I thought it fitting that my first “faith” post be (part of) my story. For both those of you who are Jesus-followers and those who are not, I hope you find this post encouraging wherever you find yourself at this moment, no matter what the mountain may be that’s in your way. Please take a moment to share the bumps in the road of your life in the comments section. 🙂
My greatest struggle in life always has been (and probably always will be) fear. The fear of failing is probably at the top of my list. So when I found myself in a hole I dug and couldn’t get out of at the age of 19, my worst nightmare had come true. I had already been a Christian for six years at this point. My parents were Christians, my friends were Christians, my boyfriend was a Christian, and I was attending a Christian college. But there I was, a college sophomore, knowing that I had failed big time and I wasn’t going to be able to hide it. I was pregnant. And I was afraid.
Yes, I was afraid for what my life would become, and I wondered if my baby would be okay, if my boyfriend and I would be able to stay together. But more than that, I was afraid of letting everyone down. I was afraid of ruining my reputation, my family’s reputation, and God’s reputation. I told who I absolutely had to–boyfriend, parents, boyfriends parents, and a couple best friends. Other than that, no one knew. I couldn’t face the humiliation of people at my college finding out. So I hid, isolated myself, and wore loose clothing to classes.
The thing that made this a little easier was that my boyfriend and I had already talked about getting married. Now we had to have a serious discussion about whether or not that was still what we wanted. I didn’t want him to feel forced into marrying me, but it turns out he had already asked my dad for permission to marry me. A month later, he proposed and I said yes. We decided that instead of getting married the following year like originally planned, we were going to get married in three months. That way we could be a “normal” married couple for four months before our baby would be born.
Andy and I were lucky enough (God is good!) to graduate that year with associates degrees. I made it through that last semester, puking the whole way through. Between feeling generally crappy from pregnancy and a tremendous amount of guilt and shame, I didn’t do much wedding planning. I wanted it to be simple, small, and nothing too special, because I didn’t think I deserved it. Our wedding was still a wonderful day, but I regret not putting much effort into it.
We settled into our first apartment, and four months later, had our son. I knew that he was a blessing, not just a result of our mistakes, but that didn’t make it easier for me. The inevitable questions came as we began to try to make some new friends and get involved at church: “How old is your little one?” “You two look so young! How long have you been married?” “Ohhh….”
I started to feel, even more, that my mistakes defined me and that everyone, even strangers, were disappointed in me. I know that much of this was self-inflicted and not always how others thought of me, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was a huge failure. Eighteen months later, we had a daughter, and that somehow brought some relief to my shame. I felt like I was turning a corner and could finally have a normal life.
For years we struggled financially, spiritually, and in our relationships. Somehow (by God’s grace) we were able to stay strong in our marriage and our family was a happy one. However, I struggled with feeling so alone most of the time. This is still a struggle of mine. I seem to feel the most alone when I am in a group of people I know. It’s during those times of feeling left out that Satan’s lying voice comes back in my head: “Nobody likes you.” “Even Christians think you are awkward and don’t belong.” “You aren’t good at anything.” Satan, the accuser, likes to strike in my life again and again and again. He knows my weakness.
Even though Satan repeatedly tries to accuse me of being a failure, I know that I am not. God already forgave me of my sins, and that “big” sin long ago. I am His child, and He loves me no matter what. When I feel like I’m worthless, a loser, or stuck in my ways, God reminds me of what I REALLY am because of Him: chosen, wanted, a new creation, a light in a dark world, designed for a purpose, and a victor! This is not something that the world tells me. If I want to know and understand and believe who I really am, I need to read God’s word, the Bible.
It is hard when the biggest mistake you ever made was when you were already following the Lord. It can seem like everyone makes wise choices once they are believers and I am a minority. But I know that I am not alone. The more I share my story, the more I find others who have a story similar to mine. We aren’t meant to go through life alone. One of the reasons God designed the Church is so that we can be a community of believers who build each other up. Believers should be able to be authentic and honest with each other about their struggles with sin. What safer place is there?
Sinning isn’t something we did when we didn’t know God, and now we are perfectly following Him and His ways. Every day, even every moment, we can struggle with sin. Every second of the day we can get led astray. That’s why it is SO IMPORTANT that we keep in communication with God throughout the day. We need to be praying for protection from Satan and from ourselves. We need to know our areas of struggle enough to recognize them, pray over them, and share them with others.
For me, my number one struggle is with the fear of failure and the shame that results. Fear and shame are the mountains in my way, the road blocks keeping me from living the life God wants for me. They keep me from making and keeping friends. They keep me from sharing the good news of Jesus with those in my life. They keep me from doing my best at work. They keep me from reaching out to the nonbelievers and believers in my life. But God promises to remove those mountains if I only ask.
Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.” -Mark 11:23
I may have to pray this every hour of the day, but God repeatedly removes those mountains from my life. He has given me the strength to open up about my current struggles with some friends and with my small group. Let me tell you, it is so FREEING when we tell people the truth about how hard life can be for us at times. Not only does some of the weight get lifted off our shoulders, but we free ourselves up to help others.
I encourage you to begin living more honestly and authentically if you aren’t already. In the comments below, I would love to see some of you sharing the mountains that sometimes stand in your way. It could be a great first step in asking God to throw them “into the sea”!
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