I stand here unashamed.
I spent last weekend at a woman's retreat and I came out of it thanking God for many different things. Going into this weekend, I must admit, I was not at all excited. I was anxious and tense. But it was one of things that I knew was good for me, I knew I needed it but did I want it? Not even a little bit.
But now, I am so glad and so thankful that I decided to stick it out and participate in this woman's retreat. Now, for those of you who don't know really what a woman's retreat is, in this case the retreat was a bunch of Christian woman from a couple different churches and a passionate speaker from down south who had come to share her thoughts with us. It does kind of sound intimidating when you think of opening up and being vulnerable with a bunch of people you don't know and taking serious look at yourself and realizing the things that you maybe need to work on and change.
The theme of our of sessions was 'Free and Unashamed'. Honestly, I ended up getting a lot more out of it than I had expected to. I came to realize that there were actually multiple things in my life that I have come to feel ashamed of. Everything from the way other's might see me, mistakes I've made in my past and biggest of all my chronic illness and how it affects my life. The last of all being what I'm going to focus on in the post.
I've tried very hard to be open and honest when it comes to talking about my illness and my health problems. I see no point in hiding it or keeping it to myself when it it such a huge part of my life. Writing my blog definitely helps me to feel a little more empowered when it comes to living the life of a chronically ill person. Turning to God absolutely helps even though, if you've read this blog over the past year, you'll know that I've been through some very dark times of depression and doubting God. Even through all of this I ended up realizing that I don't feel free and I don't feel unashamed. I used to think it was my illness that made me feel like I couldn't be free. I used to think it was my illness that made me feel ashamed. I can see now that it isn't my illness that makes me feel like I need to hide who I really am, it's the way I view my illness and the impact that has on my life.
I doubt I'm the only person living with a chronic illness who feels this way, but I have a tendancy to feel extremely inadaquate. I doubt my abilities, I doubt myself and I don't have a lot of confidence when it comes to accomplishing my goals. The main reason I struggle with this is because I constantly compare myself to others. I compare myself to all the other people that are the same age as me. I constantly feel like I am not doing enough, accomplishing enough, being enough, giving enough.. I never feel as though I am enough just the way that I am. I feel this way because I expect my life to look like the lives of everyone else. My expectations of myself are so high and I often feel like if I don't meet those expectations that I am not only letting down myself, but also my parents, my family and God.
Even though I have days where I can't make it off the couch and I have weeks where I don't even leave the house because my fatigue and my pain are so intense; I still feel ashamed that I have not accomplished all of the things that I have expected myself to accomplish.
Just for kicks, let me make a little list of the things that I expect of myself in an ideal world:
- Good health
- Fit body
- Avid reader
- Daily time spent in prayer
- College Degree
- Full time job
- Future plans
- Serious Relationship
- Good friendships
And those are just the big things. Not even the little things that we expect of ourselves each and every day, like: getting out of bed, brushing our teeth, getting ourselves ready, showering, preparing and eating healthy meals, housework, laundry, work, spending time with friends, exercising, etc.
I have finally come to realize how insane it is to expect all of this from myself. Especially considering the current state of my health. I have finally been able to see that I do not have to be ashamed. I no longer need to hide who I've been in the past, the mistakes I've made, the struggles I've faced and the person that I am now.
Something that really stood out to me over the weekend was a quote that went something like this, "untangle your need for approval from other's with the challenge to live for an audience of one." That audience of one, being God. If you're a Christian, your job in life is to please God, to love God, to bring glory to him, to share him with others and spread his love. You do not need to change who you are because God made you just the way he wants you. God created you and called you wonderfully made and beautiful. God loves you and he's got huge plans for your life. God has you in the palm of his hand and if you let him, He will use you to further his kingdom and to save the lives of those around you. When we learn to live in a way that is pleasing to God and not focus on pleasing those around us, we will see how easy it is to live free and unashamed. Because, God forgives even our worst sins and our biggest mistakes. God has forgotten. God doesn't need or want us to keep recalling the mistakes of our past. God does not want us to be ashamed of what we have gone through. God wants us to SHARE OUR STORIES. God wants us to use what we have gone through to save others and to bring others to Him.
All of us have the power to share our stories and maybe in the process, change someones life.
"Other people are going to find healing in your wounds. Your
greatest life messages and your most effective ministry will
come out of your deepest hurts." - Rick Warren