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.

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Perfection - the ultimate example is God - The example our Lord gives us is not that of a good man, or even a good Christian, but of God himself. “Be ye therefore perfect”…

Perfect

“…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt 5:44-48 NIV)

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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.

A letter to my Church Sisters

A Letter to My Church Sisters

Dear Church Sisters:

First of all, thank you for drawing me out of my shell yesterday at church. I wanted to run away instead of talking and listening to you. Why? Because I’ve come to hate small talk that includes questions such as: “How are you?”, “How was your week?”, and “How is work?” Ugh. You have a particular gift of holding down timid people like me and making good use of each encounter; though I wanted to run away you still managed to bombard me your good advice.

The truth is I am doing ok, but it feels like I’m doing badly. My week was very busy, though it felt like I was wasting a bunch of time, and work–well . . . can we please have a conversation that doesn’t involve work? Work is well enough where I left it, two or three weeks ago when I quit. I don’t want to talk about work, I feel nauseous, and apologetic, so let’s please drop it.

Please understand, Sisters, that I am bewildered at life–It’s not at all like I thought it would be. I’d always known myself to be smarter and talented than most. But life is about grit and determination, not just ability. And to get the job you really want is mostly about who you know more than your GPA and the awards you get. The discovery of truth felt like having the ground you stand on suddenly drop out. Furthermore, it’s embarrassing to admit that I don’t have it together, that I am struggling against the feeling of failure in most areas of my life.

It’s come to the point that the place where I could find comfort and refuge–the church–has become a place that I dread going to because I look at so many happy and fulfilled people and I find myself wishing I could be like them. Finally, it’s because there I encounter people like you; people who make me uncomfortable, that persist in drawing me out, and challenge me to embrace the future, and love myself regardless of my circumstances. I hate it. But I realize I have more reasons to love it than to hate it. Because family and people who really care will give you advise, and will deliver that smack in the back of the head to put you back in reality, and tell it like it is–and all in love.

That is why I have to say Thank You. Thank you for caring enough about me. I was annoyed, and I even felt like crying in the restroom after talking to you. But I know you are right–and I know that it was very good advice. I expected no less from a real church family.

I know this phase will soon pass. God willing, I will soon find my place in the world where I will do the most good. And one day my heart will be filled with love and compassion for a young, bewildered youth who is feeling lost and lonely and insignificant. When that day comes, I hope to be wise and caring enough to return the favor–just as you did.

Sincerely,

Paula (on behalf of the Young Adults in your church)

Long-Distance Relationship

I still remember the boy I loved. How can anyone ever forget the first requited love of their life?

It’s been years since then, and I’ve turned into a wry spinster of sorts. But still, I can’t forget random small memories of him. Like how, for example, he once caught me in a hallway as I passed, pulled me inside an empty classroom, and laughingly whispered a few bits of nonsense in my ear before letting me go on my way, with my face burning, because he’d just kissed me.

Ours was a tender relationship, with the blessing of our respective parents to boot. Who knows, maybe it would have fledged into something serious. Alas, it was not to be, because the inevitable happened—my first boyfriend moved away, ending the small gestures of affection that characterize puppy love, and leaving behind a little girl crying out for her first love.

* * *

I am the first to tell my friends that a long-distance relationship cannot work. Lovers’ promises of undying affection and devotion cannot survive the great divide of time and space. Or can they?

* * *

“…and be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20 NLT)

When I read the last chapter of Matthew a few months ago, I was incredibly perturbed. I felt a great and extreme sadness. How could anyone that loved Jesus, that walked with him, that enjoyed close friendship and communion with the Son of God not be overcome by the sorrow? Sure I knew about the logistics of the master plan—the Holy Spirit coming to earth as the comforter, etc. That wasn’t the point.

You see, I knew the singular pain that comes with the realization that things are not the same, and that the hope of eventually meeting up again is not enough to keep a relationship going.

* * *

“…I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” (Jeremiah 31:3 NLT)

If it were up to us humans to keep the relationship going (if it were based on our love and faithfulness), then surely whatever relationship we could have with Jesus would end soon after it sparks into being. But God’s love is as everlasting as God himself is.

I take hope in the knowledge that God himself is the guarantee of this relationship working out even when we can’t enjoy physical proximity. I believe that the ties of love that bind you and me to heaven are stronger—infinitely stronger than any human-forged ties. There is no beginning of His love, nor an end of it. It is boundless and ever present.

Physical separation is not enough to break such ties, and neither is our betrayal or our sin or our forgetfulness powerful enough a reason to break the love of God.

* * *

I bask in the knowledge that there is one who loves me greatly and tenderly. I read his love letters every day, and talk to him continually.

I’m 27 years old, my love life is a total wasteland. To most people I appear to be the one that disdains romance, who is proud of being the opposite of a man-magnet. A cynic. But truly, that’s all just a flimsy front.

My Heavenly Prince is the one that makes and keeps me hopelessly and incurably romantic.

Doormat

And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I will be loved (2 Corinthians 12:15)

When I began this blog I said that I wanted to share about what I learned as I looked to God. I wanted to share with others my spiritual journey. I was feeling very smug in Christ, I suppose. Please excuse me. I was on the Blessing stage.

Lately I’ve been examining myself and why I do what I do. I’ve been searching within my heart, and scrutinizing my motives. Is my service to others a duty? Is Jesus in the center of it all?

I think about how dejected I sometimes feel because I think that I’m not making much of a difference in people’s lives or making any significant positive changes in my life as a result of the service I do…but mostly (this is mortifying to admit but necessary to say), I feel like I keep making people a priority when those same people think of me as second choice, or replaceable.

Quite honestly, this struggle did not exist until I got a job and suddenly every precious minute counted. And my time finally began to be equated with money. Last week the struggle came to a head. Yes, I’ve reached the Broken stage….I think.

Last week I read a quote from Oswald Chambers from My Utmost for His Highest

The mainspring of [our] service is not love for men, but love for Jesus Christ. If we are devoted to the cause of humanity, we shall soon be crushed and broken-hearted, for we shall often meet with more ingratitude from men than we would from a dog; but if our motive is love of God, no ingratitude can hinder us from serving our fellow men.

That paragraph blew my mind. Chambers goes on to say that with the realization of how Jesus deals with us and how he has “saved us to the end of our meanness, our selfishness, and sin, nothing that we meet with from others can exhaust our determination to serve men for His sake”

He presents us with Paul’s case, Paul’s willingness to become a “doormat” for others for Jesus’s sake. He was met with abuse, ingratitude, calumny from the ones he gave the gospel to. He was persecuted, beaten, almost killed…and still he did what he did—he was a doormat for others to make use of—only because of his love of Jesus.

My soul-searching this week did not reveal to me that my motives are pure. On the contrary. I am selfish. I serve others, but in my heart of hearts I expect them to return the favor, or at least give credit when it’s due. That’s wrong.

I’m also a fake. Because there’s a few people whom I know who look to me for some spiritual guidance, and I cannot give them anything. Well. I DO, I listen to them and talk to them and they walk away feeling good or at least feeling better. But I think that is also wrong. How can I minister others? Was I not the one that recently complained to my mom Who will minister to ME? And Why doesn’t the person I care about, care about ME for once?

It’s a wonder I’m still compelled to continue writing in this blog. But like I said before, this blog details my spiritual walk with God, and this is where it has led me. Whoever said that transformation from the sinful human to the Holy nature was like a pleasant saunter?

No one said it.

One-Sided Love

The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee (Jer 31:3)

* * *

It’s him!!!!

Every cell in my body thrilled. I became short of breath as a million tiny pink butterflies suddenly burst into existence inside my stomach and began cavorting inside in a wild and chaotic manner. Crazy, bothersome things. I bet they were to blame for my racing pulse, for I could hear my heartbeat drumming—nay, thundering—in my ears. Deaf and blind to everything around me, I was only conscious of a strange, delicious, weakness. And yet, my fingertips tingled as if charged by electricity.

In my hands I held my cellphone. And in it I read the first text message he ever sent me.

He asked me how I was!!!

He hoped my week was going well!!!

It was poetry! And the best part was at the end when He asked if it was ok to call me!!!!

I laughed. I could not believe my eyes. YES!!! Yes of course you can!

And so began a steady correspondence with Mark. Every text he sent me triggered the rebirth of the crazy butterflies, and caused me to drop whatever I was doing just so I could read it, dwell in every single word—and, of course, to reply to it.

* * *

And yet . . . I knew that Mark did not mean anything romantic by it. I just knew it by what I read in his eyes whenever we would look at each other. If our eyes met he smiled as he would to a good friend. I, however, melted under his gaze.

I was, of course, very conscious of the fact that I was the only one who felt excited over the frequent texting and calling. I was also very conscious of the fact that my love was one-sided, and that the nature of this relationship could very well mean that just as he had capriciously began this habit of calling/texting me because of the big project we were working on together, to tell me what he thought of this or that or to ask me what I thought about something or other, he could very well choose to end it at any point.

And that was my greatest fear. What if that happened? What if after the end of this semester there would be no excuse for that constant conversation—what would my life look like during the winter break if I did not have that to look forward to?

* * *

I have made so many promises about praying more to God to know him better, and seek him and his will….but….I think I am at times capricious about it. Even more than Mark was. I am the one who breaks it off, and despite having some idea of this great wonderful love that is mine for the taking, I break his heart by not realizing its full value.

We all tend to be that way. That is why I don’t think it’s necessary for me to explain it further.

Only let me tell you this: Remember that, above all, God is a Lover.