I was six years old when my name changed for the first time. My mom had remarried and her husband adopted me. Hallie Gregurich to Hallie Hosch in the blink of an eye. Fourteen years later, a ring on the finger and a vow before friends, I became Hallie Carl, wife to Lee. Three different names in 20 years. As time passed, I was called many things, Caleb’s mom, Isaiah’s mom, friend, youth leader and more. While receiving a new name should accompany an identity switch, the most defining moment of my identity was yet to come.
I stood in my new office, the door stripped of the name of my predecessor. The plaque on the door read, “Hallie Carl, Pastor of Women.” When I was approached to consider applying for this pastoral position, I was stunned. Feelings of inadequacy filled me. As fast as they poured in, they left abruptly. This. This is what I was meant to do. This is who I am.
I worked this job with pride and determination. It felt like the highest calling. Something sacred.
It seemed to be written in my DNA, the instinct to care for someone hurting. Strangers found it easy to tell me their darkest moments, the places where shame resides. They trusted me. And I returned that trust with empathy and compassion.
After six years of tireless ministry, directing people toward God, teaching the Bible, and caring for the broken, I found myself in a life altering moment. A foreign country, a mission trip with a team from my church, and a mental health crisis for my son. In a moment where me and my family needed care from our church, it was silent. I didn’t know I carried an assumption in my heart that the love and concern I poured out would be poured back into me if I was empty, hurting and weak. I know now, that I did. When met with lack of care and concern, love and kindness, something deep within me broke. People I trusted, not just with myself but with my family, had done the unthinkable. Instead of following the lost sheep as Jesus did, they cut us off from the herd.
Upon returning home, this place, this role, my faith which had become so much my identity that it seemed to be woven into the bonds of this human frame, underwent a separation. Broken by the people I once loved. Torn away and uprooted from my purpose, lost to those who are meant to seek the outsider.
When I resigned from my position and we left our church of 27 years, my identity was shattered. How was I going to put these pieces back together? Who was I apart from this job, this place? What will people think of me? Who will remain friends?
It has been nearly a year since that moment of resignation. I have learned so much more about myself as I have undertaken the hard work of healing. I am a new person, just Hallie. I have roles that I fill, wife, mother, friend, daughter, sister, but that isn’t who I am.
I am a person who has walked through the darkest valley, and survived. I have independent thoughts, rather than always going along with how I had been programmed to operate within the Christian bubble. I am healing. I am learning.
Identity. This new me is not afraid to share, to bring light to things that have been heinously done in the name of God. My voice will no longer be silenced. This. This is what I was meant to do. This is who I am.