In the Life: Hidden underneath

I keenly remember one night of youth group when I was in middle school. We were in our small group and were finishing up with prayer requests. When it got to me, all I said in a confident and controlled manner was, “I will just say two words, family issues.”  I wanted them to know and pray about this struggle, but I didn’t want them to know too much. I was modest and didn’t want to hurt or put my family down. I loved them and knew they loved me but was struggling to understand and know how to handle what was going on.

Shortly after youth group ended and people were hanging out, I desperately wanted my small group leader to ask me more about the prayer request I had mentioned. I wanted someone to know I was struggling and care enough to press in and talk with me about it because they cared. But I was also afraid to show and bring up that I was struggling. I didn’t know if it mattered or was important enough. I didn’t want to hurt my family, make things worse, or create more conflict. I had a great family and loved them so much!

This would happen often. But I was fine. Everything else was going well – the friends, grades, sports and being a good Christian kid. My inner struggle would periodically come to the surface, but if I fought hard and long enough, it would “go away,” and I would be fine again.

The more I treated my struggle as no big deal, the more I believed it wasn’t. It became normal and how things were. I didn’t know any better or think any of it could change. Plus, so many people in the world had it way harder and worse than I did. Why should I be struggling?

I was also a Christian. Christians were good, nice, kind and happy people who did the right thing and were there to help others, right? That’s how most of the people were around me, or at least appeared. I couldn’t be the weak one struggling or doing anything wrong! If I ever felt negative about any person or situation, I always thought it was wrong to feel that and my fault for feeling that way. Then there were the things I saw, thought, said and did that weren’t good, but were very easy to either justify as normal and no big deal or as something that had good reason for.

No way was I someone involved in any of the sins people talked about – drugs and alcohol, sex, smoking, stealing or bullying. No, I was the girl who decided not to even date in high school.

Because I developed these misguided beliefs at this early age, shame and guilt piled up within me. This affected the way I saw myself and the way I acted around everyone. I became more and more ashamed of the real me without even realizing it and was afraid to let anyone in to my life underneath the surface of who I appeared to be.

I appeared confident, but underneath lacked it. I appeared humble and servant-hearted, and did a lot of great things, but underneath was quite prideful. Here I was trying to be the best Christian where I did everything I was supposed to for God but wanted the praise and results to come back to my efforts. If I wasn’t happy with how I felt about my efforts and their outcomes, I had done something wrong. I was so focused on myself.

Ultimately, I didn’t believe I was worth it or good enough. It didn’t feel like people were as excited to be around me as they were others. I felt like my parents didn’t care a whole lot. I soaked up any genuine compliment I received, which didn’t seem often. I didn’t feel wanted or like I belonged and needed to prove myself. I wanted to be important, to really matter, and I wanted God to be pleased with me.

The pride, misbelief, shame, guilt and fear all kept me hidden. It defined a lot of my middle and high school days. I hardly ever cried or had much of any emotion, positive or negative. I stayed on the surface with what was comfortable, normal and good, while keeping my heart (and mouth to my heart) shut. I was a peacemaker and people pleaser to an ungodly extent.

Through these years of my life, I did not truly understand who my Lord and Savior really was, what He really did for me, and who I truly was in Him. I knew about it all, but didn’t know how it all applied to my own life.

Thankfully, God wasn’t finished with me yet.

“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.” Philippians 3:7-8






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