If you knew me seven years ago, you’d know I am not the same person today as I was then. I recently wrote my final newsletter as a Young Life staff person. It was my farewell as I transitioned out of my YoungLives and staff role. It was by no means an easy decision and there were many tears involved. In writing, I had the chance to reflect on my time with Young Life but more than that, the last seven years since I left Lawrence. The last seven years since I left the town where my life was marked and changed.
When I showed up in Fort Worth, Texas in 2008 I was absolutely, 100% running way. I wanted to get out of Lawrence as fast as possible. Not because my family was terrible (they weren’t). Not because I hated everyone there (I didn’t). Not even because everyone hated me (They didn’t…I don’t think). But because I had no interest in continuing to be “the girl who’s dad murdered her mom”. Believing others saw me as such made me see myself as just that.
I was hurt, angry, confused, and I made myself numb to everything. I had practiced for years the art of stoicism and steeling myself against any possible emotions. I didn’t care what any therapist told me – numbness seemed easier. Sure, I smiled for pictures, I had friends, I made new ones, and I participated in different activities. I did all the normal things you’d expect a teenager to do. I just did it completely disconnected.
I had severed my heart from my head.
So, I continued in the same pattern. I even added an unhealthy dating relationship to hide in. I started my freshman year, I became involved in many activities, I went to class, I became a Young Life leader, I made new friends – I could create whatever identity I wanted when I met new people. I didn’t have to be the same person.
And yet, I was the same.
Still numb, still hurt, still angry, still confused. I was miserable. I was incredibly lost. I knew what my foundation was on but I had trouble believing because I did not feel connected to God or anyone else. Numbness permeates. When I turned off my emotions it wasn’t towards specific areas; it was everything. The lights were out in the emotional department.
And yet, flipping the lights off doesn’t change what’s in the room (or the heart). The lights come back on and all the same shit still remains. I started sophomore with every intention of keeping everything as it had been. What I didn’t know was; it was time for an intervention.
A divine intervention.
There are marked points in my life where I see God’s divine intervention every time I look back. One is the fact that I am alive and well today – I haven’t done the research but I’d guess most statistics would say I shouldn’t be. Another is my adoptive family and they’re literal rescue of me. I could have spent the rest of my childhood in and out of foster homes. The other is my involvement with Young Life. One of the few things I felt passionate about at the time I entered TCU was Young Life and that was the way the Lord introduced a variety of people into my life that helped pull me out of the deep pit of dark despair I had created. Some of these people did Young Life with me, while others I had met because I was on Young Life’s list of babysitters shared between women in Fort Worth. I finally responded to the Lord’s stirring in my heart and took action.
It was not easy.
I ended my relationship. I started counseling again. And medication. I flipped the lights back on and it was a bright shock to see everything I already knew was there re-exposed. Climbing out of darkness is painful. There were plenty of times I wanted to crawl right back in.
And yet, this group of people loved me, cared for me, and walked with me when I was stubborn and unyielding at times. They became another family and a safety net. Yes, I had my family but I had chosen to be hundreds of miles away from them. So, there was provided for me another family. I wish I could name every single person who played a role in the last seven years but that would be pages. I wish I could say it has been a consistent upwards incline away from numbness and towards feeling for six years but that would be a lie. We know how real life works.
It has been a roller coaster.
There are good days and bad days. There are good months and bad months. Yet overall, it has been a steady incline towards better. There has been immense positive growth and change. One of my favorite things to tell people is something one of my college mentors told me. When she first met me I was nice and I would smile (she let me watch her kids so I hope I wasn’t too scary). My smile though, would not reach my eyes. It would not radiate my face like a smile is meant to. As she watched me grow and change through college and even beyond though; my smile overtook my face. Expression in general returned. I didn’t realize that numbing the inside had numbed the outside also.
So, if you knew me seven years ago you’d know I am a markedly different person today. I would love to tell you life is perfect. Actually, I wouldn’t, because that would be ridiculously boring. Regardless what state I feel my life is in; I know there is so much to be thankful for. I am thankful for where I’ve been but even more thankful where I’ve come to. There is always room for growth and change. And in another seven years I hope I don’t settle to remain the same.
There is always light ready to chase away darkness. Sometimes all it takes is a little divine intervention and the courage to flip a switch.
If you would like to read the final newsletter I wrote for Young Life you can find it here: