I know we don’t know one another yet, so this is probably a strange to introduce myself. As time goes on, however, it will make perfect sense. You see, I’ve always been different. For years, ‘different’ was the last thing I wanted to be. I longed to fade into the background and be just like everyone else.
“Different how?” you ask? To begin with, I’m first generation American born to Angolan parents, so although I was born and raised in the States, my upbringing was different from my peers, culturally speaking, and it showed. Second, I am a PK (Preacher’s Kid) and EVERYONE knew my dad so people expected certain things of me. Third, I tend to feel things deeply, which made me a target for the enemy from a young age. From as early as I can remember, he whispered in my ear that my intense personality was “too much for people;” I needed to “tone it down;” and that I was destined to love people more than they loved me. Over the years, my history seemed to prove him right. I figured the only way to be accepted was to downplay who I was so I wouldn’t make other people uncomfortable. I did it; in fact I mastered it for many years.
I wasn’t outwardly rebellious. In fact, I was active in my dad’s church – choir, acolytes, children/youth ministry… you name it, I was in it. In my quest to be just like everyone else, I made a personal decision to go through the motions of church and faith and do what was expected of me, but I wouldn’t allow it penetrate my heart. I had a plan. College was going to be my stepping stone to blending in away from the pressures and expectations of others. I decided Jesus and I would part company after high school graduation. Don’t get me wrong, I would visit Him when I came home for holidays and such, but away at school I would be free to be just like everyone else. That was my plan… Unbeknownst to me, God also had a plan. (For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) My intention was to run away from God. So imagine my surprise when I got to school I ran smack dab into the chest of Jesus!
He came in the form of an old high school acquaintance that I hadn’t seen since sophomore year. The odds that Stephanie and I would end up at the same small obscure college in “Nowheresville, NJ” were a million to one, yet there we were… In the months that followed, Stephanie simply lived her faith in front of me without judging or pressuring me in any way. I was intrigued in spite of myself, and a few months into Spring semester I told her I wanted what she had. I’ll never forget that evening, March 26, 1985, in Stephanie’s dorm room with her roommate. The three of us prayed and, after 18 years of playing church, I received Jesus into my heart. It was so simple; just like Romans 10:9 says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (NIV) I was ready to skip off into the sunset arm-in-arm with Jesus.
Then came the hard part; trying to develop a relationship with Jesus. All those years of believing I had to downplay myself spilled over into my relationship with Him. I tired to do everything just right outwardly so He would accept me. I tried not to bug Him with my problems so as not to be a nuisance It was hard and frustrating and the joy I’d heard about eluded me.
I can’t tell you when or where, but one day I came to understand that it was okay for me to be who I was with Him. In fact it’s what He wanted. I was reading Psalm 51 and verse 6 jumped off the page and right into my heart: “Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.”(NKJV) For the first time, I felt like I’d been given permission to be who I really was. It felt like… loosening your belt after Thanksgiving dinner – freeing!
In an instant God Himself opened my eyes and allowed me to see that I was not “too much” for Him because He made me that way! I wasn’t created to be just like everyone else and it was okay. The freedom and joy that came from that discovery changed my life. Little by little, I allowed Jesus to peel away the layers I’d built up to hide who I was. I was able to accept myself because I knew He accepted me.
If I could encourage you here, I want you to know that you are accepted and loved by God just the way you are. He MADE you that way; unique. Don’t hide anymore. Embrace who you are because Jesus does. Be free; be yourself in Him. It will change your life!
Isunji Cardoso started writing when she was just 8 years old. Her third grade teacher asked the class to write an original story. Her story was a hit with the class, and a writer was born! Isunji describes herself a a word-nerd who believes in the power of a good story to touch hearts, educate minds, lift spirits and even change the world. The Lord has given her many stories that she hopes to release to the world as He leads. In February 2013 Isunji published her first book, a devotional called Faith Lifts: 31 Daily Boosts for Sagging Faith which is now available for purchase. The book is designed to encourage, inspire, entertain, and, most importantly, to refresh the weary spirit. Please connect with Isunji on Twitter or Facebook.com/isunjicardoso2