I’ve moved several times in the past 40 years, but every time I arrive in a new place, I wonder how safe it is to share my heart. How much of my past should I allow into a conversation?

I’m blessed today with a husband of 30 years, but I have faced my share of battles. Long before I met the Lord or my husband, I was in an abusive relationship with a drug addict.

Amid the instability and danger that come with addiction and domestic violence, I became codependent and an enabler. I stayed in the relationship even after he held a gun to my head and threatened my life. When I did eventually leave, it was because I’d finally realized that I couldn’t save him.

It has taken many years to heal from all that trauma, and I still have triggers that I have to work through during my prayer time with Jesus.

I couldn’t talk about that part of my life for many years afterward. I was afraid of being rejected or judged. Now that I’ve met Jesus and experienced His forgiveness and grace, I’m not so worried about explaining who I was in the past because my focus is on who—and whose—I am now.

Having the freedom to be real with people is incredible. The transparency I’ve gained has released me from shame and guilt. It liberates others to share their experiences as well.

I love the story of the Samaritan woman. She felt so isolated and estranged from her community that she went to great lengths to avoid people. Yet Jesus went to greater lengths—extraordinary ones—to meet her in her loneliness. (See John 4.)

As they began to speak, her shame was evident: “You are a Jew, and I am a Samari­tan woman. Why are you asking me for a drink?” (John 4:9 NLT). I relate to this because, for a long time, I couldn’t wrap my head around why Jesus would want anything to do with me either.

Jesus already knew all about this woman’s past. His point in asking her about it was to open her eyes to the forgiveness and salvation He was offering.

And when she saw His gift, the narrative of her conversation changed. Now instead of being defined by her reputation, she could talk about her revelation.

She ran back to all those people she usually hid from and proclaimed, “Come and see a man who told me every­thing I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” (John 4:29 NLT).

I was just like the Samaritan woman when I first met Jesus. It’s much easier now to talk about where I have been in life because the story ultimately points to Him, but I pray that I will always be excited to talk about Him.

He saved my life, healed my wounds, and mended all that was broken inside me, and I want you and everyone to know that.

I found freedom in Christ, and it changed my conversation. Knowing Him will change yours too.


Julie Engstrom is a wife and mother who uses her gifts of teaching and encouragement to help others find and embrace their identity in Christ.