By: Bethany Sims | Christmas is coming quicker than I can prepare for, which is super exciting. I love all the Christmas shopping, decorating, and extra time we get with family. I love baking with my sisters and the yummy smells that fill the air. There’s lots of laughter and fun discussions and ultimately a feeling of peace. I’ve been reflecting on how far God has brought me and how past events have prepared me for where I am in life today. God orchestrates things so perfectly.
I’ve noticed a lot of other people sharing in these reflections as they post their decade photos. It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago, I was only 11 years old! Now I’m married with a daughter and another baby on the way. I am so grateful for this journey and for all the new blessings in my life.
Reflecting on that journey, I decided I wanted to share a bit of my personal testimony, so here goes storytime. I grew up in a wonderful Christian family, I was the oldest of five siblings and you could defiantly say I was very blessed. When I was five, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. When I turned 6, my parents decided to take on a new adventure and start Camp David of the Ozarks. Many exciting things happened in the following years. I absolutely loved horses, art, and hanging out with my best friend.
I’m going to skip ahead to my twelfth year because I feel like that’s when things got difficult. During the summer I usually spent it hanging out with other camp staff’s kids, and we named our group the Green Team. Well, when I turned 12, my parents felt like I was ready to join Support Staff. I moved from the Green Team with kids my own age, to joining Support Staff and working alongside teens that were between 14-16 years old. My parents had felt that I was ready for the new responsibility and in truth I was. But, at the very beginning of summer, I had a bad experience with some older staff and some hurtful things were said. I was told that I was bossy (and I was), and that I was immature and that everyone was mad that I was going to be on Support Staff. It’s funny how words that are so simple can be so deeply hurtful. I spent the next few years trying to prove those words wrong.
During that first summer on staff, I didn’t say much or make any friends, but I was extremely diligent and a hard worker. I was tough and strong and could work harder than most of the other staff. I gained a lot of respect from the other people on staff, and even though I never felt accepted, I had earned my place among them.
I think for most people, their teen years aren’t full of the best memories. We are on a hunt to find out who we are. My identity became a girl who was responsible, tough, and hard-working. Now, those things in themselves aren’t bad at all, but, that’s all I saw myself as. I wasn’t fun to be around, I wasn’t pretty, I wasn’t cool, but I could work hard and I was tough. I struggled with depression a lot in my teen years and began to feel very deeply that who I was, wasn’t valuable. My value was only found in what I could do for other people. Even in my friendships, they felt very one-sided. People appreciated me because I would listen to them and make them feel good, but they didn’t appreciate me for me. I had a pretty consistent walk with God during this time, but I wouldn’t let him speak to me about who I was, because I began to believe what the devil was telling me.
Since I was very young, I knew I wanted to be a missionary, and in the fall of 2015 (when I was 17), I started what I thought was my missionary journey by joining Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and attending a six-month Discipleship Training School. It really was a good life-changing experience for me.
Most of my life, whether at church or summer camp, I was good at finding ways to either help people or to help “behind-the-scenes” and that’s how I felt important. Well YWAM was a very different experience. I joined 45 other young people in one big schoolhouse. Everything that I knew and was good at was stripped away. I was left with just me. I didn’t have anything else I could offer.
I was shy and quiet for the first few weeks. I felt so uncomfortable because I couldn’t find a way to prove to people that I was hard-working or tough. There weren’t any opportunities for me to show that I was valuable. I knew that I wasn’t pretty, or funny, or smart. I was so uncomfortable in my own skin, and I was haunted by lies that filled my head about myself. I felt like God was stripping me of everything I thought I was. It hurt. It was like everything I had placed my value in was gone, which had to mean that I was more worthless then I ever imagined.
At YWAM every single day we spent an hour in devotions, an hour in worship and prayer, and then five hours in a classroom learning about who God is through the Bible. It was a crazy amount of time with God and we learned so much – it was neat just learning to soak in Jesus. There were many devotional times in the morning when I just cried out to God. I thought I had figured myself out, but now I didn’t know anything. Who was I? And did I matter?
And then, things began to change. I began to recognize all the lies I believed about myself. One day I wrote out two full pages of everything I believed about myself, and I was completely shocked by how many of them God said were lies. It was a hard time because when you believe the devil’s lies for long enough, they feel true and right. I began to take every thought captive, and when I caught a lie in my thoughts, like “You look so fat in this dress” or “Nobody likes you, you could disappear and no one would know you were gone,” I would tell myself it wasn’t true. Slowly I began to recognize what God had to say about me. I am God’s daughter, I am His beautiful princess, and I matter to Him.
That’s what true value is. God had to slowly strip away everything I believed about myself, and then rebuild who I am. I found that God didn’t say, “Everyone thinks you’re pretty”, or “People will miss you if you just disappeared”. His words were about His thoughts towards me, which is even more wonderful than I could have imagined. His words sounded like “I know you’re beautiful” or “I know you”. Slowly my value and identity began to be rooted in what God thought about me, and nothing else.
Over the weeks and months, as I began to view myself differently, I started making friends and really enjoying being around others. When I went to a party or hung out with a group of people I didn’t feel ugly and unwanted, I just enjoyed being there. When you choose to see yourself the way God sees you, you stop worrying about how other people see you. I also found people began to really value me for me. It was an incredible process and one that took the entire 6 months of the DTS. I learned so much and found pure freedom and joy. I don’t think I had ever felt happier in my entire life. Being truly treasured by the Creator of the Universe is an incredible gift.
This doesn’t mean that I never struggle with worrying about what people think about me, but it has lessened a lot, and the more I lean into Jesus and listen to what He says about me, what others think and say just fades away. I am so incredibly grateful for Jesus. He took the time to rebuild my identity and helped me to experience true freedom. And the truth will set you free.
I am so grateful God chooses to love me and pursue me every day. I’m grateful that my value is in Christ. During this Christmas season, I would love to encourage you to reflect on your testimony or just some of the neat things God has done in your life. God is such a personal God; He is always seeking to have a relationship with us. It is such a humbling and encouraging concept. I am truly loved by Him.
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1 Peter 2:9
“God, I am so grateful for your presence in my life. Thank you for pursuing me and helping me to find my identity in you. Help me to continue to learn who I am in You, and worry less about what people think about me. God, during this holiday season, remind us of the mighty things you have done in our lives. Amen”
What is your story? What has God done in your life? Take time to remember and thank the Lord for His faithfulness. Today, consider your self talk. Are you listening to the lies of the devil? Or do you speak God’s truth to yourself?
Meet Today’s Writer: “Hi! My name is Bethany Sims! I am a mother of one adorable daughter and wife to a hardworking man. I am a full time student studying to work in maternal healthcare which keeps life pretty busy. My husband and I also bought a foreclosed home less than a year ago, and now we are living in it and finishing the remolding.” Bethany invites you to connect with her at firstname.lastname@example.org