The Power of Vulnerability

It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten the creative juices flowing for a blog post. This is mostly because those juices are constantly sipped away by this tyrant called school, but I’m scavenging a little bit away (and sacrificing homework time) because I find that there are so many thoughts swirling around that need to be spoken, praises that need to be shouted high onto the mountain. God’s faithfulness has been pouring down on my life in torrents the past few weeks and I humbly kneel at His feet in awe of how He is working my life. 

 

Two Sundays ago, I was physically drawn to my knees after a sermon at Impact Church, which has become my church home. The pastor spoke truthfully about the oppression of sin and the absolute destruction that is has on our lives, along with seven different ways that sins of others an enter into our lives and leave a trail of hurt that carries with us into our lives. But we don’t get that as an excuse, because God has set us free and we are not bound by the cruelties of our past. Instead, we stand in freedom, dwelling in His love and truth and our scars may be physical reminders of hurt and our own sin, but they are covered by His grace and mercy. AMEN, right? I accepted the call for freedom, and because I had felt so convicted and touched by the Spirit at this service, I felt the need to email the pastor. This is what I wrote to him: 

 

I can’t tell you how timely your message was yesterday. I’ve spent the past day mulling over just how much I needed to hear what was said.

 

I have spent a lot of my life being upset at the way that God allowed for bad things to happen to me that have seeped into how I live and feel now. I resonated with the seven abominations, especially the hands that shed innocent blood. When I was six years old, I was introduced to pornography by an older kid. That event marks the beginning of a struggle with sexual desires being forcefully awoken too soon. My childhood was marked with a deep shame, one that drove me far enough into self-pity that I shut out the world, convinced that I was dirty, worthless, and unworthy of love. Those lies still echo in my life today. 

 

Over the past year I’ve been on a quest for freedom. Not only freedom from my past, but freedom for today. To be able to live free in each moment, not just free from what has happened to me. Yet, in the past few months, I’ve been feeling like I am failing. I too often tend to rely on using my past as an excuse for how I react to things today. Thank you for telling me that it is not okay to do that and for making me even more determined to allow God to finally (and completely) cut the cord for me. My resistance has been founded on truth, but instead I have held on to the fact that I still feel unworthy of love and therefore treat others like they would expect the worst out of me. By doing that, I have pushed people away that truly love me and isolated myself from relationships that were healthy. 

 

A year ago, I broke my addiction from pornography and set off on a determined track to lead a pure life, no matter how hard and deep those wounds were. Although there have been a few bumps in the road, I am proud to say that I have won that victory with the strength of Jesus Christ. I am on the quest for freedom, and a few weeks ago I was asked to speak at a pornography’s effect on women summit at my school, Kuyper College. Since then, I have felt all of the lies of my past enter my head, telling me that I am not far enough along in my path of healing to teach others and am not equipped to make a difference. But yesterday, kneeling on that floor, I was led by the Lord to say yes to speaking. There will be freedom in my vulnerability, and these fears do not define who I am anymore. People, for the first time, will hear my real story and my hurt will come to light. Because I will confess that I have been oppressed. But I will also confess the healing freedom of Jesus. I just thought I should share. Thank you for being an instrument of Jesus to your flock. In only the two months that I have attended, I have already experienced the openness and love that is cultivated at Impact, and for that I am so thankful.

 

This began a journey of vulnerability that I did not see coming, a path that over the past week has taken this story, put it on film, and showed it to over a thousand people at Impact Church. Growing up and dealing with this, I never once thought that I would be speaking about this in front of that many people. Why? Because this is hard to talk about. This is gut-wrenching, “What are people going to think of me now” topic. This could damage my reputation, change the way that many who have been my life view who I am. It could potentially have me lose friends because I have been involved in activities that they do not approve of. It could bring shame on my family and my parents and make them out to be failures. But, I cry out, “NO!” All of these fears, whether voiced or not, do not speak truth. They drip with lies from the devil and because of that I decided that they would not affect what I said in the video. No sugarcoating, no making me out to seem better than I have been in my life. Just me, telling of my struggles with sexual sin and how I desire for that to not be taboo to talk about. And let me tell you, deciding to show that video was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, and I experienced more spiritual warfare because of that decision than I could have ever imagined. But I made the choice knowing full well that if Jesus is for me, no one can stand against me. And my testimony, however terrifying it is to share, will be used for His glory and His alone, and the eternal good that comes from it will far outweigh any negatives that it could bring to my image.

When we live with unconfessed sin, it eats us up from the inside out. Instead of allowing Jesus to cover that sin and His love to be what comes out, the sin becomes the walls around our heart. The soft edges of our hearts are filled with harsh bricks, meant to keep everybody out, lest they find out our secrets. The secret sin begins to nestle in our hearts, taking over what could be full and vibrant tissue and leaves it tattered, broken. We are constantly looking around for who could find out about what we are doing, and they become threats to our livelihood. Instead of our purpose being built on loving one another, it is centered around protecting our sin, whatever the cost. This takes a devastating toll on our bodies. We are built for fellowship and community with one another, and when we step outside of that need and isolate ourselves with our sin, we take ourselves out of the life source that flows from the love of others. We are in turn becoming self-fulfilling prophecies, seeing ourselves as outcasts and becoming them.

 

I see this in my life, the destruction that I caused myself by allowing sin to take full reign of my hurt. God became someone that I had to hide from, not one that I saw as merciful. My friends became those that could find out my secret, and so I ran from them, even if they truly had the best intentions. Instead of looking for the love that I was given, I looked for the faults of others, because if I could find faults in them, than I could feel better about myself. I should have been seeking openness and healing, but I continued to hide behind my walls, for fear that I would share how dirty I actually am and lose the Christian image that I had worked so hard to build up. I can look back and see how my heart became impenetrable and my head unwilling to let anyone in. I was worthless, unlovable, and dirty, only worthy of shame and punishment. And this is all because I let that sin make a home in my heart, a place that should have been hostile to it but yet became its dwelling place at the expense of my own freedom.

 

And yet, God was not going to let me stay at this place. My heart is His, and He began nudging me to share, to let this go. And eventually, at the beginning of high school, I started sharing this with my counselor. And although I held a lot back, that initial stages of relief cracked through a few of those bricks. I scrambled to put them back up, but there was enough of this beautiful damage that I could start seeing the light on the other side. And the thing about confession is that once your sin is in the open, it has no power. When darkness is brought into the light, it is captive to the light of the Lord, of the truth and life that Jesus brings, and does not hold us hostage anymore. When I allowed my darkness to not hide and put it in the path of Jesus to overcome, it wasn’t my battle anymore. And although the change didn’t happen overnight, God’s freedom was upon me at that moment. I just had to claim it, demand that the chains that I had allowed to ruin my life are forever off of me and I stand in the light of Jesus. Micah 7:9 says, “Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the LORD’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness.” He brings us into the light, He restores our lives and condemns the darkness. Hallelujah! 

 

In the last few years, I have been on this process of being true to myself and to God. He knows exactly what is in my heart, but I surrender all of my thoughts and worries to Him because that gives Him the power and does not allow me to go back to my old way of hiding. The first step needs to be that honesty with God, because His forgiveness comes when we ask for it, when we take a hold of His mercy and live in that reality. Admitting that you are fallen and worthy of punishment is what makes His mercy so unfathomable. We are worthless, but yet in the light of Jesus’ sacrifice we are pure and holy, as white as snow. And that changes everything about how we approach Him. Instead of trying to be like Adam and Eve in the Garden and hide in the shame of our sin, we stand in the light of His grace and revel in His forbearance, that He has stuck with us although we have strayed from Him.

 

My next step was to not only admit it in my heart to God that I had sinned and fall short of His glory, but to share with others in my life that could keep me accountable. I chose a few friends in the past few years that I have valued their friendship and trusted that this information that I shared would them would not be held against me. As scary as it was to admit my faults, this against took out a few more bricks with each person that I told. Each person was a greater light that could assure me of my worth and value not only to them but to the Savior. The relief was overpowering – I did not have to run around in a scurry and hide from everybody, but I could be vulnerable with them, along their love to start healing me.

 

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we take a risk. We risk that this information will be too much to bear. We put our hearts on the line, knowing that the reactions of those that hear can either build us up or tear us down. But I am here to say that it was worth everything. When you sit down and bare your soul, not what makes you look like a greater individual but what makes you look like a broken soul saved by Jesus, you allow the gospel to be spoken through our mouth in a way that is real. Instead of driving people away, you let people in. You allow them to hold the fragile parts of your heart. But each time the darkness is let out, the light starts building up your heart again. For me, this has been an exhaustive experience, allowing the years of hurt and pain to be made whole again. But the encouraging words of those that I shared with were tantamount to where I am today.

 

And today, I am at a place where I never saw myself being: living daily in freedom, free from pornography, and working on maintaining a pure and holy life. Instead of running from my story, I am sharing it. With friends, with strangers, with over a thousand people at church. I am not ashamed of my story, and if anyone has problems with it, then shame on them. Because I am speaking of the power of God’s freedom, and I want to shout it to the world. I want everyone to know that no matter where you have been, or what you have seen, or what you have done, or thought about God or thought about yourself or did to yourself, you are not alone and not doomed to live in your prison forever. You can remove yourself from behind your walls, but it’s going to take a lot of work, pain, and struggle. But it is worth it, every second of it is worth it, because the first time you hear someone say, “me too”, all of that struggle will fade away and will be placed instead with awe of the providence of God.

 

Since my video was shown this weekend, I have not received condemnation. No, I have received countless thankful words for having the courage to put my story out there, no matter how touchy of a subject it is. Thanks for making a taboo subject be the discussion of the church. And I am so glad that I am able to be a vessel for the Lord and that by me taking a giant leap of faith and telling Him yes, I am already seeing fruit. All praise and glory to our Father, who makes us new and sets us free!

 

Instead of carrying your burdens any longer, set them down and replace them with wonder. Marvel at God’s mercy and grace that He gave us, even though we don’t deserve it. And don’t be afraid of your story, because you don’t know just who needs to hear it. Let’s be a people who do not run from topics like sexuality or pornography and instead speak about them openly. Join me. 

 

In His freedom,

Liz

 

**For those of you who have not seen my testimony video yet, click on the link below and watch it! Share it, like it, talk about it. I would love to know your thoughts. 

 

 

http://vimeo.com/89152163