Some of you have private messaged me about your own journeys of faith and how things have changed for you. Receiving these has been pure joy for me! Thank you! One of the main reasons I decided to blog about the beautiful mess of my life was to find you! So when you write and say, “I can relate” my soul finds such sweet satisfaction.
Four of the people with whom I’ve had private conversations have agreed to make some of their own stories public on this blog. I’m so excited about that! Some are willing to tell their stories here, but want to do it anonymously. I get that.
I would love to share more than these four stories. Would you, dear reader, consider sharing your own story with me? I will gladly consider every one of your submissions for publishing on this blog, and you can decide whether you want your identity to be revealed or not. Please email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Facebook message me. I’d love to hear from you even if you don’t want to go public!!!
What follows is my first brave friend’s Facebook message to me and Artie. We were communicating about her upcoming visit. She wrote this part after reading this blog. She is at our house now, but before arriving Erin Castillo wrote:
“Hi Art and Julee, wow I am even more excited to share some time with you now. I have been on a very similar journey. I could relate to so many things that you shared in your blog. And Julee, the way you put it all into words in such a real and authentic way is SOOO beautiful. You have a gift! Thank you for sharing!
I have recently been experiencing so much freedom in the areas of fear and shame, areas I didn’t even realize were so deeply rooted in my life. For the last 3 years or so, everything has been changing and shifting for me. I am coming out of striving and earning, all I knew before, and just letting go. And realizing that God is in me and always has been, and I am in Him. Abba, Jesus, Holy Spirit have invited me into the perfect union, fellowship, communion that they share, and I am in the midst of them. I have been realizing God’s delight in indwelling humanity, and even realizing that His heart isn’t to “fix” me but to love me and that has been huge for me.
I am definitely still on the journey, but the journey feels so different now. I look forward to sharing more when we see each other.”
After hours of conversation while Erin has been with us, I asked her to share more of her story. Here’s what she wrote:
“In Christian culture, we have this idea that revelation needs to drop from our mind to our heart, but I have experienced the opposite. I have discovered that there is an experiential knowing that the mind cannot initially understand, and it has taken me years to find language to begin to express what I have experienced.
I do not remember saying the “sinner’s prayer” or a specific moment of “accepting Jesus into my heart”. I remember always believing in God and even experientially knowing Him from a very young age. I was not aware that God could be a friend; nobody told me that or had modeled it for me. But in the second grade, our teacher asked us to write a story about our best friend, and I wrote about God as my best friend. I was communing with God, and that communion continued throughout my life. It was happening even before I could put it into words.
Growing up, my only grid for life was striving to earn acceptance, approval and love, which I longed for deeply. So, as my relationship with God grew and developed, I found myself functioning out of that same grid. This led to empty religious rituals; although that was never my intent or heart’s desire.
The Christian culture around me confirmed this way of life with do’s and don’ts, that if I adhered to, would allow me to be near to God and please Him. So I lived out of fear and strove to do everything right in order to get closer to God and earn His acceptance, approval and love. All the while, I thought that there was something inherently wrong with me, what I now recognize as shame, and I believed that I needed to be fixed. In all of my striving, I thought I was doing everything right according to the rules and regulations, but I did not experience the continual approval or acceptance that I longed for, just glimpses. So, I thought that I must have missed something.
I also began recognizing how subjective rights and wrongs are. I could choose an action that one person perceived as right, but another person thought was wrong. How could I ever get it right if I could not be sure what right was? But deeper than that, how could I ever be enough? Everyone had different expectations of me, how could I meet them all? All of this led to self-condemnation and even a distorted view that God, himself, condemned me because I could not get it all right.
In 2015, I found myself completely burned out and at the end of myself. It was in this emptiness and brokenness that I experienced God in me just simply loving me, not for what I did or did not do, but just for who I was. I did not have to do anything; I just received. I began to understand that God’s agenda for me was not even to instantly fix me, but just to love me. God does not expect humans to be perfect; in reality, He enjoys indwelling our very humanity, just as we are. There is no division between sacred and secular. Weakness actually paves the way for relationship and interconnectedness, and God desires fellowship, communion, and union with us. Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit have invited us into their dynamic relationship and the oneness that they share.
Additionally, I have realized that there is nothing inherently wrong with me, and I recently began living from my heart again, which had become hardened and jaded over the years through painful experiences as well as the masks and façades of religion. Also, I believed what I was taught; my “heart was deceitful and wicked ABOVE ALL THINGS”, so I shut down my heart. I now recognize that my heart is the very core of my being and the very essence of who I was created to be. My heart is actually a wellspring of life, love and beauty. My heart is not deceitful or wicked. It’s not perfect, but there is beauty in the imperfections that actually give greater value. Picture real wood crafted into a beautiful piece of furniture as opposed to a piece made out of artificial wood. The wounds and bruises of real wood make a unique and genuine piece of greater value than the fake. Trees live open and vulnerably. In the rings of the wood you can literally see the life of the tree; the effects of storms, the injuries, the years of growth, etc. We see beauty in its scars. The wood authentically displays the fullness of its identity without trying to cover or hide anything. As I open and live from my heart again, I am finding freedom to be who I truly am and not who others think I should be. In this process, everything within me is coming alive and I am beginning to thrive.
Since 2015, I have been experiencing an unveiling. I am not sure how to describe it except that I feel like the eyes of my heart are being opened more and more. I am seeing everything differently, but it is not that I am seeing something new. I am seeing and perceiving that which has always existed and been true, a greater reality way beyond myself. Letting go has definitely been key in my journey. I have released control and let go of all I thought I knew. I now find myself in the vastness of who God is and in the joy of discovery and mystery.
When receiving prayer, we sometimes posture ourselves as if God or something supernatural is going to come down from above. But God is already inside of us; we do not have to plead with God for Him to come down to meet us. God IS love and nothing can separate us from love… from God. Oftentimes, when I quiet and still myself, I can actually tangibly feel love, peace, and comfort permeating my being.
In the Church, we have often perceived the “Good News” of Christianity as Jesus coming to earth so that we could go to Heaven (and not hell). But the Good News is actually that Jesus brought Heaven to earth. Jesus was the exact representation of the Father, God incarnate, and He did not come to condemn the world, but to restore the relationship and life abundant that we were originally designed to live in. And not only that, but we are now IN Christ… who is IN the Father… and the Father is IN the Son… the Divine Spirit. We were created to be a part of this oneness and union! This Good News is way better than I realized before!”
Thank you Erin! I love you!