A Piece of My Heart

I want to warn you by saying that this post may have more info about me than you want to know. I second-guessed writing it, but I feel the need to brag about God and what He’s doing in my life no matter how I personally feel about it. He’s worth more than that. He’s bigger than that.

Gen-Why, the young adult small group through my church that I help lead, has been studying a book by the name of SHAPE. It helps us examine our exact shape, or footprint, of who God made each of us to be. It walks us through the spiritual gifts, interests, passions, and experiences that God gave each of us, and it leads us closer to using those things to glorify God (our ultimate purpose in life). For those of you who have read Purpose Driven Life, this book was written almost as a sequel to go a bit more in-depth on how each person is designed uniquely. I highly recommend it.

Anyway, enough about the book. This week’s chapter, as we wrap up our study, was designed to start pulling some of the individual chapters/pieces together into a portrait of how God designed us and perhaps what He has in mind for our futures. I started pulling some of these pieces about myself together (below). Notice the lovely SHAPE acronym.

Spiritual Gifts: (I am gifted in…)
Counseling, administration, discernment, leadership, wisdom

Heart: (I feel passionately towards serving…)
Young girls. See “Experiences” section below.

Abilities: (I am good at…)
Coordinating, encouraging, designing, planning

Personality:  (I…)
Am better with one on one interaction, like to lead, am self-controlled

Experiences: (I’ve been through…)
I’ve never written out a “testimony” for the world to see… maybe one day. If you’re interested in hearing the full version, or at least the version I’ve been able to wrap my pea-brain around, I’d love to share it over a cup of coffee. But much of it can be summed up in a sentence that I’ve recited every Tuesday night at Celebrate Recovery: “God is granting me victory over issues related to childhood sexual abuse.” It sounds so clinical, doesn’t it? But it’s the truth, and that truth is setting me free (John 8:32) from a lot of years of pain, anger, confusion, and apathy. Long story short, it’s this experience that God is really calling me to use for His Kingdom. And it’s this experience that really gives me a heart for sexual abuse victims. I understand them in a way that other people can’t. And because it happened while I was in middle school, I really have a passion for middle schoolers, especially girls. And I want to stop it from happening to anyone else.
As I started pulling each of these pieces together, I got a very distinct impression of what I was supposed to do. Maybe not “do with my life”, but definitely “do now”. For the first time I was able to get a clear picture of who I was, what God had gifted me with, what experiences He’d given me, and how I was supposed to use those to really make a difference. In my head I immediately got this mental image of me working in/for an organization that helped educate parents and kids on the issue of sexual abuse, mainly focussing on preventing it. Either that, or me working in/for an organization that helps victims and their parents deal with it after it’s already happened.

But what was my next step? On Thursday I had no clue, but God let me know on Friday morning during my devotional time: “Hannah, go talk to Cori.” For those of you who don’t know Cori, she’s the pastor’s wife and Children’s Ministry coordinator at my church. I’ve been working with her for years, since I teach the middle schoolers in Sunday school, and we have a good relationship. My task tomorrow is to share this piece of my heart with her and see if there’s any place for my “ministry” within the church. I feel strongly that we should talk to parents in our church on how to prepare their children to stick up for themselves and educate them just enough to keep them out of harm’s way. I could be wrong… maybe the church isn’t the right setting. Maybe there’s an organization I should join outside the church to campaign for that. But either way, I’m showing up tomorrow to do what God asked. We’ll see how this goes.

Letters from a Codependent

Codependency:  unhealthy love and a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one’s relationships and quality of life.

God has me on a crazy journey, and one of the more recent “pit stops” He has brought me to is learning that I am, by nature, an extremely codependent person. I’d heard the word before, but I thought it had something to do with being overly dependent on something (probably drugs). It’s true, codependency does have to do with a certain kind of dependence. The way I’ve come to describe it is that I’m addicted, or dependent, on people. Let me expand on that.

I feel the need to always be taking care of someone. I get an adrenaline rush and a lot of satisfaction knowing that I’ve helped someone. I feed off of other people’s adoration or praise towards me that results from my actions. I also invest a LOT into people, often feeling that their actions and emotions are my responsibility. My world is so focussed on THEM that I have a hard time understanding what I am thinking or feeling, but I’m constantly thinking about how I will be perceived by other people. So what do I do? I act like the perfect friend/daughter/etc. to earn people’s approval. I also find ways to fill people’s needs so that they won’t get rid of me or tire of me. I go above and beyond, always taking that next step, to really surprise people.

It’s an odd train of thought: I fill other people’s needs  so that I can be fulfilled. Isn’t that what Christianity teaches though? Kind of. The brochure from Celebrate Recovery, which deals with people’s addictive behaviors (codependency included) explains why codependents are selfish instead of selfless. It has to do with my underlying motivations:

Codependency is the fallacy of trying to control interior feelings by controlling people, things, and events on the outside. To the codependent, control or the lack of it is central to every aspect of life.

PS: the rest of the article is really worth reading

In its root, codependency is relying on my ability to manipulate/control other people’s emotions, feelings, and actions as a way to make myself feel better, instead of finding my worth and value in Christ. I’m called to do something much bigger in life than to run around please other people all the time. I should be looking to my Creator for guidance on a moment-by-moment basis, living my life for Him. There will be many times where He uses me and where He calls me to be selfless, but I’m learning when He is calling versus when my human nature is getting restless. If I wait, He will tell me where to go and what to do. I just need to rest in Him, be still, and know that He is God!

I’ll be open and honest: I’ve started attending Celebrate Recovery at one of our local churches. I’ve been before, but for the first time I’m going for me, not in support of someone else. God is refining me in the fire, and while the going can be rough, I know He’s purifying me. I’m going there to tackle this issue and many others, and I’m sure that the longer I work on myself, the more issues I will find. But I’m ok with that. I am far from perfect, but I really, really, really, really, really (you get the picture) want to be like Christ. And I’ll do whatever I have to do to get closer to that point.

Thanks for walking with me on my journey 🙂
Galatians 6:4-5:
But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

Galatians 1:10:
For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.