I love Peter's experience of walking on the roaring sea with Jesus. But the thing is, Peter's story is often misunderstood. Do you have a step you need to take?
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As we get ready to dive into the first post of our Facing Forgiveness Series, I wanted to invite you to join the Step Out And Thrive Inner-Circle Facebook Group where we dive deeper into each post and get to know one another better. Plus I go live every single week during the series.
“Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD will personally goahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you norabandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8 NLT
Today, just one day after Easter I wanted to begin a series that has been very heavy on my heart for a long time. Facing Forgiveness.
We are all about moving past surviving in this blessed community.
All of us want to thrive.
We want to claim freedom in Christ and like Peter we want to join Jesus walking on the water.
I can’t even get out of the boat if I have buried resentment, bitterness, shame and regret holding me back in the form of unforgiveness.
Most of my life, I have ventured through never understanding what forgiveness was all about. I just knew there were people and hurt in my life that I could not forgive.
The pain was too deep.
My story was too raw.
It just wasn’t possible.
My view of God was too small. My pain seemed too big. There was no victory power in my life, just defeat. I was surviving but not even close to thriving.
So, because I believe in the resurrection power of Jesus and the incredible freedom forgiveness brings, I wanted to share just part of my raw story here with you to kick-off our series together. As you read and walk with me, I want you to know that God took my brokenness and made a beautiful testimony out of a place of deep pain.
Forgiveness isn’t pretty.
It’s a journey we are invited to begin today.
It is a journey that will truly change our lives.
Here is the beginning of my story…
I find it hard to talk about forgiveness without sharing a portion of one of my darkest experiences. This is the short few minutes that held me in bondage for most of my life. As I debated about sharing this glimpse into my life, with hundreds of readers like you, I deleted this post twice in fear that the risk wasn’t worth sharing my vulnerability. Yet, I look at how God has chosen to find purpose in the pain.
Sharing my journey is worth it. I want you to know that you are worth the risk I am about to take. You, my friend, are worth every word that I add here and every step of faith that I endure sharing where God has brought me in my life. You are worth it because Abba has a plan for you too and He ain’t done yet!
My risk is worth it to hear your story someday.
I grew-up with the reality that I wasn’t the exact icon of beauty. I sported thickly framed glasses to support my vision loss in both my left and right eyes. The frames weighed so heavily on my nose it left a dent that might as well have been a valley on my face. You just can’t hide a defect like that.
Then there was the added benefit of my attached hearing-aids. Yes, because my frames weren’t simply enough, they connected to weighted, bone conduction hearing-aids on both sides. I was a walking microphone, fearing my aids would squeal feedback in any and all circumstances. They did. A lot.
Yet, I had more to help me stick-out even further! Of course! I was born with a short right arm. I know what you are thinking. You vision me gracefully brushing through the school hallway, wind in my hair and a smile on my face. Not. Even. Close.
As a kid, I was always dragging through the hallway, dreading the locker because it was so hard to see the numbers on the locker combination. The hallway was more of an obstacle course for me, rather than an opportunity to connect with friends. I would brush by students only to collide into hurried pre-teens steering right into my blind spot. After making it through the sea of bumper cars, I would grasp the little dial of my locker combination. Still dodging on-coming hallway traffic, my eyes would squint to focus on the smudged numbers. I would make the slight turn to the left, then to the right, then back left and pull a tightly clinched lock. No success. It always took me at least two attempts to get my locker open, spilling out the contents inside. Off I would run to my class as the bell sounded, sending my hearing-aids screaming as I whizzed by.
Yes, I was a total hunk magnet indeed. While my friends seemed to pair up, I never seemed attractive enough to guys in school. I was the third wheel. As much as my heart yearned for a guy to notice me, I accepted the reality that girls that can’t even open their locker correctly don’t get noticed by the opposite gender. I felt so incredible the day I actually scored a date to a junior high dance. Both of us were misfits at the time and we found out later that the entire scenario was a setup by a few classmates. But the dance went well. I received my first rose and a kiss. That was it. That’s all I needed to keep some form of hope and acceptance alive. We never dated or even talked much after that.
Perhaps that’s why my darkest life moment seemed so, well, confusing.
Another guy took notice of me in a way that changed my life forever. The hurt occurred so fast, cut so deep, yet it remained like a thin layer of grime that covered my entire body. My heartbeat raced for years after the incident just thinking about it. My palms quivered and I found my arms trying desperately to hold myself close. I wanted to hide somewhere safe and far away.
During my moment of shame, I was completely frozen in fear. Struck by confusion and stiffened by the silence around me. My glasses had fallen off during my way down to the cold floor. My breathing was absent. My mind completely shattered. This boy on top of me was moving in ways I had never experienced before. As much as I wanted out, I couldn’t prevent myself from questioning why I deserved this.
I was a loner.
I was the girl in the corner.
I wasn’t this.
It didn’t fit who I thought I was.
Yet this was happening.
I remember struggling to get free, yet was pinned down so tight. The moment seemed never-ending in my mind. He eventually finished, stood to his feet and I just laid there paralyzed in fear. I felt my glasses but I didn’t want to move.
I was exposed.
As I slipped the frames over my nose, the canyon didn’t seem to matter anymore. In fact, I barely noticed much of anything through my sweat and tears. As much as I didn’t want to turn on my hearing-aids, I knew I needed to hear what was going around me in order to discern my next steps, even if I was frozen in fear on the floor.
I remember my aids squealing and then getting silent. My head lowered and my body completely curled into a ball.
His hand touched my right knee and I immediately kicked him away. He laughed as he tripped slightly distancing himself from me. As he began to walk away he said words I tried so hard to forget. Those words echoed through my mind so many endless nights, filled with tears and fear as I relived the torture all over again. I hated him for saying anything. Why he couldn’t just have left me there is beyond me. But no. He just had to have his last words.
As he started walking away, he stopped, turned to me and said,
“You know, you could’ve said thank you. Who else would ever love you like I just did?” And he walked away.
He left me curled up on the floor drenched in my own tears and deep regret.
He left me replaying those humiliating words continuously in my head like a broken record.
He left me broken, unwanted, hurt and used.
No, this could not be love.
As the days past so slowly, my showers increased. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how long I allowed the clean water to rush over my body, I never felt clean. This filth of disgust and shame wrapped so tightly around every curve of my body, I felt completely trapped. Yes, even hopeless.
I began changing my appearance to keep others away. I didn’t want to be touched in any way. My clothes became baggy and worn down. My hair was unstyled and reckless. My food choices expanded my waistline yet also increased my comfort bubble that kept me away from others.
Soon there would be other incidents just like the first. I questioned why. There is nothing worse than feeling trapped in life without a way out. This is how I lived my teen years. Surviving is not living.
Looking back now, all of the warning signs were there, yet nobody could crack my mask to figure out the war going on inside of my tough exterior bubble. I was so good at pretending I was invisible that I became completely lost. I refused to let others use me. I blocked off any and all deep friendships even if it required lying. I didn’t date anyone again until college. I tried my best to simply blend in the best I could. In reality, no matter how hard I tried I naturally stuck out.
But no matter how hard I tried to block the pain and break the tight hold shame had on my every waking moment, I simply felt defeated. Every day I woke-up in fear, lived one shaking step to the next and crawled into bed silently asking God to just take me away, please. I tried mixing over-the-counter drugs to escape my reality. I cut myself for the first time in junior high school. I tried smoking. I tried new friends. Nothing could set me free.
Now, before I introduce God into my story here, keep in mind that I was actively involved in my church during all of my teen years. It was an ongoing part of my life. Church was a place I felt somewhat safe, yet not completely comfortable enough to take my mask off for a breath of fresh air. My shame was still thick. I was still lost. I was defined by these too frequent brief moments in time, which prevented me from enjoying most of my teen and young adult years. Going to church does not free you from your pain. Freedom comes from a growing, saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Forgiveness is only possible through Him.
One question prevented me from running to God through all of this chaos.
One unanswered question kept me from handing over my pain.
One question robbed me from running Home several years earlier.
Where were You God?
Later on in my life, I decided it was time to try counseling to work through the details around these dark events that had sucked the life out of me. It took a few very hard and drawn-out sessions, but I finally made it through getting my emotions surrounding the pain out of my mind and into the open air. It’s like revealing your true identity for the first time. I felt like I had a cork screw drilled into my heart. Removing shame is painful. For the first time in my life, I openly admitted how incredibly broken I was as the counselor analyzed my words through countless notes. I seriously wanted to take it all back, press rewind and just run back into the miserable mask I had been protected by.
I spoke. The counselor wrote.
I spoke. The counselor’s jaw dropped.
I spoke. The counselor began to cry.
Eventually I just quit talking fearing my pain was too much of a burden and there was still much more I needed to share.
In the quietness that followed my tearful sharing, I found myself shaking and wound up tightly back into my familiar ball. My eyes were deep into my hands as I simply couldn’t look at the counselor in that moment. It was too hard. This was too deep.
This is what vulnerability looks like in its raw form.
You are real.
You aren’t looking for sympathy or to be fixed.
You want acceptance and someone to sit with you in your brokenness without leaving you there.
As I peered over my hands, eyes tightly glaring, I timidly asked with a shaking voice,
“Now you tell me, where was God?”
Oh, and the counselor responded almost immediately. I had no time to prepare for the answer; it just shot right into my broken place:
“Well Bethany, God was right there with you, of course. You are going to need to wrestle with that,” I was told.
And you can just imagine how well I took that comment. This was a grand piece of advice to someone who just put their broken heart on a stick for you to see.
Just a still figure with a smile telling me that God was present and allowed the very pain that left me here trapped.
In my mind, God just stood there, with His hands crossed and His back turned.
I couldn’t see what God was doing because I couldn’t see past my pain. Our pain has the potential to destroy our view of God’s love.
Sometimes, we don’t get the answer we are looking for, but we can’t quit looking. Therein is the very heart of the matter, friend – something deep within me made me keep looking for God. A fire, barely flickering at times beneath all of my hurt and pain, kept me silently hoping to one day find God in my darkest moment. If I could find God in my hurt, I could find purpose in my pain.
Friend, please hold on to that flame. If you are hurting right now, even if the event was brief, the pain continues as long as we allow it to. Please keep looking to God for His presence. Keep crying out to Him and cling to His promises. Keep chasing for His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness and His love. We all go through life at completely different speeds and God knows your speed limit. Be ready for Him to use your mess as His message of hope. Be ready to experience His moment that He chooses to speak into your moment. Never quit looking for Him.
I wish there was a step by step process I could offer to bring you peace right in the middle of your life’s most painful trial. Oh how amazing that would be! But here is reality – I know my story. I know how God worked through my brokenness to show me His continual presence. I know the feeling of yearning for answers and feeling completely betrayed by what looked like God’s inability to protect me during my most vulnerable time. But through His time, God grabbed my heart, painted a very different picture and allowed me to walk hand and hand with Him through the journey of forgiveness. It wasn’t instant. It wasn’t clean. It was time-consuming, tear-drenching, teeth-gritting, closed-fisted wrestling. God’s love is reckless. He will never give-up on you and you do have a brave story.
Throughout the posts in this series I will continue to share how God worked through my story to reveal His fighting redemptive love in my life. I know He will do the same for you, but no doubt your story is different. May you find hope and comfort in what I and others in this series will be sharing. I’m glad you are here.
This week, decide your level of commitment in this forgiveness journey. What does your story look like? Who in your life have you allowed to take up residence in your heart? What pain is holding you back from allowing God to fully work through you? This week, I am praying for all of us as we take the time to get real with God and begin this journey together.
God, we invite you to change our stories. We invite You to change our minds and come into the places we have hidden away. We need more of You and much less of us.
Dare to do more than just survive, step out and thrive!
I love this video by Louie Giglio because honestly, it makes me fall apart in the power of our amazing God. Sometimes I lose sight of Who God is when all I see is pain, confusion and craziness. I forget Who is in control. This has been a long time favorite video of mine (over 7 years old now). Enjoy!
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What gets in the way of us sharing our story?
During this series, I will be sharing videos from others with stories of forgiveness. If you have a testimony to share, please leave a comment below or email me here!
Hello and welcome to Step Out And Thrive Ministries! My name is Bethany Boring and I am proud to be called a child of God before any other title or role. I am a mom to 3 amazing boys. I enjoy writing for this Step Out And Thrive community and walking with you as we venture through the ups and downs of life together. I am an ICF trained Certified Professional Christian Life Coach (Christian Coach Institute Graduate), Motivational and Inspirational Speaker, mentor, Certified Human Behavioral Consultant (DISC Personality) and an author. As always - dare to do more than just survive, step out and thrive!