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Many of my gifts were manifested during the rigors of boot camp as I emerged as a squad leader. I also excelled physically and as a sharpshooter. While many of the other girls spent nights in the bathroom stalls crying and asking to go home, I felt strangely at home and comfortable with the tasks situated before me. I responded well to structure and recognized I was determined, organized and a good manager. The crisis of my life which was the army at that time was a major turning point in my life. It challenged me beyond what I could have accomplished on my own. I was one of my first conscious tests where I learned to depend on the Father. There was no other way to have excelled. However, my insecurities in the form of perfectionism became embarrassingly obvious as evidenced by my hypersensitivity to criticism. I did not know that I still had worth in the midst of my mistakes.
During that time, I learned many things about myself but I was still a bit lost. I spent my twenties estranged for my family as I found myself thriving in the Big Apple. While it was an exciting time, it was also lonely. These periods of loneliness were deleterious to my level of productivity while simultaneously driving my ambition to be famous. My insecurity was the foundation of this drive. When coupled with the gifts and talents given to me by the Father, I did well but for whom? My success would inevitably be halted with these intermittent “limps.” My depression and its episodic nature has been my limp.
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My past experiences are a living, breathing testament to Romans 8:28 (NIV) which states that “In all things, God works for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose.” The pain of rejection, abandonment and abuse attributed to my earlier life struggles eventually manifested as depression in my teens. However, those struggles fueled my passion for mental health. Without it, I do not believe I would have developed the deep level of compassion for those suffering from similar experiences required for the healing process. This was a revelation after growing up in a home, culture, and church that did not embrace psychiatry. I have processed these negative experiences with God’s grace. He freed me from bondage and transformed my past pain for His purposes of healing the brokenhearted.
In retrospect, I see how my values began to develop out of my pain. Love and acceptance was the treatment strategy for my pain. Only after believing God’s acceptance of me flaws and fumbles was I able to also receive His forgiveness through Jesus. I unmistakably learned that I valued forgiveness for it had allowed me to breathe again. It allowed for reconciliation for damaged relationships.
Truth became another treasured value. The catalyst was sparked after I had entered into therapy and became aware I had the penchant for exaggerating my accolades. I learned it was the eight year old Shari who was not fully aware of God’s acceptance. Thus, exaggerations were used to incite interest and build some form of intimacy. I soon realized that I had to take responsibility for the truth and accept it. I needed to at least be loyal to myself which would in turn demonstrate my loyalty in God for creating me. God’s love gave me permission to accept my life. He sent his Son to save me not condemn me.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” has played a major role in cultivating my transparency. I invited constant examination from the Father to shield me from the trap of self-deceit. This desire gave me keen instincts to recognize self deceit in others.
I worked as a bartender on Sunset Boulevard that was and still is a hotspot for famous actors, starlets, rock musicians, and the “beautiful people.” I had to sign a confidentiality agreement ensuring I would not divulge any of the goings on to any gossip columnists who may approach me on the way to my car after a shift. “If you speak to one of them, they better offer you a lot of money because you will no longer be working here,” our boss would say. During daylight hours, my coworkers and I discussed spirituality, purity, and respect for one’s temple. They ate dairy free diets, gluten free smoothies and shots of wheat grass during brunch after an intense hour of hot yoga. Later on that night with the moon slowly rising over the stars of movies and cinema, different spiritual values materialized. The Spirit illustrated to me that my coworkers were a mirror. I was illuminated and began implementing integrity checks in my life. I began declining invitations to parties and outings that would compromise my inner beliefs. My conflict was hidden as I was transitioning but I knew it was the right direction for my life. The spirit was there influencing me all along. These experiences have shaped several of the values I hold near to my heart such as truth, loyalty, transparency, and integrity.
During that time, God took me in a different direction. While my friends of coworkers continued down the path of the world’s version of fame and fortune, I was being pulled towards medicine. I was thirty-two years old, a bartender, no family, no money or support system yet I was contemplating that journey. I was too old and had not been bred for that level of education. This was my Indiana Jones faith challenge. I was in an environment where education was admired but it wasn’t valuable for aspirations of Hollywood power, prestige, and position. Therefore, after a couple of sentences into my new journey that God had for me, I would begin to see people’s eyes glaze over as they looked past me to investigate that if that person who just walked in the restaurant was someone famous. I had one friend say, “Don’t you think you’re too old for that?” He stated aloud what I had been battling inside. What was I doing? God was my only support during that time in my life. There was no other explanation.
My journey into medicine was a destiny revelation. God only gave me peeks and glimpses as I would have likely either self sabotaged or ran shivering into the bush like a frightened rabbit. I didn’t have the level of confidence to fully embrace God’s vision for my life at that time. However, I knew enough to move tremulously forward in faith.
Looking back over my generalized time-line, my childhood was painful but not futile. After all, I was introduced to Jesus by my family. This experience was a sovereign foundation that anchored my inner-life growth to endure my trek through tumultuous life terrain.
I am now in my late forties and have been made aware of the gifts given graciously to me by the Father. He told me in His Word that my gifts are for His calling on my life. He asked me to point his lost sheep to His Son in my own unique fashion for which he created me. I know that people will respond to me in ways that are tied to how he made me.
I spend my quiet time delving deeper into God’s Word yearning for a deeper level of intimacy. I desire to move forward in the way He planned at this stage of life. I believe my convergence phase will take my childhood pain and abuse, military and singing experience to a new ministry creation. My hope is on the day I take my last breath I will be able to bask in the afterglow of God’s mercy and grace.