“I’ve worn different masks throughout my life,” said Alyssa Stanley. “I’ve always wanted to present myself as the ‘good Christian girl,’ and that often resulted in lying or simply being apathetic to my feelings, so I looked like I had it all together.
“I grew up in the church and went to a private Christian school, but faith wasn’t something my family talked about very much. I claimed I was a Christian and lived in a circle of Christians, but I wasn’t consistently live a life honoring to God.
“In middle school, I was falsely accused of assaulting a girl in my grade, and this escalated to multiple court hearings. During that school year, I was often pulled out of class or cheerleading practice to appear in court. The lies about my actions became a burden, and eventually most of our grade and school knew about the situation. Other kids joked about it often. Being known for something that was different from the truth pushed me even more to keep a flawless appearance and act like everything was okay.
“Although the court ended up dropping the case, that season really shaped my life. I was only 12. I didn’t know how to handle my emotions but looking back I see there was so much sadness, frustration, confusion, and shame. I didn’t have a place to process or talk about how I was feeling or how to move forward.
“My faith-based upbringing had actually built a foundation that helped me through this low time. Because of all I’d learned about God growing up, I knew I had two options: I could either trust the Lord with this situation and my life, or I could be mad at Him. By the grace of God, I chose to trust Him to be my comfort and safe place.
“When I got into college, I didn’t have my parents or school pushing me to be active in my faith, and my relationship with Christ fell to the back burner of my priorities. I still wanted to hide behind the mask of being a good Christian girl, but in reality, I was apathetic, lazy, and choosing not to pursue the Lord like I had through high school.
“I got involved at Watermark after I graduated college and moved back to Dallas. For the first time I experienced biblical community and the idea of being held accountable for my actions. I was surrounded by friends who cared about my relationship with the Lord, too.
“In this time, I started a relationship with a guy I met through mutual friends. Through multiple forms of manipulation, our relationship quickly crossed physical and emotional boundaries. I formed a false sense of trust in him based on what he said about his faith, and he eventually convinced me to hide everything that was happening behind closed doors from my community group and the people in my life. I had desired marriage for so long, and because I thought this was the way to keep a relationship, I kept our actions hidden from friends and my community group.
“I became so consumed by my sin that everything began to feel difficult and frustrating. My heart was so sad. I was showing up to community group, serving, reading Scripture, and doing the ‘right’ things, but in reality, I was so disengaged.
“The tension between what I proclaimed and what I did started to grow in my heart. I was leading a group of high school girls at the time, telling them to fight for purity and find their worth in the Lord (Proverbs 31:30), but I was not choosing to believe that for myself. My secrets were looming over me, and that carried a weight that I refused to give up to God.
“In His grace, that relationship ended, and the Lord made it clear that my actions in that relationship were sinful and that I needed to confess. After confessing to God, I shared everything with my community group. I was afraid there would be judgement, but the ladies met me with so much grace and love. They helped me figure out next steps and how to set up boundaries for any future relationships. Through a season of confessing to my friends, family, and the staff who entrusted me to shepherd these girls, my eyes were opened to the joy God has for us when we choose to walk in the light – just as He calls us to (1 John 1:5-7).
“There is so much freedom that comes from confessing and being fully known by God and those who surround you. The Lord revealed to me idols I didn’t even know I had, like seeking the approval of man and desiring marriage so desperately that I was willing to dishonor God for it.
“Being surrounded by women who remind me that my value and worth are found in the Lord is exactly why I continue to serve with students. My past sin and hurt are now part of my story that I can use to encourage, challenge, and comfort others who are walking through something similar. I can stand in the gap and remind them that their identity can be found in God alone.”