by Micaela Arriola, 23 years old
Coming into the School of Witness, I felt excited. I had left the church in 2014, and by God’s grace I began my journey home in 2018. Being from a family of five, with two much older brothers, I felt that what “baby Micaela” had to say never held much weight, so I never said much. I felt small and was afraid of saying the wrong things, fearful that people wouldn’t like me. I was a people-pleaser, so I would say and do whatever I thought others wanted or expected of me; I also rarely shared my feelings and opinions.
During SOCL, I remembered an incident at a relative’s house when I was 6 years old. I was clueless then, but I came to realise that something terrible had happened because of the adults’ reaction. When my parents picked me up, they only said “that’s not something you should do”. I felt that I had done something wrong and that something was taken away from me that day. My parents seemingly swept it under the rug – maybe they thought I was too young, that I didn’t need to know or that I wouldn’t remember. I longed for someone to talk to me but no one did. It made me feel insignificant and unimportant. I began to shrink myself in everything I did and tried not to get in anyone’s way. I could never name the smallness I felt – but I now know it was shame.
I struggled to face this memory during SOW and my favourite excuse was that God will heal me in His time, which I decided wasn’t now. In a session, we were asked what we wanted to surrender to Jesus. I wanted to surrender my shame but I struggled because I didn’t want my feelings of disgust and dirtiness to be real. That night, I was afraid of facing Jesus. I kept thinking, ‘I cannot’, but following some good advice, instead I said, ‘Lord, You make me can’. When the Blessed Sacrament was brought to me, I saw the image of the mess and dirtiness in my heart and I was disgusted. But then, I saw Him in the middle of that mess and dirtiness in my heart, and He told me that was exactly where He wanted to be. He knew my pain and He still stayed.
Even after experiencing Him so powerfully, I was still scared when my cell group leader invited me to find Jesus in that incident. But I clung to the hope He planted in me; He made me brave. In prayer, I could see Him waiting to console me when no one else did. In my shame and unworthiness, He embraced and told me that He was proud of me and delighted in me. My CGL saw Jesus washing me clean with a bubble bath, and handing me a new white dress. As she shared, I felt Jesus anchoring himself in me. As the anchor sank, my shame was displaced. He restored my dignity and showed me that He knew me, loved me, and took care of me. He has freed me from my shame and self-reliance, and revealed to me who He made me to be – lovable, precious and absolutely worthy. Jesus tells me that my voice is important and that I don’t have to hide anymore. Through Him, I’m able to claim the truth nothing I do could ever separate me from His love.
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It is an everyday struggle and the evil one also knows exactly where to poke. He continuously tries to steal away my dignity and confidence. But Psalm 27:3 says, “Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.” God reminds me that it is not about not being shaken, but when I am, I am confident in the Lord. I am not too broken and I am not too small. He restores me.
Our God is a god that dares to step into our darkness, one who goes to all lengths. Just as Jesus knows me, He knows you. Will you allow him to show you who He made you to be? Come out of hiding, you’re safe here with Him.
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