Thursday, October 2, 2014

31 Songs: All He Says I Am

I came to this town a decade ago; I found a job teaching school for the first year. Newly separated (and headed for divorce), I had my five kids in tow in search of a fresh start. We moved in with my parents and got ourselves situated.

I was a flat out walking disaster. My identity split into two, almost diametrically opposed halves: On one hand, I was a survivor. A single mom, with five kids and minuscule financial support, re-entering the work force after a decade as a stay-at-home. I found a job teaching. I managed to buy a house. I kept the kids together and moving forward.

On the other hand, I was filled with shame and feelings of failure. At the end of the day, it wasn't the thrill of victory and survival and accomplishment that infused my thoughts; it was the agony of defeat.

I was a failure. A disappointment to friends and family. Marked by a scarlet letter, an embarrassment to the faith. 




/ / /

I started attending church shortly after we arrived in this county. A radioactive, hot mess, I snuck into a row by myself and cried by myself for a good six months. Every Sunday. But every Sunday, I heard a constant, consistent message of grace, a slight paradigm shift of what I'd been taught in years past; a continuation of the grace-filled message I'd begun to hear and understand from an influential teacher at a previous church. As a piano player with "Worship Leader" on her resume, church was a familiar place. Contemporary church felt like home. 

But I was on the outside, and I never believed I would ever deserve a place on the inside again.

I didn't. 

I still don't. 

But here's the thing: You don't earn your place in this kingdom. You inherit it.

And bad behavior, though it comes with painful consequences, doesn't negate your inheritance. The birthright is yours.

It was mine. 

And here's the other thing: There's no 'inside'.

We're all insiders. We get to open our hands and choose to move a little closer to the center. Some of us weave in and out from time to time, but we're in. 

/ / /

I have worked in the same place now for nine years; after that first school year, I was offered a different job. 

I've never worked anywhere for this long.

I love this job. The people I work with are more important to me than anyone other than my family members.

I wear several different hats. I am on the Senior Leadership Team. I am a manager. I have been ordained. I have been afforded every opportunity to grow and advance in my role. I have been affirmed and encouraged. 

There has been resolution to my identity crisis. I have a new name.

/ / /

I learned much about resilience and redemption and restoration. I learned about grace and what it means to live and walk and breathe in forgiveness. I am different now.

But it's not because I have a position of leadership. It's not because I have a job, or influence, or that I get to be on a platform. That is not restoration; that is responsibility. It is my burden; my calling. 

It is my life's work now, this movement of grace. The great privilege of sitting eye to eye with someone as they release their own pain, promising that the greater good lies within the letting go. The immense and awe-filled joy of putting melody and lyric and rhythm into a room of people, gathered with expectancy. The tremendous implosion of purpose that sneaks up and overwhelms me, leaves me sobbing, after 90 minutes with a young woman who is willing to tell you her truths so that she can find her way forward.

It is what I will do, for all my days, out of gratitude. To serve.

Because I learned what it means to know who you are. I lived in the wretched despair of divorced, broken, failure, unfaithful, liar, betrayer, unworthy, unlovable, ugly, not enough.

And someone came along beside me and said, You are more.

Someone came alongside me and gently pointed my face upward, and there it was -  the truth, the miracle, the magic. 

I will never stop telling this story.

I will never stop singing this song.

He whispers in my ear, tells me that I'm fearless
He shares a melody, tells me to repeat it
And it makes me whole
It reminds my soul

I am all He says I am...
and He says I am His own

Note: The GREATEST joy I have had with this song was watching my son and his sister - my children - sing this song together, on a Sunday night, filled with passion and conviction. I watched and listened and my heart trembled. I was proud, for sure. Their ardor and commitment inspired me. But I knew this, even as they declared their truth: They will have to learn this again and again and again. We all do. And that's okay. There is always a safe place to land.

We will sing this song on Sunday, as we close our services. I will be looking upward.


annie said...

It has been such a privilege to follow your journey, Beth.

Anonymous said...

This is powerful, sister. And so not lame. Thank you.

Princess of Everything (and then some) said...

I could have written this...except for the 5 kids. Oh honey, this is so good and true. Look at you!

Cyn Huddleston said...

The great privilege of sitting eye to eye with someone as they release their own pain, promising that the greater good lies within the letting go.

Cyn Huddleston said...

That sentence says more about your heart than Anything else. I love looking at your heart through your words.

Anonymous said...

Yup, we have a family motto, "We never give up." Thanks for reminding me of the miracle and the grace that is always just around the corner!

Nicole Joelle said...

love this. Thanks for sharing your story + heart :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Beth, thank you for sharing.

Lexie Dache said...

wow, this is beautiful. Thank you for being so brave to share and speak out your identity. This is amazing.

- Lexie

JustBeBeth said...

"You don't earn your place in this kingdom. You inherit it." It has taken me 40 years to understand this truth. But still I find myself striving before surrendering.

I was touched, too, by the mention of your children singing this song and how you know that they sing it only from the place where they are today and that this will grow and deepen within this truth over time. I guess that's all the best of us can do, though, huh? To "declare our own truth" and then learn over and over again.

This post is beautiful all over! I am SO GLAD to have found your series and your writing and your grace.

Becky @ My Ink Dance said...

I loved reading your story. It was beautifully transparent and it's great to know we all walk this path together!

hopeswin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hopeswin said...

This song is about Saul from Acts 9:18 "And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized".......... Thank you for sharing so much of yourself Beth. You're beautiful and a blessing to those touched by your life!