Just before the pandemic hit, I made one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.
After twenty years, I changed churches.
I’m not going to get into the “big why” that caused me to open myself to the idea of changing, but I’ll say this: God directed my steps and led me to where I am.
I know that I’m in the right church, working alongside the right people, reaching out to the right community. I know that I am being planted, and that roots are growing.
But the process isn’t painless.
As anyone who regularly attends church may know, the people you attend with become an extension of your family. They’re the people you call on in hard times; they’re the people who celebrate with you in easy times.
I’m 25, so I spent the vast majority of my life in one church. The change has been hard.
Still, I know that God has called me to where I’m serving, and the personal call to a city is so beautiful. I now know what it is to choose your home church, to choose a collection of believers and to ask, “Can I join your work in the cause? Can I co-labor with you?”
The dynamics are so very different, from the way worship services are run, to the length of the pastor’s sermon, to the method of taking up the offering. It’s been an adjustment, and I still have more adjusting to do.
But underneath it all, I can feel myself shifting. Yes, underneath all the busyness and to-do’s, there has been a softening of my soul, and it is slowly but firmly settling into a new mold.
A mold that is giving me the desire and courage to become active in life again.
For a long while, I’ve been on the sidelines of my life. Due to numerous circumstances, I became a lazy spectator munching caramel-coping popcorn, casually cheering over a score, and napping as much of the game away as possible. In less allegorical terms: I was ruled by depression, anxiety, and impulsive behaviors that brought me to a very dark place of self-loathing.
Here, in this new home, I find myself confronting the thought-patterns and self-indulgences I had accepted into my life. As God prepares me for the outpouring of His spirit in our city, He is stirring the waters of my soul and a host of debris is rising to the top. I am unable to ignore it.
I have never been good at handling emotional pain. I can be there for a friend, a stranger in an airport, a neighbor on their doorstep, but I have been useless when it comes to my own battles. In typical Type-7 fashion, I’d rather hide from them behind new purchases, drown them out with a TV show or podcast, dose up on travel adventures, and pretend reality is fiction.
Rather than read and absorb the information, process and learn from pain, I’d carefully slide the delicate papers of my life story into a tidy little file, tuck it into the depths of a cabinet, and close the door on it forever — goodbye, sucka!
As it turns out… that approach doesn’t work. Somehow papers tend to wiggle out of their orderly files and end up sitting on the countertop, staring at me, daring me to deal with them. I shove them back into their place, slam the cabinet shut, and turn around to find them miraculously back on the counter and taunting me with their miserable prose.
The truth is, I don’t know how to process the words on my own. I read them. I ache. But relief doesn’t come, so I just give up and bury them again.
I want to reach the city where God has planted me, and I can’t do that if I can’t reach myself.
The person buried in the filing cabinets.
Under God’s gentle guidance, I recruited a therapist.
I’ll be honest: I’ve tried therapy several times before with limited success. I think I’ve been through something like four doctors or counselors? But this time seems to be different. It seems to be working.
Perhaps it’s working because I am finally braving what I’ve never before braved: we’re proactively looking into the filing cabinets and reviewing the archives of my life.
Yes, each file brings with it a fresh wave of pain and misery. Our calls find me weeping on the couch, tissues piling on the coffee table. The powerful revelations of self, and the cause of self, leave me winded and bruised.
But the next morning, when the sun rises on our hard work, I find a tiny piece of me has been made new again.
It’s a slow and arduous process, but I am committed to seeing it through.
“I want to be whole again.”
I remember uttering those words in prayer sometime after the start of the new year.
God heard me.
He didn’t do the work suddenly, as I was hoping in that moment of petition.
Instead, He gently beckoned me to a new home, a new calling, a new environment.
Here, He is showing me that in this place, He can love me separate from my story, until I can love me in my story.
He is using this new family to remind me of the talents and gifts that I have also buried in my cabinets; these are gifts of compassion, zeal, and boldness; these are gifts of action.
To access them, I must be willing to risk a few paper cuts. But paper cuts heal.
He is restoring me gradually, for permanency.
And it all began with a broken request in a vulnerable moment.