It’s Never Too Late to Find Freedom From a Shameful Past: A Guest Feature By Dawn Stewart

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So…. I can’t wait to introduce you to my new friend, Dawn! You know when your heart is whispering something, and then you meet someone else who says their heart is whispering the SAME thing? That’s what happened! Dawn and I connected through a mutual friend and when she began to share about the beauty in brokenness, trying to keep up, and unlocking the truth– I knew our souls were connecting, and we all would learn so much from the story God is writing in Dawn. So lucky for us, when I asked her to share, she said YES!

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Dawn, and her husband, Ashley

 

Dawn writes:

 

I’ve been invited to share my story with you.  Raw truth starts here.  I am tempted to begin this post by telling you all about me, and the things that I think make me who I am. I am tempted to say something creative, something that will catch your eye or cause you to want to continue reading. I am tempted to write something witty that will make you laugh, or even something sappy that will make you cry. I am tempted to make my story all about me. But that would be a lie. None of this is about me – not really. I mean, my circumstances affect me daily, of course – but the bigger narrative that is playing out, the more important piece of this story, has really nothing to do with me, other than the role I was invited to play.  There’s a bigger, more important part of this story. And it isn’t about me.

It’s all about God. It’s about how real He becomes when you are face to face with the biggest fear of your life. It’s about how intellectual knowledge of God is nothing compared to the experiential knowledge that comes from actually witnessing the hand of God move – from becoming the miracle, rather than just hearing about it.  It’s about how God can take a life in shambles and literally cause it to become not only a productive life, but a beautiful life – one He actually uses to bring Himself glory. My story isn’t really about me, friends. My story is about Him.

God created me, as He did all of us, to live in perfect harmony with Him. But as a result of sin and brokenness in this world, that perfection is humanly impossible to attain. In fact, I spent the majority of my life – 35 years – chasing that unattainable perfection. I circled the ideals in life over and over, believing that one day, I would actually arrive at one of them. I wanted to be the perfect child, student, athlete, friend, girlfriend, wife, mom, employee. I chased the American dream. I chased the elusive ‘happy’, constantly striving for that one moment when I would actually achieve the end goal. I honestly believed I could perform my way into the heart of both man and God. I thought that my performance was the key that would drive me closer to – or further from – the desperate need I had to be loved, valued, and accepted. And let me tell you, I tried. And for a while, it worked. I was a performance-based, perfectionistic people-pleaser for most of my life. And while outwardly, this constant striving kept me mostly feeling loved, valued and accepted – eventually my strength wore out. I mean, when you spend the majority of your days working to maintain an image you’ve created of yourself – it becomes exhausting. And for 35 years, that was my life. Act like the perfect child, student, athlete (at least in front of your parents, teachers, and coaches). Look like the perfect girlfriend, and eventually wife. (After all, those who look perfect are perfect, right?)  Do the things perfect people do. That is what I thought my role in life was – to keep up with everyone else. To do what everyone else did. To look the part, act the part, play the part – whatever part it was I was playing. And that is how I felt, like an actor in my own life.

Do you know what happens when someone chases perfection the way I chased it?  For me, it meant I completely lost myself somewhere in the chase. I spent so much time being who I thought everyone wanted or expected me to be, that I had no idea who I really was. I began to make choices in my life that led me down roads of destruction – consequence began to follow me around, and I began to deal with enormous amounts of guilt and shame. The unrealistic expectations I had set for myself left me always feeling like a failure, never accepting or embracing myself for who I was, and constantly feeling like there was a void in my life. For 35 years of my life, I was a wandering, stumbling, rebellious fool of a woman. Kind of like the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness for 40 years complaining and griping about their life. My wanderings caused me much unnecessary pain and strife.  Performance kept me chasing and pursuing things to try to fill the void that was increasingly getting bigger with every pursuit. I tried filling the void with relationships, with substances, with achievements, with anything I could find really.  It seemed the harder I tried to fill that void, however, the emptier I became. Until the day it happened.

My life fell apart.  The consequences of my actions finally caught up with me and landed me in a place where I believed I was forever doomed. I truthfully thought I would forever be a prisoner of guilt and shame for not living up to the woman I had strived my entire life to become. I was broken. Shattered. Unrecognizable. My life, as I had known it, was forever over. Have you ever heard of the story of the woman caught in adultery? Well, that was me. I was her. In so many ways. And I braced myself for the first stone. After all, it was what I deserved.

But that first stone never came.

God met me in that moment. As Jesus looked at the woman caught in adultery and said to her, He also said to me: “Has no one condemned you?” And when I looked around, no one was there. “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now, and leave your life of sin.” (John 8: 1-11). Have you ever been there? Have you ever stood face to face with the moment you believe is about to be your last, only to witness God’s amazing Grace pick you up and put you on your feet again? I have. And I cannot contain the fire that has begun to burn within me for Him. I was lost, and now I am found! I was blind, and now I see! No longer do I chase perfection, for the only true Perfection has delivered me.

Today I am 40 years old. Five years ago I surrendered my life to Christ, and I am all in for my King. Today, every broken area of my life has become beautiful. Today, God has redeemed every wrong turn I have EVER made. Today, God has given me the precious gift of journeying alongside other women who are traveling their own road from brokenness to beautiful, through a ministry He is rising up called “Beautifully Broken.” Today, I carry no shame. Today, I walk free from guilt. There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). This is a very real Truth in my life. Our God is amazing! Just when it seemed that all was lost, just when my brokenness took me to the bitter end – I saw it. The place where my life really began – it was the very moment I laid it all down.

Wherever you are in your journey – whatever pain you may be facing, whatever heartache, whatever consequence, whatever brokenness seems to be shattering the foundation upon which you now stand – I encourage you to look up. Put your eyes on Jesus. I also invite you to reach out. Share your pain with someone else. There is healing to be had – and freedom to be discovered. Freedom that Christ died for you to walk in. Life in Christ is truly beautiful. And oftentimes it is our brokenness that leads us to that life. Embrace the work God is doing in your life today my friend, and see the beautiful that is found in the broken spaces of our lives.

 

 

For more information on the author of this post, visit Dawn Stewart, or find out more about the ministry, visit “Beautifully Broken”

Dawn is also hosting and speaking at Beautifully Broken’s first women’s conference, “Unashamed” on September 30/Oct 1 at the Chapel in Barrington, IL.  If you are interested in attending this conference, you can register here

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