This is a painting that my son Justin did. He is a wonderful artist. I love to look at art and ponder what is being expressed. He calls this " The Idea of Me." Subjectively, I feel this painting might express coming upon our true selves, small..often forgotten and unheard. As we seek to listen to our own hearts, spirits and minds...we often find that we are very different than the life we live.
About 20 years ago, I found myself in this very place. I was raised in a very unstable home with an alcoholic father. I learned certain skills to survive that life. I carried those skills with me for many years. As a child, in my home, I learned to become invisible and to very cautiously express my true feelings, often denying them for safety, peace, and less conflict. I was filled with fear.
When my mother finally left my alcoholic father, we moved in with her mother, who was very domineering and wasn't happy with a 13 year old girl in her home. In my older teen years, I rebelled and resisted this life and family and ran from them and myself.
At the age of 19, wearied from it all I ran into the arms of Jesus. For the first time in my life, I knew that I was loved and that there was a life and purpose for me somewhere and somehow. Within a few years I became a part of a Christian Ministry/Intentional Community that was in the beginning a place to call "Family." It gave me a sense of belonging. In some ways, I healed in that setting. I found a few parts of myself there. I grew in my love for God and learned that I could serve others in spite of my own pain. The leaders in this community were very simplistic in their understanding of God. They filled in the blanks for me, as to who God was and what my place was in serving Him. There was little space for questions, only black and white answers and far too much control of my life. I lived and worked there for 20 years.
My last two years there I experienced something called "Spiritual Direction" outside of the community, which was frowned upon at that time because they believed the answers to anything I needed to know were found within that community. In those two years, I allowed myself to ask questions and explore the truth within myself of what I believed and what I didn't believe. I allowed myself space to explore unanswerable questions, and to sit with doubt and honestly let it be there. My walk with God became deeper, but less defined. I began to know this true person within myself that God created, that God wanted to grow and become, thus I then put on My New Traveling Shoes.
For many years, as a wounded Christian, I lost my true self in the service of others. My life became all about helping other people, only with the motive of finding my identity in this very service. It has been a very difficult thing to see this, own this and pull away from this. When I left that Community, I became a pastor's wife, fulfilling this role for about 13 years and then became a pastor myself for 4.5 years. All the while I was beginning to see the problem that I had, and began seeking to approach ministry from a different place. My last year as pastor, I enrolled in a school for training to become a "Spiritual Director." It was a 2 year long program that I totally loved. I continued with that group for one more year for supervision. Through all of this I was brought to a place of "letting go" of all specific ministry. I feel I am called to solitude in my faith. At this point I cannot be healthy in "ministry." It has been a very painful decision in many ways but, I know a very important one for my heart, soul and mind. I find my connection with God through my relationships with family, friends and work. I feel a strong connection to the arts, singing, writing, painting, etc. I have spiritual friends that I connect with to share my faith and a quiet time where I seek to express myself and listen to God's voice each day.
I am grateful for God's leading in my life and for the grace and strength to be true to myself at this point in my life. I am open to God's calling and leading but I seek to be content right where I am at this moment. I have taken my "travelin' shoes" off for a bit to rest and reflect and I look forward to seeing where I will be going next.
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