Reading old journals can either be inspiring, or a little bit embarrassing. And reading mine can be a bit of both.
Before the husband, the kids, the blog, book, and speaking platform, I was simply a full time musician, touring the world with all sorts of artists, hoping to one day have my own musical stage. I had been groomed in church to dream enormous dreams—asking God for resources, promotion, fame, and status, all to promote His name in the earth. The problem is, when you're seeking an outcome more than you're seeking a Person, your dreams can selfishly become all about you, and you end up using God's name to try to make your own name great.
Night before last, I found an old leather journal I kept while living in London over a decade ago, reading through the pages where I had chronicled the making of my first album, God Loves Ugly. As I read my own handwriting, I was challenged by my youthful passion, laughing a bit at my immature zeal, saddened by the constant addiction and anguish, but inspired by the enormity of my dreams. I had believed for my music to go all over the world and change hearts and lives, to sell millions of copies, and launch me as a Grammy winning artist……
And clearly…..none of that happened. Though I'd pushed the pain aside over the years and moved onto other things that I love, a part of my heart secretly felt like a total failure.
The album I dreamed would play all over the globe sat in my iTunes inbox for years, unheard by anyone but close family and friends. As years passed by and disappointment piled into a mountain, my heart hardened into stone to survive the weight of pain–angry at music for breaking my heart.
As I drove to the chiropractor this week, my son Moses quietly playing with his iPad in the backseat and little Birdie sleeping soundly, the rare silence was an invitation for my heart to dial into connection with the Divine that lives inside of me.
“Hey, Holy Spirit.” I sighed deeply as my body relaxed, becoming aware of the Presence of Love that never leaves. “How are you?” My lips turned upward in a smile as I felt the warm embrace of my best friend.
“Hey, beautiful girl. It's time for you to forgive yourself for not making it in the music industry.”
I sat, stunned. As if being hit in the face with a bucket of cold water, my eyes filled with tears as years of unhealed, forgotten, buried pain came erupting out of my heart, feeling every old emotion of disappointment, sadness, failure, and shame. As if someone had ripped a bandage off of a forgotten stab wound, my chest ached as old memories gushed like blood, remembering how it felt to watch my friends and peers catapult to musical stardom, all while I stayed crippled by shattered dreams.
I drove along with tears rolling down my cheeks, embracing the shame of failure that I had unknowingly buried for years. As if lowering myself into a deep underground well, I saw myself sinking into the reality of pain within my heart and looking around at the inner mess. This part of me was still broken, angry and disappointed at me, holding myself responsible for the failure. I had beaten myself to a pulp with my shaming hand. I had been cruel over the years, embarrassed that I hadn't been good enough to make it.
But my unhealed pain was shutting down my creativity. My disappointment was crippling my future dreams. And my shame kept my heart in chains.
“Christa,” I said out loud, sighing deeply. “I forgive you for not making it in the music industry.”
Instantly, I felt a shift.
“I forgive you for never seeing your dreams fulfilled to become an artist. I forgive you for being ashamed and embarrassed, believing you were a failure, even punishing yourself with anger for years. I forgive you for praying and thinking you heard the voice of God about specific things, when really you heard the sound of your own insecurity and need for approval. I forgive you, Christa, for being wounded. I accept this part of you, and I'm tired of being angry at you. I forgive you, heart. And I'm sorry I've been so cruel.”
As if I'd never felt the sun before, light fell on my face, my skin, my heart—illuminating my entire being with the brilliance of heaven. Every part of me felt weightless as the waters of healing rushed in, cleansing my core from the darkness of bitterness and unforgiveness.
And from this place, my lips began to sing a pure song of worship, kissing the face of my Jesus for saving me from myself, yet once again.
When most of us think about forgiveness, we first think about forgiving others who have wronged us. But rarely, if ever, do we turn the flashlight inward to discover how terribly we've wronged ourselves. But the thing is, most of us are meaner to ourselves on a daily basis than we are to anyone else. We beat ourselves bloody for failing. We flog ourselves in shame for not being all we're supposed to be. We carry our inadequacy like a bag of bricks through life, punishing ourselves with substance abuse, striving, perfectionism, and performance. And most of this is unconscious–unaware of the shackles we wear in the form of impossible expectation.
When most people look at my musical resume, it looks like a whole lot of success, and I've toured with massive artists and written songs that have sold millions of copies that are sung all over the world. But to me, it was never enough, because it was never what I wanted. It was never my dream to make music for other people—my dream was to make music for me. With help from my beautiful Holy Spirit, I looked in the mirror this week. And through His kind lens, I saw a part of my heart that was deeply angry at itself—holding myself responsible for a past that I can never change.
But as I forgave myself for being unable to live up to my impossible standards, I learned to be kind to my heart as Jesus is.
And He only forgives.
OPEN HEART SURGERY:
Do you need to forgive yourself like I did?
Take a few moments and close your eyes, seeing the face of Jesus standing in front of you. Look into eyes filled with compassion, never condemnation. Stay with unconditional love, letting it anchor your soul to peace. And from this place of intimacy, ask Jesus if there's any place inside your heart where you need to forgive yourself. Sink deeply down into your core with the Holy Spirit, asking the Counselor to show you unsurrendered land where you're still angry at YOU.
From this place, take a deep breath, and start to speak out loud where you can hear yourself. Let yourself off the hook, even if you royally messed up and deserve punishment. Forgive yourself when the failure was your fault. Forgive yourself when you were the abuser. Forgive yourself where you hurt your children. Forgive your body for not looking the way you want it to look. Forgive yourself for being infertile. Forgive your heart for being wounded. Forgive yourself for your failed marriage, or your lack of suiters. Forgive yourself for your addiction, depression, and sexual dysfunction. Forgive yourself for broken promises, shattered dreams, and all the ugly places you've tried desperately to hide.
It sure is hard to receive forgiveness from Jesus when you're dead set on punishing yourself.
But punishment never sets anyone free, which is why Jesus took the punishment of everything we deserve.
Give yourself the gift that Jesus already gave you……
Give yourself the gift of your own forgiveness.