As a pastor’s daughter, the church was our life – my mom, my dad, and me. And all the many people who were a part of it were our family too. It was a special place, and to me, my parents were at the center of it all. They were so big in my eyes! Mom had a strong, confident personality. She knew who she was and she never wavered in her faith. Dad was the pastor, and everyone loved him. It was what he did and who he was and he was so good at it. And then there was me, a happy little girl, sometimes shy, content to stand back and observe it all. I watched and took it in, and all the while noticed others observing me. There were high expectations and it was quite a weighty place for a girl to be in.
The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly
I saw so many things – beautiful things as well as ugly things. I saw husbands come to Jesus and join their families in church after their wives had prayed for them for years. I experienced the thrill of God’s presence moving among us in services. I wish I could convey the memory of watching my dad preach and sense the anointing of God on him as he rocked back and forth on his heels, intently sharing the Word of God. My love and heart for children began to materialize and grow while caring for little ones at our church.
There was so much good, but there were also some things that were so hard. I heard people make fun of things that were precious and sacred to my family. I saw the sadness of death up close while faithfully attending funerals. I heard things that were frightening, like phone calls aimed to intimidate our family, and a gunshot that was meant for my father. There was new life and there was death, and this was my life – the life of a preacher’s kid. But I was just a girl and my parents were just my mom and dad.
Sometimes people caused my parents pain, and because I loved my mom and dad, their hurts hurt me. I held onto the hurt, even when my parents laid it down and forgave. Mom and Dad pursued peace, even when it came at a high price. They extended forgiveness, and asked for it too. I saw my parents willingly give of themselves, their time, talents, and so much love and grace. It’s what Jesus asked them to do and they said yes. They loved Him so much and lived out that love in their daily lives.
Results of Living In a Fallen World
Sometimes in my watching, I felt so small. I couldn’t seem to get past being the observant little girl. The enemy whispered that I was no more important or special to my parents than the people that they served. I wondered, what was my place and how could I ever measure up to these spiritual giants of parents? The doubts, insecurities, and hurts stuck. They influenced how I viewed myself, how I lived out my life with others, and the person I became.
Collecting worries like flower petals carried in an apron, I felt that I could never measure up to other’s expectations. So I tiptoed around, with fear as a close companion. I couldn’t let go and didn’t fully trust God; I allowed the fear to rule.
What Jesus Says
If only I would have realized that instead of worrying about what others thought, Jesus was waiting to tell me what He thought of me – that He made me and loved me just as I was. That if I would trust Him, He would teach me, that if I would give myself fully to Him, He would make me holy and acceptable. Why didn’t I realize that because of God’s great love for me, I could be filled with Him and His power to be who He made me to be – without fear?
My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit – not a brute strength – that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19 The Message
Facing the Fears & Hurts
Pretending to be okay doesn’t actually make us okay. God wants us to face the fears and hurts of the past that hold us back because they’re like weights that only let us go so far. Ultimately, they need to be dealt with and released so that we can heal and move forward. To be all that God wants us to be, we must let them go. Not only does Jesus ask us to forgive, but He also wants us to go so far as to extend love. Releasing unforgiveness is so much better than carrying around pockets-full of hurt and fear.
If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, ‘Jump,’ and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 The Message
I chose to forgive the hurts that our family endured, because of the grace that I had freely received from my Savior. How could I do anything less? I decided that I wanted to chase after God’s heart, rather than look for man’s approval. I decided to live out the love that Jesus asked of me, because of my love for Him.
As I released myself and others from the past, I received freedom like I’d never experienced before. I think God really wants us to begin to grasp what Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” We can be made new and be who He wants us to be as we take our hurts and fears to Him.
Experiencing Love & Freedom in Release
I hope you’ll consider extending forgiveness where it’s needed too. You can experience a fresh sense of God’s love and the overwhelming freedom that comes with letting go. Ask Jesus to show you the things in your past that have caused hurt in your life that He wants you to deal with today. Ask Him to help you forgive those who caused you hurt and empty yourself of those memories that are holding you back. God’s Holy Spirit will bring to mind the things that you need to deal with and He will be with you to give you the strength that you need to face them. You may want to ask your pastor or a praying friend to pray with you. As you release the hurts and lies of the past, Jesus will take you to a new place of walking in freedom with Him.