I can never tell, I thought, sitting in a mental ward at nineteen years old. I can’t tell others that I attempted suicide, that I dropped out of college. I can’t let them see how broken I am.
That lie, I can’t tell, wasn’t the first time the enemy had attacked me, but it was the worst attack I’d ever had, and have had since. The lie that we “can’t tell” who we are, can’t tell what we’ve been through, and what we struggle with, tries to erase us at our very cores. It tries to deny that we are God’s children (although broken), and we have the right to enjoy life, and life more abundantly. The lie I can never tell tries to cut us off from other humans, the best sources of help and comfort when we’re down.
I can never be a mother was another lie that whispered itself to me in the wake of my failed suicide, as I fumbled to rejoin society, and as I leapt into the safety of marriage at the tender age of twenty. But the marriage will never include kids, I vowed. Because I didn’t want to pass on my flawed identity.
You see, when I was fourteen, my family became a broken family. Stuff happened that no Christian family wants to claim. So we didn’t. We didn’t tell our relatives, church family, or school friends what was going on inside our home. Instead, we turned inward—shouting, accusing, blaming—until the family self-destructed. My parents split, leaving us all reeling and dealing in our own ways. While my parents and brother became angry, I became depressed. By the time I left home for college, I still hadn’t found a place to tell my story of brokenness; I carried it inside me, let it define me, and during my freshman year, it almost killed me.
Because I never expressed my true, broken self in adolescence, I could not move on emotionally in early adulthood—although I did learn to cover up the pain on the outside. In my early twenties, I was so crowded with lies (I’m alone, I’m abandoned, I’m worthless, I’m too broken to be fixed) that motherhood felt impossible, and undesirable. As long as my identity was so pitiful, I could never conceive of shaping other people’s identities.
Praise my Lord and Savior, Jesus, throughout my twenties, He overturned those insidious, identity-destroying lies. I began reading His Word, praying His promises, and telling my story to others in a small group at my church. Finally, at age 28, nine years post suicide attempt, I learned that the lies came from Satan—not me—and the lies were not my identity—they were a false identity Satan had stuck to me.
As I continued praying through the lies and asking Jesus to reveal the truth, God showed me who I really was: I was a daughter of God called to use every part of my identity to bring glory to him—beginning with my broken past.
And so, in obedience to God, I told my story again and again and again. One small group of women turned into more small groups, where I moved from the seat of receiving prayer to facilitating it. I started a blog to share the healing I’d found, and I also started writing books about my recovery.
As I shared in new venues and platforms, I was, with God’s help, overturning the single strongest lie in my life—I can never tell. And loosing the shackles of that one lie led to other lies falling away. Room was made for more parts of my true identity to surface. Most surprisingly after eight years of marriage, I finally realized I wanted to be a mom! I wanted to reclaim the family life Satan had stolen from me in my teens—and I am on my way. Now in my early thirties, I have two beautiful boys and a loving husband who are the light of my life.
Today I love to share that I come from a broken family, that I used to be depressed, and that I almost took my life, because it takes people off guard. It gets their attention, because that’s not the woman they see standing in front of them. The woman they see is a happy writer, prayer warrior, and mom, and that is a miracle.
We all have a positive identity in Christ, but to find it, we have to tell our stories. We have to declare and own our roots, be they good or bad, because our roots make us who we are. And the more we tell, the less confusing, shameful, and sad our stories will become. The more we tell, the more we will gain healing and a testimony of what God has done, and is doing, in us.
Telling our stories to find our testimony is like the writing process. It can be messy, but seen to its conclusion, the process brings beauty. When we first tell our stories to others, just like when writers write a rough draft, we spew out a story, we get feedback, and we re-write. In the early stages, we might just tell one or two others. But in the process of telling, we gain clarity about the real message. We revise, or “re-see.” Then we can clear away what really doesn’t belong, and work on adding what does.
By the end, what remains is a final draft we’ll want to share with the world. What was once a source of shame can become our greatest source of pride in Christ as we realize how far He has brought us. Finally, as we tell not just what we have done, but what He has done in us, the one (or two) thing(s) that we once could not fathom doing—such as telling our stories, raising kids—can become the things we realize we were meant to do.