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The Undyeable Truth

By Sunitha John
In eLetter
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We’ve all either heard the saying or said it ourselves: “I’m the black sheep in my family.” The phrase has inspired many a book, song and even a movie. Besides representing a disreputable member of a group, the phrase “black sheep” holds more meaning. Centuries ago, black sheep were considered unlucky or worthless because their wool could not be dyed. The shades of gray, brown and black remained true to their color no matter what dye the wool was immersed in. There is something so profoundly appealing about this fact.

“To be nobody-but-yourself—in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.” –E. E. Cummings

My life to this day has been a testament to this truth. My earliest memories as a child circled around a lie that I was born without value; self-worth would have to be earned and accrued. I could enter a room with my head held high if I were top of my class, won all the first prizes, and weighed the right amount. I could recite 200 verses nonstop from Scripture at competitions and whip up captivating impromptu sermons in 15 minutes, without ever having understood Yahweh’s story. There was a finite moment at age seven when I heard the words “Pray to God so that He will make you thin,” which marked the onset of a tortuous and perverted relationship between who I knew to be a cruel creator and myself, a defective creature. What I learned to worship was a toxic belief system that would leave me a casualty. It was a perfect setup to a perfect failure.

It failed because there was always someone smarter, someone thinner, someone more beautiful, someone more gifted which left me not so special. It did not take long until the lies morphed into a powerful black hole. Depression, isolation and alienation became hard and fast companions. By the age of 14, I did not need outside voices anymore. I had my own library of negative tapes endlessly streaming messages saying I had nothing going for me, or more dangerously that the world had no need for me. I had reached an end…but God clearly felt I had arrived at a beginning. He resuscitated life back into me over the next seven years through people I met at life’s different intersections. I started discovering God one late night with my inter-varsity Christian Fellowship mentor, over a paper napkin drawing of a cross bridging a chasm that separated God and man. I was an ocean away from the home I grew up in when I first learnt about grace. I started seeing glimpses of my identity in the most remote places of Central America and East Africa where there was no mention of God, though His Spirit saturated the very air that I breathed. I left the church that I grew up in and abandoned their toxic belief systems.

In another four years, I married a man I had met over the phone and became infatuated with. Within the first two years of our marriage, we didn’t think it would last. He loved me and accepted me for who I was and did not demand I change or “improve” myself. And THAT terrified me. It was not until a few years ago that I stopped listening for the other shoe to drop. I realize now that what I had been introduced to in this relationship was the closest thing to unconditional love I’d know on this side of heaven, and it scared me.

I learned to love the God of the Bible, but I was still struggling to see Him as my God and my Father. The biggest impediment to that was the lie that I was made defective. I realized that I was angry at Him for the circumstances that I grew up in. God brought more people into my life in the way of friends, counselors, books and pastors who poured life-giving truth into me and into us as a couple. I was convicted of the truth that I am not defective. My Creator is not a sadist and He calls us saints. [I Cor 1:2] My mentor and counselor, Hud McWilliams, once told me, “We don’t change our living in order to become godly; we change our living because we have been made Godly.”

A few years ago, an acquaintance introduced me to the Mending the Soul program at IBC. It was one of the hardest things I ever did, yet the most liberating and rewarding experience of my life. I learnt to name the experiences and the wounds that shattered my soul. And now, I was finally learning about the enemy whose very mission it was (and is) to pervert my relationship with God. He used people intimately close to me, their words and their actions, to suffocate me. He did it so brilliantly that he had me on autopilot for many years.

“Good is original, independent, and constructive; evil is derivative, dependent, and destructive. To be successful, evil needs what it hijacks from goodness.” –Cornelius Plantinga.

This quote is in part one of the Mending the Soul textbook. Goodness does not require evil in order to exist, but evil does require goodness for its very existence. Before every session, we pray and ask the Holy Spirit to bring transformation into our lives. It is the transformative work of the Holy Spirit and the power of knowledge redeemed that brings healing and wholeness. We are then able to usurp the power we once relinquished under a heap of lies; with the undeterred faith that we are fearfully and wonderfully made by a good, good Father. That is the “undyeable” truth.

If you’d like to learn more about Mending the Soul or the other care group IBC offers, go to www.irvingbible.org/caregroups.

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