Days ago James and I sat in front of a camera and talked about our journey through life and recovery. The backdrop: A 100,000 square foot empty warehouse in Florida, a perfect venue for giving the proper depth and echo to the intense conversational style interviews and accounts being accumulated by Jeremy and Tiana Wiles, the Founders and Directors of Kingdom Works Studios. This dynamic duo who created and produced the Conquer Series (see our Resource page), have taken on the task of producing three more projects that tackle subjects such as Healing in Marriage, Parenting, and Betrayal. (To hear more about these projects being hosted by John and Lisa Bevere, Ted and Diane Roberts and Tom and Beverly Rodgers and which include special appearances from marriage experts Jimmy Evans, Dr. Doug Weiss and many other testimonies, click HERE.)
Do you know what I found out really quickly? Filming on location is hard work. It’s not glamorous and it challenges you to your core. Add to that the very sobering fact that telling your story born out of tragedy is just plain gut wrenching. The camera lens became the great equalizer, focusing in on our every word. It just sat there confronting me with the very real choice to give a true authentic glimpse into our story or shrink back and once again put on the mask of perfection I was so accustomed to in the past.
Just Be Real
“Say what’s on your heart,” were the words of direction we received. Just…be…real. It has taken me so many long and arduous years to hear those words spoken in my direction and have the courage to meet them with authenticity. It’s not that I used to walk around and have the intended thought to outright lie about how I was really doing inside, but the truth was, I lied. I brushed over well meaning inquiries regarding my health, I smiled when I wanted to cry and I stayed silent when I should have spoken. I took on the demons that were tormenting others but shrank back in fear when confronted with my own. I told myself over and over that I was a pastor and a leader and no one could know how I was really feeling. “Keep on going Teri,” I’d say to myself, “if you stop, everything will fall apart.”
Then life as I knew it was over…
There we sat almost three years ago, in the gutter, with the lenses of a thousand eyes looking at our family. In shock and disbelief I questioned, “How in the world did we get here?” The real truth is that our demise into tragedy was a slow fade, in other words, it didn’t happen overnight. Though I was not culpable for my husband’s choices, I did realize after walking through some healing that my inability to use my God given voice properly in terms of expressing how I was really doing on the inside, was my responsibility.
I can’t go back to the past and re-live those moments of quiet pain and confusion. I can only ask the Lord to heal the broken places and move forward in His will and purpose for my life. I can say to you with great peace and vulnerability the same words that were used to encourage me this past week while filming in Florida. Just be real. Whatever you have told yourself is more important than living in true authenticity with God and safe people around you is just not worth it. I can express with a heart full of gratitude the validity of the healing power of Jesus, but I still bear the scars wrought by the jagged edges of the shattered façade I once knew all too well. Though the scars exist, they do not define me. Those pieces of my past now frame my testimony in a mosaic of love and forgiveness found in no other place but the foot of the cross.
For me, tragedy taught me that the only thing that is really real IS authentic love. The kind of love that bears all things, has nothing to hide and leaves no room for fear to have its day. That love is available in all times and in all seasons of life. The key is receiving it. That doesn’t mean however, I don’t have a bad day or that I am exempt from the storms that find their way to my door. It just means I am present with my loved ones enough to be honest about it and to live confidently in who I am and what I’m called to do… even when it feels like everything is falling apart.
I’m frequently asked to give a one-line statement regarding my healing process. Though there are a million words I could use, I often find myself confessing these words of encouragement to others. “It’s ok not to be ok…but I’ve learned it’s not ok to stay there.” That phrase is probably worthy of a blog post in and of itself, but for today, let me just give this parting admonishment.
God dearly loves you
You are loved so much that He wants nothing more than to draw you close to Him so that you can walk with Him knowing you can be your truest, most authentic self in Him. That means it’s ok not to be ok sometimes. No matter what title you posses or exterior you are trying to keep polished, the reality is that we will only find our truest self when we let go of the fear of failing and be honest about where we are-both with God and safe community. We’re all faced with the choice to look into the lens before us as we navigate life. My recommendation: Just be real.
I have told you all this so that you may have peace in Me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
If you have a story of Authenticity, I’d love to hear it. Contact me through our website below or post a comment.
Teri Craft- Jamesandtericraft.com