Into The Light
It is time to hit ‘send’. I need to just tap a single key with my finger and the file will be gone. It sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? A draft of my first book ‘Awkward: a 30 day challenge’ is attached and ready for editing. My finger hovers above the key. I begin to sweat, my heart drumming a thousand frantic beats. I can’t breathe. Chest tight. I can’t. Can’t. God. Oh God, what am I doing?
It was October of 2014 and I had a complete meltdown, right there in my office, head in my hands, sobbing on the floor. I remember thinking it was unreasonable behavior from someone who dreamed of writing a book for so long. I remember thinking I was being ridiculous, but I couldn’t stop.
Eventually I grabbed my phone, stumbled out onto the balcony, and called a friend. She listened as I choked out my guts, and then asked me some questions. What was I feeling, she asked?
What else? Panic.
What else? Dread.
What else? Exposed.
She kept asking for more adjectives until I finally got to it: Shame.
Shame? It didn’t make sense. I had just accomplished a huge goal! Hundreds of mornings sitting in the dark corner of my bedroom with a cup of coffee and a thousand ideas, tapping my heart out on a computer screen before work. This was something to be proud of, and yet hitting that little ‘send’ button triggered Shame. Then she asked me a powerful question: When was the first time I remember feeling like this?
My mind raced back to 1987.
It was the first Friday night football game of my Senior year of high school, and it was my first time venturing into public after giving my baby girl up for adoption. I was recovering from a c-section and couldn’t quite make it through a school day, but I thought I could manage an hour or so on the bleachers. I had decided I would just slip back to school like nothing had happened. I was desperate to be a normal teenager again.
I bought a ticket and started the long, dark walk to the bleachers. My ex-boyfriend was playing, and his new girlfriend was hanging out with her friends by the snack bar. I remember stepping out of the shadows into the light glaring on the first bleacher step. That’s when I noticed. All eyes from my small town were on me. I could feel hundreds of eyes looking me up and down, gaping at every flaw, every insecurity, every wound.
To be fair, probably not every eye was on me. Not everyone could have been whispering, but it sure felt like it. I felt naked, exposed, noticed in the worst way. If I could have died in that moment, I would have.
I think that’s when I decided that being noticed was a bad thing.
My mind flipped forward, realizing for the first time that I had never really moved passed that moment all those years ago. The horror of being noticed, talked about, stared at, had settled in and stayed with me for decades. I became an expert at flying under the radar, blending into the background.
And right there, as the sun peeked over the mountain behind my house, it hit me like an east wind: I was comfortable being invisible. Shame wrapped around me like a warm blanket. I was miserably safe.
And this was my crossroad.
In that moment I realized I could continue daydreaming or I could hit send. I could choose comfort or I could choose courage. I could hide behind excuses or I could step into the light and be seen. I could leave behind the label of shame and embrace vulnerability, or I could continue to be invisible.
With wobbly knees and a million doubts and swollen eyes, I headed back into my office. I sent the file. I decided to step back into the light.
That day learned something. Freedom is a choice. I decided something life changing; shame would no longer have a vote in my life. Being a pregnant teen is part of my story, but it doesn’t define me. I am more than my suffering, I am more than my labels, and I am more than my choices.
I am His. And He is a good, good Father.
Jenna Benton was raised in rural Northern California, the eldest child of educators. She discovered her love of good storytelling at an early age, and spent her childhood building secret forts and devouring books.
Jenna was married to her high school sweetheart in 1989, David, whom she lovingly nicknamed ‘The Lumberjack’. They live in Southern Oregon and have four children and two grandchildren.
At the age of 16, Jenna gave birth to a little girl and placed her for adoption. The story of their reunion a few years ago is woven with God’s compassion and mercy.
Jenna is a speaker and author of ‘Awkward: a 30 day challenge‘, a devotional book that explores personal growth with a 30 day challenge to lean into uncomfortable situations and embrace all things awkward.
She has also completed two full-length screenplays, several short articles and has been a featured guest on various blogs and websites.
Jenna works in Oregon for Jackson County Health and Human Services in the accounting department.
She serves on two non-profit boards and volunteers for a third.
She is passionate about justice and hope and the fight against human trafficking.
For more about Jenna, you can visit her website at jennabenton.com