When I entered my story for the first time I did so reluctantly and found myself quickly overwhelmed and under attack. I tried desperately to flee and find my way back to safety and security, to the comfort of not knowing. I didn’t want to see what I saw and yet I wanted nothing more than to see clearly. When I first checked in at the lay leader training for grief and trauma my leader asked “why are you here?” I said, “I want to see clearly, so that I can help others see clearly.” Although this was my true heart’s desire, it seemed like an impossible task, because I spent my entire life shrinking back and hiding. When I was small, I saw too much too soon and the things that I was exposed to caused me great harm. I was extremely sensitive and didn’t have the tools to discern and process, I just took it all in. In an effort to self-preserve, I learned very young to cover my eyes, divert my gaze, turn inward, and disassociate from the chaos and violence around me. Although this was a helpful and necessary tool that protected me as I child, I began to realize all the ways it was causing me harm in my grown up world.
Mothers need to be fully tuned in and engaged so that they can protect and care for their young. As I began waking up to the truth of my story and the ways in which God was inviting me to heal and redeem my story, it was like the scales fell off my eyes and I saw all the ways I was escaping my difficult reality. Through the narrative therapy and telling my story in the context of a loving and caring community, my brain began to heal and it significantly affected my ability to stay present in the chaos and challenges of parenting four children of my own. It has significantly impacted all of my relationships and for that I am so grateful. This alone would be enough for me, but God continues to use the work he has done in me for his glory.
This summer, I had the opportunity to serve at the Royal Family Kids Camp with my 17 year old son, Jeremy. The camp serves kids age 6-12 who are a part of the foster care system. These are children who know pain and suffering, they know what it feels like to be dismissed and abandoned. They have seen too much for their young minds to process and their small hearts to feel. I was given the roll of “Dean” which allowed me a unique opportunity to serve both the 100 kids that were there and also the 100 counselors and support staff who were serving them. The role felt overwhelming and I was bombarded with anxiety as the camp approached. I doubted my skills and began to think that maybe I was no different than those kids. I felt way too broken and damaged to be ministering to 200 people in such a tender space. Faithfully, I stepped over the fear and I showed up at camp with a heart burning with desire to be used for the kingdom, to serve “the least of these,” and to whisper God’s truth into their broken hearts. I was committed to stay present to see the needs of God’s people. It was one of the best weeks of my life. The highlight was the last night when I was given an opportunity to share a part of my story with the young girls around the camp fire.
When the director asked if I would be willing the day prior, I felt honored and terrified. I had no idea what to share as I hadn’t prepared. I told him I would pray about it and if God revealed something to me that I would do it. I went to bed that night praying and when I awoke, I had a discrete memory of hiding underneath my bed as a little girl. This is a story in which I had run away and nobody even noticed my absence. I felt invisible! It lead me to the story of Sarai’s housemaid Hagar in the book of Genesis. I had already claimed this story as a part of my own because in it, Hagar runs away, just like I did. What struck me anew as I prepared to share with these kids and counselors was this: “The angel of the Lord found her by a stream in the wilderness, he called her by name and asked: Where have you been and where are you going?” 16:7-8My story of hiding and being provided for, pursued and redeemed by a loving God intersected with a larger story of the gospel and the story of these children who could identify with the pain of being used or mistreated, they knew about hiding and running away from problems. My own story that I wish I didn’t have to suffer became a beacon of hope to kids in the midst of the wilderness. I was able to encourage them to remember this camp like a stream in the wilderness. A place where God chose them and brought them to provision and abundant care, but also to look forward to where they were going. Just like Sarai they needed to return home and submit. They have been chosen and called to shine light and to trust in Gods provision and care in the midst of the wilderness.
God is faithful to rewrite and use the broken bits of our stories to heal and redeem his kingdom. I wonder where God is inviting you to step out in faith and be used for a moment such as this.