One thing you may not know about me, is I have lived in the South before.
…And I hated it.
Upon moving to the South the first time, I changed my wardrobe, my hair color and even attached the word ‘Baptist’ to the name of my non-denominational church back home, in an effort to be more accepted.
I wish I was kidding…
More than that I wish it would have worked. But because it didn’t, this time I refuse to bend on the things God is asking me to do – I refuse to forget the person He has called me to be! (No matter where I reside.)
Three Things The South Wont Stop Me From Doing
1. I will protect my individuality
From the outside, Southerners always have the right thing to say and the right dish to bring. Their perfectly monogrammed families are pristine and the love declared for their spouse on instagram, admirable – It’s just not who I am, or likely who I will ever be, given the course my life has taken these last few years.
And God’s asking me to be secure in that.
Romans 12:2 puts it this way, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you.”
Letting God ‘transform’ you sounds like a pretty process, a holy endeavor, but I assure you it’s not. Here’s what the ‘transforming’ process has looked like for me:
It looked like selling everything I owned (including my house and two cars) to live in a mouse-infested 600 sq ft apartment in NYC. Only to lose another $25,000 in our year and half living there, so I could learn that money and possessions really don’t matter, especially when it comes to saving a marriage.
It took writing a blog post that accidentally went viral with 600,000 + people reading it (and equal to that, wanting to crucify me) for God to rid me of my people-pleasing ways, and instead teach me to unapologetically own who He has created me to be.
It took God blowing the roof off my marriage for me to understand the depths of who God is, and a bought with depression that almost killed me, to realize why I am alive.
That being said, It’s unlikely God had me live all over the country, to face the insurmountable odds needed for Him to transform me into the person He desires me to be, so that I could come to the South and become just like you.
Nor, you like me for that matter.
It’s also unlikely I will ever fit into the pretty little box of what the South thinks I should be…
And that’s okay. Because I’d rather keep my God-given individuality (and my curse words.)
2. I will own my (messy) story
It seems the South is more uncomfortable with the messiness of my story, than I am. As if my bad fate – like a sneeze – is contagious or something.
Case in point: The Bible study.
When while “hypothetically” talking about how we could protect our marriages from divorce, I admitted my husband and I just the year prior, were sleeping in separate rooms and on the verge of ending it all.
I will never forget the look of shock on their faces; the way they clutched their Bible’s and strained to make eye contact, as they searched for the words to respond – words that never came, because they quickly changed the subject, sweeping my admissions and ‘my mess’ under the carpet, never to speak of it again.
“…Did I say too much? Is my marriage – or worse, my story too messy for God to use? “
I thought to myself, late into the night.
Because I definitely didn’t ask for this to be my story… In fact, on many occasions I begged for it not to be!
(I also may or may not have begged God to bulldoze my husband with a bus, but I will neither confirm or deny those allegations.)
In 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 Paul says, “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”
Maybe like Paul, you too have begged God to take away the story you are currently living, but He hasn’t. Maybe like me, the judgement of others has kept you up late into the night, or worse, kept you silent.
We must remember just like the verse says,
The same weakness others find worthy of pity, God sees as the platform most worthy of His power.
God’s greatest blessings are reserved for those of us with the messiest stories – and my family is proof!
3. I will proclaim His miracle
I have said it before, but it’s a miracle I am still married and still breathing.
Every day, every possession, every tender moment shared with my spouse is proof of a God who never gave up on me. – A God who swooped in when He heard my cry and not only led me out of darkness and deepest gloom, but is currently making our greatest dreams as a family come true! (Psalm 107:10-14)
But it comes at a cost…
In Psalm 107:2 it says, “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out! Tell others He has redeemed you..”
Speak out – even if people gossip about the revelations you made (or if because of them, you have to endure such painfully awkward silences during said: Bible studies, that you’d rather light yourself on fire…)
Speak out – even when people in the South believe acknowledging your desperation is ‘airing your dirty laundry’…
Speak out and celebrate – not if, but when – God does what He promised and restores you, even at the risk of others believing you are being ‘showy’ or self-seeking…
(Because unfortunately, they will.)
No matter where you live, and no matter what they think, “…praise the Lord for His great love and for the wonderful things He has done.”
…And that’s exactly what my family will continue to do.
Because if it takes showing you our misery to show you God’s miracle, we will never hesitate to do so.
If it takes shining a light on our darkest days so others can know the same God is available to them in theirs, we’ll do it over and over, and we wont even be the slightest bit sorry about it.
Because I find it hard to believe God wrote a gripping story like ours, so that it could be kept silent.
So if owning our mess means we are forever at risk of getting kicked out of bible studies, and if proclaiming His miracles means constantly being misunderstood, we’ll come to terms with not being the most popular people in the room.
Whatever it takes –
So long as I don’t have to change my hair color.