Forward by Kyle Unger
Pain and hurt is inevitable. It happens to the best and the worst of us. Megan is no exception. She has experienced many forms of pain in her life, as she'll explain, but at some point comes healing. She now has hope in Jesus, and she's gone on a journey of healing through Christ's love. Megan's story is an interesting one, coming from a background not too many people will be very familiar with. We'll explore that background next week actually, but for now, let's listen to Megan's experiences in coming from a place of feeling worthless and unable, to being a cherished daughter of God.
I walked across the University of Montana campus with much on my mind, as usual. I was rushing to get to class, with the list of all I had to do that day weighing on me with work, homework and of course the constant wondering if my relationships were ok. It’s a constant anxiety of mine, no matter the assurance; I live in constant fear of rejection.
The familiar voice singing through my headphones settled into my brain and hushed many of my fears as I focused on the lyrics of the song. “We’re not questioning God, just those He chose to carry on His cause…” The song has got me thinking a lot lately about the church, and even the Christian world. It’s hard not to notice the significant stigma when you talk about “the church” these days. As part of the millennial generation, it seems to be increasingly more common not just to feel the stigma when talking about it among the non-Christian circles, but among Christian circles as well, including many church-going Christians. I will honestly admit I have been among them more than once lately.
I grew up in a very legalistic community with parents who tried to enforce the values of the community, yet could never seem to follow through with them for themselves. This served as a backdrop for my own skepticism about God and religion, and even my trust for people for much of my life. You see, I was raised as part of a Fundamentalist Mormon community. Growing up, I had no reason to question anything about my life or upbringing until I went to a public school in 3rd grade. From that point, as I interacted with other backgrounds, I realized that my family was different, very different, from so many of the people I saw at school every day.
With this experience, not only did I struggle with being an outcast in school, but throughout my childhood I managed to walk through a lot of abuse, in just about every form imaginable. Today at twenty-six years old, I have experienced physical, sexual, and verbal abuse, manipulation, as well as some forms of neglect. Much of this happened within my family growing up, but also outside of my home. Through my young adult years, as I started to get into several relationships with men and others outside of my family, I added other wounds to the list. When I was about ten years old, in the course of many of these experiences, I began to struggle with depression, suicide and self-injury as well. This is something that I have struggled with through much of my life, and often times still do.
I don’t divulge this information for pity, there is a reason I do not want to express details here. Many do not know most of this about me and believe me when I say that it could get far worse. My story in all its gory details, should I have chosen to share them, is mild compared to so many I have heard. I simply say this to show that in the midst of the most broken and darkest places, God’s love reaches deeper still. In the midst of my pain, I found God on the floor of my bedroom at seventeen, right before attempting an overdose of medication to end my life. Thankfully God’s mercy never let me get that far.
Of course, you’re asking how that translates into the church. Well, I became a part of the church after these experiences, and I wasn’t healed yet. I’m still not. I can honestly say that in the years I have grown in my faith, I am still a bleeding heart. So many that walk through the kinds of experiences I have, are bleeding hearts too. Although I have come hundreds of miles on my journey, I still have thousands to go. You see, the truth is that the church is made up of many broken people and the reality of that is that broken people often damage those around them. Intentionally or not, we perpetuate the cycle of brokenness. We do so because of sin. Because of the sin that has happened to us, but also because of the sins we act upon, so often we are acting out of self-preservation on account of our wounds. But the church should be a safe place for broken people, right? Yes. So why is it not? I think it is a result of pride that we cannot acknowledge and have grace with the broken people who embody the church. Often times that pride is the armor we wear in order to guard ourselves against wounds that so many, like me, have attained. These wounds have come from our life experiences, and sadly, many have come from within the church as well. All this to say, that the church is not without sin. We ourselves are not without sin.
This is a fact that I think we so often forget. I have needed this reminder so much in this season of my life as I have struggled to love people and allow them to love me. I have held those around me to a standard that they cannot live up to, because I want them to love me on my terms… not on their understanding or abilities. If I am honest, I wouldn’t be able to live up to my own standards either. This is likely one of the main reasons I struggle so much believing in my own worth and that those around me won’t reject me, especially when they see the level of shit that I am still wading through daily. Thankfully, I have some truly amazing people in my life, through the church, that have seen a lot of that shit and are still willing to embrace me.
Lately I have been thinking about the process; the process of healing, the process of sanctification, the process of growth… we are all in the midst of that process and rest assured, it will take our entire lives. As I have walked through seasons of tremendous pain, I have also walked through seasons of tremendous joy that came through freedom and being healed of many of those wounds. I have not arrived, but I am healing. One of the greatest lessons that God has taught me in those seasons is that in order to be free from the weight of guilt and shame that comes with sin, we must see ourselves as He sees us, through the eyes of His son and the sacrifice of the Cross. Furthermore, to extend that same healing, grace and forgiveness to those around us, we must see them as Christ sees them as well. We only gain understanding as we pray for His heart, listen to His voice and seek to take Him at His word, allowing Him to cleanse us through scripture. It is when we allow God to heal us and work through us in the process that we can love as He loves, and in doing so, the church, the bride of Christ, becomes pure and blameless once again. Therefore love. Love each other as Christ loves you and as He loves the church. May we always remember that the message of grace always comes down to the messy simplicity of love; love God, love people, and allow them to love you in turn.
“I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” –Philippians 3:10-12
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” -1 Peter 4:8
 Song lyrics are from (*Fin). Written by Stephen Christian and Anberlin. Produced by Aaron Sprinkle, 2007. CD. Tooth&Nail Records.