Have you ever experienced feelings of nervousness or fear when getting up to speak in front of others? Trust me, I understand how you feel. Believe it or not, even though I love to teach and now speaking in front of others is what I enjoy most, it didn’t used to be that way. In fact, I would be so afraid to speak in front of others that I would literally start to black out and lose consciousness.
I remember in college when I would have to present case studies in graduate school, I couldn’t look at anyone in the eye, and I would literally lose my voice. It would just flat out disappear! I would start to sweat, get dizzy, see all white, and then all black and start to faint. I used to choose majors in undergrad based on whether or not they had a speech requirement. Speech class felt like a fate worse than death, and no major was worth that.
Why did I react that way? What was behind all of those symptoms of losing consciousness? How did I get to where I am now where I love to speak in front of others? Behind it all was the fear of being exposed — that everyone would see how bad, how inadequate and what a failure I really was inside.
Growing up as the youngest of seven, I received a lot of messages that told me (or that I interpreted to mean) that I was bad, inadequate, worthless and that I didn’t have a voice or the right to speak. In fact, I didn’t even believe I had the very right to exist, so I quickly learned the best thing for me to do was to be invisible. I barely spoke growing up. My mom used to take me to throat specialists all the time because I literally did not have a voice and was always clearing my throat. I believed in my heart so strongly that I didn’t have a right to exist, it actually manifested itself in my body as no audible voice. I believed I had some sort of defect, that something was wrong with me because I couldn’t talk. Everyone would always say to me, “You’re so shy!” I truly thought it was a disease that I was born with and would have to endure my entire life. I didn’t understand then what was behind it. When we are young, we assume we are the problem.
It was like this all the way through school, but then by the end of 10th grade I found a way to express, or get that voice out, and that was through drinking. I found that when I drank, I could freely express myself for the first time in my life, and it was very liberating. In fact, I became so good at it that I prided myself on being able to outdrink anyone, and I could. I was quite the party girl from the time I was about sixteen to twenty-eight years old.
Another interesting thing I discovered in high school was that I would feel I had worth and value if I could get a man sexually attracted to me. I learned the bar pick-up scene, and I excelled in it. By the time I had my first apartment at age twenty-two, Cosmopolitan magazine was my handbook for daily living. All of its articles told me how I was to act with men and how to make decisions about life and career; but unfortunately, it didn’t go into any detail about all the pain, rejection, and hopelessness that resulted from the lifestyle it promoted.
By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I was out of college and trying to find my way in life; I felt extremely lost, hopeless and lonely. I was searching for true meaning and my purpose in life, what my heart was into and what I was created for. I moved out to Southern California after graduate school thinking I would find “truth” and the meaning of life there. I actually believed that people were more enlightened in California than they were in the Midwest.
I changed jobs and careers as often as every two months. With each move, I felt more and more empty, desperate and hopeless in my quest to find something I believed in and that gave me purpose and meaning in life. I drank even more excessively (if that was even possible) and became more promiscuous, picking up men from bars almost nightly. I was desperately searching for love, to feel valued and that I had worth to men; however, I was definitely looking in all the wrong places. I experienced tremendous shame, self-condemnation, loneliness and physical pain, enduring horrible surgeries due to STDs, (sexually transmitted diseases). I remember being in a hospital after almost hemorrhaging to death and looking out the window wanting to jump out. I was completely alone, and found no comfort or love in this world.
Again, the lies and messages of the world I had followed never advertised the physical consequences or the shame and rejection that followed living out those messages. I felt worthless and unlovable. I lost hope that I would ever find someone to love me.
Within a period of nine months, I ended up having three surgeries and two car accidents. Because of my mounting medical expenses, my health insurance plan dropped me. At the time, I was working two part-time jobs and doing two internships toward a master’s in psychology. This change in health insurance forced me to look for a full-time job that offered the benefits I needed for all of these medical bills.
One day, I met a guy riding his bike in an alley near the beach. He was wearing an Ohio State sweatshirt. We became “drinking buddies.” He submitted my resume to his employer, McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, CA. Eventually I was hired at Douglas, but I resisted accepting the offer because I was a “new ager” at the time and was vehemently opposed to anything related to the defense industry. I actually believed if we all just thought “peaceful thoughts,” the cosmic consciousness of the world would live in peace, similar to the John Lennon song, “Imagine.”
I ended up accepting the job, forced by the need for medical benefits, but with my own understanding that I would just take it for a month or two while I continued to interview for other jobs that my heart was into and that were consistent with my core new age beliefs.
I was hired at McDonnell Douglas to implement an organizational change initiative within their Marketing department; however the Vice-President of Marketing was not yet open to this strategy, so I and four others on the team who were hired to implement this initiative in other areas of the company, had nothing to do for six months. When have you ever heard of that happening in a company? Never!
One of the others who was hired was a born again Christian. From day one I determined to stay far from him as I always did with Christians because they were never interested in who I really was as a person, they were only interested in trying to convert me, and I wanted nothing to do with them or their forced conversions. I thought they were all uneducated, loser, nut cases. However, this guy (Rich) was different because he didn’t try to force his faith on me; he was actually a true friend to me. I had no experience in the job I was hired for (again, how often does that happen? Never!), and he helped me in so many practical ways, both at work and outside of work with things like moving, helping with my car, all the things that single women in California with no family have desperate need of.
Over the next six months, we spent many hours debating about God. I threw out every cassette tape and handout he gave me about God. However, he never judged me or told me what to do, but would listen to all of my stories and ask questions, leaving me to think and discover truth for myself. Eventually, he did succeed in encouraging me to listen to Christian Psychology radio programs. I was amazed that psychological truths could actually be found in the Bible. Again, I thought the Bible was only for the uneducated. On Christmas Eve of that year, Rich and his family invited me to Christmas Eve service. I agreed because I wanted to hear Christmas carols. Who doesn’t like Christmas carols, regardless of whether or not you believe in God? I’ll never forget when the Pastor said that Jesus was the first Christmas gift (sent by God) and how would I feel if I bought someone a Christmas gift they wouldn’t open? I had spent that day shopping for Rich and his family and thought about how I would feel if they wouldn’t open my gifts. I never heard Jesus put in that context before, and it penetrated my heart.
Three months later, I turned twenty-eight years old. By this time, everything had come to a head in my life. I could not find my purpose, and I started to believe that I just didn’t have one. I couldn’t find someone to love me. All I experienced was rejection and being used for sex – even by a psychologist friend I thought was the ultimate, all together guy. I couldn’t overcome feelings of worthlessness, even though I had already been through five years of therapy. By that point, I understood all of my issues and family dysfunctions on an intellectual basis; however, it never truly changed how I felt about myself deep down in my heart.
At work, I ended up in a room full of older VP-level men that I was supposed to facilitate through a re-organization process. They were finally ready to implement the change initiative in Marketing because the entire organization was being forced to do it. Well guess what happened to my voice? That’s right, I couldn’t speak. I sat there for five hours (that’s how long the daily meetings were) and couldn’t say a word. I felt too worthless. Those old messages came back — I have nothing valuable or important to say, I don’t have a right to speak up; I’m inadequate, stupid, worthless; I don’t have a right to exist. I didn’t have a voice in the midst of these high-level men, because basically, I was sitting in a room full of my older brothers.
That night in my apartment, I felt hopeless in every area of my life: career, finding purpose, overcoming worthlessness, being rejected by men, feeling unlovable, being unable to change. I wanted to die, and I thought about how I might end my life. I no longer could bare the pain of living; all I knew was that I just wanted the pain to end. Have you ever felt that way?
I was lying on my bed wanting to end my life because I felt that was the only way to end the pain, and that there was no hope of ever changing. I felt totally rejected, unwanted, and a worthless failure. I hadn’t believed in God throughout my twenties; but because of what I had heard listening to Christian radio and attending a few services with Rich, I thought I’d make one last plea. I said God, “If you are real, take control of my life because I don’t want it anymore.” I didn’t even understand then who He was or what His Son, Jesus, had done for me. I cried out in my desperation and He heard my heart and accepted me just as I was. The next day I went into work, and I experienced His presence, strength and a feeling of worth that I had never experienced before. I ended up being the top facilitator at McDonnell Douglas in the months that followed.
That was twenty-seven years ago, March 20,1989. Since then I’ve gained a better understanding that even though Jesus was God in the flesh, He loved me and wanted me so badly that He willingly died for me so that His blood would cover me and make me acceptable, even in all of my weakness and imperfection. I could have an intimate relationship with a holy and perfect God, now and forever, not based on how good I am, but all based on what Jesus did for me. Everything I had done wrong all those years, all of the shame I carried for all of the bad things I’d done and for just growing up feeling like I was bad and something was wrong with me, was all washed away, cleansed and forgiven.
Since that time, I’ve experienced true love in Him. Only He can love me 100% perfectly all of the time. Only He will never reject me and never put me down. Only He can give me worth, a new identity, purpose and meaning in life. He actually desires me, delights in me and enjoys being with me! His heart is ravished toward me. He can’t take His eyes off of me, and He can’t stop thinking about me! He is the love I have been searching for all of me life. I never have to feel unwanted, bad, or worthless again. I’m now doing what my heart is into, what I believe in, helping others to know this amazing God who has redeemed my life from the pit and crowned me with love and compassion.
Everything I am, everything I have today is a result of His grace, love and mercy in my life. To top it off, He has given me a voice, a strong voice to speak for Him all around the world. I love public speaking! Now that’s a miracle! He also gave me a loving husband and a beautiful, precious daughter.
Life hasn’t been perfect these past twenty-seven years. When my daughter was born fifteen years ago, she had special needs; and I basically had a breakdown spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally. I believed the lie that God had abandoned me. He has since healed my heart and showed me that He was with me all along and that He was crying too. Every time that I have struggled since I gave my life to God has always been because I was either believing a lie about myself or about Him. Usually both, because they go arm in arm. God has never left me, and He has never stopped loving me; in fact, it’s impossible for Him to do so. His love is like the sunshine; it can’t stop radiating. Now the clouds (or lies we believe in our heart about ourselves or Him) may block us from feeling His love, but it never stops coming toward us. His love is like fire, a jealous, passionate, consuming fire. Fire advances through any obstacle; nothing can stand in it’s way, and such is His love toward us. Nothing, not even our weakness or failures can stop His love from coming toward us. We are beautiful to Him even in our weakness, because when He sees us, He sees us as the perfect, finished product.
Experiencing His love and an intimate relationship with Him is our very purpose for living. It can never be taken away from us, and who God is and how He sees us is the only thing in this life that can never change. I am so thankful that I asked Him to take control of my life on that desperate night in my apartment in Seal Beach, California. He has truly taken me from “death to life!”
My passion in ministry now comes from the healing work that God has done in my life. I desire to help others grow in the intimacy with God that has made such a dramatic difference in my own life, and to be spiritually ready for their bridegroom when He returns. There is no higher calling than serving the one and true God, and there is nothing else that I would rather be doing than this. At last, after all of those years of searching for the meaning of life, I have found my purpose for living, what my “heart is into.”