Monday, September 9, 2013
We have all heard the saying, “What goes around, comes around,” but when you are on the receiving end of your “comes around,” it doesn’t always feel so good. God has a funny way of giving you exactly what you need, when you need it, yet often times, it doesn’t feel very good. We want to go from mountaintop to mountaintop right?!? Well, I was in a deep dark valley, but, strangely, exactly at the center of where God wanted me to be. You see, the greatest gift that God could have given me was the circumstances in which I found myself. It took me years to discover this, but as I look back now, I am so thankful for the pain through which God had me walk.
Let me back up a little. . . .
Three and a half years ago, my world, as I knew it, was turned upside down. The circumstances in which I found myself, forced me to take a good, long look in the mirror and to re-evaluate the “Casey Johnson” I had worked so hard to build.
You see, at 17, I felt called to full time ministry and it was truly my heart’s desire for God to use my life to help others. I then spent 11 years trying to perfect the art of ministry, and along with it—my life! I surrounded myself with godly people who had wisdom and insight. I listened to more teaching and read more books on being a “good Christian,” than I can count. I did everything to the “T” that I was taught would make me a good example. I desperately wanted to please God (and others) with my life.
At the time, I thought that to be in ministry, it was a “must” to have your act together and your ducks in a row. After all, if you are in ministry, you had to be “the standard,” right?
I strove so hard to meet the expectations of those around me and what I thought were God’s expectations, in order to be a “worthy” influence. But, one February day, this beautiful little ministry life I had worked so hard to build, came crumbling down and everything had changed.
Within a few weeks, it felt like everyone I loved and respected (besides my husband), had turned on me--with guns blazing! It felt like no matter what my husband and I did, it only made matters worse. Now, 3 years later, I see the situation so differently; but, at the time, it felt like everyone I loved and cherished no longer loved me.
I could only think, “You mean to tell me that I have spent 11 years perfecting who I thought I should be—becoming a product of the environment with which I had surrounded myself, and doing everything I was taught to do and be—and now YOU don’t like who I’ve become!?!”
The group of people I had modeled my life after, no longer approved of me (at least that’s how I felt). I was crushed! I didn’t understand what I had done wrong, or what had changed in the relationships. It felt as if my own family had turned on me. My whole world was ministry, church, God, and the Christian people by whom I was surrounded. It was my foundation and it was crumbling down around me. Yet, as I mentioned earlier, it was one of the greatest gifts God could give me.
I felt like a house of cards in a hurricane. The rug had been pulled out from beneath my feet and I found myself face down in the messy side of ministry. It was ugly, and I realized that I was becoming just as ugly! If this was ministry, and if this was who I must become to “survive,” I didn’t want any part of it.
As my husband, Joel, and I distanced ourselves from the situation, it seemed as if my heart was broken into a million pieces. I felt lost, hurt, broken and useless. I had spent 11 years devoting my life to a cause, to which I no longer desired to be a part. I felt bitterness and unforgiveness choking my heart and spirit. For some reason, this situation took me to my knees and I felt like I couldn’t get up again--like I had lost my footing and couldn’t quite get it back. I no longer wanted to be in ministry. I just didn’t think my skin was thick enough. I was done.
My “Aha” moment came when I realized that over the past 11 years I had, without even realizing it, made people feel exactly the same way I was currently feeling. I thought about the many people that I had judged because they didn’t live up to my standards nor live the way I thought they should live their lives.
I remembered the many times that I had shouted my loud opinions at others who didn’t agree with me; and how I was so quick to criticize those in ministry whose standards I didn’t feel were high enough, or who didn’t preach the way I thought they should, or those who didn’t believe the way I thought they should believe, or even vote the way I thought they should vote. They watched CNN instead of Fox News—how dare they!!
I remembered a time when I stood on the steps of the capital building and protested other’s lifestyles. And, in remembering, I felt completely ashamed of my actions. I felt broken and remorseful for the many hearts that I had hurt; and for the times my loud opinions, said in ignorance, had made others feel rejected.
The circumstances in which I found myself were, indeed, my “goes around” coming back around at me. I was so hurt and broken over the situation and by the judgment and loud opinions towards me by others that I respected. Yet, in a different way, I had done exactly the same thing to others! In that moment, I vowed to do my absolute best to never again make anyone feel the way I was feeling.
I grew in compassion... This was where my journey towards healing, forgiveness, and rediscovering my true self began.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
For about a year now, I have felt a nagging urge to start a blog; but every time I felt the subject come up in my heart, I tried desperately to push it out of my mind. The truth is, there is nothing scarier to me than sharing my vulnerable moments with the world. During the past three years of my life, God has done a deep surgery on my heart. It has been ugly and painful, but as I begin to emerge on the other side, I feel an internal freedom I have never felt in my life before. I feel the Lord prompting me to share my ugly, dark, tearful, painful journey of healing with others. Yet, I somehow keep avoiding it like the plague.
The truth is, these are my pearls. I have fought hard to overcome some pretty painful moments--moments that rear their ugly heads over and over again, tempting me to succumb to the lies and insecurities. I have cried buckets of tears, I have been gut wrenchingly honest with myself and God, forgiven people I didn’t think I could ever forgive, sent some pretty difficult emails in which I allowed myself to be vulnerable and honest with the very people who have wounded me the most. I took back the internal power and confidence that I once had, but gave away to my critics, and came out on the other side with an internal, God-given, power that no one can take away from me.
A while back, I picked up Brené Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and I knew the moment I read that book that I was supposed to start a blog about my journey towards healing and forgiveness. I finished that book 6 months ago, but still no blog. So, after listening to all her TED talks, re-reading The Gifts of Imperfection and ordering her newest book, Daring Greatly, I have finally found the courage to share my journey with you.
But BEWARE, this blog is pretty vulnerable, honest, and real. For those of you who thought I was the perfect wife, mom, Christian, and woman in ministry, I might disappoint you. My journey has been difficult, but God has been faithful! He has held my hand, cradled me, prompted me, guided me, and loved me through the most arduous journey of my life.
My hope is that this blog will help others, who are walking through difficult journeys, to find the courage to persevere through the hard times--to dig deep into the hurt, pain, rejection, or whatever it may be, and to emerge on the other side. Doing the work is never easy, but I promise that you will emerge on the other side stronger, more resilient, and more free!!!