I grew up on the tail end of hymns and choruses in our church, transforming into what I call the “Michael W Smith Era”. “Breathe”, “Above All”, “Agnus Dei” where the “Good Good Father”, “What A Beautiful Name”, and “Great Are You Lord” of their time. So growing up with the more “contemporary” worship, hymns didn’t hold that reverent, emotional spot on my heart like a of people I know. While I did enjoy some hymns, most of them didn't keep my attention; they were always hard to sing along and had multiple verses with no chorus that would come to sound familiar by the second time around. But there was one that I loved, one I felt, one I could sing, and that was “Blessed Assurance”.
I recently started reading “If You Only Knew” by Jamie Ivey. In this book she tells her life story in the hopes to empower others to embrace and share their stories as well. Let me tell ‘ya something, this book has given me so much knowledge about the weight of shame and self-destructive thoughts and actions, and the beauty of what happens when you accept your journey (mistakes and all) and live in freedom. Maybe one day I’ll share my story, the whole truth, but I don’t think this blog is the spot, unless God wants to change my mind about that! But I encourage anyone who struggles with shame, hidden or exposed, to read this book! It’s an easy read, 10 raw-written chapters, with the attitude of Beth Moore. Sometimes you need a little southern Mama to call you out and wake you up!
This book, while it only took me two days to read, seems to have stirred up years of toxic thinking and brought to light areas where I’ve been emotionally sitting for years. It brought this thought to mind: What good is my story, my pain, my trials, if there’s no freedom at the end? What a horribly depressing life, to be tormented by A, B, C, and D, with what, the thought that it’s just “bad luck”? That this is just how my life is, a series of unfortunate events? Like most people, I rationally know God has a plan for everything, I can look back at almost every bad event in my life and understand why God let it happen, but that doesn't stop the psychological aftermath. After years of holding on to the negative emotions, it just seems easier to live with the shame, guilt, and disgust. They become our best friends. Anyone here with me?
I’ve seen this pattern of self-destructive thinking lead people in 3 different ways. The first are those who can’t get out of the depression they’re in. They might have good moments, but as soon as life pops up and reminds them of their past, or a new trial is too similar to their past, they’re sent spiraling. They could get stuck in sadness for hours, days, even weeks or months. The second person ignores feelings. They’re the “volcanoes”. Shame starts to creep in and they push it down by making themselves busy so they don’t have time to feel, or masking the feelings, but sooner or later the pressure of the past builds and they explode over their husband not recognizing their new dress. The third is the person who I imagine most of us want to be. They came to a point where they were done being controlled by negative feeling. They accepted that Jesus died for them, the way they are, with what they’ve done, and they live in freedom of that sacrifice. I’m not saying those people don’t struggle, but they’ve learned the power of repentance and acceptance. They accept past decisions, current flaws, and accept that they won’t be perfect in the future. I don’t know about you but I want to be that person. The person that when Satan reminds them of their failures, they shut him down.
If you can shift your perspective to view each person, no matter which one you may be, think about what you’d see. Think about how their response to their past affects their family, friends, and church. I would see the first person as the shut-in. They can’t be there for their family because they spend their time either in the dark hole, or trying to find the strength to get out. They might be the negative friend, they have a hard time living life and enjoying moments because one small moment could bring back memories. They probably don’t attend church regularly. I feel like church brings a lot of issues for this person. One, being surrounded by people who seem to have life altogether, family in perfect order, singing their little “church songs”, while they are dying inside. Two, the big one, it’s God’s house! Why would anyone who feels like they let God down want to walk straight into the place where God is? I completely understand.
The second person definitely seems more outwardly “functional”. They might be a little better at prioritizing their lives, contributing to their family and life, they glide by. Their relationship with friends is most likely good, they probably hide a bit from even their best friends. If they’re not willing to face their emotions within, they surely won’t let anyone else see them. But every once in a while they’ll explode over the slightest thing. Things that really shouldn’t be a big deal, and eventually it’ll put pressure on relationships, making others feel like they have to walk on eggshells. Church comes and they’re able to really absorb the sermon and music, but they try to hide their past sins even from God. Believe it or not, I think there is a lot of church leaders in this category. Growing up in church, being a pastor’s kid, and then leading my own part, you see all the hidden stress leaders go through. Imagine having to deal with your own baggage, then baggage of others, and the stress of the job. I’ll be real, in my time in ministry, there was a lot of burying happening!
Finally, the third person. This person probably has great communication with their family and friends. Friends and family know everything about that person, the good, the bad, and the ugly. They don’t shy away from their journey and use it to show how God has moved in their life. They are probably the life of the party. They have almost a physical glow of joy. They might have moments of weakness, but they are quick to find a confidant and share their struggle. Sunday comes, and already embracing the full forgiveness and goodness of God everyday, Church is just as joyous as any other day. They might use their time to serve in a ministry, or spend time investing in others more than the average “Good morning”. They own their story and use it for God's advantage.
I hope as you read through those descriptions one stood out to you. The first step towards freedom is realizing where you’re starting from. I think after reading this book, soul searching, and discovering what kind of person I am, I understand why “Blessed Assurance” holds a spot in my heart. The chorus is simple, “This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior, all the day long”. Each one of us has a story, and what we do with our story determines which of the 3 people we are. Are you living a tragedy or a Gospel?