“How does December 10th sound?” the nurse asked when trying to schedule my next prenatal appointment. I briefly hesitated before accepting, with that gut feeling I was forgetting something. But, with my calendar showing Thursday as available, I went ahead and booked the appointment. It’s funny how a date so prolific in my life story almost slipped by with nothing more than the sneaking suspicion something was amiss. As I went on about the busyness of life, it finally struck me—the date I once said I would never forget was the date I wore a beautiful white dress and took vows to a man I swore to love, honor, and cherish all my days. With Pachelbel’s Canon in D resounding through the small church, the doors opened, and I walked toward my new name and new life. Friends and family gathered to celebrate the unbreakable union of man and wife. It was a lovely ceremony filled with warm well-wishes, but the air outside was bitter cold. I never could have fathomed that the stage was already being set for the soul-shocking chill to come.
I was leading worship at a church, working toward my Masters in Media Communication at Dallas Theological Seminary, and engaging with people from all walks of life. My spouse and I lived in a quaint apartment, and he was equally passionate about his own pursuits—namely being a teacher and football coach. We met at church, he led a Bible study for student athletes, we took premarital counseling, and we did all we could to set ourselves up for marital success. Sounds blissful, right? Life was good—or so it appeared. We were newlyweds working out the kinks of living with another person, but there were no red flags that could have possibly prepared me for what I found when I walked in the door after class one morning.
The barren closet and the missing toothbrush were minor compared to finding all the money stripped from our recently joined bank account. The apartment manager informed me the lease had been broken after a hefty fee—leaving me with nothing but approximately 24-hours to find a new place to call home. What happened in the days, weeks, months, and now years since this occurred would take much more than one blog post to articulate. But the bottom line is this: in all my brokenness, God proved Himself all-faithful and used a terribly bitter season to show me and many others how sweet He is. What was intended to bring harm and destruction instead brought praise and adoration for the One who would never leave or forsake me. I may have been abandoned by a man, but I was not forgotten and would never be abandoned by my Savior. Regardless of the details of your own life stories, that is a truth all of us share. Just as marriage requires two people, you can only be responsible for your part. The same is true in sharing your testimony—while it may fall on deaf ears or on a soul in need, authenticity only requires one person willing to share truth.
“My mouth will tell of Your righteous acts, of Your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. With the mighty deeds of the Lord God, I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. O God, from my youth You have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might to another generation, Your power to all those to come.” (Psalm 71)
Why am I sharing with you and putting a very small part of a huge story here? I am sharing with you because we all have stories. Granted, some are more jaw-dropping than others, but all stories have the potential to create genuine, authentic relationships in the Body of Christ, which we all need. There is a false air of perfectionism in the Christian community that is creating a chasm between one’s view of God and others; I know this for a fact because I’ve heard the stories. Stories of people thinking “no one would understand,” “I’m all alone,” “people will think there is hidden sin,” and so on. These gut-wrenching comments come from adults and youths alike.
At every age, we have a desperate need to feel secure in sharing our struggles; this is true for ourselves and for the children and teens we are raising. When we do not share because we fear false judgment, we are missing the mark in showing who Jesus is—perfect, sovereign, and consistent like no person could ever be. There seems to be a sad theme going on among our youth and adults that once God saves you, life is perfect, or that His grace is only good for so long, or that if bad things happen, they are always the result of your actions. While the situations are vast, we as parents especially must see what is going on in the minds and hearts of the youth and actively show them what it looks like to live with vulnerability in the Body, so they will know that they are not alone, that no one is perfect (no matter what facade they wear), and that God’s grace is ever present.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
Whatever place you find yourself in—whether lonely and wondering where God is—or blissfully unaware that the other shoe may drop in an instant, both should be shared. How common to sit beside the same group of people in Sunday school and think we know them, yet we don’t truly know their story. Some Christians may look like they have it all together, but they don’t. Every person you see is facing, has faced, or will face mountains and valleys. I know many will read part of my personal story and it will come as quite a shock that at 33-years-old I have been abandoned and divorced. Why? It’s not because I hide this part of my life—but because it’s now just part of a much larger life story and not the consummation of who I am. All that to say, while different than yours, I understand the depths of pain, even at this age, and to hide what God did then and continues to do now is to water down a powerful testimony—a testimony that speaks to people in ways I could not have before this experience.
You may have things in your life you aren’t ready to share, and that is okay. But I urge you to consider opening up and giving others the stage of grace to do so, as well. There is no perfect person in the church—only Jesus is perfect. So when we think our situation is too minor or too major to tell others, we are missing opportunities to develop deep, abiding relationships that show our peers and our children what it means to live authentically as a believer. Our children are always looking to us to see that grace is ongoing, that God is always at work, and that there is no man, woman, or child who has not experienced pain. And if someone looks perfect, he or she may be the person needing to hear what it means to trust a God who transforms—a God who has a far more magnificent plan than we could begin to imagine.
To everything there is a season and while some of your hardest seasons may be in the past, that does not make them any less real or pertinent to the person needing to hear them today. Recognize those times as part of your story that brought you to experiencing God and sharing His love and compassion better with others. If you find yourself walking with open wounds today, or if you are reflecting with awe the mending that has been done, share with others, let them share with you, and teach the next generation that even when everything seems wrong, God is still so very good. Don’t get so consumed with this part of my story today that you forget to stop and think on your own. It takes great courage to be authentic, but when you are, it is contagious. Train yourself and teach your children what it means to be a contagious, courageous follower of Christ.
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” (Philippians 3:7-14)
Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni loves Jesus and is passionate about serving him through the arts by leading worship and writing for various ministries. She is married to Greg, her hard-working, iron-sharpening-iron spouse. They are opposite in personality but equal in dedication to their marriage and family. Gabbie and Greg are the proud and sleep-deprived parents of two active, sweet, and fun boys and are eagerly anticipating the arrival of their first daughter in March 2016. An Aggie and graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Gabbie is a small-town country girl trapped in the city and loves getting to know people and encouraging them as they seek to know Jesus and make him known.
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