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August 11, 2014

A Scandalous Story

By Angela Beeler

Sometimes facing a fear means sharing it publicly.  And while it would be easy for me to stand behind the Oz curtain and preach talk to you about our word for the month—fearLESS—I’m not really “into” easy.  I’m into real.

The fearLESS challenge for Monday was to share your scandalous story, so as your fearLESS leader, I’ll go first. But let’s just get a few things straight:

  1. I don’t want your pity.
  2. I also don’t want your judgment.
  3. I tested ENTJ on the Meyer’s-Briggs so I don’t really do emotions.
  4. If you make me cry I will egg your house.

Alrighty then….let’s move on.

My own journey with fearLESSness actually began 18 years ago as an unwed, single mom.  While most 19 year olds were learning things like how study for exams, drink at parties or cook meals, I was learning how to change diapers, nurse a baby, and hold down an hourly-wage job.  Being a college drop out wasn’t exactly on my bucket list – nor was being a mom at 19 – but there I was, kicking the bucket to the curb.

The sordid details of the shotgun wedding, raising a child as a child, and living in small town USA are interesting for sure, but not as important as where that journey took me. The journey that I chose was most definitely filled with redemption and grace and hope and love and Jesus – but also with insecurity, condemnation and shame.

And it was the shame that held me captive. 

The shame was so deep that nothing was able to snuff it out.  Returning to college with a 10-month old and graduating in 18 months wasn’t enough.  Getting married to a man who didn’t just say, “yes” but instead said, “heck yes” to an already-made family wasn’t enough.  Moving to a new city, getting a well-paying job, and joining the “good” church –nothing was enough to cover my self-made prison of shame.

Nothing was going to be enough until I made the decision that I was enough.

My messy past, my broken pieces, my heavy baggage, my screw ups – I used all of these things to determine my worth, and what I determined was that I was worth nothing.

I walked around covering up my messy, hiding my broken pieces, and pretending my heavy baggage wasn’t really heavy at all – AND IT WAS EXHAUSTING.  More than that, it was fake.

Socially, I was a nightmare.  I found myself trying to dodge any conversation that included the question:  “How long have you guys been married?” because the math of my two-year-old marriage and 4-year-old child left lots to the imagination.  So I carefully calculated and crafted my “perfect family” story – but, oh, the tangled web we weave!  It became harder and harder to remember which story I had told to what person, and keeping the “facts” straight was impossible.  Sometimes I couldn’t keep the story straight -- and then I looked foolish AND scandalous, and I might as well just smoke a cigarette and work in a tattoo parlor.  (Because that’s what scandalous moms do, right?)

And then one day it ended.

The day that Beth Moore spoke directly to me happened during the Believing God bible study. Like, I’m pretty sure she was making direct eye contact with me on the DVD… and as she spoke, the world I had carefully built and concocted, was decimated.

That study ignited a fire in my heart to share my scandalous story – and it wasn’t a passionate, positive burn.  It was an ouchie kind of burn…the kind of burn that doesn’t go away until you do that thing you desperately DO.NOT.WANT.TO.DO.

And so I did it.  I shared, with purpose, FEAR and gut-wrenching honesty, my scandalous story with my bible study small group.

 And. It. Was. Ugly.

The crying was ugly…the dang-blasted ugly cry that requires Kleenex because snot is running down your face. (Oh yeah. I looked H-O-T.)

What followed as a result of that snot-filled testimony was a new desire to share my story – not stuff down a scandalous secret.  Much to my surprise, my testimony was received with compassion…not judgment, kindness…not contempt, intimacy…not isolation.  And that response placed a new song in my heart that day – a song of redemption and restoration…and glorious grace.  (Psalm 13:6 “I will sing to the Lord because He is good to me.”) 

And it was this act of fearLESSness that broke the chains of shame.

The deal with shame is this:

Shame keeps you chained to and identity that doesn’t fit.tweet-graphic-1

The more we wrestle trying to break free of the chains, the tighter the chains get.  Eventually, we stop wrestling.  And when we stop wrestling, we start believing the chains are actually helping us, holding us, keeping us safe.  Slowly but surely, the identity that doesn’t fit becomes part of our wardrobe that we willingly put on.

Breaking free of shame is about as fearLESS at it gets.  It takes a crazy amount of Jesus, going toe to toe with fear, and showing those broken pieces to people who might raise their eyebrows.  I can honestly say it took two years for me to completely break free of shame, but when the chains fell off – it was instantaneous freedom.  And. I. Danced. Like. A. Wild. Woman. (Welcome to REFIT, folks.)

What I’ve learned through that journey is that people are definitely intrigued by perfect lives…

but people are changed by messy ones.  tweet-graphic-1

I want to live messy before others.  I want to risk "falling from grace" in the eyes of the “eyebrow raisers” if it means one person can actually experience grace. I want my past to be a continual reminder of redemption…not an empty prison cell awaiting my return.  I want to live fearLESS and breathless…and careLESS (read that carefully), and shame LESS…all the other “lesses” that make sense, and some that don’t.  I want the journey filled with bumps, twists and turns.  I want the scars that heal but don’t callous.  I. WANT. MESSY.

And now it’s your turn.  Are you ready to share your scandalous story?  Are you ready to pick the lock of your chains of shame?  Are you ready to live fearLESS before others and share your own messy story?  Then go for it.  I think you’ll be surprised by how many people are drawn to Jesus through brokenness…not perfection.

Speaking of messy…in four days I move that 10-month old into her college dorm room and not one thing is packed.  Maybe it’s denial.  Maybe it’s procrastination.  Maybe it’s a secret hope that she’ll proclaim that she would rather just live at home and help me cook.  But if there’s one thing I’m certain of it’s this:  shame has no place or permission to exist when such a beautiful story of redemption is sleeping in her messy room.

And THAT, my friend, is a song worth singing…

Peace and love,

Angela

 

12 COMMENTS

Amberly

2 years ago

The pucsearhs I make are entirely based on these articles.

Angela Beeler

3 years ago

Thank you for this story....it's heartbreaking to hear what you had to go through. I hope you experience immense joy and peace moving forward with Jesus by your side.

Amanda McClellan-Holland

3 years ago

Wow, Angela, I just found this blog post and I SO needed it today, as I am struggling with my own past failings, mess-ups, mistakes...and SHAME. I married young (20) and had my son less than two years later. Shortly after his birth, I found out that my then husband was covorting with several other women, two of which he had impregnated. I filed for divorce immediately and spent the next 6 years living with my parents, while working full time and going to school to finish my degree. Shortly before I graduated with my Bachelors in 2006, I met a man, thirteen years older than myself, and married him 4 months later. It was a NIGHTMARE. Not immediately so, but the minute I started losing weight it was a constant struggle. He was verbally abusive, which turned to physical abuse for a very short period before I finally left in early 2010. Well, I told him that I wanted a divroce and he told me to get out of the house immediately. I had mere hours to grab what I could and go. He even had some of the men who worked for him come disassemble my son's bedroom and put it all outside in a 30 minute timeframe. So, back to my parents house we went for a few weeks before a family friend offered me a house she owned to rent for an insanely reasonable price. It wasn't until we were out on our own that I found out that the man who had been abusive towards me had been mentally abusive to my son. I was devestated. I had had no idea. I felt like a failure as a mom. I made some bad decisions shortly after because I didn't value myself at all. Decisions that I am still, admittedly, ashamed of and haven't shared with many people at all. Some days I feel like I have it all together and then other days, like the past few, I am so NOT together that it isn't funny. I thought that I had gotten my "ah-ha" moment and knew that I was enough, but I guess not. I now have a husband who loves me and my son completely. He knows my whole story and just how broken I have been/am and he loves and accepts me BECAUSE of it, not in spite of it. I sometimes wonder when I will get to the place where I accept me and FORGIVE myself. Thank you for your frank and honest post. It truly helped me realize that I'm not alone in my feelings. While our circumstances are different, you understand the thought process and feelings I am dealing with. I appreciate your honesty. Maybe one day my story will help someone else.

Angela Beeler

4 years ago

And there's our "me too" moment!

Angela Beeler

4 years ago

Pastor, you are a kind man and filled with GRACE. I appreciate who you are.

Angela Beeler

4 years ago

Thank you, Terri!

Mary Elenbaas

4 years ago

Hey Angela Thank you for sharing your story and keeping it "real"! That's what God wants us to all do - share our stories and burdens with one another - to build each other up! You're being a true example for others of what Grace can do - thank you & God bless your journey! See you next month! Mary

staceykinnick

4 years ago

Angela, thank you for being so transparent with us. I, too, was 19, unwed, going to college, caring for a baby, trying to work, and make it all work. I know that story, and I lived that shame. I was never good enough - for myself. Your story helps me to look deeper inside my own prison, and ask God to set me (us) all free! Loves & Hugs, sister!

Melanie

4 years ago

Anna Joy, I thank you for your honesty. I ache for you as only someone who has walked your path can do. It is SO hard to believe that we are forgiven, when we are the ones who condemn ourselves for being so dirty. I was raised in a religious home without knowing that God wasn't the cruel, condemning being who waited eagerly for me to stumble so that he could teach me a much-needed lesson. It wasn't until years later that I learned the Truth, that our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally, no matter what we've done with our bodies while trying to fulfill the emptiness we have inside. In fact, I believed for years that Jesus could save everyone except me. To this day I fight feelings of self-loathing, though I do believe in my salvation through Christ alone. Angela, I thank you for your honesty and vulnerability. I now know why I've always felt you were a kindred spirit!

Anna Joy

4 years ago

I was very promiscuous in high school...and I'm from a teeny tiny backwoods Oklahoma town, so everyone knew it. Because of my history not a soul in that town would believe me when I tried to press charges against the young man who raped and impregnated me. I seriously considered an abortion, and made a lot of horrible choices that should have resulted in a horrible outcome. Instead God prevailed. I was too ashamed to tell my parents what had happened and very good at hiding it, so they found out the morning I gave birth to my son in their bathroom floor. I was 15. I immediately had the opinions of every person in town--most advising adoption. I chose to keep,that baby, and he too was a healing redemption for me. Theeeeen, the sweet man who chose to marry my son and I? I cheated on him--with my best friend's husband. *sigh*. You know what he did? He held me while I cried and prayed for forgiveness. He wholeheartedly forgave me. He is my Hosea. <3 Unfortunately...I still carry my shame. It's an anchor around my neck. I have trouble fully giving myself to my husband, or to a God...for I am so ashamed of things I have done. How can they possibly forgive me? I fear I will never, ever pick my locks of shame. I will never be truly fearLESS.

Edward

4 years ago

Well, if you make us cry do we get to egg your house. LOL! What a liberating messy story. My story is ending and beginning. After 34 1/2 years of marriage I'm going through a divorce. Before the decision came I found myself wondering if my children (grown) could hear me sobbing in my room. After telling the children I was surprised by their answer. "It's about time!" It was that obvious yet I couldn't see it. Separated for years yet unwilling to let go. What seems even harder to accept is that as a pastor I counsel marriages often enough that I knew it was the right thing to do, and still didn't. When I announced it there was more pain than I had expected, Emotions that were raw. I felt guilt but wasn't guilty, I felt shame, but there was nothing shameful. It felt so wrong but knew it was right. "Pastor, how could you do this?" "Pastor, where is your faith?" There is no happy ending to this messy story. But there is hope in one. My God is a God of redemption, do overs, second chances, and full of grace and mercy. I have faith! I do! Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see. Thank you for doing this and allowing us to be messy too.

Terri Freihofer

4 years ago

I LOVE, LOVE your redemption song! We are all beautiful messes, but our heavenly Father no longer sees the mess when he looks at us. He just sees his preciouse girls., beautiful, dancing and twirling in our best ballerina tutus! He is so good!

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