Authentic Brokeness

Each year in January I choose a new word, just one word, to be my personal theme for that year. For 2017 that word was ‘yield’. And ironic as it sounds, I was kicking and screaming in protest pretty much up until midnight of Jan. 1 over that being my theme.

Because I knew it would stretch me. I knew it would push me. I knew it would painfully grow me. And I was right. What I didn’t count on was that in yielding, God would also yield blessings.

The blessings however, only came after some difficult yielding. Each month, besides small things, God seemed to ask me to yield something bigger. “Go big or go home” seemed to be His mantra. And He started off the year with a bang. In January of 2017, I sensed Him asking me to yield a part of my testimony that I had told very few people.

Now, I am very much a believer that while testimonies are powerful things and we should share our testimony, I don’t believe God requires us to share all the details or every part of our story. There are certain parts to my life’s story I will never share publicly. But in this particular instance I felt His Spirit telling me it was time to share this part because of how it had to potential to help other people.

What’s interesting is that while I yielded this part of my life to Him in January, I didn’t end up having the opportunity to share it until November. Which gave me time to process what I would say should I speak about it.

I ended up sharing this part of my story with my youth group on November 5. I started off with talking about my one word annual theme and the reason for my sharing it now since I had never shared this before. I have never experienced my teens that silent. Like EVER!

The next day a parent came up to me and while not knowing the details of what I said (we have a “safe space” rule in youth group. Unless life-threatening, what is said in YG stays in YG!) mentioned that her daughter deeply appreciated what I had to say.

While I had already come to peace with being more authentic and open about things I might prefer kept hidden, this I felt was God’s way of saying I did good and He was proud. I was just proud I kept my cookies down as my stomach was doing somersaults right before speaking. The Holy Spirit definitely gave me the words to say that night! And while I don’t have space in this blog to share that story with you, I will share it sometime in the future.

Being real. Being authentic. Being open. Kids desperately want leaders who are willing to lead through their own brokenness. To show the kids, even as leaders, they are human too. And while adult discretion is needed as to what details to include or what not to say at all, this is a wonderful avenue in helping kids reveal their own broken hearts and souls and perhaps releasing some of that emotion out into the open.

Sometimes we might as leaders, view our brokenness as something we must hide. Something we should be ashamed of. Something we shouldn’t have as part of our story. But I truly believe the best leaders learn from their brokenness and then use those lessons to help the broken around them. I pray you find the courage I was given to share some of your own story. There are so many blessings to be found when you do.


Sarah Vanderaa is currently serving as a full-time youth director in a church located in the south suburbs of Chicago. She is currently in her 11th season and is excited to see what the year will bring. On her rest days, she can often be found behind a computer writing and updating her blog, while drinking lots and lots of coffee. In between naps, she still finds time to read novels. You can connect with Sarah through her blog at UNLOCKANDRELEASE.TUMBLR.COM or her Facebook page @UNLOCKANDRELEASE


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS. 

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