Hello my friends! This post is a recap of my walk with Christ thus far (4 years around the first week of May 🙂 ) to show the stunning grace He has for His children, the immense depths of His mercy, and just how much He can mold someone in 4 years time! There is so much more to tell than even this post so I am completely open to questions and comments. Enjoy! (^^^Top photo credit to the lovely and wonderful Maggie Malone. ^_^ The others are random but relevant Pinterest finds)
Preemptive quote (one that has really provoked me into thinking a lot about…a lot)
“We are so accustomed to disguising ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves” ~ Francois de la Rouchefoucauld
I *think* most people who knew me in my teenage years would have called me bright, happy, bubbly even. In a series of discussions since those years I’ve been told again and again that I am: intimidating, strong-willed, reserved. (The exact opposite of what I view myself to be:painfully shy, soft, and an open book).
I finally realized this discrepancy stems from the fact that, long ago, I distanced who I am on the inside from who I am on the outside. Because, you see, the side that no one saw for 13 years wasn’t anything bright or colorful. It was whimpering in fear, cowering in terror, and weeping in anguish as the trauma I experienced at home accumulated beneath the surface.
The unseen side was mutilated beyond recognition, some places black with wounds and putrid rot; there were gaping holes where words from friends and family had unrelentingly poured acid onto my inner heart and places charred from burn marks on top of other burn marks. The state of my heart was a torn gown stained with old blood and dirt and filth from where I had been attacked, where I had stumbled, and where I had chosen to roll in filth.
Some wounds even had traces of thread where I had tried to sew myself back together again.
But it never worked.
That girl was me at 18. I was a walking shell, a husk devoid of life.
I didn’t look it but I was so broken in so many places that I met everyone and everything with a harsh façade so that nothing else would get broken. I battled everything constantly. Inwardly and outwardly, I was always on the defense and never resting. And slowly, exhaustion and weariness eroded away at my inmost being and numbness became all I knew. I was so tired of fighting but fighting was all I knew.
Then I met strange people in college. These people were calm when I was full of anger and were patient when I didn’t understand(the first crack in the mask).
And no one had ever asked me if I was hurt before. I didn’t seem to be hurting. No one had ever said I seemed wounded. (the second crack in the mask)
In fact, nothing ever hurt me. I met every challenge or *perceived* threat with a vicious gusto, ready to inflict pain on my opponent wherever it was needed to ensure victory and defend “my own” vehemently.
Around this time of year in 2012, my walls finally fell; I could no longer soldier on by myself. In His mercy the Lord allowed the numbness to last over the next year as the He grew me and taught me SO much about Himself and allowed me to experience the innocent delight passing from death into life brings.
However, those seasons cannot last forever (and it’s good for us that they don’t.) I finally began feeling the consequences of such a long numbness in the summer of 2013 when I tried to write down my life’s story at summer camp and I realized that something was very, very wrong.
“This sounds like the story of an abused child. But I wasn’t abused,was I? That could never apply to me. Abused children are always beat up and wear long sleeves to cover it. She [my sister] only actually touched me a couple times.” Denial at its finest.
When I returned home from summer camp I looked up examples and definitions of abuse, particularly emotional and verbal abuse. There it was, my childhood staring me in the face. (the mask shattered)
What do you mean this ISN’T normal? This is my WHOLE life!
This realization opened floodgates, just in time for school that fall of 2013. It was so painful. My waking thought every morning in the fall junior year was “Can’t I just go back to sleep? Being awake hurts too much.” Every conscious moment shredded my psyche a little more. I became insanely aware for the first time that my hidden wounds were festering and gaping open. How had I not realized their presence before?
I had long forgotten that sunny days were for merriment and I had long forgotten what it was to run and be free. Because stepping into sunlight makes you a target and because “free” wasn’t for me. I had to be aware of everything, always. I could not afford to be caught off guard.
All this inner turmoil wreaked havoc during my junior year at Truman. Every time my old defenses tried to rise, they were hushed and soothed by the Healer Himself. However, that also meant I had to allow myself to feel hurt. I was crying 2….3….4…..5 times a day and could never pinpoint exactly why. I just knew that EVERYthing hurt. Yesterday stung. Today bled. Tomorrow ached. But it wasn’t my fight.
He reassured me tenderly that all this pain was for the best, that He was reaching into long wounded places and drawing out the deepest roots of the hurt. That didn’t make functioning or smiling any easier (and in retrospect I probably should’ve taken that semester off because many aspects of my life that semester really displayed what was going on) but He was so faithful in comforting me. The second semester wasn’t as bad but coming to terms with how damaged I really was almost made me despair.
And then, just as He had opened wounds, He began healing them over the summer of 2014. It was a beautiful summer where I spent hours with Him and read through the entire Bible in a little over a month. Summers like that are rare and I doubt I will ever see such a lovely summer again (at least, until my eternal summer with Him begins). Truly only the Lord can restore time and lost years to us!
But I walked out of it and straight into a spiritual desert in October of 2014. Though I was still in the Word daily, all relish in reading it dried up. I struggled to be in prayer. And I believe that it was during this time that some underlying sin in my life began to be exposed to the light. Envy, in particular, welled up inside me. That desert lasted a year and my heart was staid solely on the fact that even though my soul was parched and cracked, He remained the Lord of the rain. He brings all seasons, even the roughest, for our good.
Though I trusted where the Lord was leading me (I had a feeling I was heading for a low point) I plummeted straight into a valley this past fall of 2015. It felt like I had (figuratively) landed face first on a pavement. This valley was different from the one my junior year. In this desolate valley, I was surrounded by mirrors that every day revealed my sin to me more and more clearly.
I saw a craving for autonomy, for self-sufficiency. Not the “wash your own dishes” self-sufficiency but the “I still don’t need anyone’s support” self-sufficiency. I loathe the thought of being reliant upon anyone or anything, especially for emotional support.
I saw malicious envy and covetousness, mostly directed toward the sisters I am commanded in the Word to love deeply and serve unreservedly. Because I didn’t get the life I wanted and they did.
I saw rampant lust alive and well in my heart, thriving even. My fantasies grew more and more sexual in nature. I quit caring about men as beloved image-bearers of God and objectified them to suit my own shallow and selfish desires and ultimately hollow desires.
My search history was so clean I’d let my grandmother look at it (and probably have to explain what a “meme” is) and outwardly I was a virgin, but in my heart I could give any woman who works the streets of Vegas a run for her money. And I’d probably win.
I stealthily withdrew from most community, even going to church caused me pain. I would watch young children with their families and wonder “why not me?”
That was my mantra. And it was all about ME.
Why is it, God, that all you give them is great but all you give me is painful?
“I know, LORD, that Your laws are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me” Psalm 119:75
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Genesis 50:20
Why is it, God, that you made me struggle so much more than everyone else so early in life?
“Child,’ said the Lion, ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told any story but his own.” ~ Aslan to Shasta, the Horse and his boy
Why is it, God, that you made me this way? And not…any other way……?
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. ~ Isaiah 55:8-9
Dialogues like this continued. Readers, I basically threw a huge, 2 -month -long temper tantrum at the Lord of the universe from the end of December to the end of February. But underneath it all, I was humbled to realize one day,was the same issue: Control.
I crave autonomy because it’s easier to control relationships than make yourself vulnerable to them.As long as I still keep a little distance, I can control how much it affects me when they betray me/decide I’m no longer worth the time. (Because everyone decides I’m useless eventually.)
~ But through this season, I learned how deep and enduring my need is for Him every moment. I wish to diligently work toward allowing myself to lean on others, to not be distanced but warm and welcoming, to be like Jesus was because He did not allow the infinite distance between God and man to remain but became the Bridge, enduring the worst pain possible to do it. Jesus decided forever to make me not useless but an instrument of His workings, a messenger in His power, and a channel for His grace.
I envy because I’m mad I have not been put in control of all the circumstances of my life (because I think I would have somehow done better). And it completely eats away at any ability to love as Scripture commands.
~This is still a big struggle for me but I want to become the sister Scripture has called me to be because even though He gave me the opposite of an awesome biological sister He has given me so many precious, supportive sisters to love and serve as He loves and serves and not to tear them down in my selfish envy.
Many of you may have been surprised to learn of my lust issue (I am typically very shy about the subject in conversation) I wondered at this discrepancy until I realized the difference:
When thinking about physical intimacy in reality, I cannot control it. I cannot control how flat my stomach is or how jiggly my thighs are and I cannot control my partner’s reactions. That’s terrifying to me.
But in my mind I can control everything. To me, it is (was) the only place I’ll ever be accepted or desired in any manner.
However, readers, it’s so fake. So so fake. Do NOT get caught up in such things; all of it, whether it’s a physical or mental struggle, is a mockery of the true intimacy that can be had in marriage and ultimately with Christ the Savior. Copy Joseph and listen to Proverbs: RUN from it because it’s a hollow echo of the real thing. God made nakedness and sex for such a deeper pleasure and purpose than what porn, romance novels/fantasies, and premarital sex provide.
Finally the clouds broke near the end of March. He had been so tender with me throughout the whole thing (something I most definitely did not deserve).
“I will betroth you to Me forever; Yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and in justice, in loving-kindness and in compassion. And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the LORD.” Hosea 2:19-20
I finally confessed: “I’m so messed up I cannot see straight. I’ve lost sight of You and turned to other things”
I finally wept, not for all the things I did not have but because He asked of me:
“What if I AM your One Thing?” and my heart was immediately so, so humbled. In my hurt, I had forgotten that He is more Precious and Worthy than all else I could ever want. As Gandalf said, “Even the very wise cannot see all ends.” But He is the Source of wisdom and He is trustworthy in His goodness and in His timing. I should not consider myself wise enough to know all the ins and outs of my life.” If He can orchestrate all of history He can surely handle the infinitesimally brief time I am on this earth, though my pride would not have me trust in Him.
I also confessed my envious nature to many sisters in Christ and asked for their forgiveness, so that I can rightly serve and love them. Even though I’m being lifted out of the valley now (and hopefully heading toward my first somewhat-stable level spiritual place in a long time; but the Lord knows)
it’s still a HUGE struggle, friends! Believe me, just because I’ve realized all these things doesn’t mean it’s *snap, presto* and better. The eyes of my heart still wish to look so fondly on other things, to grip tightly to things I so desperately want, to be anything other than me….
But I have died more fully to my need to control, a disease that has been choking my entire life for a long, long time! I am so much more relax about not knowing what lies beyond and so much more willing to let go of the future I had planned.
My life is not my own and there is so much peace with that knowledge.
What freedom there is when we let go of all that we desire and lay them all on the altar of sacrifice to the One True Desire!
What peace when we let go of the illusion that we are in control of anything and our hearts sigh in awe and wonder at the realization that He is! and was! and is to come!
The warrior still must resist (sometimes unsuccessfully) rushing into battles that are not hers. Her cheerfulness, now, flows from an authentic Root and delight in Him Who healed her. Her whimsy flows from the awe and wonder of knowing Him, the Almighty.
You’ll see that the places she tried to keep hidden from the world are healed and she doesn’t want to hide them anymore; her defenses are laid bare. She wishes to display her scars in testimony that He is exalted above every Name! That He is Good! That He is Able! That He cares! To say “yes, these wounds were indeed grievous but His love heals wholly, yes, this filth ran deep but His grace runs deeper still”
There is still struggle. There is still agony. The Christian life is not one of perfection but of being perfected, of becoming more like Him. These marks still twinge and ache but there is a day coming when “everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost”:
the day His brilliance will eclipse the sun
the day the Fullness of Joy is in our midst forever
the day, fellow Christ followers, the day we see the One Whom we have never seen but Whose love continually inspires us to love and also bid us to die!
Being touched by the outside world still causes her to flinch sometimes but it’s mostly a reflex and she finds that touch can actually be comforting.
Perhaps the most striking difference of all is that the gown she wears is white.
And it cannot be stained.