I was a mess, though. For a while I felt like I was lying to people if I didn't tell them what I had done, particularly men I had started getting to know. I would go to lunch with a guy I had met at church or in town and felt overly anxious. I felt strongly that I needed to tell him quickly into our conversation a bit of our story, so he could decide if he still wanted to start a friendship. Paranoia has been a big issue for me to work through, I must admit.
Surprisingly, after I told them my story, they still wanted to be friends with me. That was humbling, especially since I bumbled my way through the story and expected them to write me off. My emotions were still very raw and overwhelming when we first moved. It had only been 10 or 11 months into our recovery. That's not much time for sure. The first year was very chaotic anyway. Telling my "story" was not me trying to reach out and make a positive difference in some one's life. It was about me trying desperately to deal with my shame and anxiety. There were days it was a bit debilitating.
At church, I started attending a men's class on Sundays. Amy went to a women's class. We didn't want to split up, but I felt that I needed the men's group to help me connect with other men more intentionally. As usual, my anxiety was high on certain days in the class. We would talk about certain lessons that would remind me of what I had been through. I wanted to share, but I didn't want to drop such a "bomb" on these guys, either. Gradually, I would say things to "beat around the bush" and hint that I had messed up in life. I couldn't muster up the courage to just let it all out....until...
Until one day, my anxiety and need to share overcame me. I let it all out and told them in about 5 minutes what I had done. I don't even remember exactly what I said or who was in the class that day, but I think it was only about four people. I'm not sure. I just remember getting it off my chest and waiting anxiously for a response. Interestingly, there wasn't much of a response and the lesson went on casually.
What's funny is that after that Sunday, I didn't go back to the class. The very next week Amy and I started attending a couple's class with some friends we had met. I still laugh about it, mostly because I am now the co-teacher of that same men's class, in the very same room! My first Sunday back was awkward to say the least. I later was able to share with the men my story in a less frantic manner.
Thankfully, my anxiety about having to tell my story to everyone I meet has been greatly reduced. I now feel less shame and anxiety about it, generally speaking. I want to remain humble and repentant but not be bombarded by shame, anxiety, and fear. I want our story to be a testimony to God's grace and goodness, not me trying to deal with my shame and anxiety.
I have a men's retreat tonight I am attending with 12 other men. We all will share a bit our of story with each other as a kick off to our two year accountability group. I am a bit anxious about it. It's hard to tell my story some days, especially with people I will see each week. I try not to think, "My story is probably the worst one. These guys surely haven't done anything as bad as I have."
It's possible my story will be the worst, but that's irrelevant. I want God to be honored and glorified, no matter if mine is the worst or not. It's not really about me. It is about God's work in my life and His great name. He can use my junk for good. Amazingly, He can use a recovering adulterer's mess to bring hope and healing to those in need. Wow. That blows me away. May I never forget this powerful truth.
Matthew 7:24-27 (HCSB)
24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”