On Being Yourself and Sharing Your Story

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I went to a writer’s Conference this weekend. I was scared and unsure and pretty sure I’d walk away knowing I wasn’t a writer. And maybe I did. I’m still not sure.

The overall message I have come away with- Be YOURSELF and share YOUR STORY.

The problem is, what if you don’t know who ‘YOURSELF’ is and what if you’re leery to tell ‘YOUR STORY’ because maybe, just maybe, you don’t really know what ‘YOUR STORY’ is.

So I decided to tell it anyway. I decided that somewhere between uncertain thoughts and fingers typing questionable statements, I would discover my story. I decided to stand firm, proud, confident, and bold on the words I know God has spoken to me-

‘You will teach others with your words.’
‘You are a teacher.’

And here goes… my attempt at discovering myself, my story, and my God…

There was a man at this weekend’s conference. He briefly mentioned his past engulfed in a Fundamentalist Homeschool Cult, and his journey out the other side. He talked of putting foul language on his blog and proceeded to put that word bold on the large pasty white screen. And we all stared at it. Some encouraged him. Some found their own freedom through him. Some sat quietly in disgust. And some wrestled on the fence between a sort of relief and a question of morals, right, and wrong. That’s where I found myself.

I reminded myself that he didn’t know I was a Fundamental Christian. That he didn’t know I was a Homeschool mom. That he didn’t know it felt like he was labeling me ‘a Cult Member.’ And I wondered what my daughter, seated two seats down from me, thought of it all.

More questions. More doubts. More insecurity and wondering. But after 35 years of life, and 16 years as a Christian, I’m not supposed to have these questions, doubts, and insecurities. I’m supposed to walk into this Break-Out session, hear a man speak on blogging and controversial issues, and decipher the truth from lies.

I’m supposed to spot the heretics and have the answers and all the right words as we make that three hour drive home- my sixteen year old and me. Yeah, I’m supposed to have it all figured out.

One of the speakers asked a question- What are you afraid of? I thought about that for a while, and wrote-

The critics.

Then I thought more about that and added-

Not the critics, but of the critics being right. And me being wrong.

Was it right for him to use that word? Am I to take offense to the language and the references to a Fundamental Homeschool Cult? Am I a failure because my 16 year old daughter was encouraged and blessed by the things this man shared? Do I have the answers to these questions? Am I supposed to?

Honestly, I don’t know.

Here is what I do know- He chose to use the word. He chose to post it on the world wide web for innumerable people to either scoff at, or consent to. He chose to add it to a power point. And then my daughter and I discussed it.

We talked about our responsibility toward God. About our conscience, “and the truth is, He desires obedience, and was he obeying when he typed that word? With each tap of a letter, did his conscience tell him it was ok?” Because if his spirit is clear before God, then what is my opinion to him? I become nothing more than another fan or an opposing Christian, and he moves on with life.

We talked for hours, her and I, as we neared closer to home and back to real life, about writing, and God, and honoring Him, and being yourself. And I may have walked away more confused than I started.

They all said the same thing- Be yourself. Over and over. Find your voice and tell your story and

“I don’t want to be a Christian writer, if it means writing from the heart and hitting backspace until it feels safe again.”

But how does that marry with all I’ve been taught? How does that jive with the joyous Christian life and the commands to love others and put them before yourself.

Because I’m pretty sure that being myself is completely self focused and in opposition with denying myself. But maybe instead, being myself is actually a form of worshiping my Creator who created me to be me, and no one else.

Or maybe I’m off. Maybe I’m wrong, and the critics will critique, and they will be right. And I will be wrong. And that just might keep me from sharing, questioning, discovering myself, my story, and my God.

Or maybe I’ll share anyway, because after all, I’m a writer, and what else is there to write about if I can’t write what’s on my heart? But writing, even from the heart, mustn’t come at the expense of my honor to Christ.

So in all this messy wandering and wondering and hesitations and doubts, I reaffirm my weary soul by returning to what I know is solid, definite, unwavering and unshakable- Christ and His Word. Though I doubt myself and my finite understanding, though I question my fickle thoughts and second guess my preconceived notions, there remains this- My refuge in Christ; My assurance in the Word.

And at the risk of sounding all Disney, and attempting to throw a happily ever after on the close of a daunting inward struggle, this is where I land- On my Jesus. On His Life-giving Word.

I went to a writer’s conference this weekend hoping that a year from today I would look back and say,

“That Faith and Culture Writer’s Conference changed my life. I will never be the same.”

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26 thoughts on “On Being Yourself and Sharing Your Story

  1. Thank you, Stephanie, for writing out your honest confusions, ideas, convictions, and hope. Thank you for writing, “But maybe instead, being myself is actually a form of worshiping my Creator who created me to be me, and no one else.” That paragraph made me say “me too,” which I think, as Micah and I both said, makes everyone win.

    Peace to you as you keep writing and teaching!

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    • What a breath of fresh air it is to see your comment! Thanks Emily 🙂 Thanks for sharing at the conference and doing your part in the world of blogging and sharing our words. What a relief to hear someone reply “me too”. I’m honored you came by my space and took the time to respond. I’ve been thinking lately about the heart “being deceitful above all else” and yet He has taken out our heart of stone and given us a heart of flesh. And it’s that same heart that we believe on Jesus with to receive salvation… Again, I’m still working it all out right along with everyone else 🙂

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  2. This is very honest and beautiful. I love pieces that don’t have answers or a big red bow around them; even though my questions might be different, I think the messy, awkward feelings that go along with them are very much the same.

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  3. By the way, I found your blog via Micah J. Murray’s Facebook but he also shared your post on Twitter. He appreciated what you had to say. 🙂

    I also suspect there may have been a little misunderstanding about the “cult” reference. When Micah says he grew up in a home schooling cult, he doesn’t mean that all home schoolers or self-identified fundamentalist Christians are cult members. He actually did grow up in a real cult (uniforms and everything):

    http://redemptionpictures.com/2014/02/28/bill-gothard-homeschool-cult/

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    • Thanks for the link. After returning from the conference I checked out Micah’s blog, in an attempt to understand more fully where he was coming from and what he may have meant, and found this post. No doubt he was involved in a cult. And although I didn’t make it clear in my original post (but maybe I should have), in the end I didn’t believe he was calling every fundamentalist or homeschooler (or me) a member of a cult. This post was mostly me trying to be real with my questions and working through some feelings… I follow Micah on Twitter (yeah, I respect him and his thoughts) and knew he had shared my post there, but didn’t know about the Facebook post until I saw your comment. Wow, what a conversation going on over there 🙂

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    • Hi Katie. Thanks for the link. There’s a lot to take in there.

      “What’s depressing is to insist that I can free myself I just haven’t managed to pull it off yet.”

      That quote, along with the words I read in John just yesterday spoken by Jesus-

      “Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'”

      It brings me back to His Word and His life giving freedom. Thanks for the visit 🙂

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  4. “But writing, even from the heart, mustn’t come at the expense of my honor to Christ.”
    “So in all this messy wandering and wondering and hesitations and doubts, I reaffirm my weary soul by returning to what I know is solid, definite, unwavering and unshakable- Christ and His Word.”
    Thank you so much for this. Your humility and faith are refreshing and encouraging. I know Micah personally, and I enjoy his blog, but in the above quotes you’ve pointed out precisely where I so often disagree with him. The idea that writing from the heart is inherently good is a post-modern idea, neither biblical nor Christian. I would encourage you in two ways. First, it’s OK to question your convictions from time to time. Second, it is truly beautiful that you are mature enough in faith to lay those questions before Christ and put your trust in His Word. There is no better place to look for answers.
    Also, as a P.S., I am confident that Micah did not intend to imply that ALL homeschoolers are cultists. He did have a bad personal experience, and I think it still affects him to this day.

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    • Thanks Brian. In the end all we really have to lean on for stability and guidance is just that, isn’t it- Jesus and the Words He gives. I too respect Micah, his views, his openness, and the way the Lord uses him to make us dig deep into our beliefs and faith. I think it’s not just okay to question our convictions, but it is necessary. We should always be willing to hear what others have to say, reflect on it, and adjust IF NEEDED. Otherwise we are unable to admit that we don’t have it all figured out yet- unwilling to humbly admit that someone else might possibly know something we don’t. I’m a work in progress, and that’s okay, right?

      And yes, I looked briefly into the Bill Gothard ‘cult’, would agree it is just that, and do I not take personal offense 🙂 Thanks for visiting and offering your input. Very appreciated!

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  5. Hi Stephanie.
    I popped over here because Micah shared this on his Facebook feed. I just want to encourage you to be yourself. I don’t believe it is inherently selfish. To the contrary, I believe it can be a tremendously selfless thing to do – especially when it involves risk.

    I agree that we need to be careful that “sharing our story” doesn’t become an exercise in narcicism or self-validation.

    But here’s the thing…I believe to my core that we are sanctified through relationship. We are mutually transformed by knowing and being known by one another. That takes honesty and vulnerability and courage. Others will be blessed by the opportunity to understand your experience, the joy and pain that forged you, and the worldview that flows from your God given life.

    We’re all at this dance together and God sent the invites. We all have unique contributions to make to the yet unseen kingdom. That includes you.

    I wish you peace,
    David

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  6. Stephanie,
    This makes me sad we didn’t ride home in the same car. I would have loved to have heard that great conversation and of course I would love to hear K’s thoughts on a lot of things.
    I love how you wrestled with all of this out loud and that you don’t speak as if you have all the answers. I still have way too many drafts in my folder waiting for me to feel free to hit publish for one reason or another.
    I did walk away with a little more confidence to say it now, when I am led and allow the Lord to untangle the knots and tangles.
    Thanks four pouring is out there.

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  7. I was there, attended both of those sessions. Thank you for writing this, and as I’ve not fully processed the weekend myself, it was good to read your experience.

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  8. Stephanie, I know we don’t really know each other, but we know who each other is via husbands 🙂 this is insightful and thank you for giving me a glimpse of the conference. Ummmm local writers support group? ya I am in for sure 🙂 I look forward to reading more of your stuff and hopefully more on DC moms 🙂

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