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victory

We drive in cars to a retreat center on a brown hill. The buildings are brick. Dry, brown Australian bush is all around, still brittle from the summer heat. These aren’t glamorous accommodations, just simple bunk beds, a hall for food and an open room with concrete floors as a teaching space.

I had only been part of this church in Australia for a few months, but those of us in the “young adult” type category went away for something called a Victory Weekend in these hills. Many churches in the charismatic movement have a kind of “deal with your baggage” program, and this was ours. The idea is that your participate in some kind of a course or weekend where you hear about how God is powerful over everything, and you confess those things that you did in the past or what you struggle with or what others have done to you. The idea is you walk away with the ties of past mistakes, the curses of the generations cut off.

There are plenty of people in real life and certainly online who would take this weekend and find every way to poke fun at it. To find every theological flaw. To use it as a means for feeding cynicism. And there are many people for whom experiences at these kinds of events caused deep and permanent pain. But I’m not writing everyone’s story here – I am writing my own, and in my life this weekend was a fork in the road. The point where I walked toward life, the place where I decided to stop dying.

There are black, brown and white faces, we’re sitting in a room listening to a preacher, and he asks, Why are you here? I knew.

There are some things that are easy to explain, others that are much harder, but that’s what I try to do in this space, illuminate what I cannot understand in the hopes that the process reveals something true.

There was a heavy load I carried most of my life, a voice that said over and over and over You are not good enough, you are a failure, you are not lovable, you are not beautiful. I am certain that almost every mistake I’ve made in my life was somehow rooted in those whispers. I was in that concrete building because I was ready to put these things on the table, ready to have someone else know. I was ready for a different life, one that wasn’t plagued with insecurity and doubt. I was ready to believe that Jesus held something more for me than only a permanent place in eternity, I was ready to see with my own eyes that what I believed had impact on my daily life.

She has dark brown hair and a Yorkshire accent, and we sit outside on some playground equipment while she reads through my book of pages stapled together. It’s a profile, one I filled out before, circling different sins, writing down statements, and I hand it to her like I’m giving her the worst part of my life, but she tells me the truth – This is not who you are. We work through the little book, the statements, the memories, the moments, after each step speak, pray, truth, love. She puts her hand on my head and prays, I pray for a hedge of protection around Devi’s mind, words I have never forgotten because I know that every lie I believed about God or about myself seeped in through the cobwebs of my mind. I forgive people and let go. I receive truth and accept love.

And it’s there, sitting on this piece of playground equipment outside, working through this book, speaking the truth, crying my tears, everything in my life that caused shame or pain is laid bare before someone else and before God, and as she speaks Truth, I’m hearing his truth in my heart as well. I watch as the slate is wiped clean.

There is space to write a new story, imagination to dream a new life, ashes swirl together and beauty begins to emerge.

I’m writing every day in October (except for Sundays) about Living Church, and this is Day 20 of Write 31 DaysClick here if you want to read all the posts. I’m also linking up with Jennifer Dukes Lee and the #TellHisStory community today.