All the thoughts on social media about beginning a new decade have made me reflective on the last ten years of my own life. In January of 2010, I was a mom to a three year old, and an infant and Allen was the new youth pastor at Streams Church. It would be only a few months later that I was challenged that my own story needed attention, and that I needed healing. It took me a few months to work up the courage to say yes, but I finally did.
We rarely know in moments of courage what the ripples of those decisions will be.
I remember vividly how terrified I was to walk from my car to my counselor's office. The voice of darkness was LOUD, telling me to run. I resisted, though, and that one decision literally changed the course of my life.
What you need to know about that young wife and mom is that she didn't have many dreams, really. Religion had lied to her for so long, that she didn't think she had much to offer. She spent most of her days trying to measure up, hide from her past, and find the approval of the people around her. If people were happy, she might feel a moment's rest. If they weren't, she was in turmoil. God was a distant and disgruntled Father who she worked hard to appease.
Today, I smile when I think of my 2010 self. I hardly recognize that version of me, can hardly find words to communicate all Jesus has done with my fragile and scared "yes". He came close. That's what the last ten years have been about; Jesus coming close to me, whispering into the dark, broken places, and reviving them with light. He became everything, and in finding Him, I found hope, dreams, and a wide open road to the future. He is the reason I write, preach the gospel, and am drawn to the forgotten ones in this world. The foundation of who I am, where I go and what I do today is built on this one thing:
Jesus didn't forget me, didn't move on from me when I needed Him to come close.
Enter this new land, where Jesus has called our family. Utah is stunningly beautiful. I have only to look out my window to remember His greatness, and majesty. Yet, I have felt and seen the sorrow of this land, as well. In only two months, my heart has been weighted with the burden Jesus carries for so many people here. People who at large, have been forgotten by the outside world because they seem fine, seem put together, seem successful...a story I know all to well. Religion is alive and well in Utah.
At the core of my story is freedom from religion. Yes, I was healed from childhood abuse, but that was only a byproduct of the deeper issues. Religion breeds sin. That's all it knows how to do. It preys on the weakness of men, and feeds the flesh whispers of pride and arrogance. Then, when it's had it's fill of your life, it leaves you empty, alone, and broken. I'm so glad Jesus came to me when He did. He invited me into a dance with him, and in doing so, freed me from the slavery of religion. I've been dancing with him for ten years, and the fire of His word has only grown stronger inside of me.
And now, He's called us to a place that needs the same freedom I've found. A place that needs the revelation of Jesus in His fullness. Not a shadow of Him, not a copy, but HIM. Religion is the strongest enemy of the gospel. Religion yelled, "Crucify him!" Love is what kept Him on the cross, and brought Him out of the grave.
The last two months have been hard for our family. Transition is never easy, and we've felt like extra weight was added to it with sickness, trying to sort out finances so we can provide for our family, and the emotional roller coaster of not knowing the plan for our future. Jesus has been faithful, though, in the dark moments when I've cried out.
A few weeks ago, I was running errands, and listening to worship music. I was tired, emotionally and mentally spent, and feeling regret, for the first time since our move. The question loomed large, "What if this was a mistake?" I was sitting at a stop light with a breathtaking view of the mountains ahead, and my mind filled with an image I haven't seen in years. On each mountaintop was an angel, clothed in a red robe, holding a sword of fire. They stood ready for battle. It was so vivid I could draw the picture, if I had the talent to draw. I knew in my spirit they were angels of war. The last time I saw the same angels was when I was making my way to speak for the first time to a group of women, and share my story, years ago. I had the distinct knowing that this moment in my life mirrors that moment. When I said yes to being vulnerable and sharing my story for the first time, I was looking religion square in the face and telling it to go back to hell. No more was I going to hide, no more was I going to appear to have it all together. I chose in that moment to lay my heart bare, and let Jesus do what he would.
Those angels of war came with me that day to defeat lies of religion that held women hostage. Today, those angels stand ready to defeat the same lies that hold thousands of people hostage in Utah. Religion is the fiercest of enemies, but it does not stand above the name of Jesus. I'm proof of it. I had the deep revelation, sitting in my car at a stoplight, that Jesus sent our family here to make war against religion. It's the scariest kind of war. I know the power of it, I know the destruction of it. I might as well be looking into the face of a ten headed dragon. But I know my Jesus. I know how much He loves. I know how strong He is. I know that He looked into the face of that dragon over two thousand years ago and said, "Do your worst." And when that dragon did his worst, he was defeated. Because religion can do a lot of things, but it can never love.
And for the past ten years, Jesus has been teaching me how to love.
Just as Jesus didn't forget me, didn't move on from me when I needed Him to come close, He has not forgotten the people of Utah. He's coming close, with freedom for the captives. He is gathering an army here, and we are just voices added to the fight. He will have his inheritance in Utah.
Ten years ago, Jesus took a broken, terrified young woman, and raised her up as His daughter. He freed her from religion and in that she found healing for her wounds. He gave strength to her voice, and clarity to her vision. He put her on a hill and gave her words to speak that would pull the veil away from those blinded by religion.
Today, I stand on a new hill, looking over a new valley, and Jesus is adding new strength to my voice. I didn't know ten years ago that I was looking this ten headed dragon in the face, when I said my timid "yes". Today, I do know. I know just what I'm up against, and it doesn't scare me anymore. Just as Jesus said when he walked up his hill, and gave His life, I will say to that ancient serpent, "Do your worst". And then watch Jesus set captives free.
Our family has been called not to just plant a church in a new place. We've been commissioned to disrupt and tear down religion, to shine light in darkness, and to point people to the truth of Jesus. The battles we've fought to get here are only proof of what is to come. We're talking and praying and dreaming of how Jesus is going to do these things through us. We know it isn't going to look like it always has. And we are here for it. All of it. Because Jesus is worthy of every sacrifice, and we've pledged our lives to Him. So, here's to the next decade of giving Him our all, no matter the cost.
author. Bible teacher. trauma healing facilitator.