I looked really good on paper...
But underneath the surface was a whole other story
I am a 15 year military veteran where I primarily worked as a Special Agent
Over the course of my time on active duty, I arrested pedophiles in Japan, ran human intelligence operations against Al Qaeda in Iraq, commanded a unit in Kuwait, and was selected to be the senior bodyguard responsible for all bodyguard ops to one of the most senior Pentagon officials.
When I left active duty, I worked for the world’s largest anti-slavery organization overseeing their Latin American investigations, operations, and law enforcement training focused on child sexual abuse and the child sex trafficking.
And all of this as a 5’3” female who looks much younger than she actually is?
I spent the entire time terrified…
Like all of it. All. Of It.
I constantly worried that I wasn’t good enough even though I consistently produced good results and my bosses articulated their faith in my abilities as they promoted me to higher places.
But I suffered from the WORST case of imposter syndrome. Every day was the day I believed my dirty secret would be exposed and that everyone would know that I couldn’t *actually* do the job and that I didn’t matter.
Iraq 2010 -- smiling on the outside; feeling totally inadequate inside.
That’s me. Blissfully unaware as to the crazy journey God has in store for me.
I really wrestled with God…
Having become born again in a dingy hotel room on Fort Bragg, all I ever wanted to do was please God. I knew being a Christian wouldn’t make life easy, but I was not prepared for how difficult some of my experiences would be.
Almost immediately, I was sent to Iraq. Despite having all the training required to do my job finding terrorists, I felt completely inadequate as a newly-minted source handler.
I wanted to do a good job. I wanted to save lives. I wanted to be a powerful tool for justice. Yet I felt myself falling short, and all I heard in my head was that I wasn’t good enough and that my life would never matter.
Years later after I took command of my first unit in Kuwait, I brushed my teeth morning and night staring at Jeremiah 29:11 hastily written on my bathroom mirror in dry erase marker, telling myself to “fake it ‘till you make it.”
I experienced incredible adversity and pressure and navigated my way through this very male-dominated career field, often praying aloud asking God why on earth had He led me to these places.
I cried ugly snot-bubble tears into my pillow so many times asking God why He’d built me to be small, girlie, and youthful. Why wasn’t I a guy with big muscles? Didn’t God see that He’d gotten it all wrong??
But God was faithful…
Looking back, I see now that God used each promotion to help me shed my insecure skin and grow my faith to prepare me for more.
I never would’ve imagined when I started college that this path would lead me to work counterintelligence or provide oversight to 200+ units worldwide or engaging with government officials in some of the most anti-female, anti-brown skin, anti-youth countries in the world or withstand being shot at and bombed.
By the time my bosses at Quantico called me to tell me they wanted me to serve as the Personal Security Advisor (PSA) to the Secretary of the Air Force, all I could do was laugh. God sure does have a funny sense of humor.
“Fake it ‘till you make it” had worked wonders for me in previous jobs, but there was no hiding the fact that I definitely did NOT look this part. How was a fun-sized bodyguard supposed to be taken seriously??
A massive painting hanging near the VIP entrance at the Pentagon bearing Isaiah 6:8 which gave me daily (or hourly) encouragement
“My grace is sufficient for thee, for my power is perfected in weakness.” – 2 Cor 12:9
It turns out that God is in the business of using our weaknesses to do big things.
When I finally submitted and stopped fighting God, I learned that my physical appearance gave me a major advantage over my hulky male counterparts – no one suspected I was the bodyguard.
And in this job, the element of surprise is everything.
The job was all about controlling your space to maximize the safety of your protectee. Planning comes from your brain, not from your appearance.
And now as I sit here sharing this with you, I can so clearly see how God used every difficult task, assignment, and counterpart to prepare me for this important work: helping you break free of the mindsets that keep you in bondage.
When I look back on those first 12 years, I lament how much time I wasted feeling fearful and doubting myself.
Because if you truly believed that God is for you and working ALL things for your good, you wouldn’t.
But I know where you are.
I see you in that slimy pit of fear frustrated that you’ve tried everything – you’ve prayed, submitted all your plans/fears/hopes/dreams/anxiety to God, fasted, done Bible studies, proclaimed belief – but you feel like nothing works.
You want to be obedient. You want to point others to God. You want so desperately for God to look down on you pleased at how hard you’ve worked.
But all you hear is the voice of condemnation in your head.
“I don’t matter.”
“I’m not smart enough.”
“I’m too fat.”
“I’m too ugly.”
“I am weak.”
“I sin too much.”
Kenya: breaking bread with fellow bodyguard brothers before heading out on mission to protect Christians during a police corruption and murder trial.
You want to believe the Bible wholeheartedly, but...
You just don’t see fruit of this supposed power in your life.
You understand intellectually that God’s word says you are universally loved and meant to live a powerful life.
Even though you believe God forgives freely, a tiny part of you feels He’ll never forgive *that* sin.
So you strive and hustle trying to earn your gold star. You see those perfect Ned Flanders Christians and half-way want to ask them how they do it (and half-way want to punch them in the face).
When will it happen for YOU???
I’m not your Sunday school teacher…
But I know exactly where you are.
I know, because I was there myself for a long time. The church of the 80s and 90s taught me that there was no room for vulnerability or rawness.
You just checked the boxes to keep the God of the Old Testament from turning you into a pillar of salt or bringing the fire and brimstone.
I blasted Bush, Offspring, Green Day, and Alanis Morissette, because there wasn’t space in church to express the hurt or anger with what you were struggling with.
No one was more shocked than I when sweet, innocent Alani who had grown up in the church to parents who had zero vices started cussing Danny Chandler out in front of his house when I was in 5th grade.
I carefully hid it all the second I crossed the threshold of our church. I didn’t feel like anyone understood what I was going through.
No one had ever really explained what it was like to actually know Christ; I just knew that faith was a list of commandments to blindly obey.
Shout out to my AWACS peeps! (Still smiling; still completely freaked out deep down)
So I left. For ten years.
I went to college, joined the military, and partied hard. I drank a lot and generally hated myself for a long time.
And God was there through all of it. Patiently and lovingly waiting for his prodigal daughter to return and welcoming her back with open arms.
I share this with you, because it might be your first time hearing it: life and faith are messy.
Here on earth, things don’t always get wrapped up in a bow. Moses never entered the Promised Land, because he got angry and disobeyed God.
David had sex with another man’s wife, then sent the husband to the front lines of war to be killed just to could cover up his sin. And it led to the death of David’s first born.
Yet at the end of his life, David recounts in 2 Samuel 22 how God rescued David because “He delighted in him.”
God considered David righteous BY FAITH; a man who was righteous by faith and desired to please God and be obedient to His commands.
Moses – despite all his whining, lack of faith, and anger – is included in the Hall of Heroes (Hebrews 11) and appears with Jesus and Elijah during the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3).
Clearly, he and David have received their reward in heaven for their righteousness…even though they made lots of mistakes while here on earth.
God doesn’t want you to “to do” list yourself to heaven – He just wants to know you and to have you believe in Him.
You were uniquely built…
God imagined you before He created the universe.
You have purpose, and He created you to wield the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.
He loves you, because you exist.
Those yearnings and desires weren’t put there for no reason.
What impact are you yearning to make in this world?
But you’ve tried everything and still haven’t found what you’re looking for…
Because you’ve been doing it how others have told you to do it. When the truth is all the answers you seek are built into your being and found in God’s word. Sometimes you just need a little help uncovering those answers. And the path is incredibly simple:
Be still and know that He is God. What does that even mean?? It doesn’t mean doing nothing. It means being who you were created to be. Being our natural, authentic selves is one of the best ways we can worship Him. But we can’t do that if we don’t actually know what that looks like.
Understand how God built you. What values are most important to you? How do you interpret God’s promises through the filter of the Bible? When you get really clear on these, you’ll know where you need to go and what you need to do.
Have faith. Find the balance between trusting God will work things out for your good and taking active steps in faith.
I know you’re in that pit. It’s so hard to see the joy and freedom that lie outside it, because all you see is mud.
But it’s there – that life of incredible joy and power that God says is yours.
Will you allow God to use me as a tool to get you out so you can experience true freedom??
Sometimes you just have to take the leap and trust that God has you.