I grew up going to church every Sunday, striving to be perfect, to be a "good" Christian. But I worried about what God and others really thought of me. I got baptized and confirmed at 16, but I didn't have a personal relationship with Christ. I rarely shared my true feelings with anyone, and when I did, I'd get so overwhelmed with emotion that I could barely speak. I was a people-pleaser, and I spent most of my time trying to figure out what others expected me to do, and then doing it. I felt a need to fix everyone, even though I was broken myself. It was exhausting, but I didn't know any other way to live. I put on a facade of happiness and perfection. People said good things about me, but I didn't really believe them, because I knew I was faking my way through life. I kept people at a safe enough distance that I could keep my walls up and not share my true feelings, but still, be seen as a friend. I was lonely.
I got married at 21 and moved about 1000 miles away from home since my husband was in the military. We knew going in that there would be challenges, but we also thought that once we got married, everything would be ok. After four years of marriage, we sought help through counseling for the first time. I wanted to blame everything on my husband, but our therapist said, "You know, you've got some issues, too." She suggested I attend a 12 Step group. I, the great people-pleaser, went right away.
I was terrified as I went to the first one. The thought of sharing the truth with strangers was unfathomable. I had no idea what to expect. But when I arrived, the room was full of friendly faces. The people were kind and welcoming. I heard things being read and said that really resonated with me. One by one, the circle shared openly and honestly. When it was my turn, I started to speak, and then I broke down crying uncontrollably. They handed me a box of tissues and told me I was in the right place. The sharing continued around the circle. I felt so embarrassed. But soon I realized, nobody else was even having a second thought about my breakdown or what I had shared. I was honest. I was open. I was vulnerable. And I was accepted, loved, and cared for. I was not alone.
It has been twelve years since I first attended a recovery group. The first thing I gained from this fellowship was a personal relationship with God. Then a love for myself, and a love for others. I also developed a craving for the authenticity that is found in recovery rooms. I have a deep desire to be completely open and honest, and a deep desire to connect with others who are completely open and honest. Because it is through authentic relationships that we experience the love of God. We are fully known and fully loved by God, but sometimes it is hard to understand that until we have been fully known and fully loved by people. And it can be just as hard to know that we can be fully known and fully loved by people unless we have come to understand that we are truly known and loved by God.
Hilary is a Christian artist, writer, Navy wife, and homeschooler. She grew up in southeast Missouri and the Navy has taken her family to Virginia, Florida, and now Japan. She loves deep conversations, chocolate, and polka dots. She can be found at www.awakemysoulart.com, www.awakemysoulawake.etsy.com, www.facebook.com/awakemysoulart, and www.instagram.com/awakemysoulart.