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.

– – – – – – 

What do I live for?

– – – –

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.

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.

Journal writing

2014 In Review

Every year I do the same thing.

Sometime around the end of December or beginning of the New Year I write a year-end review in my journal. I reflect on the year’s highs and lows and usually will reflect how my relationship with God progressed or regressed.  The following is an excerpt of this year’s:

* * *

January 2, 2015

About a year ago I rounded up 2013 in a very angry and bitter manner. I know why, and I am ashamed to remember it. I can only say that I am sorry that my lack of faith and my selfishness made me dishonor God in such a way.

2013 was a year of trials, 2014 was a year of…what?

Honestly, I have mixed feelings as I write. The end of 2014 brought an end to something that I’d been holding on for a while. My old love is officially old business; he has really moved on. How do I feel? I am neither bitter not jealous, just a bit… I don’t know… Is it wistful? Sad? Maybe just a bit resigned to the way my heart chooses to work. How did Anne Elliot say it? We women tend to love the longest even when all hope is gone. It’s silly, and to the most experienced I’m sure it’s laughable how in love I’ve always been the one to unreservedly give my heart to someone, and when it doesn’t work out it is the one that always lingers. But I have not been alone all this while, because despite the loneliness, the discouragement, the failed attempts, the uncertainties and the setbacks of this year, I end it in victory.

I have returned from my first day at my new job in a position that seems to have been tailored just for me, my skills, and my attention-level. It’s like God himself took that mental checklist I had about the job I needed and led me to it at the perfect time. I have finished December having passed my certification exams, I am planning to buy new gear—and have the funds to get it. I am starting a new business, I have acquired a valuable investor who believes in my vision. My family is healthy (I can hear their laughter outside my room), home is a warm place. I am happy, blessed, and so incredibly favored by my Heavenly Father. Is it presumptuous for me to feel warm and fuzzy when I think that the great King of Heaven loves me—indeed, favors me? Is it insane that at night the last thought I have is a prayer to Him and in the morning my first conscious thought is to breathe His name?

* * *

Unlike all the other years, there will be no resolutions this year.

There will only be a single prayer request every morning and every evening of every single day of the year. Yes, I will batter the gates of heaven every morning and evening with this single request.

Show me your will for my life.

Teach me to be able to discern your voice even in the noise and bustle of everyday life. Once I know your will and once I know that it is you speaking to me, empower me to obey you.

As to my heart—my foolish heart—I’ll leave it with you. I’m really, really sick of dealing with its excesses. So…this year I’ll trust you first to heal it and then to set it to rights, so that my heart will overflow with thankfulness and praise instead of aching from unfulfilled longing. Let it soar like an unfettered bird and let it sing with joy because of the hope that you instill in me.

For now, my heart beats steadily, strong and sure in my breast. My life feels very warm and quiet for now, and I like that just fine, for I’m gearing up for a very busy year.

What I learned in 2014 is that life with God is an adventure.

So with that in mind, Welcome 2015.

Look to Jesus

The Israelites were traveling through a barren land. It has a really bad time. They’d just failed to get permission from the Edomite king to peacefully take the direct route to Canaan through Edom, and now they were forced to continue the long southern dessert road to go around Edom to reach the Promised Land. Just when they thought they had seen the last of the dessert they were forced back into it. To make matters worse they had even been attacked by a bunch of Arads. Granted, the Lord had helped them and the Israelites had defeated their foes, but still…

“And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.’ (Numbers 21:4-5)

And so, because of their sin of unbelief God withdrew the protection he’d placed over them, and allowed fiery snakes to approach the people and bite them, “so that many people of Israel died.” (21:6)

The people were soon sorry for what they’d done, and begged Moses to intercede on their behalf. “So Moses prayed for the people and the Lord said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” (21:7-9)

* * *

Note to Self: STOP LOOKING AT YOURSELF! LOOK TO JESUS ONLY!!!!!!

That’s all.

* * *

More? Ok. Here’s a tough lesson I’ve just learned.

When I pray, I cannot look at my self.
When I read the Bible, I cannot look at my self.
When I tell others about God, I cannot look at my self.

In short; whenever I’m the weakest and whenever I should be looking for God the most I cannot waste time or energy to look at my self.

Looking at my self is a simple and rather tasteless exercise; but it’s one we do often enough when we’re at the end of our rope. When we feel the weakest, we reach back into the recess of consciousness and drag out the trembling likeness of the internal self. The one we (sometimes) hate so much, but love to use as our excuse. For me it is that neurotic girl with all her psychoses, and doubts, fears, obsessions, insecurities, phobias and the like.

When I look to my self, I’m overwhelmed with the feeling that I’ll never in a million years measure up. I become so discouraged at the work in process that I begin to doubt in the almighty God who is at work in me. And it is at that exact moment when I should be drawing strength from God, that I am only feeling sorry for myself, focusing on my deficiencies, and placing myself in the spot where Satan, that old serpent, wants me at.

* * *

It took forty years of desert wilderness before the Israelites could go into the Promised Land, and even at the threshold of paradise they still had much to answer for. Their faith was not as it should have been. They were still a mess—a work in progress, just like you and me. They looked into themselves and became discouraged, even impatient, and so doubted God.

The fiery snakes had always been in that desert, and for the past 40 years had never bothered the Israelites, for God’s protection was always with his people. When the people doubted God and eschew his blessings, they placed themselves away from his protection–right where the enemy wanted them. But what they needed to bring them back to life was Jesus.

They only had to look to the serpent in the pole which represented Jesus’ life-giving work for humanity.

So when the serpent comes after you, and you’re feeling weak, look at Jesus. Don’t look to yourself, your current circumstances, your shortages, etc. There is no merit in you at all.

Look to Jesus.

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:14-16)

For That ONE Person

If you could sacrifice yourself, give every drop of your life’s blood, and every ounce of your flesh in the fire for the sake of saving all your family–would you?

How about for that one member of your family who is rebellious, who has decided to cut all ties with mum and dad, who curses at you when you approach them, and just wants to be on their own doing their own thing–even if it means that they are rushing headlong to an early and violent death? Would you?

If your answer is yes, then you are a better person than most. There’s a bunch of people out there who claim they would, but if I (and you) think about that person who I’m still struggling to forgive because of all the hurt they have caused back in my childhood– sometimes the answer is an uncertain “yes” at best.

The universal family includes all of us here on earth, the angelic beings in heaven, and the other beings we don’t really know about from other worlds God has created. Of the untold billions of members in that family, our little world is but a mere speck. A black speck. A smudge in the perfection of God’s kingdom.

Jesus could have been asked the same question by wonder-filled cherubim who couldn’t understand his choice.

“Are you willing to die for that black speck? By the people who run away from you when you approach them, and who will curse you, torture you, tear you apart, and nail you on a cross? Will you continue to love them knowing they might not love you back?”

We know the answer.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, NKJV)

By his life and His death, Christ has achieved even more than recovery from the ruin wrought through sin. It was Satan’s purpose to bring about an eternal separation between God and man; but in Christ we become more closely united to God than if we had never fallen….Through the eternal ages He is linked with us….By love’s self-sacrifice, the inhabitants of earth and heaven are bound to their Creator in bonds of indissoluble union….The earth itself, the very field that Satan claims as his, is to be not only ransomed but exalted. Our little world, under the curse of sin the one dark blot in His glorious creation, will be honored above all other worlds in the universe of God. Here, when he shall make all things new, the tabernacle of God shall be with men, “and he will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God.” – E. G. White, Desire of Ages “God With Us”

If we are Christians, we follow and do and say what Christ would do and say too.

Would I be willing to seek others? Willing to sacrifice the comfortable habits of my life for the sake of ONE person who needs to be reached?

Or has the miracle of self-sacrificing love not become a reality in my life?

Wings

How much faith do you have? And when you ask for things in prayer–with “faith”–is it to proclaim the goodness of God? Or is it just to satisfy needs? This is a Bible Study based on a sermon I heard a year or so back, that brings some more truth to what faith really should be.

* * *

There is a peculiar word whose meaning I would love to share with you.

It is the Hebrew word for “corner [of garment]” = ḵânâp (Strong’s number: h3671). It is used many times in the OT (Old Testament). Such as in the following verse:

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the people of Israel, and tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a cord of blue on the tassel of each corner. And it shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, not to follow after your own heart…so you shall be holy to your God” (Numbers 15:37-40)

In the text above, God instructed the Israelites to trim or edge their robes with blue, and at the corner (extremity) of their robes add a tassel. This was for the purpose of remembering the Lord’s commandments.

One thing of interest is that the word ḵânâp is the same word is used to denote wings, either literal (like for birds and angels) or figurative, like the border or edge of a tunic or robe, as is used in the passage.

As the OT is about to come to an end, the word appears again. This time it is part of one of the most beautiful promises pointing to the coming of the Messiah.

But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. (Malachi 4:2)

And the word for “wings”? Yes it is ḵânâp.

  • How would you interpret the meaning of this verse?
  • Would you take the literal or figurative meaning of the word ḵânâp?

Now if we take the word’s literal meaning, we could say that Messiah would rise like a (figurative) bird, with healing in its wings. It’s poetic and lovely, and I think most people would interpret it this way.

But here’s an alternate way of looking at it. For that we need to go to the NT, and read about a particular event in Jesus’ life.

While [Jesus] was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” (Matthew 9:18-21)

Obviously the language changes to Greek in the New Testament, but the word used for fringe still carries the meaning. “Fringe” used here (Strong’s number g2899), also means the same as ḵânâp “wing” “corner”, and “tassel.” Furthermore, Strong’s  emphasizes this connection between the word as found in the NT and its OT counterpart ḵânâp.

* * *

But for you who fear my name the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. (Malachi 4:2)

  • What happens if we take instead the message of Malachi as it comes: that is, the Messiah rises, and healing can be found at the corner of his garment?
  • How does that throw new light into the motivation of the woman who touched Jesus’ garment?

The woman’s act of bending down to ground level and touching the corner of his garment was not borne out of her timidity or shame at her situation (well, obviously there was some of that—but she could have also touched his back, his long hair, or his sandal if it only came to that). Her choice of touching the edge of his robe was far from arbitrary, for she remembered from the promise that the Messiah would bring healing in the corners of his garment.

Her act of faith is now seen for what it really was: It was her way of proclaiming to the world that Jesus was The Messiah which the prophets had spoken of.

Not many people in his days easily made the connection between prophecy of the coming Messiah and Jesus. In fact, most people missed the point. Is it any wonder Jesus wanted to stop and find her—and give recognition for what she had done? Is it any wonder that she is the only one of the women for whom it was ever recorded that he called “Daughter”?

For if we ask for miracles, shouldn’t their main purpose be to proclaim the goodness of God?

Based on a sermon by Pastor Garrett Speyer

While Reading the Bible, Discard the Brain (But Keep the Heart)

Most cultures in antiquity designated the heart not only as the seat of emotion, but also the seat of thought.[i] That’s why the Egyptians, for example, extracted and discarded the “useless” gray matter (i.e. brain) prior to the mummification of the dead (“Who cares what this mushy stuff is?It’s just gross… Hurry up and get it out”).

The heart, however, was jealously and carefully stored, because it was responsible for life, desires, and thoughts.

This same attribution occurred in the Jewish culture, which is why in the Bible the meaning of so many passages in which the heart is mentioned should be re-considered—there is additional depth to the heart than we can suppose upon a cursory reading. It is, therefore, convenient to re-define the meaning of heart as used in the Bible. Better yet, discard the notion/function of the brain as the seat of thought and keep the heart instead.

According to some sources, the heart was the “seat of all morality and of all moral and spiritual functions.”[1] This encompassed the conscience, and the thinking self.

In short, what came from the heart was much more than emotion. It was thought of as “the authority within.”[2] In other words, the will.

* * *

 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

By the fact that “heart” is mentioned in this passage, it describes this love as being much more than a love based on emotions; it is based on a total surrender of the will and the self. A love coming from what makes you you—a conscious love, not a heedless, reckless thing.

This begs the question—how does one love God like that?  How can we, people who have so distorted the definition of love to include everything from affection, to fleeting infatuation (even erotic passion), properly respond? Is God simply asking for the impossible?

* * *

I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

God’s promise is to give you a new heart—and with it a new way of thinking, a new way of making decisions, a new way of being your own self. That is what makes the promise in Ezekiel so much more meaningful than before. God wants to give you a new set of values by which you are able to live by. Obedience of his law comes natural to the new heart he gives you, because it has transformed the “authority within” you. It is no longer you, but Christ who lives, thinks, and is in you.


[i] It wasn’t until Herophilos in Alexandria (Egypt) did many studies in human anatomy by means of dissections, that the center of thought was relocated from the heart to the brain, and the mechanical connection between the heart, the pulse, and the flowing of blood in the veins was first grasped.