On A Transformational Journey

“I’m on a transformational journey as our staff has been walking through a discipleship process right now that invites us to look at our day to day lives and ask, how am I showing up in the room, how am I showing up in my relationships with God, myself, and with others. We ask, what do I bring into the room as a leader, or neighbor, or wife, or Mother, or friend.

I grew up 200 miles out of Anchorage in the interior of Alaska. Out in the woods along a main highway, my family owned a truck stop with a restaurant, hotel, gas station, and grocery store. I loved working with my Dad and started waiting tables in our cafe when I was 9. I worked alongside my Dad and we served people, cooked great food, worked hard. I loved the chaos of it all and got good at solving problems, making money. I was a good contributor to our business for being a kid.

In 7th grade my parents could leave and I could run parts of our business by myself and I felt very valuable. In my little world being valuable meant you were loved.

My main childhood memory is my Dad always saying over and over that I could go out in the world and I could do anything. He believed in me and what I heard when he said that was that I was limitless in my ability… and I was going to crush it! After hearing that for many years, I began to attach meaning to it. For me, my Dad’s over-affirming voice created a vow for me that as long as I did what he believed I was going to do, I would be valuable and loved and always feel accepted. But then the vow and meaning soon got twisted and became negative. I thought, if people see my limitations, I will not be valuable to them and I will not have their approval and love. I leaned into that and set out to live in a way that I would never admit my limitations and I would be the one to take care of everybody else and I would be valuable.

In my mind, other people could have lots of limitations and I would have grace for that because that was good job security for me and meant that because I don’t have them, I’ll just take care of you with yours.

I’ve been compelled for a few years to get to the bottom of this: Why do I have a gap between what I will honestly let people see…and what I am trying to hide and hope they never find out? Which has pointed to a false way of being, a false self that wants you to believe that I am courageous and adventurous and spontaneous and fun loving and strong and you can’t hurt me, and I can serve and solve problems and pretty much don’t even have limits. My false self is quite lovable, and she’s gotten me this far and kept me functioning, but man, I’m getting exhausted. I’ve done lay ministry for 18 years and this full time Pastoring for 20 years now and 10 of those have been Pastoring other pastors and leaders as an Area Leader & Regional Leader.

As I’ve asked Jesus to deconstruct my false self, I’ve started to be more honest about my limitations and acknowledge that I really do have fears, and flaws, and failures and I really do get hurt when someone rejects me. I am insecure sometimes and try to get love by acting like I don’t have limitations, but I do have limits and when they are exposed and you find out about them, I’m not relieved that you finally know the truth about me, instead, I’m really ashamed with all my limitations exposed, so I try to hide it by lying about it all.

God’s showing me now how hiding my limitations and shame has caused the habitual disobedience of lying about myself which has spread into different areas of my life and caused messes. The more I am honest about my limitations and shame, at times I feel empty-handed and like I don’t have anything to offer, which leads to not feeling valuable, which leads to not feeling loved. Then the enemy comes and gets on it and manifest my shame voice and I hear his oppressive lie say over and over again, How in the hell are you going to be able to do what you are called to do with all of these limitations and this dark blanket of shame on you? It is impossible!”

As part of my healing and to practice being the Truth-bringer that God says he’s made me to be, I’ve been practicing having honest conversations with others, which is simply including them in my healing process and letting them see what God is doing in my life.

After one of those talks with a lay leader in our church, she later texted me this. “ Brenda I’ve been searching for words of hope and grace to offer you and I came upon this verse from Ps. 40:2…”He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” As you have shown us so much grace, we, your friends and church, want to be a part of that firm place you stand on. We love you and your God-filled heart.”

As I read these words my heart was filled with encouragement and hope and the Holy Spirit fell on me and even though she was just one voice, it was if I heard and felt a whole chorus of voices rise up in her words and it resonated with me that she represented a lot of my church family and how they felt for me.

So far every time I’m honest about my limitations and shame, God’s people show me Jesus, they are gracious and compassionate which helps me to create a new positive vow that says, My limitations can be seen and known and I will still be valuable and loved. A lot of days I feel like I’m getting my butt kicked by transformation, but one day in the future I will enjoy the freedom of being honest with myself, God and others about my limitations and fears, and I will be confidently loved as God’s child…instead of trying to GET LOVE out my insecurity. One day I will learn to lead out of my most authentic and vulnerable self, acknowledging limitations with NO SHAME! That’s the beautiful place that God is taking me!”

—Brenda Gatlin