I’ve been a “writer” for as long as I can remember. As child, it began with me running to my room and throwing myself on the bed in tearful convulsions. I felt so misunderstood. So alone. And when I couldn’t stop myself from crying, journaling about my feelings was the only way to calm down.
Today, 30ish years later, I don’t think those early journals exist anymore. But the ones that do, from my college years and beyond, could fill a bookshelf. For decades, writing was my one great solace. It didn’t resolve my problems. No great answers came shouting off the pages, but it was my place to be real, to be me, to be whole, and wholly honest. And no one had to know the depth of my pain.
A decade ago, writing unexpectedly became a career. The words on the page were no longer about me and my feelings. They were public now. And there was relief in writing about something other than me.
Then, in 2011, after a few years of blogging about my new marriage, an opportunity came. A blogger I’d been following, Tamara Lunardo, announced she was compiling a book of women’s stories. She called it What a Woman is Worth.
Having wrestled with issues of worth, value, and identity much of my life, the title captured my attention. I had something to say on this topic. Something raw, vulnerable, and intimate. Something that would take great courage to share but that I knew other women needed to hear—that no matter how they’d been treated by men, no matter the choices they’d made to give their bodies in exchange for the hope that ‘this one would love me,’ that they still have worth. Not because I say so but because God says so.
I painstakingly wrote and submitted my vulnerable story—all the while wondering if it was fit for public consumption. It was eventually selected and edited, and now, three years later, it’s published. Tamara’s compilation and my vulnerable story are printed in the pages of a book for all the world to see.
When What a Woman is Worth first landed on bookstore shelves, a part of me wanted to protect my loved ones somehow from the shame of my promiscuous past shared on those pages. However, I have long struggled with fear and approval-seeking, so maybe that was actually the bigger issue: What would they think of me if they read this?
Before I could do anything to head it off at the pass my mother-in-law emailed to say she couldn’t wait to read my story. I took it in stride. She was probably just trying to encourage me. I didn’t think she’d really buy the book. But in a matter of days another email from her hit my inbox. It was not at all what I’d expected.
Her words were ones of victory and compassion, as if to someone who’d just overcome a great battle. She marveled at how “lucky” they were as a family to welcome a daughter-in-law with such a miraculous story of God’s grace. There was nothing but acceptance and joy in her response. Not even a hint of shame in learning about who I’d once been.
My fears of judgment and condemnation were met with love. And, more importantly, they were met with something other than silence. I was surprised at her response, but it wasn’t the first time compassion seemed to come out of nowhere to provide much needed reassurance.
You see, for too many years I stayed quiet about the things that haunted my past. When I began to share them—privately at first with small groups of trustworthy women—the flood gates of healing started to crack open and allow grace to enter in. Instead of pity or disgust I found compassion, hope, healing, and friendship.
Other women answered, “me too,” when I shared the things I’d hoped to take to my grave. And, in those moments, the knowing glance from those who had struggled like I had—or who held their own seemingly un-sharable secrets—began to build in me not only a boldness to continue sharing but also a vision of hope, forgiveness, and healing for others who’ve walked a similar road.
Others, like you.
If you have a past you are not proud of, even if it looks nothing like mine, you need to know His mercies are new every morning. You can trust in that. I promise you, your story is not too big for Him. Your emotions are not too much.
Whatever secrets stand in the way of you being healthy, whole, and trusting in Jesus as Healer, it’s time to call them out of the darkness and allow light to shine on your wounds.
I’m not a counselor, nor am I a healer. Certainly not. But I know One who is, and I pray you’d give Him—and others—the chance to meet you with the compassion we all need to face life in this broken world.
And, when you do, you might just be surprised to find out how not-alone you really are.