I first met Debbie Sue Wilson in 2003 at Multnomah Bible College and since then I have had the privilege of walking alongside her in life, ministry and friendship. Whether she is advocating for clean, toxic-free living or educating us on the effects of trauma, she is a powerful voice in challenging us all to live wholeheartedly. Debbie lives in Portland, OR with her husband, Bradley and their almost 3 yr old daughter, Siena. It’s a grace to have Debbie at the table with us today…
guest post by Debbie Sue Wilson
Hello, friends! I feel honored, excited, and nervous to sit at this table. Each of the women here are hopeful writers, and influential female voices. When discussing faith and theology, I scooch in beside dear friends who know and love me deeply. My inner child beams while watching older women I admire. My inner teenager sits down cautiously, and looks around the lunch table. Everyone’s invited, but does everyone truly belong? It’s a nerve-wracking opportunity to engage generations before and after me. I’m more leery of those who haven’t seen or known me since childhood, high school, college etc. I nervously gaze over at the crowd who hasn’t seen me in “church” for 5+ years. My throat feels a little tight, I anxiously start to sweat, and my stomach begins to turn. You know that warm wash of shame?
Resilience starts by consciously removing our masks; revealing who we are, finding our safe people, and experiencing God’s belonging within ourselves.
I invite you to lean into any rising feelings and sensations. Name them. Don’t turn them off. We’re here to learn together. To confess and come to terms with deep-seeded labels, rhetoric, and expectations attached to the gospel and community we received. We can rest instead of raging against voices that tell us who we are and where we belong. Even Paul talked about separating the sacred from the shit (Philippians 3– yes, Paul used this harsh language), and focusing on things above. Today, you belong here. Listening and engaging sacred stories. I want every woman here to feel seen, heard, and honored for who you are right now. Not who you were before, or who you will become.
Resilience is silencing the voices telling you to shut up, buck up, or go home.
Of course, our egos grasp at straws approaching this subject. We subconsciously project wounds (lies), and our deepest fears (especially sharing intimate sacred parts of us). We all wonder who’s going to judge or reject us? We’re aware of certain rules/ standards. We also inject preconceived assumptions, and protective internal monologues. They probably think_____about me. Then comes that thief, comparison. Followed by hypervigilance (due to grief and past hurts/trauma). We’re often ready to defend ourselves before any negative words or judgements have been spoken. Do you relate to that? Do you know where that defense comes from? It takes many women years of heart work to even consider sitting at a table like this. Let’s be mindful, kind, compassionate, and vulnerable anyway. Let’s listen, and bravely share our experiences, rather than analyzing people. Find common threads. Connection points. Build bridges, not walls. We’re here to consider lengthening the table in our hearts.
If you’re so inclined, I’d love to hear a bit about each of you. What fears and feelings do you have approaching this table? I believe this to be the ground level work we all must do first.
Do you feel internal or external pressures? I sure do. We’re all showing up with personal and generational baggage (trauma). Unless we feel those hurts, we can’t be healed. We’ve all been judged mostly on the outside by arbitrary rules and cultural standards. We feel collectively heavy because of it. We carry that heaviness in our body, mind, and spirit. Its grace that reminds us, God looks at the heart, and the fruit of the spirit in our lives.
Faith resilience begins by crawling into these damp, dark places where seeds were planted.
Where wounds festered. Where secrets, sadness, and circumstances shifted our faith over time. We spend far too much precious time wondering who will warmly welcome or silently judge us. Resilience is learning to let go of what others assume/perceive about you. EX: I had to release myself from “why” people assume I’m wandering, angry, liberal, brain-washed, deconstructing, or don’t love Jesus – simply because I don’t do, say, or agree with _ anymore. I’ve heard it all.
No one owes entrance fee explanations for past or present thoughts, beliefs, or choices. We are not here to judge the world, or convict it of sin. We are here to be life, light, and image bearers. Who is our life? Who is our light? We inevitably follow those people (including Jesus). We don’t have to hide our process; doubts, opinions, questions, hurts. We don’t need to apologize for the ways we’ve changed and grown. We can observe the fruit our life is producing, the relationships forming us, and the communion we’re experiencing with God.
Resilience requires we stop comparing ourselves outwardly, and to let our lives speak openly from the heart. Let me share with you some pieces of my story.
My adult life and faith journey consists of 15+ years of bible and theology study (6 years at Multnomah University), and 20ish years studying holistic health, brain science, social/cultural and environmental factors, and generational trauma recovery (epigenetics). I grew up in largely white, middle class, small towns- mostly in the pacific northwest. I moved more than 20 times (10 different states) growing up. I’ve traveled to 49 states, 11 countries, and 4 continents. I’ve traveled, lived, and worked in multiple third world countries. I grew up with traumatized abusive parents who mostly avoided church. My mom grew up catholic, and took us to church on and off (before age 10): Catholic, Presbyterian. Age 12, I was thrown headfirst into evangelical christianity and conservative christian school (4 years). . I attended Multnomah Bible College right out of high school, and have been actively involved in institutionalized “church” for 20+ years (Baptist, Vineyard, Foursquare, Assembly of God, and Community Churches). I experienced sexual, spiritual, and emotional abuse in nearly every single one of these religious schools, churches, and communities. I’ve been in many leadership roles. I’ve also watched and observed from the sidelines (after being marginalized for different reasons). I was cornered by concerned friends when I chose a christian partner who had been deeply wounded by the church. I was rejected by certain friends when we got pregnant “out of wedlock.” I’ve questioned authority on several leadership teams; most commonly, I was attacked, manipulated, isolated, ignored, slowly pushed out, or demanded to leave. Perhaps a gut check for those silently shaking their heads (me too), and for those absolutely baffled by this common experience.
Christians are called to engage Christ with body, mind, soul, strength. And to love our neighbors as ourselves. I believe our body, mind, spirit connection is a direct reflection of a holistic trinitarian God: wisdom/mind of God, the human body of Christ (and the “body of believers”), and our eternal spirits are created to abide within the spirit of God. Humanity also consists of personalities bent toward relating more from the head, heart, or body (this is where Enneagram chats are so informative and fascinating to me).
Biologically, resilience is formed by repeated signals to the brain. Unshakable truths lived with God, repeatedly displayed in physical ways. That’s why we retell stories over and over. Our brains need tangible reminders of grace. Stones of remembrance reminding us how far we’ve come, and what we’ve walked through.
What relationships deeply impacted us? The moments that changed us?
Where do you see those reminders in your life (hanging on your walls, tattoo stories, memory boxes, art, photographs, etc)?
What pathways lead you to seek spiritual healing and connection (nature, art, service, scripture, music, etc)?
Share those parts of yourself.
Faith is sustained by spiritual remembrance (EX: Deut 8:2-5) and physical reminders displayed in our lives and homes. Lastly, we’ve gotta remember the “fast” we received in Christ as servants, coheirs, and ambassadors of good news (Isaiah 58:7-8). Have you read those verses lately? They’re timely as ever. I hope they encourage you.
These are the elements (brick and mortar) that built my foundation. Faith even in times of sorrow and suffering, abuse and shame, lies and betrayal, isolation and rejection, mental and chronic illness. In spite of humanity’s flawed reflections of gospel truth and love, I see that God is active, powerful, trustworthy, gentle, holy, faithful, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness.
I’ve landed on a solid foundation that supports, strengthens, and empowers me. I’ve settled on this truth; to love Christ is entirely an act of grace AND a continued choice/responsibility. Faith resilience is learning to live in the and‘s of life. Walking this pilgrimage with hope, endurance, character, wisdom, and emotional intelligence.
Trials sharpen us.
Fire refines us.
Suffering can soften or embitter us.
The gospel is full of uncomfortable stories and paradoxes. We simply can’t build resilience without living in the tension of what is not black and white.
I’m sharpened walking beside Jesus followers who humbly reflect God’s heart. I’m also encouraged, empowered, and inspired by so many who fundamentally disagree with my beliefs. I love my diverse dynamic tribe. I feel strongest when communicating with God regularly. When I am still enough to hear that quiet inner voice. I see God’s face shining through mother nature. I’m spiritually filled when breaking bread. I’m drawn to those seeking to live in humility, love, truth, and grace. I link arms with those fighting legalism, injustice, judgement, and oppression.
We can unite here, at this table, in our desires to know God better.
We have undeniable common threads that connect every one of us. As Christ followers, we claim to believe in a higher law of love. An upside down kingdom where the first will be last, and the last will be first. I hope when we say “faith,” we mean trust. And approaching the throne of grace with boldness and confidence. I hope our vision is “kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven”- where every tribe, tongue, nation, color, identity, gender etc will be presented as equals before a just and holy God.
Perhaps now is the time to repent for disqualifying certain people from faith; for not inviting “them” to sit at this table. For dismissing who they are, invalidating what they’ve experienced, or judging what they deserve. That radical Jesus was not afraid to turn tables, or rage at Pharisees in the church.
Last I heard, He’s the same yesterday, today, and forever.
A little note from Colette
Hey friends, I am so glad that you have joined us for the Ordinary Time series! This series will give us the opportunity to hear from a variety of voices, from different backgrounds, holding their own strong convictions around faith all the while calling us to the same thing: perseverance. I give my guests freedom to express their faith freely and any specific convictions they may hold. This is bigger table theology working itself out on this blog. We may not all agree concerning specific areas of scripture but one thing I know we can, Jesus is Lord!