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Rather than attack or defend, I opted for honesty. I shared my story through an interview on a good friend's website:

Although I was unable to choose when I would share some of these painful memories, I am thankful for the opportunity to share it now. I'm thankful that I am able to make better decisions about how to handle a difficult situation. And, I'm thankful that because of grace, I can identify with those who have dealt with similar situations. . . .

It's bred compassion in me towards others who wrestle with the baggage they carry in life. People like me who passionately pursue God—on his terms and not ours—experience incredible times of struggle along the way. I know what it is like to experience periods of depression, frustration, and confusion. And that's why I live out my calling the way I do, as best as I can, sometimes stumbling along the way.

Every keystroke was a struggle, but the words I heard that fateful morning rang in my ears: It's time.

My deepest, darkest secrets were now on display for the world to read. I knew that I might live with this struggle for the rest of my life. But the lock on my box had been shattered, and I was already beginning to feel liberated from its captivity.

Being raised in a pastor's home, I am acutely aware of what everyone else thinks about me. I notice the looks, monitor the whispers, and manage the perceptions. Growing up, a fight sometimes broke out while riding to church in our family minivan with my parents and two brothers. This is a common scenario for most families, but ours always had the same ending. When we arrived at church, Mom or Dad would turn around and say, "Okay. We're at church now. Time for everyone to be on their best behavior. You're Merritts. You need to act like it."

The door slid open and a transformation occurred. When we stepped out, smiles had replaced scowls. We'd hold hands even though we really wanted to pull each other's arms out of socket. The tone of our voices changed from scathing to saccharine. And as years of this behavior progressed, I became skilled in wearing a mask.

"I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked," Adam told God in Genesis, "so I hid." The human inclination is to conceal when we feel naked or exposed or vulnerable. I wanted to hide from the pain of sexual abuse and the confusion I felt, so my mask rarely came off. I lived behind it.

Image: Courtesy of Hachette Book Group

Hiding behind my disguise was crushing and conflicting because my core—at everyone's core—is a desire to be fully known. I want others to see me, both the beautiful and wretched parts. And often my desire to be known is almost as strong as my fear of being known.

I fashioned my mask because I believed, in the words of Parker Palmer, "[My] inner light will be extinguished or [my] inner darkness will be exposed." My secret was intended to shield me from experiencing more pain, but it only isolated me from those with whom I needed to share my true self. I became more a performer and less of a person.

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A Thread Called Grace