"I'm no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God."
If you were to ask me the most important thing I have learned about myself in my 26 years of life, it’s that I am a daughter of God.
I know. It sounds extremely corny.
At least that’s what I thought up until a few years ago.
Upon my 18th birthday, I became and adult and a youth pastor in one fail swoop.
I spent 2 years ministering to multiple youth groups in Southern California and I loved every minute of it. However, just a few months into my job and my internal world began to look like a split screen of sunshine and rainstorms. There was a pain beginning to surface in my life that I just couldn't shake.
I was a Christian. I loved Jesus. I was doing a great work with students, and I was mostly happy. But the second I was alone the rain cloud would roll in. I was confident on stage, but a coward everywhere else. I was alive in my work, but a zombie at home. I was a rock for every person I met, but I was sinking sand on the inside. And I was unable to muster up the courage to tell anyone about my pain.
During all of this, I felt called to finish my degree in Psychology. So, at 20 years old, I was off to attend a small Christian university in Southern California called Vanguard University.
I remember at the end of a quite long first day of orientation, everyone hopped in their cars and headed to a massive beach party while I drove around this new town balling my eyes out. It was…a rough start to say the least.
As time went on at Vanguard, things got better. I made friends, got a job, and became an intern in our campus’ Spiritual Formation department where I helped run our weeknight chapels.
However, the dark places in my heart were still present and now growing with a vengeance. Without the business of running multiple youth ministries, I was being exposed to the darkness of my own self. I couldn’t fix it. It was getting harder to hide it. And I was mad at God.
During my time as an intern, a speaker and a worship leader from the UK were coming to run our chapels for a week and give our team a break. We were very excited and expectant for what we would receive from their ministry (because having a week off when you’re in ministry is the best). Unfortunately for me, I got sick that week and missed every session for this team from the UK to impart into my life; every day except for one.
I showed up to the last chapel day feeling frustrated, empty, and missed by God. So, I sat in the back of the room as the speaker took the stage with his thick British accent. He only spoke for about 15 minutes and he spoke about living out of an identity as a son or daughter of God.
His message was simple. His words were to the point. Though I had heard it all before, this time it felt like an arrow piercing through those dark parts of my heart making everything as clear as day. As he spoke, I realized that I had a broken identity as a daughter. I barely recognized the word “daughter” and certainly didn’t identify with it.
And there it was…the lightbulb moment after years of darkness. I was wounded. Somewhere along the way my God-given identity had been marred, and God was desperate to heal and restore my place at the table as His beloved daughter.
The speaker asked those who felt that they needed to embrace the identity of a “beloved child of God” to come forward to the front of the room for prayer. However, I was determined with everything in me that I would not go down to the front for prayer. But before I knew it, I was standing 4 rows from the front of the stage and it wasn’t long until I was on my knees in tears. I don’t know how I got there, but I am SO glad I did.
I sat at the altar while student after student prayed over me.
It was messy. It was vulnerable. And it was beautiful.
Lies that I had been carrying for years were now being drained from my life with every tear I cried.
I’m not beautiful
I always have to be strong and independent.
I can’t need anything.
I am not worth love.
I have to hide my weakness.
I’m not special.
I better stay in line and never make mistakes!
I can never, EVER take risks.
I don’t have any value apart from what I do for others.
My voice doesn’t matter.
And on and on.
It was like my soul had been holding its breath for years, causing every part of my life to become tense and lifeless.
But now, I could breathe again.
I must confess, in many ways this moment started a new journey for me, one that got harder before it ever got better. The years that followed this chapel moment were full of transition, depression, and isolation. However, the message of daughter was waiting for me at every corner: in books, movies, conversations, and devotions. At some of my darkest moments, God was inviting me to know Him as a loving Father and to know myself as His daughter. And somewhere in that messy season of just me and the Father, the darkness wasn’t so dark anymore.
Through relationship with the Father, I was opened to a new world; one full of light and color! No more dungy greys marking my days, but now a world wide open to life, joy, freedom, and possibilities. He tenderly and graciously took the time to show me the truths I had been missing for years, and it has changed everything for me.
What was once too cliché for me to hear, is now the anthem of my life.
I am a beloved daughter of God.
I am FREE.
I am wildly and passionately LOVED by Father
I am NEEDY. And that’s how it’s suppose to be.
He PROTECTS me.
I am PLAYFUL and I make Him smile.
He DELIGHTS in me.
I am GIVEN GRACE daily.
I am RECKLESS.
He loves to TAKE CARE of me.
I am MESSY, but I’m still WANTED.
And on and on.
Jen is a pastor, worship leader, writer, and songwriter living in Napa, California.