**** Founders Note. I LOVE this woman that is about to share her story with you. She is without a doubt one of my personal role models. I just “met” her via video chat a few months back and I was smitten with her heart and love for God. Her obedient heart is so beautiful. Shannon is the one who started an online fundraiser for me the moment she heard my mom died. And I was flooded with total strangers and friends finances so that I could make it back to WA state to be at my moms life celebration. Her heart is so beautiful!! She also happens to be the founder of an amazing non-profit organization called LionHart. If you have never checked it out, I would HIGHLY suggest you to go take a look. ****
My father left for good on my nineteenth birthday.
I was living in Los Angeles at the time, and my mom and brothers asked to meet me at my aunt’s beach house in Orange County to celebrate the day. When I arrived, no one wanted to talk about what had happened earlier that morning, but somewhere inside of me grew the notions that would soon turn into truth. And my goodness, was I relieved.
See, my father struggled with a drug addiction that slowly wreaked havoc on our family over the years. I’m not sure what came first– the anger issues, the financial hardships or the drugs (or even which ones were the causes or results of the others), but that day at that beach house it felt like we had done all that could be done. It was time to stop carrying the pain of a man who couldn’t carry his own children. It was time to let go.
Only a couple months prior, I lost my virginity to a guy I had just started dating, and (if we’re speaking gently) it wasn’t exactly by choice. Coupled with the chaos of my family struggles, there arose some twisted need within me to stay in a relationship with him, and love him through the pain of what he had taken from me. I guess I believed that the “loss of my purity” would feel justified if this man and I went on to fall in love and have a beautiful life together. As I look back now, seeing the way my insecurities reigned in my ability to make relational decisions brings me to my knees.
With a failed relationship and the stigma of an absent father under my belt, I gave in to the voices screaming inside of me that I was worth no man’s time or care. I quickly learned to detach my body from my heart as I searched for meaning by meaninglessly giving away parts of myself for free. But my Christ was relentless in His pursuit of all of me. And one day, I hopelessly turned around to find Him still standing there, patiently holding out a gentle hand.
There are many things I’ve come to learn in the past few years through the blessings of counseling, friends, and relational discipline with God – redefining where my value comes from is one of them. There are ideas and places and people we’ve come to know in this earthly life that can’t compare to the way God defines them for us. He never meant for relationships to mean pain, for home to mean insecurity, or for loved ones to be disloyal. I believe He created all of these things to be so much more, and when any of them fail to be such, He is still there by our side.
Countless times I’ve found I’m somewhere between hating myself in all of my unworthiness, and deeply basking in the Love I’ve been given and what it says about me. I accept my imperfections. But I want to be holy. I am deeply grateful for grace and forgiveness. But I hate the sin I am sinking in.
There is no formula that says it takes this many days and these exact words to move from a place of hating yourself and drowning in shame, to forgiving yourself as you’ve been forgiven. It’s as though you just wake up one day and suddenly feel joy again from the precious air in your lungs and the sweet sun on your skin. You deeply understand that Christ meant it when He said He came for us to have abundant life. And in the midst of all your darkness, He is the one who stayed by your side, holding the light, whispering, “I love you even still.”
We’ve got to be self-aware enough to know our sins and struggles, strong-willed enough to fight them, and humbled enough to know we can’t do it on our own. And we start by wanting to be more like Christ today than we were yesterday.
So stop drowning yourself. Stop hating where you have been. Start living differently and pursuing the Kingdom of second chances. That Kingdom is ruled by a limitless Love that hurts when we hurt, and constantly wants more for our hearts. So let yourself be filled this week, and every week after, with the things that make your heart beat faster, and give less attention to the things that don’t. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, and oh how I’m thankful for that truth.
Written by Shannon Douglas the founder of LionHart