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Column: Into the light

I recently met with a counselor--I needed to--and it was better than I expected.

I talked a lot. The counselor listened. She had questions, too, which I answered.

Afterward, she pushed her chair back and gave me some solid counsel and encouragement.

I took it.

I can't stop thinking about her words to me: "Debbie, you came in completely open and honest. You're not guarding secrets. You're not hiding and, because of your transparency, you told me much more than you probably realize."

Being honest helps us to really heal and, from that, we can better come alongside others to help them heal. We are only as sick as our secrets. When we bring our burdens into the light, the darkness no longer has power over us.

Sharing my brokenness allowed other wounded birds to flit my direction and I continue to receive messages, cards and e-mails of love and encouragement, along with people sharing their own stories, asking, "Can I tell you my secrets?"

I've been traveling some difficult and dark roads the last 18 months and much of the rough terrain has had to do with the deep ache of broken relationships or the loss of a family member or friend. And, during this grieving time, I let go of some titles that made me feel "important," like being a director of a theater and spokesperson for a foundation.

I then heard from a radio station that my short feature, "Everyday Matters," would be dropped from their programming. Sheesh. I felt like I was being stripped of worth and purpose. Of course, this wasn't true--but I felt like it.

That's when I thought, "Surely, I'm coming to the end of this dark road."

I began to have physical pain, as one of the rods in my back started to pinch a nerve near my left shoulder and I could not find relief. In 2003, I had had scoliosis back surgery and doctors said I could later have problematic pain from the rods as I aged. But now? I started to think I could empathize with Job.

But, unlike Job, I made a really stinky choice, which involved concocting and drinking an adult beverage (and not a VFW-sized drink, as my sister-in-law later pointed out) and then driving two miles, in my pajamas, to the McDonald's drive thru to get a Big Mac.

This stinky choice landed me in the "cop shop," wearing an orange jumpsuit.

I was a wretch. I was mess. I was ashamed. I knew better, but I wanted to feel better. I wanted to numb my pain. But the numbing never lasts and, if it does, it's a problem.

I've watched Brene Brown give her "TED Talk" on the power of vulnerability a zillion times. Brene shares her own breakdown, but she shares what she learned in counseling and in her research.

There's this super truth Brene gives, saying we can't numb those hard feelings without numbing our emotions. We cannot selectively numb. So when we numb, we numb joy, we numb gratitude, we numb happiness. Then we are miserable and we are looking for purpose and meaning, and then we feel vulnerable, so we have a couple of beers and a banana nut muffin. And it becomes this dangerous cycle.

Wisdom speaks through the experiences of others, but we have to be willing to share and be honest about ourselves to really be of use to anyone, especially God. Our breaking point can be our release date. The more we depend on God, the more He can do through us. But sometimes, we go through brokenness before we enter God's blessings.

I didn't plan on breaking, but I did. Instead of hiding my brokenness and pain, or living in shame, I made phone calls, wrote messages and sent e-mails. Then I wrote an essay on my pain, shame and brokenness because I knew there was grace, love, forgiveness and redemption. I brought my story to the light. I went public. I even entered my essay in a writing contest. And while I purged, I met with a counselor. I'm healing.

It is April now in Northern Minnesota and the snow is almost melted. My sorrow, too, is melting.

I think that, when God begins to really use us, He gives us some type of pain, a thorn in our flesh, as he did Paul. We don't actually know what Paul's "pain" was, but somehow I think it was mental and not physical.

When I read Paul's second letter to the Corinthians, I can almost hear him yelling, "Enough already with this pain Lord! Take it away NOW! I. Can't. Even."

Over and over, Paul asked God to remove the thorn that was tormenting him, but God said no. God told him, "My grace is all you need, it is sufficient right now and, as you get to really know Me, you'll see that I work best when you're weak so I can be strong."

I know it's crazy, but I agree with Anne Lamott who writes in her book, "Hallelujah Anyway," that Paul had to see his thorn as a gift. She writes, "He had to want to be put in his place, had to be willing to give God thanks for this glaring new sense of humility, of smallness, the one thing anyone in his right mind tries to avoid. Conceit is intoxicating, addictive, the best feeling on earth some days, but Paul chose instead submission and servitude as the way to freedom from the bondage of self. Blessed are the meek."

As my heart thaws, I hear God speak to me: "Debbie, anything good you do has nothing to do with you. I am the one who is good. When you see yourself doing anything good, it is only because I have wrestled with you to get your flesh under subjection long enough to allow my glory to shine through."

That's it, isn't it? It's about Him and what He does through us. Nothing is wasted. He's God and we're not.

I continue to ponder the counselor's words about transparency. God fully knows us and still fully loves us. He doesn't need our performing. He needs our hearts, our obedience and our brokenness. I know what it is to perform or pretend, but as I age and experience life, I see no benefit in playing this charade.

It's important to remember that God is not mad at you when you fall. He is heartbroken over our bad choices and sins. We can't hide from Him. His grace is always there if we turn to Him. His gentleness with forgiveness helps us take the steps in the right direction and walk down the road of healing where there's no condemnation and shame.

So, look up to the light and be honest. It's okay. I get it. Cry if you need to as it helps cleanse. Even your anger can have a place if you don't set up camp there.

It's time to let go and surrender. Let Christ breathe new life into you. C.S. Lewis was spot on when he wrote, "Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ, and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in."

The Bible is for us today. Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come."

Live like you believe you are new creature in Him. Then, day by day--with honesty and transparency--you'll find the sufficient grace and strength you need.

Healing and wholeness will be the gift to yourself and others because, in our brokenness, we are made beautiful. It's time. Step into the light.