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I had a golden childhood...faith, family, friends, no drama, no bullying, no significant sources of trauma or hardship. I had an amazing community and support system, so much so that I dreaded graduating and leaving them. But my best friend was right, college was better.
I blossomed, and my faith and community grew. My life was full, and my heart was filled with joy. Until the junior year, when it all shattered. My uncle took his life, and pre-existing family conflict, dysfunction, and unhealthy relationships made the situation that much worse.
I felt like I was "parenting" my mom, and working hard to be there for my family. All the while desperately needing people there for me. The foundation of faith and community that God had established was shaken, but not destroyed.
I questioned, doubted, cried, accused, and blamed God for months before realizing that his great love, patience, mercy, grace, protection. His supernatural strength was holding and sustaining me in my utter exhaustion, total confusion, brutal heartache, and heartbreak.
He was there, in the pain, holding me and crying and suffering and aching with me. I also realized he had known what was coming and provided me with a foundation that would stand, one built on faith, family, and friends...Christ and community.
I had a choice to make: Let my circumstances show me who God was or let God tell me who he was in His Word. Trust whom he had faithfully proven to be over and over again, despite what my current circumstances were.
Still healing, I started my senior year. I was depending on God to keep it from falling apart in my new roles, schedule, and last bittersweet year of college.
Another suicide and suicide attempt, among other big and small challenges, continued to sound like waves in a storm, threatening to drown me. However, God was slowly healing me and continuing to show up and speak through people and circumstances in my life.
Little by little, "joyful tenacity" was triumphing. I graduated, started teaching, and have recently been presented again with unexpected opportunities to lead, connect, and serve. My biggest struggle is still learning to trust.
I was hurt when my family didn't respond in love to each other as I had hoped and expected. My fear of pain, judgment, criticism, anger, bitterness, malice, and unforgiveness I experienced have led to cautiousness in getting close, being real, and being authentic. Only a handful of people REALLY know me well.
For many, a big part of my story still remains a secret, tucked away in the shadows. Slowly and hesitantly, I share, still recovering from the trust that was broken. I unconsciously learned to "self protect," hide, and "shield" myself, afraid of being "not enough" somehow, and of weighing others down with my burden.
But, God reminded me recently that I fear others knowing my story will become their burden. Yet, when they share theirs, it is my privilege. A difficulty for them, yet an opportunity for me, should not be what I believe about my own story. And, there is freedom and healing in sharing. This, I know.
For the sake of God, the people He loves, and I love, and for my own healing and freedom, I am working on stepping into the light. I want to let others into my story, giving them the privilege they have given me, and healing and growing together.
Rachel: United States