Editor’s Note: Today’s guest author, Lisa Skopil, received her Certificate for Spiritual Formation and Leadership through her participation in Generation 26 of The Journey, The Leadership Institute's flagship leadership and discipleship training process. It is our great pleasure to share Lisa's testimony of unexpected further transformation soon after her graduation in October. Enjoy.
I graduated with Generation 26 of The Leadership Institute's Journey discipleship training process on October 5, 2017.?The teachings, assignments, EPCs, and?commitment to developing rhythms of spiritual practices have all contributed to a truly life-changing?experience of deep personal growth.
It was several weeks after my graduation, however, that I became aware of a?subtle, but profound place of new and unexpected freedom!
Ten days after graduating, my husband and I went on a three week vacation to France. I have had a life?long love affair with France, having spent several years there in my early twenties. As a couple, we have?returned many times in the past 30 years. It feels like a second home.
Despite the ease and comfort we have experienced there, I have always battled with a harsh inner?critic who constantly barrages me with judging thoughts that have hissed reminders at me of my utter?otherness:?
? ? ?I don?t fit in.
? ? ? ? ? I?m not enough.
? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?I am separate.
In past trips, I have sat in the subway, walked down the streets, or eaten in a restaurant, and felt?ashamed of being American, feeling so obviously different, that my French wasn?t good enough, that?I was dressed all wrong, that I was inadequate.
The inner critic has always been with me; the voice has often just felt that much louder in France.
The first week of our trip we were in a small town in southern France, staying in a friend?s apartment.?One day after returning from a long walk in the country, we came upon the town square where a folk?trio was playing old American favorites. There were several cafes with outdoor seating with one in particular?that was quite full of people enjoying the music.?We decided to stop and listen for a while. We found a table, ordered something to drink, and sat for close to an hour.
As we listened and watched the people?around us, I felt such an overwhelming sense of community with that small group. I felt deeply connected in community as we?shared a beautiful musical experience.
I felt I was part of something despite being a foreigner and a tourist!
As the vacation went on, I continued to feel connected to community. Whether it be in a restaurant, or an?outdoor market, or appreciating art in a museum, I felt I belonged.
I began to realize that I was no longer carrying?around the evidence of years and years of self judgment. It had become such a way of life that it had?been a normal part of my ?landscape.?
This time, however, the voices were GONE!
I felt whole, and?loved, and connected. I was a participant, not a bystander watching from the sidelines.
As I progressed through the two years of The Journey?making my relationship with Jesus my top priority by seeking a?greater understanding of ?the width and the length and the depth and the height of His love,? Jesus has?freed me from the bondage of self judgment.?As a result of the Journey process, I have not only experienced self-acceptance,?but acceptance of others.
As long as I stayed tethered to that bondage, as long as I listened to my inner critic, I was unable to fully connect to others.
As long as I judged myself, I was constantly judging others.
As long as I kept my?distance, I was not able to enter into true community.
This trip I experienced the freedom to be a part of?community, to appreciate our similarities and our differences, to be fine with my nationality, to do my?best to speak French and be okay that it wasn?t perfect, to risk being open and find that the openness?was almost always responded to with equal openness.
I have learned that sometimes we don?t recognize a new area of freedom until we have opportunity to?exercise it.
I did not go to France expecting to discover community and self-acceptance, but as the?revelation unfolded of my healing, I was in awe of God?s love and faithfulness to my growth. I am deeply grateful for?the lifestyle learned through The Journey, which over time, opened up a surprising pathway to unexpected?freedom.