As humidity loosens its grip on the air in the atmosphere and the fireflies come out to play – I can almost feel the weight of my heart grow lighter with each passing shade of gray that darkens into night and each little ping of a fireflies wings as they flutter about….lighting up the ever darkening sky with their brilliance that could only have been imagined into existence by God. I hear bits and pieces of the conversations happening around me – discussions about family members or summer vacations or ideas for the future. I hear the claps and cheers of those who are somehow magically capable of getting that little bean bag into the corn hole board (a feat I have never managed to conquer). I’m looking around at the people surrounding me and I’m trying so desperately to memorize their smiles, the way their eyes light up when they are talking about something or someone that they love. I am trying to memorize the feeling of the cool air, the barely-present breeze, and the way the darkness somehow feels comforting when I’m placed here with these people as opposed to the way it usually feels – daunting and overwhelming.
Earlier in the afternoon, with Netflix mumbling in the background, I sat on the couch with a sweet soul and finally disclosed just a few small portions of my past…particularly struggles with a severe eating disorder. Although I’ve always been pretty open about it via writing and on the internet, it’s a whole different beast of a story to tell face to face – when you can’t go back and delete the portions you don’t like, can’t re-write anything or make edits, and you can’t write it all out and then decide to take it back again and not share it after all. That’s the funny thing about spoken words – once you say them, you can’t ever erase them. It’s scary to share parts of yourself with others, and it’s especially scary to share scary parts of yourself. My struggle with an eating disorder scares a lot of people away. I always fear that people will look at or treat me differently once they know, that they might see me as being fragile or weak, that they may just straight up judge me and not even try to understand the war that was (and sometimes still is) my everyday life.
But there in that moment, laying on the couch with Tina Fey (as Liz Lemon) making some obscene joke or grand gesture, the light trying so hard to sneak its way through the blinds, my darling pup laying on the floor with watching eyes, and this cool kid by my side, it somehow felt a little less terrifying.
And just a few hours later, here I am surrounded by some of the greatest human beings I have ever known and I am trying so desperately to memorize this moment – fighting back tears at how painfully beautiful my life has somehow become. It’s not easy – oh gosh, no. And I have given up the idea that it will EVER be easy. But it’s mine. And it’s painful, messy, scary, and wonderfully beautiful all at the same time.
The first time I set foot in my current church was the morning of May 29, 2016. I have never felt so convicted about a decision in my life – I have never seen such blatant evidence of God’s direction for me and leading me before I came to Trinity. Time after time throughout the past 14 months I have seen God at work in this church and in my heart. My love and compassion for these people who are more like family now than co-workers, colleagues, etc knows no ends.
I feel loved by these people. And what’s even better is that they know me – I mean, they REALLY know me – all the mess, all the pain and the hurt, they know my past, they are aware of the things I struggle with and what my heart aches for, and yet they are somehow still able to love me. They are my tribe! And that’s the thing about your tribe – they take you where you are at and they love through all the brokenness, the heartache, the bad days AND they celebrate with you and cheer you on in the good moments too. They forgive you. They lead you. They listen. They show grace and mercy. They are the living hands and feet of Christ. These people inspire me to aim to be more like Jesus every time I am with them. I honestly believe that I couldn’t have made it through this past year at school without the influence and love of these people.
So, I’m standing here – just barely able to make out faces in the darkness. The sky has somehow shifted from a fading gray to an almost purple-black hue. It is stunning. These people are stunning. I’m reflecting on earlier conversations from the day all while trying to absorb the laughter and community around me and it hits me that I wouldn’t be here right now, in this place, surrounded by these people, if I had never developed and eating disorder and had to take time off of school.
Am I happy I got sick? No.
Am I happy about the pain I put my family through, the medical bills, the scary moments, the tears, the fighting, the drama, and everything in between? No.
Would I take it all back if I could now? Absolutely not.
I don’t know what would have happened if I had never gotten sick. I don’t believe that God causes bad things to happen to us in our lives, but I know for a fact that He will take whatever bad things happen and turn them into good – he will turn water into wine, make coal change into diamonds, and grow fruit in any drought. I don’t believe for one second that God wanted me to have an eating disorder or get sick or suffer. But I do believe He rescued me. I believe he swooped in and provided me with options to climb my way out of the mess I ended up in. I believe that He had already fought and won the battle with my eating disorder before I even consciously realized it was an issue in my life.
I believe I learned so much from that experience. I know I NEVER want to relive it and I would NEVER wish it on anyone else – but I also believe that I needed to learn all the things it taught me. I kind of think God was trying to teach me all those lessons in a simpler, less painful way but I was too dense to catch on and get it. I took a detour, sure, but look at where I ended up.
I am alive. I am still fighting. And I have this tribe of people standing behind me, supporting me, cheering me on, and leading me closer to Christ. Not everyone is always going to react in the ways I want them too when I share my story and who I am. But I know I have this team of people backing me up and loving on me through the good and the bad.
As people slowly begin to say their goodbyes, exchange hugs, and head towards their cars I am thanking the Lord our God for each and every single one of these magnificent human beings. I am thanking Him for ALL the members of my tribe all over the world, the people I’ve met through music, back in VA, and all over the continent and the globe. My tribe is ever-growing and when people embrace me and my story, love me through my brokenness and allow me to love them back, it just reaffirms that THIS is the life I was meant to live – right here in this place with these beautiful, beautiful souls.
Thank you, to my tribe, to my team, my friends who are more like family, and everyone who has leaned into my storm and loved me through the downpours, the hurricane-level winds, and not been scared away by my flood. It is an honor and a blessing to be able to love you and to be loved by you and tonight, more than ever, I have been reminded of the beauty of the life I live – despite any pain I have (and will) experience(d), the Lord our God is a good, good Father!
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.”
-1 John 4:18
“The big story really is actually being told through our little stories, and by sharing our lives, not just our sermons, we’re telling God’s story in as reverent and divine ways as it has ever been told. There’s nothing small or inconsequential about our stories. There is, in fact, nothing bigger. And when we tell the truth about our lives – the broken parts, the secret parts, the beautiful parts – then the gospel comes to life, and actual story about redemption, instead of abstraction and theory and things you learn in Sunday school.”
“We meet no ordinary people in our lives.”
― C.S. Lewis