I read Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton in the first women's church group I ever attended. I began really going to church with my boyfriend (now hubby) towards the end of high school. Before that, my family did the regular attendance of holidays and occasional Sundays. We did our best to live by the good ole' southern morals and standards. As far as deep personal relationship with Jesus, that was a lofty idea.
I certainly had preconceived notions of what a good church woman looked like. A Christian lady, of course, was perfectly polished, deeply spiritual, straight-laced, and had a clean track record. She certainly was a virgin when she got married and could sport an all white dress on her wedding day (something I was advised against doing by well intending church folk. You know, since I was already a mother).
I had a battle waging on the inside as I longed to live a life devoted to Jesus but had a bad taste in my mouth based on the hoops I thought I had to jump through to fit the bill. After becoming a wife and being made "an honest woman" (insert eye roll) while also being a mother, I dove all into Christianity. If they didn't think this teenage mom could hold her own in a pew, I was going to show them! Personally knowing Jesus was unfamiliar territory, but playing the part? THAT I could certainly pull off.
The disconnect was obvious in my own heart. I had good intentions of doing all the right things to earn a love from a God with a checklist, but struggled having an authentic relationship with an actual God I loved. My life didn't look anything like these church people. My scars and battle wounds from life seemed way uglier than anyone else's in the room. My soul seemed too tarnished, my story too dramatic, and my offering not enough.
But still determined to fit in, be accepted, and morph into a good Christian lady, on went my cardigan and off I went to this women's group. I made sure to stay quiet, stay proper, and begin reading. As I breezed through Carry On, Warrior hanging onto every page more and more, I read about a woman who was flawed. She seemed nothing like the good Christian mold that I thought was the required ideal. She had a sketchy past, battled addiction, and struggled with depression and laundry. My kind of chick.
I related to her story of sticking out and feeling unsure if she "fit in." She encouraged me in my own life through a passage she wrote on dancing while sober. She said, "If I feel a yearning to dance, then I'm going to dance. It's not about whether I'm good or secure or I belong. Here's my hunch: nobody's secure, and nobody feels like she completely belongs. Those insecurities are just job hazards of being human. But some people dance anyway, and those people have more fun."
The words leapt off the pages and into my heart. Suddenly I saw the truth revealing itself. I saw that there were other imperfect women loving Jesus. I read while nodding along as this woman embraced the struggle and spoke boldly of it. When I looked up from the book and around the group of women I was surrounded by, I saw lots of women just like her....just like me. It wasn't at all what I had expected.
It changed my life to see this perspective. To realize that I needed to be myself as God intended me to be and own my story while sharing it proudly. Who I am is who God planned to use for His purpose - baggage, junk, and all. I can't agree more with when she wrote "I think Jesus likes REAL, whatever form in which it comes."
I finished the book and began to live according to my newfound revelation. Unfolding into myself as a woman without fitting a mold, a stereotype, or an ideal. I began to just love Jesus, whether I fit the role of a church lady or not. Funny thing is, the more I share my story and my journey, more women in the pews raise their hand and say "I'm broken too" or "Thanks for being so real and relatable." Turns out there is no checklist to being a Christian woman. No scary church group that can kick you off the island after the tribe has spoken. All along I was just afraid of not being accepted or fitting into a group within religion. Not knowing I already belonged...just as I am to a Savior.
A true relationship of love with myself and also with God blossomed after reading Carry On, Warrior. Glennon stole the words right out of my mouth as she summed it up towards the end of her book.
"As soon as I figured out that Fear wasn't my only voice, it faded into the background. Something else emerged. This presence had been sitting quietly and solidly, with a voice as tall and deep and wide as a redwood tree. This voice, I understood quickly, was Love. I call him Jesus, and in my mind's eye he sits, smiling softly, still as a rock, and knowing...Love waits until you are ready to tune out Fear. When I was ready, I could hear Love speak."
This is Candace. She hates long walks on the beach and would prefer a short drive to get a doughnut. Her creative spirit leaves her husband constantly guessing which room she'll decorate next and her kids requesting elaborate birthday parties. She'll tell you the truth, even if you don't want to hear it. But don't worry, she'll make you laugh to soften the blow. Her heart longs to share the realness of her life and provide someone else a "me too" in a moment of isolation. Words are her thing; she writes to heal. God grasped a hold of Candace as a teenage mama, and she's been desperate for His love and sensitive to His voice everyday since. Get to know her even better on her blog at makingmetoo.com