What do you do when everything you believed in and lived for, goes up in flames? This is my story of exiting religion and reinventing my purpose.
I remember sitting in the pew at 14yrs of age transfixed by the song that was playing… I had no church background, and this was unfamiliar to me. I still remember the chorus to this day.
“This blood can save the soul, heal the sick, mend the heart… this blood can give you access to the very throne of God. And it still can go the distance through the pain to where you are. This blood is for you.” (Song by Carman Licciardello)
My heart started pounding out of control when they called for people to come forward to “give their lives to Jesus”. I was terrified of what people would think but this feeling that I experienced took over and I stood up, walked to the front and fumbled out my first prayer.
That was the 2nd of June 1990, the day when my life completely changed.
From that moment, I dedicated my life to God and the church. I devoured the Bible, read books about miracles, church planting, doctrine and preaching.
Church became my life and purpose.
Monday night I was preparing for Bible Study; Tuesday night was Bible Study; Wednesday Night was prayer; every second Thursday was leadership meeting and of course some training; Friday night was youth - when I went to Youth; Saturday morning was band practice; and don't forget all three services on Sunday that I used to lead worship at.
I still had a full-time job, I also started a business - but those were secondary because my purpose and my goal and everything that I thought that my life was about was church.
I wanted to preach and teach and start churches and raise up leaders and spread the gospel throughout the world. I even wrote and recorded two worship CDs - leading worship was a huge part of my purpose!
So, you can only imagine what it was like when everything that you think you are born for goes to shit.
Have you ever had a plan for your life, KNOWN what your purpose was, only to have it fall apart or taken away? Have you ever felt purposeless and lost?
This Tiny Little Box for Girls
I didn't know in the church circles that I was a part of, that women were seen differently to men. Were given a little box and as long as you stuck within that little box you were loved.
And I remember a preacher's wife preaching one day and saying, "your role as a woman to minister to your husband is to warm his socks and cut his sandwiches into little squares”.
I used to love leading worship. Our church was around 2000 people and Sunday worship was a pretty big setup. There’s nothing quite like worshipping from the very inside of your soul. I would give it my all.
One day the elders sat me down and said that I need a man to ‘cover’ me and therefore I cannot lead a band. They teamed me up with a male who was the official band leader and I had to shrink myself to fit into the box.
There were harsh consequences if you went outside the box.
The problem is that I felt destined for everything that was on the other side of those four walls.
I felt I was born to be a giant but the church structure I was a part of would chop me down when I started to get too tall for them to control.
There were so many painful experiences. Too many to remember.
I would put my hand out of the box because these skills, these talents, this purpose, this passion, this conviction inside of me wanted to bust right outside of that box. And when I did, it was like the Texas Chainsaw Massacre would come and chop all the limbs off, leaving me bleeding without any empathy.
I would sit there alone in that place broken over and over again, year after year for 23 years of my life.
Every time, I would pick up the pieces, and keep going. You know why?
Because I believed this was my purpose.
I describe it like a furnace with a dial that keeps turning up the heat.
Every painful confrontation turned the heat up a little more.
The Hong Kong Furnace
In 2008 I handed over my IT business and relocated to Hong Kong to support a church. It was a huge sacrifice and tough in a vastly foreign culture, but I felt called to be there.
My hopes were high because it seemed like this church didn’t have the same box that I’d been wounded from. I thought I could sink my roots down and pour my life into supporting them and helping them grow.
During the day, I taught in a local school and after hours were church, church, and more church.
I was right, they didn’t have the same little box... they had a bigger one.
But with a bigger box came harsher consequences.
After serving the church with everything I had, the lead pastor accused me publicly saying, “when a lower authority tries to supersede a higher authority, that is misplaced authority which is witchcraft and rebellion.”
I was excommunicated from the church and not allowed to visit it again. I still have the email saying I’m not welcome. Friends didn’t want to speak to me for fear of consequences from the leaders and “how it would look”.
I was devastated. The furnace dial turned, and the heat was becoming unbearable.
I don’t know how much you know about gold. Gold is a phenomenal element and it has a melting point of 1063°C.
All my gifts, talents, passion, conviction are like gold inside this furnace.
And as the dial kept turning, I was starting to reach melting point.
I could feel everything inside of me shaking, compelling me to question everything. I started questioning my theology, religion, church structure and everything I knew.
I was wrestling with it because this was what I'd given my whole life for.
It's 1063°C in Canada
In 2013, I moved to Canada in where I postponed a year of my life to support a small church in the area, without any pay, living off my savings.
And again, the four walls of the box pressed in on me...
After being told repeatedly by church leaders around the world that I’m ‘too much’, ‘too strong’, ‘too powerful’, ‘too vocal’, ‘wild’, ‘rebellious’ and ‘threatening’, my inside world was in deep conflict.
I still remember the day when the dial turned and clicked on 1063°C.
I heard inside of me an internal snap as I disconnected from God, from church, from religion, from my purpose, from everything that I felt called to. It just snapped.
I tried to sticky tape it together, but I couldn't attach it again.
My conviction was gone. And this gold that I'm referring to - all these talents and gifts – totally melted into an unrecognizable mess.
I felt completely and utterly lost.
I still went through a year of Bible College in the States hoping it would bring me back on course. But it didn’t.
I returned to Canada and officially exited the church in June 2013, 23 years later.
My dreams were gone. My purpose and destiny nullified. I couldn’t separate God from church, so my relationship with God was gone, too.
Life made no sense.
I was angry. I couldn’t stand the injustice of it all. How these men, and women, could treat people this way and get away with it. I came up with this analogy, “They would shoot you in the heart and then blame you for bleeding.”
Simply Exist? No Thanks.
It took many months to pick up a few fragments. What was I going to do with my life?
I was faced with one of two choices.
Either find a new purpose or fade away and simply exist.
I can't think of anything worse than 'just existing'. So, I chose the former option and with that started self-discovery.
I realised that my gold - the gifts that I had - did not belong to the church. The ability to lead, to speak, to teach, to empower others, to build an organization, could be repurposed. I could use them for something else!
Here’s the secret to reinventing your life: Gold cannot be destroyed, it can be reshaped for another purpose.
So, what the church called ‘apostolic’, the business world calls entrepreneurship; and what the church calls ‘evangelism’, the business world calls sales and marketing.
Here’s a secret to reinventing your life: Gold (your unique mix of gifts and talents) CANNOT be destroyed. It can, however, be reshaped for another purpose. #lifepurpose #empoweryourlife
Rediscovery and Reshaping
Armed with that realisation, I set out to redeem my gold. The only nugget that hasn’t come with me, yet, is music.
Here’s the other secret to reinvention: When you reshape gold, it doesn't lose its value or its worth.
My worth was not in my ministry, was not in the business that I started, was not in anything else or what people tell me my worth is. My worth was solidly inside of me from the day I was born.
How I reshape my gold doesn’t make it less or more valuable than its previous or new purpose.
When you reshape gold, it doesn't lose its value or its worth. The purpose may be different, but the value the same. #knowyourworth #youareworthy
While working full-time in marketing, I started my own business on the side designing websites. I took numerous courses to upgrade my marketing and social media advertising skills. I started to get ready to go on my own full-time.
March 2018, I quit my job and officially launched Big Splash Social. An integrated digital marketing consultancy that specializes in Social Media Advertising, Marketing Automation and Strategy.
It has been wonderful, redemptive and inspiring.
My life has new purpose and yet it’s actually the same - to see the potential in people/businesses and help them become all they can be.
Destined to Succeed
Although I don’t sing or even play the guitar anymore, nor do I go to church, pray or read my bible (for me, God doesn't fit inside that box anymore)… I live by a new set of convictions.
One of them is that no one should own, control or limit another person. We are all unique, all gifted and talented. Let’s help each other grow as big as we can be.
Life’s too short to live in the past.
I still hurt when I think about it all, and will still go for therapy, but I choose gratitude…
Grateful that despite man’s best effort to destroy me, I found reinvention, and made it through to the other side… not as a survivor but as an inventor.
Think of all those great men and woman entrepreneurs and how many of them failed and failed until they eventually succeeded?
The gold inside of them would melt down and reshape, melt down and reshape until finally it turned into a solid lifelong testament to the element’s UNSTOPPABLE nature.
I came across this little snippet from Small Business Trends, “Amazon is one of the biggest success stories of the online era. But before Amazon became a household name, the company’s CEO had several failed ideas. One of the most notable was an online auction site, which evolved into zShops, a brand that ultimately failed. Still, CEO Jeff Bezos would repurpose the idea into what would eventually become the Amazon Marketplace.”
When you realize that gold, your gold, is indestructible - you become unstoppable no matter how many times your current purpose fails. #BecomeUnstoppable #nevergiveup
Conclusion... What About You?
Perhaps you can relate to this? You poured your life into something, only to have to fall apart or go away.
Maybe it's your kids and they’ve left home? Maybe it's a marriage that fell apart or your partner passed away? Perhaps you invested your life’s savings only to find out it was a Ponzi scheme and all your money is gone?
And you're sitting there thinking what is my purpose? What do I have left?
How do you start again?
Even though your gold has beed beaten, hammered, twisted, pounded and melted down...it cannot be destroyed.
When you’re ready, rediscover your gold and allow yourself to reshape it, to re-purpose it, for something new.
Don't give up.
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