Once upon a time there was a girl who was afraid of the dark . . .
I fell off a building when I was 18. Needless to say, I hit my head very hard. The world looked a little different to me then. Everything was a little different. I was a little different.
Two months after hitting my head, I was a sophomore/junior in college (I graduated a year early so my second & third years were jammed into one) and a Resident Assistant in a freshmen dorm. The dorm I was in was rumored to be haunted. I didn’t believe it. But when two of my residents screamed at the top of their lungs one night because they saw a dark figure standing at the foot of their beds, I’ll admit it made me a little nervous. So naturally I reached out to people I trusted.
I asked them to pray. I asked them not to make a big deal about it.
But they told too many people. And suddenly, I was garnering more attention than I wanted from the Christian ministry I was apart of.
It was a very confusing time in my life.
Weird things were happening to me when I was scared or stressed out. Things that were seen as spiritual attacks by the ministry I was apart of because of the story I’d told about the dark figure and the other weird things that would happen in my dorm. And when prayer, quoting scripture, and the laying on of hands did not make what was happening to me stop . . .
These were the questions I was asked:
“What secret sin are you hiding?”
“Do you like it when this happens?”
“Do you want this to happen?”
“You love the attention, don’t you?”
I wasn’t hiding anything, and I definitely didn’t like it. But I also didn’t know how to fix it. So, when my legs would freeze, or I would have a hard time breathing, and my limbs would go cold and stiff and numb– I started to think maybe they were right. Maybe there was something wrong with me.
So, I decided to leave the ministry. As a result, I got several concerned phone calls, accusations of deeply hurting everyone by leaving, and the claim that my decision to leave “was coated in darkness.” The lack of support for my decision wasn’t something I was expecting. I felt like I couldn’t be friends with anyone from the ministry because I didn’t want them to have to choose between me and everyone who was upset with me. And there were a fair amount of people upset with me.
I graduated, and moved back home. When my parents heard what was going on with me, they took me to a neurologist. The things that would happen to me I now know to be stress-induced seizures and panic attacks as a result of my head injury. I essentially had to relearn how to process stress.
Understanding that there wasn’t anything wrong with me was the first step towards healing.
However, I still wanted nothing to do with church as a result of what I went through. I would have a panic attack just sitting in a church service, I couldn’t listen to certain worship songs, I couldn’t open my Bible, and the idea of having anyone lay hands on me to pray literally made me want to scream. I didn’t trust Christians. And I wanted absolutely nothing to do with any of it.
But . . .
One night I was wrestling with what I knew of Jesus and what I’d seen displayed by the people in the ministry I was apart of. It didn’t reconcile. The actions taken and the words said didn’t quite match with the loving man I’d known for most of my life. So, I read his story again.
Understanding that Jesus was Himself, and not the people who claimed him was my second step towards healing.
Understanding that Jesus deeply loved the people who hurt me and that He called me to do the same was the third step to healing. How massive a feeling of conviction that was. Jesus died for his literal enemies so they could have a chance at life. In the face of that stunning truth I didn’t have an argument for why I could continue to be angry at the people who hurt me. Forgiving them when I knew they would never apologize to me or even see fault with their actions was difficult. But freeing. And necessary. God doesn’t mess around with forgiveness.
So, with my faith hanging on by a thread, I continued to participate in the music ministry of the church I grew up in. I confided in the pastor that I was having a really hard time, and that I didn’t feel good enough to lead music for the youth group like he asked because of what had happened to me. His response was huge for me. He said I could give as much or as little as I was able to. That he’d always be happy to have me do it, in whatever capacity I could. Just like Jesus, he was taking me as I was.
Slowly, I was healing.
A few years later, I was asked to step into the role of worship leader. I still felt branded by what had happened, like I was somehow permanently broken. But saying yes wasn’t about me. It was about listening to what was a very clear “this is next for you.” To me, heeding that was more important than my fear of whether or not I was good enough. And as a result of that, I’ve learned to deflect those lies and step into newness, shaking off the clinging dust of my past hurts and learning to stand firm again.
Because the truth is, I don’t have to be “good enough.”
And there’s a freedom in understanding that it’s not about being good enough. It’s about being covered in good grace and embracing what it means to be redeemed. And what it means to be loved, unconditionally.
I sometimes still struggle with that part of my story. But it no longer defines me.
Once upon a time, there was a girl who was afraid of the dark. But she grew into a woman who saw that the darkness she feared were only lies & shadows. Shadows & lies that fled far and fast when she turned on the light.
Keep turning on the Light, friends.