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I Promise – A Story of Pain, Shame, and Scars

“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there… She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young… ‘I will make you my wife forever, showing you righteousness and justice, unfailing love and compassion. I will be faithful to you and make you mine, and you will finally know me as the Lord.’” Hosea 2:14-20

Mara never had the chance to love. At 13 she was raped by her stepfather and ever after lived under a cloud of shame, convinced she was not worth to love and be loved. She died at 16 from an overdose.

Michael lives alone now. He married his high school sweetheart, but he was unable to live with the woman of his dreams while keeping hidden the dark internet habit he’d developed back when he was a teen. She left him once he started drinking, and after that he gave himself up as a lost cause.

Sarah cannot glance at the mirror without hating what she sees. Stretch marks, wrinkles, curves, and ridges mark the scar-covered skin that tells the story of its wearer for whom life has not been kind.

Eloni cries herself to sleep at night, wondering why he has stopped calling. Upon hindsight, she thinks that sleeping with him might have been her worst mistake yet.

Peter has begun to feel a twisted pleasure in the pain he feels whenever he sees or thinks of the woman that chose his best friend over him.

There’s so many stories that go with each one of our scars. These are not the scars we sport in our skin. They don’t tell of childhood horseplay gone wrong, or epic battle wounds or crazy escapades. These are internal, and in their crevices lie the hushed-up secrets of who we really are. These scars are not worth boasting about, for there is shame in loving someone unrequitedly. There’s shame in wearing your heart on your sleeve. There is shame in admitting that you fell lonely—what’s more—theres fear. There’s always fear. 

This is my story.

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I never gave myself the change to love. When I was younger those who came my way were not deemed “good enough.” When I was older I considered myself not good enough, or worthy, to be loved. Point A, point B; my adolescence marks the time between those two polar opposite points.

And so, in my late 20s, i found myself at point B, a point where I believed I was beyond God’s grace—an unlovable, sick, human being. I’d done enough and gone far away enough that I simply stopped caring. I let myself drift in the slimy river of self-indulgent despair and self-pity. I couldn’t fight. I couldn’t struggle anymore. Not when there was nothing left worth fighting for. Myself I cared not for (Why? I didn’t even like, let alone love myself), and love had always failed me. Better to let those waters swallow me whole. Better to drown in my own contempt; poisoned by gallons of vitriol and lies.

My poor stupid heart. My poor stupid heart was in love again. No. It wasn’t in love again. It actually was a simple refusal to die to someone. It still behaved as it once used to do when I was young and still believed in Blue Castles and Prince Charming. It fluttered, it leapt for joy, it thrilled at the thought of love, and clung on doggedly to the crazy infinitesimal chance that he might love me too.

Alas, like all the other times the dream cam crashing down. But this time it was worse for all that it had seemed promising. I couldn’t forgive myself. How could I have let him do this to me? But what I could not stand was my own heart’s betrayal. I’d sworn not to love ever again. I’d sworn not to ever again place myself in a situation that would make me feel—again—that I was ugly, fat, scarred, etc., and not worthy to be loved. 

One day I lay in bed, drained of emotion, thinking of nothing, feeling empty and cold (despite the lingering summer heat). I don’t know why, but I began to pray. 

I went over the list of my failed attempts at life. The soaring highs which were inevitably followed by nosedives into the jagged rocks of reality. My failed attempts at love. My own poor self-esteem. 

“Father,” I said, “If your love for me hurts even half as much as I’m hurting right now…” and so began my dialogue with the one i’d been hiding from all along. In the stillness of that afternoon I recounted my sorrows, put them all at his feet, and found reason—once and for all—to stop crying over the girl I should have been. The girl who got stranded somewhere at point A—healthy, intelligent, idealistic, loving, unafraid. Chaste.

But even as I wept for the Me that was never to be materialized and cried over the grave of lost opportunities and wasted potential, God spoke to me. The path I took to get from point A to point B was not the path he had intended for me, but it led me all the same to the exact place he wanted me at. Yes, I was all the more scarred for the choices I made, but I still came to him.

Humble, free from the delusions of my own self-sufficiency, with vivid understanding of the raw pain that humans experience in silence when they choose to walk away from the light. I came to him with a heart much more his than it would have been if I’d never sinned and realized just how much I needed his grace.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I have these moments of clarity, followed by struggles to understand God’s will and wrestling against my inner self. I’ve been on this road for healing for about two years. Even now I still am not quite there yet,  I’m recovering from a recent relapse into darkness. Every day I must battle against the shadows of my past. But I know I’m not alone. I’m never alone. Because the one that matters is with me. 

…And I promise (without fail) that I’ll love myself enough to forgive myself for my past failings, grab God’s hand to get up when I fall, smile at the mirror each morning, and never settle for anything less than was God has in store for me.

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What do I live for?

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I humbly dedicate this post to Carl Rivera: fellow blogger, poet, and my friend. Thanks for listening when no one else was around to hear.

I’m Trying . . . But it’s Not Enough

I let go of your hand and let the torrent of life take me along. I figured we’d meet again somewhere downstream, right?

I let go, and you kept on calling. Running after me. I told myself it was ok… so long as I could see you, so long as I felt you near me… So long as I did good works for others and for the church… So long as I heard you inside my mind I knew I was anchored and I could return.

Just today, I need to do this.

Sorry, I don’t have time to pray.

Oh no! I will be late for work, I guess no devotional time.

I was wrong. I want to go back. Take me home, because I’m terrified of what I’m becoming. I know you’re there, and you’re still reaching out for me. But now I’m too weak to even go halfway. I can’t. I’m trying to raise my hand… But I can’t.

Please…. save me

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Your Feet

You came into this thirsty land and trod upon the sun-baked earth. In your wake you left–not dust, but healing; joy, gladness, song, and hope. God on the move, constantly seeking the one who strayed, running to meet me while I was still far away. You go forward when others turn back.

So tell me: where can I go, that you will not dare go find me? How far is too far for your feet to tread in this crazy–yes, crazy–pursuit of my soul?

I do not know the answer to it. Only this I have found, only until we nailed your feet on that cross you never ceased walking and moving on behalf of the sinner. ‘Til you were pierced for me your feet never stumbled or turned away from me. Yet though you hung bleeding and dying for me, your purpose was still accomplished. and you won back my soul.

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I’m so tired of waiting for love to come reach me. I’ve grown weary of seeing life simply pass by. So I’m making some changes and I’ll follow your lead knowing that if I step where you step my footing is surer and my way is made smoother. So teach me to run–not to walk–and meet life with arms open. To dance and to leap and to skip if I want to. To boldly go forward and seek those in need even if it means going against a rushing current. To be on the move; stride with purpose to meet you. And for once not to run–but to fly to your arms.

Yes. Toward the light.

God's name is in the very breath you take

Your Name

Ancient rabbis believed that the letters [that made up God’s name] were kind of breathing sounds and that ultimately the name is simply unpronounceable because the letters together are essentially the sound of breathing. Yod, Heh, Vah, He. –Rob Bell, Breathe

In the morning, still drowsy from all that gentle dreaming, I wake up and sigh your name as I stir under my warm covers and rise to greet the day.

Yahweh.

Your name–so overwhelmingly holy and mysterious that it’s become  unutterable–becomes something that is alive and full of meaning when I breathe and think of you. Did you know, Father, that thinking of you first thing in the morning is beginning to come as naturally as breathing? Is it you who is making it so that praying to you is starting to become second nature?

I am breathing, and with it I am saying your name. I am conscious enough to know that life is a miracle, and I am reminded to worship you. My worship rises up in the form of a prayer; an act as simple as thinking, and as necessary as breathing. I squint my eyes and smile when the sun hits my face.

Another beautiful day.

Father, may every word that comes from my mouth today be true to the nature of the Holy Spirit who dwells in me. Because if it is true that that your name is in every breath I take… It would be akin to blasphemy to waste it in speaking idle, hurtful, or profane words. 

And it is when I think this, that the flowing river of worshipful prayer suddenly stops…

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. -Exodus 20:7

Can it be?

Can it be that I have spent most of my life, misusing your name simply by not considering every life-giving breath I take as holy? Can it be that misusing even the air I breathe–misusing the life you’ve given me–is actually taking your name in vain?

Breathe in.

Breathe out.

In.

Out.

I am, without a doubt, guilty. And still my heart beats steady. And still my lungs draw air. And yet… and yet…

How could I have thought that I was fulfilling this commandment simply by using some stupid euphemisms whenever I was angry or surprised? How could I have thought that this was one of the easiest–that’s right–EASIEST commandments to keep?

Because now I see, God, that it is the one commandment that holds me accountable for living my life right, without wasting a single word, a single moment, or a single breath. It calls me to make good use of this life, this air, this name that I breathe.

YOUR Holy name.

For Those of Us Who Wait

God never fails to come through for me. I’ve been revisiting some of my entries from the Journal category…entries that just bare my heart open to the world, and I see how God has guided me in the past.
If you are waiting for an answer to God, remember that we all have to go through the discipline of delay. Hang in there.

My waiting continued an extra year after I wrote this entry, but he guided me in that year and manifested himself in my life in the most powerful ways. Looking back I connect the dots and I SEE how his plan played out.

Now I have a job doing what I love most in the world for a Christian organization, I count myself as one of the most fortunate people in the world. It is my passion spent on what matters most: God’s work.

I had to wait, and work, and live though so much. But was it worth it?

Yes. It was.

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I am waiting for my laundry to be done.

To distract myself and take a break from these myriad household tasks I check my email for the twentieth time today. You see, while I’m waiting for my laundry to be done, I’m also waiting for word about a possible job opportunity.

But . . . there is not a single new message in my inbox. Nothing—not even those emails from WordPress that I like so much.

The timer goes off—it startles me, and then I remember that the laundry is now done. Well at least there’s one less thing to wait around for. I go with my laundry basket downstairs, and as I fold clothes and pair up socks I glumly think about my life and complain and whine in my head to my ever-constant companion.

Father, this waiting is maddening. One email, one phone call, one reply is all…

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Your Hands

You hands–warm, strong, and steady–have held me together these years.

You knitted me in my mother’s womb–every sinew, nerve, and bone. Down to the most intricate detail your hands made me perfect.

You held me up as I learned to walk and and rejoiced over me with song as I grew and ran with arms spread open to the sun and wind. Yes, you were there long before I even began to have a notion of who you were. From you I learned the true meaning of joy. From your hands I have received only good things.

You lifted me, when I was drowning and dark waves of terror overwhelmed me. You held me back all those years ago when an encounter with a speeding car would have surely ended my life. You hands saved me from myself and from the enemy.

Life went on, and as it surely does sunshine sometimes gave way to shadows. But in your infinite power You saved me from homelessness. You never ever failed to provide shelter and food. How wonderful you are! Yes, your hands always provide.

From you I have received and received and received. Yes, your hands are the source of all that is good in my life.

I am filled with wonder at how the hands that created this world, direct the flowing rhythm of nature, and hung the stars in space are the same hands that my sin marred for all eternity. How is it that your nail-pierced hands still beckon to me? How is it that they draw me closer and closer to you?

I can never hope to match your gifts. But I can learn from you and follow your example.

Let my hands be an extension of your own hands. May whatever they create or do be excellent and give glory to you. May my hands have the strength to lift others up when they fall. May they give more than receive, and may they be open to others just as your hands are ever open to me.