“2018 was an incredible year for me. I grew personally, professionally and spiritually. I was in love with a wonderful man, I made major career moves, I was baptized at an amazing church… The year was overflowing with love and hope for things to come.
I started the following year full of ambition, motivation and anticipation. I vision-boarded the heck out of all of my dreams for that year: travelling to dream destinations, more creativity and color, growing in my faith, crushing it at work, marrying the love of my life… You seriously could not bottle my excitement.
But, 2019 was a wasteland.
No one could’ve prepared me for the months that would follow. One by one, the gains from the year before fell apart: I didn’t enjoy the new job, the relationship crumbled, and over time, so did my health.
Besides the pain that accompanied each “L” I took that year, I felt a total loss of identity. The future I’d envisioned disappeared before my eyes and it was completely beyond my control. I was no longer dreaming up my best life, but stuck inside a paralyzing nightmare that I could not wake up from.
I had no idea how I found myself in this place. I ran the tape of the past two years over and over again in my head, but no explanation or new insight emerged. The clear direction I followed gave way to a deadend. Nothing made sense. I felt small and hollow and broken beyond repair. Worst of all, I felt betrayed, even by my own brain. It tormented me day and night with wicked thoughts that told me over and over that I was a piece of garbage who was easy to dismiss and discard because I wasn’t worth anything and never would be.
I thought of that girl who so boldly made that vision board on faith, full of hope. She felt like a complete stranger. I was deeply embarrassed by her and her dreams. I internalized every bad thing that had happened as my fault and cursed myself for not seeing it coming and for not “knowing better”. Like the Israelites led into exile and wilderness in the Book of Jeremiah, I felt abandoned and alone.
Thankfully, I was not.
God used this time to open my eyes to the beauty of spiritual family. He surrounded me with friends who grieved with me and held space for my hurt and confusion, who delighted to celebrate me and fill my birthday weekend with all of my favorite things when I lacked the capacity to plan anything. Friends who covered me in prayer daily and let me know that my presence in their lives mattered, broken side and all. When I was vulnerable and believing lies, God intentionally provided people who would carry my burdens and remind me of truth and my identity. Even while I was hurting and wrestling with God himself, and even when my mind and body gave out, and I had zero to offer anyone, I was still loved.
Even in the deepest darkness I’d ever known, God himself met me. He used my worst fears for my benefit. Where I thought he was trying to break me down, I realized He used every painful thing to heal me in ways I could never even imagine: to break old patterns of thinking and the hold of harmful habits and to change my false sense of worth and false image of Him.
He empowered me to make hard decisions. He gave me permission to care for myself before attempting to please other people. He offered me hope when I felt greatly overwhelmed. He called me out of hiding in shame and guided me back to light. He showed me that I did not need to be perfect to be worthy of love like I’d secretly believed for years. He reminded me that His was a different kind of love. Not earned. Just received.
Presently, I am daily strengthened by His grace for me and filled with hope for the future once more. I am still in the middle of my story and that’s okay. I love the foundation I cling to with renewed conviction and I love the woman I am becoming. He took me from being rejected, overlooked, and hopeless to being accepted, seen, and full of life. Fully known and fully loved.
As a storyteller, I’m well acquainted with “the hero’s journey”. At the heart of every good story is a protagonist with desires who faces challenges to each of those hopes. Those obstacles are always designed to produce character. Well, I trust the writer. I’ve seen him write delightful, unexpected, and extraordinary things in the past and I know he’s more than qualified to pen even greater things. Knowing that gives me great peace.
In the meantime, I’m learning to be kinder to myself, to embrace the journey and to have the audacity to dream big dreams again. Most importantly, I’m learning to understand that I’m still in the middle of the story and He’s just building character through perseverance, producing hope and a future.
While not every prayer has been answered and I am very much still healing, my view has radically changed. Again, just like Israel, He has shown me that even the “wasteland” is not wasted. He made new and beautiful things even there. I just had to adjust my perspective.
And in case you were wondering, some of those wild dreams did come true! ❤ “
-Shaneez || @neezsnapped
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