Katey volunteered for the Princes Trust for several years and has just begun a new career.
The dictionary definition of the word “Vulnerable” is:
“Exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.”
Doesn’t really sound appealing does it? To me being vulnerable always meant being weak and getting hurt – this came from past experiences, so when God asked me to do just that I quickly questioned and argued it with him! In response he showed me that being vulnerable doesn’t always mean being weak, in fact it can be a huge sign of strength. So many women (and men too) in the Bible made themselves vulnerable in order for God to do his thing. Esther put herself in harm’s way to save a nation, Mary faced being mocked, talked about and looked down upon to carry and give birth to God’s own son – the saviour. And the list could go on and on.
A couple of years ago I was in a place where I felt I had come to the end of the road. I was struggling with severe depression, anorexia, self-harm and had on a number of occasions tried to end my life. This wasn’t something new to me: I had struggled with an eating disorder and self-harm from my early teens. I hated who I was, and the ‘Professionals’ had pretty much given up on me – telling me there was nothing else they could do other than medicate and hospitalise. I was fighting to die, and nothing anyone did helped. On the outside, people wouldn’t really know there was anything wrong. I hid behind masks and walls I had built up around my heart.
I became very desperate. My relationship with God at this point was rocky – I knew who he was, could quote you scriptures and sing you worship songs, yet deep down I was angry with him. I kept Him at arm’s reach while at the same time desperately wanting to have that intimate relationship with Him. I remember the night I cried out to God:
“God, if you aren’t going to let me die then you need to help me”.
I didn’t know what else to do. After years of abuse and then self inflicted damage, I was still alive when I should have been dead! There had to be a reason! That night was the start of what turned out to be an incredibly hard yet amazing journey of healing and restoration (and one I am still walking out.)
God wanted me to step out of my ‘safe place’ to trust him to give up the control I was holding on so tightly to and allow him to reach the deepest hurts of my heart. He wanted me to be real, to drop the masks I hid behind and to be true to who I was in him.
The definition of the word real is:
1. Actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.
Women today are surrounded by images and media portrayals of what beauty supposedly is – of how things are “supposed” to be. Yet the majority of this isn’t real, it’s been airbrushed or edited to make it look appealing. Yet by chasing this supposed reality all we really gain is emptiness, unhappiness and usually a huge sense of failure.
Underneath all the masks and walls I hid behind I didn’t know who I was. For so long I had had labels placed on me – mental health patient, anorexic, self-harmer, abused... I believed lies about myself and I hated the person I thought I was. I wasn’t being real with myself let alone anyone else, or God. There were times when it was far easier to hide behind the labels and masks than it was to step out and be vulnerable and open. But if I had chosen to keep hiding and listening to those lies then I wouldn’t have been able to start living the life God had for me.
God made each and everyone one of us different. We are authentic, one of a kind.
1. Of undisputed origin and not a copy; genuine.
Living authentically, however, isn’t always easy. It’s so easy to go with the crowd, do what other people are doing. But are you being true to who you are?
In order for me to accept myself the way God saw me I had to allow him into the deepest and darkest part of my heart – this was a choice and one that wasn’t as easy as it sounds. There were days I had to continue to make that choice hour by hour (sometimes minute by minute). It hurt – but it allowed me to feel and start to understand my emotions. I was able to deal with past hurts and to grow in my relationship with God. I slowly opened up and allowed Him to heal the broken parts of me that for so long I had kept locked up.
I learned – and believed in my heart – who I am in Christ. I used God’s word to counteract the lies I believed about myself (and there were a LOT of them!). I allowed myself to be vulnerable and in return God showered me with his unconditional Love, Grace and Mercy. I had to learn to trust that there WAS something better for me and that EVERYTHING I went through He would use for GOOD!
Deuteronomy 30:19 says this:
“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
And that’s what I did – I chose LIFE – I wrote it everywhere I could, stuck it on post it notes, wrote it on my hands, in books – anywhere I would see it. I had to want to fight to live instead of fighting to die.
I am far from where I want to be, but I am a million miles away from where I was! I know that I cannot change my past – but I chose to change my future. Things happen in life that we can’t always explain, but we have a choice about how we respond to them. By choosing joy in the midst of sorrow we unleash God’s amazing power – his joy, love and grace becomes our strength. I love how the Message Bible words it:
“Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.” 2 Corinthians 13:8-10
So what do I think it means to be a Woman of God in the 21st Century?
1. Be Real – don’t try and fit into something that continues to make you feel empty. Be honest with where you are at – It’s OK.
2. Be Vulnerable – Allow God access to your heart (he already knows it anyway) He will not leave you there. The world sees vulnerability as a weakness, God sees it as Strength!
3 Be Authentic – Stay true to who you are, don’t try and change for the sake of fitting in. You were made for a purpose and that purpose needs YOU!
For those that may be reading this and thinking you can’t be happy – I once believed that too, and I am not saying that it is easy but it CAN change. It takes courage to make that first step (no matter how small) but you have to want it for you – I do however promise that it is WORTH IT. There is always hope and you will smile (for real) again.