The room is dark. I can’t make out any clear images or path forward. It feels cold and damp, but slightly comfortable. Sometimes comfort comes with longevity. Is there anything else out there? I hope so. But this might be my reality.
This is the room where I meet God.
I never met my biological father. Not once. No effort to seek me out. Am I worth pursuing? Do I bring delight?
My stepfather’s love was forever linked to performance. There were expectations: how I act, what I say, the image I portray. I can’t remember a moment when I made him proud. His constant disappointment was driven home with abusive words and actions. Would I ever be worthy of love? If I can’t please my earthly father, I definitely can’t please God.
The weight of constantly striving for perfection that was unattainable was too great to carry. I ran. There had to be something better.
I threw myself into what the world had to offer. I was in control and created my own path. I wasn’t sure where it was going, but at least I was moving.
Similar to the prodigal son, this pursuit came up empty. Unless you count a few morsels of regret and a large stone of shame.
I wheeled my heavy baggage into Daybreak Church, hoping for something more but expecting the same striving and failure. Yet the interactions and culture were different. And that difference kept me coming back, clinging to a hope I couldn’t describe.
Daybreak became my home, a safe place for exploration. My constant proclamations of, “There has to be more” landed me an invitation to Theodyssey. I had no clue what was in store. My dark room was about to be interrupted.
God as a distant Father, “above” and removed, was being repainted. The feelings of “less than” were fading. As the journey forced me to confront lies and controlling images, light started to slowly break through the cracks of the room.
I began to realize that God viewed me quite different than how I thought. It did not make sense, but I desperately wanted to believe it. I was God’s beloved. No perfection required. Not even an expectation of striving to get as close as possible.
The light was not just breaking through the cracks, but penetrating every nook and corner. Even the one that I hid from everyone. Could God’s love be strong enough to coexist with a memory that is drenched with shame?
During my time away from God, I made some bad decisions. I could live with most of them, accepting forgiveness and moving forward. But there was one that felt unforgivable. Unforgettable. Unredeemable.
I had an abortion.
This would definitely put an asterisk on my beloved status.
This secret haunted me. I remembered every sound, smell, and minute detail of the room. The burnt potpourri in the waiting room, the smell of rubbing alcohol and latex gloves in the operating room, the muffled whispers in the recovery room, and the lifeless descriptions of tissue and cells. The memory never faded, attacking me with unparalleled intensity. And it would sneak into every aspect of my life: dreams at night, thoughts of the day, and hopes for the future.
God blessed me with a beautiful, blended family, with six amazing kids. God had redeemed so much of my life. Yet I could not look into my children’s eyes without a pang of guilt. One sour apple was infected the remaining fruit. I was a prisoner to an unfading memory, paralyzed by shame
I could believe that God loved me unconditionally. Except for that one condition. It was my hidden scarlet letter.
With the desire for freedom, and the encouragement and support of my Theodyssey group, I brought my secret into the light. And a transformation started that I never thought was possible.
A new reality
The memory was still fresh, but the details started to change. As I invited Jesus into the memory, He began to paint the room with different colors.
The smells and sounds were unchanged, but they were losing their bite. Jesus was now holding my hand as I entered the room. He carried the shame I felt, assuring me that no bad decision would change my status with Him.
He stayed by my head, holding me and whispering the truth of my identity throughout the procedure. “You are my beloved!”
My baby was not discarded, but placed lovingly into His hands. He looked at me and said, “I will hold your baby until you get here.”
God did not distant Himself from my sin. He accepted me in my brokenness, never leaving my side.
The room where I meet God? It is now basking in light, with darkness pushed to the corners.
I am God’s beloved. I don’t say it as a mere memorized Christian truth. I BELIEVE it. I OWN it. It is true.
God’s posture towards me is unchanging, even in my darkest moments. He continually invites me to something better, not in order to be loved, but because I am loved. My striving for perfection and feelings of shame still lurk around the corner, but their voice has lost it’s power.
One decision doesn’t define me. One season of my life doesn’t define me. Other people do not define me.
Who I am is only rooted in who God says I am.