The Sin That Defined Me
I moved the mascara wand across my top lashes, darkening the brown hairs to black, trying to accent my eyes like I learned in the tutorial video. I peered into the mirror, frustrated that instead of length, I only saw clumps.
My phone lay on the bathroom counter in front of me, playing the words of a former Olympian. She was giving an interview for one of my favorite podcasts, and they talked about what it was like to run for gold in front of a worldwide audience.
Quickly, though, the conversation took a turn I didn’t expect: An unplanned pregnancy, weeks before the Opening Ceremony.
I lowered the mascara wand, stunned by what I heard.
She didn’t tell anyone about the baby. She didn’t bow out of the race. She didn’t even talk about it.
Instead, she terminated the pregnancy. She boarded a plane and ran in the Olympics. She won two medals.
And what no one else knew about her became the very thing that defined her, for years.
Mascara ran down my cheeks along with the tears her words brought. I understand what it means to have secrets that define you. I know how it feels to experience a pain you can’t talk about. I know what it feels like to suddenly have a new way of seeing yourself and the world you exist in.
For years, she kept the abortion to herself. But keeping it to herself didn’t heal the hurt or remove the memory. Instead, it ate away at her and controlled her thoughts. It privately defeated her, leading her to believe that what she did was who she was.
My private defeat was not an abortion like hers. Mine was divorce.
Obviously, when a marriage ends, it’s not a secret that no one knows. Everyone in my life knew. But it’s a pain many don’t understand. Many in my life didn’t.
So what I did, and what the Olympian did, and what I know you’ve done, too, is keep it inside and allow it to define you. And you tell yourself, as I did and she did and you’ve done, too, “This is it. This is the One Thing that defines me and destroyed all possibility for good. This was my fork in the road, and I chose the wrong path.”
The lies we whisper to ourselves are louder than we admit.
We may move forward in time, continuing to live and work and play, appearing to be happy, content with how our days look. We might even win awards like the runner, seeming to be the model of success.
But in the stillness of night, when distractions disappear and our thoughts are our only companions, we hear the lies and believe the whispers again.
“What you did can never be undone. You are a disaster. You are so stupid. You better never try to talk about it.”
So we continue in the cycle of remembering what happened, identifying ourselves by it, then denying the effect it has on us.
The cycle continues day and night until a crisis demands a different response. That crisis is often the realization that we can’t live one more minute being defeated by what we’ve done. We can’t continue believing we had the power to ruin our own lives, and we can’t face misery as the default setting for our mentality.
For the Olympian, the crisis demanded admission and confession. It meant acknowledging her choices, her pain, and her deception.
But it also meant surrendering to her Savior.
Breaking the cycle for us will look exactly the same. Admission. Confession. Acknowledgment. Surrender.
Here’s what is true of secret pain: it never magically disappears or heals. What we continue to push down and pretend away still continues to affect us. Darkness only begets darkness.
All it takes to begin recovering is one small moment of exposing darkness to light. One moment where we say, “This is my experience, and I will not allow it to define me anymore.” One moment of exposing darkness to light can begin the healing we desperately need.
When the runner began sharing her story and telling others what she had done, the condemnation she had lived under began to ease. She began to exchange her shame for hope. But her life changed only because she told the truth, and this will be true for us, as well.
Truth, as difficult as it may be to acknowledge, is always the first step towards wholeness. What we continue to conceal continues to condemn.
I could not have imagined as I set out that morning to put on my makeup the story I would hear that would bring healing to my soul, and I’m sure the runner has no idea the impact her words are having on audiences worldwide.
This is proof to me that what Satan intends for evil, God can use for good.
Where we fail, God redeems.
When we fall, we can rise.
When we speak truth, God brings healing -- both for us and for others.
Jennie G. Scott is a former high school English teacher who now uses her love of words to share the hope of the Kingdom. A writer, speaker, and runner, she is a self-described deep thinker who can spend way more time than she should choosing the just-right word. She is a mom of two who has journeyed through single parenthood into marriage with the most patient man on the planet. She writes online at www.jenniegscott.com and encourages women to be OK with being themselves on her weekly Podcast, In This Skin. You can find her on social media at @jenniegscott.