I went to the river to find beauty. I was hoping to catch an intensely beautiful sunrise to salve the sting of a bitter disappointment. But the dense cloud cover from a brooding storm made the event a royal let-down. The resignation in my heart spoke first.
‘Par for the course’, I thought. Have you ever seen a young child disappointed? Unfamiliar with the possibility of failure a child makes his plans without a remote consideration that he might not get what he wants. When I see such a child watch the object of his affection slip away I can barely tolerate it. ‘That kid needs to toughen up’, I like to think to myself. You just can’t be so vulnerable.
How quickly the ambivalence of cynicism rears its ugly head against desire’s fearlessness. Excuses spring up like weeds. Sour grapes.
Two swans sliced their way across the river without a ripple — one directly behind the other. I immediately thought of God and me. I so wanted the swan in the back to catch up to the leader, to experience the intimacy I desperately long for. As I watched the gliding race, the gap between the swans would shorten then widen again without warning. I watched in frustration, until I understood the truth. The point of my life is not how close or how far I feel from God. The point of my life is that I follow Him. Wind and current and a hundred conditions I can’t explain can pull and push and pressure me to give up hope. But like the swans I saw on the river, the glory and grace of my journey is to glide along with my eyes on Him. As I turned to leave the two swans were resting in the shallow water together — face to face.
For several months I’ve understood that I have an assignment from God and that assignment is to grow in compassion. To understand His great love for me and to accept it. Partly due to the assignment itself I have fallen back into a relapse of self-injury and the obsession and humiliation that goes along with it. I think coming face to face with the compassion void in my life brought me right to the heart of the painful wound I have suffered since before I can remember. I’m posting that story here a little bit at a time (I’m about half way through) in the category called ‘A Farewell to Shame’.
So the painful truth is that no one cared about what I suffered. No one rescued me. No one brought justice. Not my family, not my school, not my doctors, and not even my church. I’ve been working for a while now trying to understand better what I need to do and to ask God to make clear the path that I can follow to Him.
Last Thursday night in the middle of the night I woke up suddenly. Throughout most of my life I’ve struggled with nightmares/flashbacks of trauma that interfere with my sleep. I woke up and felt a sense of warfare and the need to pray. At that time I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. An encounter with God. I suddenly felt His presence in the room. As I was lying there in my bed on my side with my hands in front of me I felt God’s presence come along beside me. He put his arms over my arms and held me — surrounded and embraced me. Now I’m an old married woman and in the 16 years I’ve been married I’ve received literally thousands of hugs but no human embrace has ever soothed and satisfied my soul the way this experience did. In my pain/suffering/trauma I always feel the pain focused in the pit of my stomach. The feeling of a raw open wound deep in the center of my abdomen, located there but not physically there. While I was lying in my bed with God’s arms around me I felt a warm explosion exactly at that spot inside me. A feeling of peace and healing washed over me and I felt fully at rest. But that wasn’t all, next I felt a strong heaviness and warmth on the backs of my hands. They felt so warm and heavy that I couldn’t lift them if I tried but I didn’t want to move but just lie there and feel it.
Since that night I’ve been given a way out of the obsession of self-injury. When I’m pulled and drawn to raise my hand to injure myself I turn my hand over and with the back of my hand I use the Father’s touch to stroke and soothe my face. I think about His compassion for me and how He suffered with me in what I suffered just as I suffer with Him in what He suffered on the cross. It’s so raw and so personal and so childlike that it’s hard for me to write these words but I want to share and spread hope because I know what it feels like to struggle and I know I’m not the only one.
There’s one more thing. I have ‘quit’ many times. More times than I can count. Each time I strongly resolve never to go near this sin again. I remind myself that I’ve been healed and cured and that there’s no need to ever fail again. Then each time I’ve been tempted and each time I’ve stumbled and relapsed I’ve felt such intense shame. I doubted that what deliverance God brought was real and I’ve felt that His efforts were wasted on me because I so quickly forgot His help. I’ve even been angry that He didn’t stop me from falling again so quickly into sin. That if there was a way out I didn’t see it and didn’t take it so either God was blowing it or I was blowing it and either way I was lost.
This time is so different. I have made no pledge, no promise, no threat to myself that I will never hurt myself again. God has shown me that He will LET me do it again — He will not stop me or distract me or control me. And that’s not to say that He doesn’t care what I do — He cares very deeply about everything I do. But I have a choice. I can choose to sin. Each time I want to sin I can use it as a chance to experience His compassion and be reminded of His love. He won’t take away that desire, it will always be a part of me. But if I fail He won’t turn His face away from me. He’ll give me another chance — as many as I need.
So thank you for reading this long post. I hope someone understands what I’m trying to say and I hope someone here finds the courage to walk another day in the light of God’s love.
We get drunk to numb the pain. We get high to forget the pain. But when we sober up the pain is there waiting for us. We eat compusively to cover up the pain. We throw up and eat more because when we stop the pain is still there. We push the pain away. We deny it. We belittle it and fool ourselves away from feeling it. We feel nothing. We are empty. We are numb. We slice and cut our flesh to focus the pain. We pick, bruise, and bite ourselves. We pull out our hair. We spend money. We shop. We gamble. We go into debt to push away the pain. We hide from love to protect our hearts from suffering more pain. We accept less, we expect less, we settle for less to assuage the pain. We look for love, we long for acceptance, we seek after glory because we fear the pain. We fear that if we for one moment give our hearts a voice we will be lost in it. We will be overtaken in the waves and we will lose our very soul.
We have forgotten our Savior. We have forgotten that He has promised to hold us up and guide us through. We must believe that we can feel and not get lost. That He is faithful to love and faithful to strengthen and that in the end He will wipe away every tear from our eyes.