I do. I believe the more self aware we become, the more healthy we become. More understanding of ourselves leads to more understanding of others. So while none of us have ever officially arrived to complete healing this side of Heaven, I would like to share my journey up until this point in hopes that one of you might be encouraged.

My journey toward healing began about thirteen years ago. I found myself depleted, angry and out of options. Life as it was just wasn’t working for me. Abusing alcohol and running from one mountain top experience to the next had lost its luster. Turning my life over to the Lord, mostly as a last resort kind of option, started what I couldn’t have understood then as the sanctification process in my life. See for me, hitting rock bottom was the safest place for me to land. It’s been in these last thirteen years that I’ve come to understand God to be both God, that is Elohim and Lord, that is Adonai. Elohim describes Him to be all powerful, while Adonai describes Him to be personal. Personal. Not far off and out of touch, but present and willing to walk through the darkest of my days with me. It’s a transforming realization to make for each believer when we come to understand not only the sovereignty of God, but also the intimate love of a Father. A good Father. See what I saw as a last desperate attempt at figuring life out, He saw as an opportunity to show His faithfulness and goodness to an ordinary sinner like myself.

There are many ways that His loving touch has transformed my life, and many avenues in which He used to do so. I want to share some of the priceless lessons I’ve learned along the way so far. First, I’ve undoubtedly come to understand that there is more strength in vulnerability than I ever found in the well polished facade of being bulletproof. Pretending to be strong serves no real purpose, and makes it impossible to allow others in. I’ve found more freedom in tears than I ever found in the furrowed brow of a ragging temper. The easy answer is giving way to the emotion, the difficult part is practicing self control. I’ve gained more self control in a loosened grip than I ever felt possible through the white knuckles of fear. Just because we hold more tightly doesn’t mean more control. Interestingly, it usually means the opposite accompanied by more anxiety and stress. Our attempt to control is just an elution. I’ve also found that facing things takes more bravery than I ever thought possible. Honestly, in a lot of ways, it’s easier to not deal with the difficult parts of life. After all, no one is forcing you to crack open the ugly parts and ask the difficult questions. So who besides you will really know the difference? Don’t be fooled. In the long run, we’ll all be found out. Life has a glorious way of exposing us, make no mistake about that. I’ve also learned that emotions don’t have to rule me, that they are necessary indicators and lousy leaders. I see that it takes work for many of us, not only to find our voice, but also to sift through the piles of rubble that life can leave in its wake. Most importantly, I’ve learned that no one else is going to do the hard work for me. It requires consistency and diligence on my part. No one else can want it for me more than I want it for me. I would say the same is true for you. When I was twenty one years old looking for a sense of purpose and direction I did it for myself. Now, with three children and a forth on the way, I do it for them and for my marriage. Our family, especially our children, deserve the best version of us. They deserve the hard work it takes to get healthy, and I don’t mean physically, although I would argue that’s important as well. We get one shot at our children’s childhood. Give them the best gift (aside from their salvation) that we can give them, the healthiest version of us possible!

I should probably warn you though. Just because we start walking in the direction of healthy living doesn’t necessarily mean others around us will do the same, or even understand what we’re going through. One of the biggest battles I’ve fought on the inside has been having to grasp this reality. I mentioned earlier self awareness and how once we begin to make some of your own personal realizations, it’s much easier to notice these types of things in others. One of the more difficult hurdles for me has been understanding and accepting that I cannot place my expectations on others. It’s important to know that we cannot change anyone. We can only operate and respond out of what we have come to understand about ourselves. It’s a heartbreaking reality when we finally accept that what we need from someone we will never receive. It’s also very liberating. Making the decision to heal from any anger, disappointment or resentment is my decision to make and doesn’t have anything to do with anyone else. Allowing those in our lives to be who they are doesn’t mean we excuse the behavior, it just means we’ve come to accept things for what they are and we no longer have to allow their behavior to effect our emotional state. This, by the way, is very often much easier said than done. We are all at different places in the journey and some of us simply may not be at a place yet where others actions don’t effect us. That’s ok. It’s very much a process that we have to be patience with ourselves through. This type of work doesn’t happen overnight.

So I would encourage you, if there are areas in your life that just don’t seem to be working, or areas that seem to be a cycle that you can’t quite gain any traction on, examine that. Examine the hurtful places. Talk about the hard things. Ask yourself why you do the things you do and don’t be afraid of the answers. Take a deep dive on the insecurities that occupy the deep parts of your heart. Keep searching and staring intently into your life until you’re so comfortable with the answers that you don’t need anyone else to understand. Being real and honest with ourselves is the first step towards emotional healing. This is one of the Lord’s greatest gifts to each of us in our journey with Him, and the best part is, He promises we don’t have to do it alone! There is one thing I know for certain, living life in abundance is proving to be worth the fight.

“You call out to God for help and he helps—he’s a good Father that way. But don’t forget, he’s also a responsible Father, and won’t let you get by with sloppy living. Your life is a journey you must travel with a deep consciousness of God. It cost God plenty to get you out of that dead-end, empty-headed life you grew up in. He paid with Christ’s sacred blood, you know. He died like an unblemished, sacrificial lamb. And this was no afterthought. Even though it has only lately—at the end of the ages—become public knowledge, God always knew he was going to do this for you. It’s because of this sacrificed Messiah, whom God then raised from the dead and glorified, that you trust God, that you know you have a future in God.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:17-21‬ ‭MSG‬‬

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

Sex Before Marriage

Hi I’m Erika. I’m a pastor’s wife and I was sexually active before marriage. Whew! Now that we got that out of the way…

In all seriousness, I do want to talk about this not only because I think it’s incredibly important but also because it’s incredibly relevant in our world today. What you’re NOT about to hear me say is that sin is okay and it shouldn’t be taken seriously. If you’ve been here before, you know this ain’t that kinda blog. This year my husband and I will celebrate ten years of marriage and I feel like now having been on both sides of this thing I’ve got some thoughts I’d like to share.

I’ve spent the better part of the last ten years repairing, examining and healing from decisions I made before I was married. My decision to be sexually active outside of marriage has impacted me greatly. Sex is such a gift, but when taken out of its rightful context, it can’t help but have major ramifications. The lasting lingering effects is something our culture doesn’t really want to discuss. Not surprisingly. Our “hookup culture” likes to sell the lie that you can sleep with whoever, whenever with a simple click of a button and you’ll be all the better for it. You know, YOLO. (Are people even saying that still? I’ve become that person.) This just simply isn’t true. There are lasting, lingering effects. You just might not know it yet. For some of us, we made these decisions knowing what we were doing wasn’t right. For others, God had not yet opened our minds and hearts to His truth. Either way, there is hope.

What I know now. God’s design is always best. It’s always right. We can rest assured that if His word says it, it’s not only what’s right for us, He also has our best interest in mind. His word promises that He works for the good of those that love Him. Those that love Him. How do we know if we love Him? By our obedience. Notice it doesn’t say for the good of those who treat His word like a suggestion. Anytime we stray outside the boundaries and guidelines He has given us, we experience the consequences of sin. One thing I know for sure about sin, it takes you farther than you ever wanted to go and keeps you longer than you ever wanted to stay. Of this you can be certain.

There came a moment in time where I confessed that I knew what I was doing was wrong, I asked for forgiveness and I made a promise to the Lord that I would practice abstinence until my wedding night. I kept that promise. In the time between that conversation with the Lord and marrying my husband Michael so much healing took place in my life. He began to strip the guilt and shame I was carrying from my decisions. He gave me back my self respect and my dignity. I began to understand that I was NOT damaged goods. That God saw me, He forgave me, He loved me and He still had a purpose for me. Notice though, that the consequences of my decisions didn’t just go away because I got right before the Lord. My heart and soul were still effected by my decisions. I saw multiple counselors over the years and have even struggled in my intimacy with my husband off and on during that time. THIS is what I mean when I say, sin will take you farther than you wanted to go and keep you longer than you wanted to stay. When the enemy whispers in our ear, he knows exactly what he’s doing.

If you’re reading this, there’s about a 100% chance that if you’ve struggled in this area you’ve run into Christians who hear the words “sex before marriage” and gasp at the idea of such a thing. They’re the ones who respond with the underlying tone of, “Well you’ve really done it, there’s no going back now!” The inexcusable screw up. Let’s get real. Those people, are not your people. In fact, if you’re reading this and you are those people, do us all a giant favor and lay off. Would you? There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. And if those who are in Christ don’t receive condemnation from Him, what on earth makes you think we have to receive it from you? In fact, if things are so neat and tidy in your world, there’s really no need for Jesus to be a part of it in the first place, is there?

What does this look like in my life today? I set the bar high for my kids, especially my girls. I really do. I expect a lot because I know they’re capable of a lot. I hold myself to an even higher standard. Not only in what they hear me say, but also in my actions. I know they will follow my example. Not my words, my example. I have honest (and appropriate) conversations with them. I want them to be aware of what the world is about to slam them with. I want them to be able to identify the lies and combat them with truth. I want them to love who they are and what they look like not because someone else does or tells them to, but because of what their Creator says about them. I want them to know that the most respectful thing a man can do is keep his hands off them until the right time. I want them to know that they have the right and authority to make those calls. I want them to understand to the bone that affirmation from anyone, but especially from men, does not define them or make them worthy. This is the kind of women empowerment I can get behind.

But you know what? None of this guarantees that my sixteen year old daughter isn’t going to come to me crying because she’s pregnant. I can do all the “right” things, I can have all the “right” conversations, but the reality is, I’m not in control. I’m not in control of anything for that matter, but I’m certainly not in control of the choices my children will ultimately make. Yes I can guide them and point them in the right direction. Yes I can pray over them daily, as I do, for the Lord to protect them, equip them and give them a deep understanding of who He is and what He’s about. I would certainly encourage parents in that. At some point though, we have to understand that we can’t take credit for the good that our children do, and we can’t personalize the bad decisions they will make. It isn’t personal. They are people. And they will act accordingly. We paralyze our kids when we slap a label on them that says, “No mistakes, be perfect.” The truth is, often times we’re more concerned about how our children’s behavior is going to make us look than we are developing and molding young people into adults of substance that will make a difference in this world. It’s been my experience that Christians are sometimes far more concerned with the image than they are remembering that we are all image bearers and every single one of us falls short.

So if you find yourself in a situation like mine today just remember, it’s ok. You’re only one decision away from redemption. You don’t need anyone else’s permission to take a hold of what is yours in Christ.

“If you, GOD, kept records on wrongdoings, who would stand a chance? As it turns out, forgiveness is your habit, and that’s why you’re worshiped.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭130:3-4‬ ‭MSG‬‬

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭9:10‬ ‭NIV‬‬