The #ImStillHereBecause hashtag is trending on Twitter today. These things catch my eye because they open the door to share my story. And we’re all longing for someone to share their story and remind us that we’re not alone.
I’m still here, not because I followed all the rules of morality, checked every box on the Good Little Christian Checklist, or adhered to the status quo of American Evangelicalism. In fact, those are the things that nearly killed me.
I’m still here because I grew tired of the constant push and pull of manmade religion. I was raised in the local church and knew their song and dance very well. Church camp, Sunday school, mission trips, and I even went to ministry school for a couple of years. I could quote the cherry-picked Scriptures and knew just when to stand, sit, kneel, or shout unto God with a voice of triumph. (Don’t get me started.)
I endured childhood sexual abuse as a preschooler. I have PTSD, depression, and anxiety; partly from the violence, and partly because it’s just the way my brain is wired. I have a mental illness. In the places where I grew up, I feared anyone finding out that I was “broken”. Depression and anxiety aren’t words that fit nicely in Good Little Christian boxes.
My outsides matched theirs for nearly thirty years, and everything was fine as long as I could keep up appearances. The problem is that secrets that were destroying me like battery acid pooling in my soul. I was utterly exhausted and scared to death for anyone to know it. Eventually, I grew tired of trying to live up to the unrealistic expectations of church folks and others who refused to understand.
Some folks might glance at a hashtag like #ImStillHereBecause for a brief moment, or maybe just keep scrolling. But these things matter to me because some days I need to tell my story one more time. I need to remind the world that grace is truly amazing, and it’s more than just a song we sing on Sundays or at funerals. Grace has transformed my life and given me hope in the darkest of times.
I’m still here because #graceismessy.
I’m still here because #LoveWins.
Grace has shown me that God is so much more than the fear-based religion of my childhood. God (call it Grace or Love or Hope) has softened my heart and allowed my soul to bloom again. God has shown me that life isn’t perfect, but that even when our hearts feel shattered, we are never alone.
God cannot be limited by space, time, religion, or dogma. God isn’t owned by any political party, restricted by geographic locale, or in favor of an individual race. God isn’t intimidated by our scars, ashamed of our illnesses, or embarrassed by our mistakes. God is Love. The very same Love, Who showed up in my hospital room in the Fall of 2012, whispering, “I’m not finished with you yet.”
#ImStillHereBecause I reached the end of my rope and found God waiting there.
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Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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