Sharing My Story: From Ministry to Recovery

An image of a lone woman, with walking sticks in hand, traveling a lonely journey on an abandoned road.

My journey of discovery in resilience, grace, and the transformative nature in navigating life’s complexities, disillusionment, betrayal, and lies. 

First of all, let me be clear. I have not arrived.

I’ve learned through much pain, sorrow, and disillusionment that this is the journey of my life. I distinctly remember laying in a hospital bed at the age of 13 and being visited by what we called a “Candy Striper” (a hospital volunteer who wore a red and white striped uniform for identification) who was a gentle lady who was bringing books and items to comfort patients. 

For three days, I recovered in the hospital from a nasty concussion I received after fainting while volunteering in a nursing home with a couple of friends. Between the elderly woman who sat in front of me grunting and bouncing her leg up and down while I combed her hair, the smell of PineSol, and urine, I couldn’t handle this particular reality and fainted. My head cracked the iron bedpost on the way down. 

When I awoke, I was confused and staring up at the faces of concerned nurses and the nursing home director who kept repeating over and over, “You can’t sue me, you can’t sue me” with a German accent.

That little stunt landed me in the hospital for observation and no, we didn’t sue the nursing home. The Candy Striper handed me a laminated poem that ministered to me greatly, but at the same time, challenged my beliefs in a magical world.

“God has not promised skies always blue,

flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;

God has not promised sun without rain,

joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

But God has promised strength for the day,

rest for the labor, light for the way,

Grace for the trials, help from above,

unfailing sympathy, undying love.”

― Annie Johnson Flint

A lone tree stands in water reflecting the blue sky with brewing story clouds in a photograph of sunset in a lake area.

Little did that woman know that this poem would arise in my heart repeatedly as I encountered one trial after another. I struggled to believe that trials were of God and that somehow because I was a Christian, I would have a better life than those who were not. It didn’t help either that after moving from a Conservative Baptist background to a Charismatic church in my teen years, I’d experience cognitive dissonance in more areas than I can count on all my fingers and toes.

Sorting through what was taught, what was caught, and what was assumed and expected, I’ve had to admit that life is a series of events with highs and lows. Contrary to what I believed, not all the highs were rewards for being a good girl, and not all the challenging things were punishment because I was bad or unworthy. However, everything I have experienced and continue to experience, are all lessons. 

Life is about lessons. It is a journey of self-discovery along with other-discovery. Of recognizing our human weaknesses and tendencies and the ever-present wisdom of a God who is not moved by what moves us, but rather He is moved by our hearts and all that He has created.

I grew up in what I was told was a healthy, happy middle-class family with God-fearing parents. I believed I was the bad child and was told that I was stupid, didn’t have a brain, and was the cause of all that was wrong in my family. I tried desperately to make amends and to prove to my family that I wasn’t a bad girl, but that I was loving and kind.

What I didn’t know was that I was a victim of a family that was not perfect, and parents who had been traumatized themselves as children. It would take me many decades to discover this and to forgive them for their humanity while determining to wage war on the belief system that destroyed all that I loved.

In the meantime, I found what I thought was safety, in the church where I grew up. I believed I was safe and that I was loved. Yet I experienced being made fun of and blamed for things I did not do.

The stories are many, and what I didn’t understand was that I was teaching the people around me how I expected to be treated … by the dysfunctional family system I was growing up in. This pattern would repeat itself through the years as I moved from the Baptist church to the Charismatic church and experienced profound faith and devastating disillusionment. The church I loved so dearly went through a cataclysmic church split over the unfaithfulness of the pastor’s wife and a congregational member.

This event occurred after I was asked to leave because of my exposure to being filled with the Holy Spirit. I was informed that this was demonic and upon asking my pastor, “How is this demonic when all I want to do is to read God’s Word and dedicate my life to serving Him?”  He sat back and thought a moment and then leaning forward with his hands steepled in front of him he said, (and I quote), “There have been times in history where God has raised someone up among the people who is to proclaim his Word to the church in mysterious ways, But we won’t have that here.” (say what?)

Trial after trial would be encountered in my life’s journey and many would repeat themselves in various forms and intensity. No matter how hard I tried to be a good girl … a good Christian … a good worker in the church … a good pastor’s wife … I would be met with harder and harder circumstances that would bring me to my knees and not in a good way.

Shannon Parish photograph, with a background of lilacs from a captured Zoom screenshot

As I approach my 70th year I am more certain than ever before that these lessons are to be shared with others, who, like myself, might find themselves bewildered and disillusioned. I am not an expert in these subjects, except that I am an expert at surviving, and now thriving by the lessons I’ve learned.

The blog posts contained on this site are from my heart and what I’ve discovered or learned from blood, sweat, and tears. I invite you to read, share these posts, and share your own thoughts and stories.

More than that, I desire to hear what lessons you have learned along the way. It isn’t a doctrine I want to hear, but the word of your testimony. Where has God brought you from? What did you lose? What did you gain? Who has helped you along the way? For too many years, I struggled to share my story because of the fear of a religious and narcissistic system that believes its okay to stone and wound those who it disagrees with without seeing them through the Father’s eyes and understanding the stage of growth they might be in.

After all, it’s easier to put a stop to what is making us uncomfortable by condemning it and judging them, than it is to risk being curious and becoming vulnerable ourselves in showing mercy, grace and patience.

I’ve learned that it is possible to forgive those who have abused us while still setting boundaries against those who are determined to “assassinate our souls.” to be “right” or “better” than us. The worst is from those who were supposed to be our safety and help such as family, friends, the church, marriage partners, and community. Never in a million years, would I have believed that what I encountered in “God’s House” was more evil than anything I ever encountered in the world. Nor would have I believed that my parents and siblings were not safe for me to be around and I’d have to go “no contact” in order to preserve my sanity and my life.

I discovered that these people were not my enemies, and I was not worthless. The true enemy of that we war against is not flesh and blood – but belief systems. Supernatural and spiritual evil in high places that are not questioned nor understood.

I also realized that it is not my job to make others feel better, or be happy, or to make better choices. My hands are full with learning my own way. But it is up to me to share what I’ve learned and to learn from others.

I have no interest in arguing about doctrinal beliefs and will no longer entertain or bow down to people who feel it is more important to be right than it is to learn and grow.  If you have a heart to grow and learn, and to seek and share your journey with others, then welcome to Sarah’s Tent.

But if you feel that it is necessary to cause division and controversy by starting arguments or attacking anyone who comments on any of my posts, then I will delete your comment and shake the dust off my feet.

I do not condemn you for what you believe and feel driven to share because I understand it is where you are at the moment. If you learn a higher lesson that reflects the loving nature of our Heavenly Father, then please return and share with us what you learned.

I’ve been silent for too long and after several false starts, have found my way, and my voice. I’ll share more stories as they reveal themselves. It’s stories that we are wired for after all. Jesus spoke in parables (stories and metaphors) to help us understand what was not natural for us. This is how I am wired, and most likely, it is how you are wired too.

Let’s share our journey, without fear of condemnation or attack. (it grieves me that I’d even have to mention this within a Christian platform – but that has proven to be the case more than I want to admit.)

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” – Ephesians 6:12

“A journey shared is more than surviving … it’s thriving!”

Three women walk hand-in-hand down a path on a Spring day. They are wearing backpacks in preparation for their journey together.

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