Janelle Webber's Story
Janelle was wearing a mask, believing the lies Satan told her, that she was too great a sinner to be truly loved by God and those around her. It wasn't until she shared her story that she found connection with other believers and began to forgive and accept herself and finally able to be forgiven and loved by God.
“If I were dead or if I could just disappear, it would be so much better… for everyone.” This thought ran through my mind again and again. I imagined my then husband could find someone else to marry. Someone who would be a good wife and a better mother to my children. It would be to their benefit if I vanished.
I grew up in a small town church. It was one of those churches where everyone sang hymns, read the Bible and wore a mask. Nothing was real except for the rules. The Bible was studied but never applied. I learned much about Christianity but nothing about having a relationship with Christ.
Being born last into my family of four I somehow never developed the characteristics generally attributed to the baby of a family. I was instead a type A overachieving perfectionist. Nothing I did or thought was ever good enough for bar just beyond my reach.
Early in my childhood I found one Bible verse that so intriguing it haunted me for many years.
I was 7 or 8 years old when first heard it. In how I felt about myself, it seemed an odd thing for Jesus to say. But there it was in Matthew 22:39. Jesus even said it was the one of the greatest commandments.
I read this verse again and again…In this passage Jesus is responding to this question, “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” After laying out the first commandment, Jesus goes on to say, “A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Really? Thoughts bounced around in my head. Could this be true? If so, the command meant I didn’t need to like—let alone love—anyone. I hated myself…I was ugly, boring, unlikable, unloved and unable to do anything right. I don’t love or even like myself I thought…so I reasoned I was to feel the same about others.
This verse came to me again and again during my growing up years and well into adulthood. Satan is gifted in taking a truth and using it to literally destroy a person. This lie led me to make choices that dug me deep into a well of sin, sadness, frustration, self-hate and mild depression. It left me with a belief that if anyone really knew me, they’d hate me.
These thoughts lead to other lies and sins, more than I can count. These lies took me to places and enticed me to do things that were hideous, sinning in ways unimaginable. I wanted to change. I wanted to believe I was loved. I wanted to be forgiven. But the sin cycle would not end and I couldn’t see how God could forgive me or how anyone could hear my story and not condemn me.
While in college, I moved to a larger city and graduated from a Christian University. I began dating a man who seemed to be a Christian too. His family was among the charter members of his church and a key force in building the church we attended. I was well aware of the mask I continued to wear, but I did not see the mask everyone else wore as well.
I married because I was told my new husband was the nicest man ever. If he was willing to ask me to marry him, I decided I best marry him despite our shallow relationship. Who else would ever want to be with me? I thought.
Our marriage theme was “Today I Marry my Best Friend”. More lies. The masks were working well. All was well as long as we pretended all was well, and it was…on the surface.
My daughter was born early in our marriage and my son four years later. We had struggles but God was good and we were blessed with a middle class lifestyle and two wonderful children. Still…we wore the masks and the lies from Satan continued to build.
As Satan’s lies grew in my mind, so did the many devastating choices I made. I was grasping for some form of affirmation. Something to fill the hole in my heart. Something that would give me some glimmer of love. None of it was love.
I just wanted to die, disappear.
As the bottom dropped out I finally reached out to my friend and pastor. It was through his urging in the messages he delivered that prompted me to finally take this step.
I was also certain he was ethically bound to keep all my sins confidential. Sins that repeated themselves again and again. With each action came more hate of myself and the desperate feeling of being unforgivable grew greater. In my mind God forgave others but not me. I was undeserving and far too imperfect.
Dread filled my mind and knots filled my stomach as I poured out my tale starting from late childhood, through my college years and on to the present. I expected commendation. I expected judgment. I expected distain.
But instead I found forgiveness. I learned that others, even others on the church staff, struggled with the same past sins. My greatest sin was no greater than anyone else’s. I allowed this to sink in and at that moment. Through that confessional conversation I finally felt I could be loved too. I could be a child of God.
If another person could hear my story and still accept me, I suddenly became certain God could and would too.
I found, for as shocking as my story seemed to me, it was not all that different from everyone else who has taken off their masks. This was immensely relieving revelation.
God forgives. God is not shocked. Period.
God loves so much that He adopts believers into His family calling them children and heirs with Christ. Not some believers, ALL believers.
I could finally apply this to me and begin the process of forgiveness and the path toward truly loving God, others and myself.
It was the beginning of a journey that changed my life in so many ways. The verses given to me by my pastor on which to mediate were read over and over again throughout the days that followed. Each time Satan filled my mind with lies I filled my mind with those verses. At first I carried with me a small New Testament and the pages became worn and the cover became tattered. As time went on those verses melded into my heart and mind allowing me to believe beyond a doubt I was forgiven, I was loved, and I was lovable.
The steps forward brought changes and challenges. Through it all I was drawn closer to some people and away from others. It gave me challenges like none other before while rewarding me in ways I never imagined. The desires of my heart and mind changed. I no longer listened to Satan or desired to choose sin over obedience. Instead of battling myself and constantly attempting to fill my emptiness with things of this world, I could instead focus on others and how God could use me to please him. Hallelujah!
Today I live free. Free from guilt. Free from the torment of Satan. Free from doubt. Free from hate of myself. Free to be a child of God. Free to love and be loved. Most importantly I am free to be who God made me to be: his child to love, serve, and spend an eternity with him filled with a joy and a peace that is unexplainable.