Sunday was the close of the 3-week series on “Desire: the double edged swords of money, power, and sex” at Willow Creek. Before every service we have a time of prayer in the back. I wasn’t there Saturday night, so Sunday morning was my first time hearing the message – and I was nothing but tears through every song. So before the last service, I asked to share a my testimony with the group during prayer time. I didn’t get out all the details that I wanted to, but I’m inspired to share some of it here.
For me, this service basically marks a year of me singing with Willow Chicago. My first time singing was with the Chicago choir at Barrington for the Wednesday night New Community service in the summer of 2007. That day we sang “I Just Can’t Give Up Now” and it was the beginning of me becoming part of the Willow Family.
In our prayer time today, I shared that when I came to Willow I wasn’t looking for a church home. I was hurt and broken from the rejection / abandonment I received at my previous church due to my struggles with sexual sin. I’d gone to them for help when things became out of control… and though I did all that they asked I do to “get free” – I wasn’t getting healed fast enough, or the way they expected. It eventually caused them to exclude me from ministry. This happened rather abruptly and little discussion and no follow-up. The way things happened left me feeling hurt and bitter and out of fellowship for a year before I started seeking another place to be connected to the Body of believers. I didn’t want to not be in church, I was just too hurt to go back to what was then my church. This is when I decided to check out the church I’d seen billboards for on the L Train Platforms: Willow Creek Chicago.
From day one it seems I was connecting with a new and wonderful church, but the question still remained: would I be rejected again if they knew my battle? (and my failures?) I didn’t want to be a part of another church where it would have been better to hide and stay in the dark than to expose the truth and live in the Light. So I told Pastor Steve and the ministry leaders about my issues.
I was received with care and with love. Steve saw that I needed to be involved in Worship because of how life-giving it was for me. The ministry team rallied around me in support and love – even thanking me for my transparency and openness! To this day their love amazes me and encourages my faith in the difficult process of healing and change.
I still struggle (daily), but I’m no longer struggling with the need to prove my spirituality or spiritual growth to anyone. I don’t feel the pressure to keep up some facade just because I’m ‘a minister’. I feel like I can truly connect with the people I worship with and love and be loved. I feel the amazing effects of God’s grace. I’m learning how to form healthy relationships that in a Godly way fill the voids in my heart. I’m getting the wise council that I yearned for, but could not find. I’m even experiencing small victories and seeing patterns and habits change.
I’m in a difficult season right now as well. I’m JUST learning about my needs for validation and approval. Learning about unsafe places where I’ve sought safety and security in the past, and beginning to take steps to build more healthy and safe relationships and repair old ones. I’m seeing my thought patterns that for ages have kept me bound by fear and limited my potential socially, financially, emotionally, and relationally. It’s so difficult for me sometimes when I look at ALL that needs to be fixed right now. But I try to stay focused on one thing at a time, keep encouraged, and bit-by-bit open up more to those God has placed around me so I don’t have to face this thing called life alone.
Maybe someone reading this is down or needs encouragement. To you I say: keep smiling, not because it just looks good but because eventually it’ll all be good and you have a great and eternal hope in God. (Ok… that was really for me but I just thought I’d share! 😉 )