A season of healing and shedding old skin. We are in the season of Lent! It is my first time participating in the act of forgoing “something” in a small show of honoring Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice. I gave up social media as it would be that I somehow ended up with an account on basically every platform available. Twitter for news, Instagram for friends and family, my mom’s Facebook for weather (lol), and Snapchat for random niches of friend groups. It has been very quiet if I were to choose one word. I’d stepped back from social media recently any how, but certainly would hop on one platform a day.
In the quietness, only 4-days into the season of Lent, I was kept awake into the early hours of the morning by a long-time acquaintance of mine. This acquaintance is my own story, but it is not quite a friend. 22-years of spread-out life occurrences that have molded me into the person I am today. They aren’t pretty stories you’d read in a fairy-tale; no, they much more read like a news headline you’d find in today’s reels… had I done anything public or legal with them, that is. Alas I kept these stories and details closer to myself than anybody else. Other than a few friends here and there only in bits and pieces, no one would know these accounts as well as me. Isn’t that the way it should be?
I have written small portions of my testimony in blog posts or Instagram stories and captions, and while the response I received was always one to be proud of – I couldn’t get rid of this late night nagging acquaintance. My stories amount to about 5 or 6 that dramatically changed me for the better. Only because of God’s grace and the desire to seek Him have my stories led to a road of redemption and freedom. Abuse, addiction, sadness, and confusion were certainly stars of the show, some more than others. Night after night, these individual stories wove themselves together as they do, and again and again I wrote out my life story in my head.
Some times a silent tear would fall down my cheek as I wrote the hard parts. Some nights I’d groan in tiredness, not so much of being awake, but rewriting this story so many times. I’ve already lived it, why must I poetically relive it night after night? In this season of Lent I am learning the concept of letting something go in order to make space for God to do something new. His will be done. And so 4-days into the season of Lent, in the early morning hours, I got out of bed and finally began to write my story on paper. This time, I had someone I was writing it to. This time, I felt closure as I printed it out, signed my name at the bottom and folded it into an envelope. Except, the 8-pages wouldn’t fit in an envelope, so I just wrote “To:” and “From:” on the front. As my two-year-old says, “that’ll work.”
My husband woke up and sleepily rubbed his eyes, “what are you doing awake?”
So I told him. I’ve finally written my entire testimony out and I’m giving it to someone else today. I’m done being kept awake night after night. I’ve waited and prayed for the right person(s) and I know they are finally here. I’m giving them this letter and I don’t expect what will come of it, I just know I need to share it. Chris didn’t read it beforehand as I expressed to him I wanted who I wrote the letter to, to be the first. Instead, he prayed for me, for my words, for my testimony, and for those who would be receiving the letter. Chris is apart of my story and he knows it well, better than anyone else, but even this version I wrote was one he hadn’t heard in full. Nobody has ever read it chronologically written, my pains expressed, my remorse in words, my most private and low moments strung together to display 22-years altogether. Nobody except me, I thought.
Within an hour or two of printing the letter out, I was handing it to the recipient.
“All I ask is that you read it with [your wife].”
That was it. Since that moment I’ve come to realize even more the graciousness of God and the inner workings of His design operating as it should, especially in The Church. When I physically handed my story over to someone else for the first time, I released the burden that I thought only I have carried. As Christians we are called to share in one another’s burdens. I had spent so much time praying, hoping, desiring for the person(s) to share it with, but I just knew I wasn’t presented with the right ones. And when it comes to sharing something as sensitive and of magnitude as this, the right person is absolutely a necessity. I knew the time had come.
In the book of Matthew, St. Matthew tells us an account of Jesus speaking to multitudes in the cities concerning John the Baptist and Jesus, offering comfort, says to them: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest in your souls. For my yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
I traded my heavy laden burden for Jesus’ yoke and it has been a wonderful experience indeed. I don’t look back on all of the restless nights spent and feel angst, I know each night was a part of the process. 22-years is a literal lifetime that I had to spend years sorting out in a hidden place. I know now that God heard my every cry, He counted every silent tear. He heard those words over and over as they were written on my heart. He was with me. He, too, carried my burden. So often we participate in Jesus’ resurrection, but fail to give Him glory as we participate in His death. We want to rush our suffering and get on with the prosperity. Suffering is not always a sign of “wrong” or “bad,” but it is a time for us to be weathered in His glory. A time to grow, a time to fully rely on our Savior who knows suffering more than any other person on Earth.
Suffering with Christ isn’t something we should try to avoid. We all suffer and it would do us good to remember Christ’s life before our own. He goes before us. That is what the season of Lent is about. Let us not separate our earthly suffering from Jesus, but allow Him to be in it with us. Let us participate in His death first. As my burden became lighter so soon into the season of Lent I have not sighed a breath of relief and said “okay, time for the easy life.” I have sighed a breath of relief and cried out “thank you Jesus! Now, what’s next?” Whatever it may be my heart will sing: thanks be to God.