Living Transformed: My hope story

Living Transformed:
My hope story

Hey, friend! I know you have a million things to do, but you chose to take to read my story- thank you! I pray that this blog, through the power of Jesus, will bless you and fill you in ways the lesser things of this world never could.

I am privileged to spend a lot of time hanging out with teenagers. I have been teaching 8th grade for four years now and am a youth pastor’s wife. Most conversations I have with new people (let’s call them Bob) go something like this:

Bob: “So what do you do for work?”

Me: “I teach 8th grade science.”

Bob: “Ew 8th grade?! What an awkward age.. You must be crazy!” 

Me: **Wonders whether I should get into why I feel like it’s my calling or just say “lol yeah” and move on…**

I may not get into my calling with Bob, but I would like to share it with you! Here’s the thing. When I was in middle school, God did a huge transformative work in my life and every since then, He has given me a passion to share the hope that He gave me.

Imagine a girl in a khaki pleated skirt or Bermuda shorts to her knees, navy blue collared shirt, and Sperry’s. Oh and you cannot forget the tall striped pink and green socks… The things we wear in middle school.

The things we wear in middle school… to fit in, gain acceptance, find identity. Does that really stop in middle school, though? I’ll save that conversation for another blog post. Anyway, despite my high socks and boat shoes, I was not accepted into the cool group at school. Well, at least not accepted every day. I was strung along some days so the girls could compile enough emotional arsenal to shoot me down in the following days.

I struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. These thoughts riddled my mind and crippled my body. I constantly felt inadequate, unattractive, unwanted, and desperate. Why did no one love me? Why did God create me so poorly? Why couldn’t my family be “normal”? Why didn’t any boys like me? Why were my boobs smaller, stomach bigger, eyebrows thicker (thin eyebrows were all the rage back then)???? The list goes on. To make matters worse, I was the pastor’s kid, so I could not possibly have problems. “Paint the smile on your face and carry on”, “You know the answers.. Just stop thinking those thoughts”, “Just read your Bible more” and worst of all “You’re not really saved” were voices that spoke to me daily.

In addition to the bullying at school, I felt unseen at home. Despite having loving parents, as the middle child, I often slipped through the cracks… I remember many days isolating myself to my closet after school and crying as I wrote in my journal- the only thing that would really listen. Now let me pause to say, I understand many little girls have gone through far worse than me, but that does not change the way I felt at the time. I am not trying to share my story for sympathy rather because any story that Jesus is redeeming is beautiful and filled with hope- my story, your story, and her story.

I had no-one consistently speaking truth into my life, and soon, I began believing the lies the enemy was feeding me. The enemy plans a menu of lies speciality suited to our specific sinful appetite- catered just for us. And I pigged out on the buffet- I saw myself as completely unnecessary, unloved, and unwanted.

One day, in an act of complete desperation, I tried to take my life. Deep down in my heart, I didn’t really want to die, I just wanted to be noticed. I wanted someone, anyone to help me. I thought just maybe someone would take my struggles seriously if I acted out in this way. But the problem was, I was looking for hope in all the wrong places- from my parents, my friends, my athletic ability, one day finding my imaginary Prince Charming… I was looking for affirmation from imperfect, flawed, empty sources.

Sure, I was a Christian, but I was missing a VITAL aspect of my faith. I was missing the relationship with Jesus, and I was missing my identity. I was caught up in the dos and don’ts and check-lists of Christianity instead of being obsessed with and captivated by the person and work and love of Jesus Christ! I was not placing my identity in who Christ tells me I am- beloved, cherished, chosen, daughter, redeemed.

Obviously since I am writing to you now, God in His gracious mercy and steadfast love did not allow that suicide attempt to be successful. After that day, I still struggled with the dark thoughts, but the attempt scared me enough to keep me from trying it again. 

“I was missing the relationship, and I was missing my identity.”

The following summer, I went to a Christian summer camp. If you have ever been to summer camp, you KNOW some crazy, indescribable, glorious, “God-things” often happen there. I still remember vividly when that happened for me. The pastor preached on our sufficiency in Christ. For those of you who don’t know what that word means, let me define it for you. Sufficiency means according to Oxford Languages, “the condition or quality of being adequate or sufficient. The adequate amount of something, especially something essential.”

He preached on a passage found in 2 Corinithians 3:5, “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” WOW. Floored. Jesus moment. Light bulb. God shined His beautiful word into the darkness of my heart and woke me up to this reality – We can never be enough in ourselves. We can never be adequate in ourselves. We can never get what we need for survival from ourselves. BUT IN JESUS we have everything we need to navigate this crazy life.

2 Peter 1:3 says, “His (God’s) divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” As God promises Scripture will do, that verse transformed my life by renewing my mind. I was 14. Fourteen year old me made a decision to follow Jesus that has given me the sweetest, most joy and hope filled relationship with Jesus. It’s messy and imperfect, and I still have my dark days, but God’s presence is so real.

The reality is, none of us could ever attain perfection. If we could, we wouldn’t need a Savior. Every time we strive after perfection and hold ourselves to that unrealistic standard, we are telling Jesus we don’t need Him. The truth is that only the perfect God- man could ever bare the grief, pain, and sorrow of this world without breaking under it’s weight. Only He could change sorrow to laughing and brokenness into healing. As my pastor says, “Jesus got right what we keep getting wrong”! We will keep messing up and making mistakes, but those mistakes bring us to our knees and reinforce our need for Jesus’ blood and the Gospel every single day! He knows. He knows the deepest longing and deepest depravity of our hearts. AND HE STILL CHOSE US. Let that sink in.

Jesus got right what I keep getting wrong!

– Jay Harlin

 

I am not saying after a prayer, instantaneously all my anxiety, depression and hurt magically went away. What I am saying is over the course of years of pursuing Jesus through his word, delighting in the Lord, failing over and over again, and watching Him pursue me with His steadfast love, He has turned my sorrow into joy. Romans 12:2 Is the verse that inspired the name for this blog- “Living Transformed.” Here’s what that verse says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is– His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

Now I’m 25 with a husband, cute puppy, house, big girl job, and guess what? I still feel like that 14 year old girl many times. The days of insecurity, self-hate, and comparison still surface. I am far from perfect. BUT GOD rich in mercy because of His great love has brought me to a place where my brokenness and scars lead to a deeper dependence on Him. Because, like a child, my insufficiency reminds me of my need for Him. Every. Single. Day.

I am very excited to begin this journey with you! I want this platform to serve you and help you grow, so PLEASE do not hesitate to reach out with questions or topic suggestions. YOU have a light to shine for Jesus. YOU were created on purpose and with purpose that only YOU can do. God made you uniquely beautiful. My prayer is that together, we can grow into the beautiful women God has made us to be and shine the light He has given us to shine.

God bless you as you seek His face!

Your loving sister, 

Charis

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