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.

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Hounded By His Presence

That autumn I was nearly always upset.

I was broke.

I hated the cold and the rain.

I was still attending the church meetings—hating them, hating Zuri, hating God.

I hated myself even more, though. If only I’d been more careful this wouldn’t have happened. If only I could just stop, then I could go, bang on Zuri’s door and her to get lost with her church and her prayer meetings.

She was convinced that only with the help of God would I ever be free–How I wished I could prove her wrong.
But I couldn’t. I was only a dumb animal. I had no self-control, and no strength to refrain from destroying myself. The intelligence I had been given was absolutely wasted on me– Or so I thought.

“How long?” I’d asked that fateful afternoon she found me out
“Until you stop destroying yourself like this”
“How would you know that I actually stopped? I could just lie to you.”
“You’re right. I wouldn’t really know. You could lie to me. But in the end your life trajectory will show it. And besides, you could never lie to God.”

While on the subject of self-hate, I really hated myself for clinging on to my belief in God. Millions of people–indeed, whole countries–had abandoned the idea of a god. So why couldn’t I? Why?

And why couldn’t he just leave me alone? The knowledge of an all-knowing and omnipresent deity hounded and tormented me. Worse, He had begun to make himself present there on the bathroom floor in those moments when every thought or trouble should have been erased from my mind. My heartbeat and breathing could become dangerously faint, but even then I could sense it…

His presence, which had followed me down into my darkness.

 

part 9 of If You Only Knew

Negotiating a Miracle

I began to contemplate having a relationship with God for entirely selfish purposes. But what does it matter to Him why you come, as long as you come to him?

Wretched and feeling incredibly lonely, I was sobbing in the restroom after having been sick. I looked at my face in the mirror.

Oh, man…

I’d only lasted two weeks.

“How pathetic,” I said to the bloated face that stared back at me, “if things are like this, who would ever come to love you?” I splashed my face with cold water, and dried it with a towel. Then I trudged on to bed.

“Who would ever love you?” You say? Idiot. Terry said he liked you.

Yeah, but Terry—come on! Terry?

I thought about my good friend of almost two years; saw his crooked smile, and the awkward gait of a guy who is still trying to get used to a considerable growth spurt. Gone was the pudgy boy of my childhood, and in its stead was a guy who was not at all bad-looking. I remembered the long afternoons at the library as we processed books and chatted about life. He’d never judged or said an unkind word about me or about anybody—but then I’d never really told him everything.

My face crumbled, “Oh, Terry. If you only knew…”

It wasn’t that I liked him and I regretted turning him down. Romance was unthinkable. I was more upset about the things I’d said, and the friendship I’d lost. How great it would be to have an undo button in life. That’s not possible, or won’t be until some genius invents a time machine. To end it all is also impossible, as I said before.

Then, is it possible to wipe everything clean and start over?

I thought about it. Once in my life I’d been granted that wish. Can a miracle be repeated more than once in a person’s life? Could I somehow negotiate a miracle, the way I negotiated…other things?

It was then that I prayed for the first time in years.

And I think I was still under the influence.

 

part 5 of If You Only Knew

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If You Only Knew – Part 5
Wednesday Word Count: 354

Love’s a Joke

In a way I’m writing this (telling you about Terry and all) as a way to apologize to him.

I hurt Terry a lot, and I’ve always regretted it. He was a very good friend—timid to the point of being made fun of, but affectionate. Sweet, loyal, and hopelessly optimistic. Furthermore, he was the first guy in my life that ever really liked me, which means a lot, because this was back when I was “morbidly obese”, and I had nothing much going for me except, perhaps, my GPA.

Someone once said that in order for a person to love someone they first have to learn how to love themselves.

So then what was I to do? I who did not fit in the school desks and who waddled comically when I was supposed to be “running” the mile? I who was hopelessly trapped in a torrid vortex of self-destruction?

The end conclusion is that Terry picked the worst possible timing to tell me all about his feelings for me. Or he simply picked the wrong girl. He was shortsighted, you know. Or maybe some buddy of his dared him to it as a cruel joke.

But who am I kidding?

The real conclusion to this is that I did not and I could not believe there was anything attractive about me. The fact that anyone thought I was beautiful when I was an absolute mess, and that somebody wanted to cherish me when I only wanted to hurt myself, was too much to believe.
Nothing good came out of this affair, except a new low point in my life—and a broken friendship.

That is how some people come to think of love as only a mean joke.

 

part 4 of If You Only Knew

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If You Only Knew, Part 4
Word Count, ~300 Words

If You Only Knew

I lay on my back on the linoleum floor, unblinking and unfixed eyes staring up at the stained white ceiling of my bathroom.

The house was silent.

Minutes—or hours—later, I came to myself again, feeling that overwhelming feeling of nausea and guilt that always overtook me back when I was an addict and the buzz inevitably ended…

God, I did it again… I can’t believe I did it again…

I believed I’d gone far too deep for remedy; I no longer even cried. There was only an immense disappointment. I hadn’t even lasted a whole month before relapsing…and I had tried so hard…

I cleaned up the mess as best as I could and jumped in the shower, trying not to wince was the scalding-hot stream punished my body. Then gasping as I finished it up with a blast of cold water.

Smelling clean and feeling fresh, I brushed my teeth and combed my slick, long, black hair. I put on clean clothes—a tee-shirt, shorts. My glasses.

By the time my mother came home and the slanting rays of the summer afternoon filtered through the tree in the front yard, I was already clean, sober, and sleeping. I was the typical 17-year old loafing around at home during the summer.

And no one who knew it. Not even the one person that knew me best, suspected what my mother and father could never guess at…

That I wanted to die and end my sorry, good-for-nothing, disgusting, worthless, life.

* * *

When I was nine years old it began: the self-hate. Early in my sophomore year I’d talked to the school shrink, and she’d explained it all without much success. What I did know was that it had its roots in my childhood, and that it was somehow all tied up with an unabated appetite.

Mara, my mother, had seen the early signs when I was nine; children are so transparent. Furthermore,  it takes time and practice to be able to hide things from your mother and to lie successfully to your family. At nine I could not explain away the stray slip of paper and the black writing it contained. She gave me a good and long talking to, and that was the end of it.

But not for me.

 

part 1 of If You Only Knew

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~ 300 words for Wednesday’s Word Count. Don’t really know where this story will lead…