I close my eyes and listen. The soft sonata of bugs humming outside my window; a vacuum droning on downstairs; a phone echoing on speaker down the hall…I can feel the yellow light from the kitchen streaming into the dark where I sit, laptop ablaze.
I open my eyes. A baby gecko shimmies silently up the wall and I watch him for a few seconds before resting my fingertips on the keyboard.
I think a lot, admittedly. I really love to think. There are very few times when my brain truly rests from processing my world. I can paint, or swim, or marvel at something so beautiful it makes me freeze for awhile and stop thinking. But normally, all day long, day after day after day, my head swarms with things. Things to write about. Things to share with those who will listen. Though when I sit down to elaborate on one of these thoughts, I often feel too overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of things in my mind that I can’t seem to pull out the thoughts I want to use.
So, this is what I do: I sit and close my eyes. I slow my mind by shutting my eyes and opening my ears and senses to my surroundings. Tonight, the darkness feels like a blanket around me. The air is warm, calm, and there’s something oddly comforting about the muted noises that seem to spread smoothly over the otherwise quiet room.
I enter this meditation, only for a moment sometimes, and instead of trying to write what I think, I tell myself, “Write what you feel.” And this is how I find it. I find my voice here; find the words and the emotions and all the things I seem to lose through all my endless thinking and distracting. For as wonderful as it is for me to write, I sure do fight it. I don’t know why it seems so hard to face the pain, but I find myself heaping on one distraction after the next, in an attempt to avoid something that I believe is too unbearable.
I tend to fantasize a lot, but this escapism only leads me to more pain in the end. As someone who finds clarity, peace, and joy in writing, and an outlet for creativity, suffering, and all the internal thoughts roaring inside my head; you would think that I’d be writing all the time! What is it that makes me avoid the very things I know are good for me, best for me, and walk straight into the things that I know are bad?
I breathe deep to lean in.
Will shame ever stop suffocating me? Leading me? Right into the hands of the ones I know will treat me “as deserved” – or so the lies I can’t seem to stop tend to go. I wonder how many other women wander the streets sometimes, thinking that maybe they belong with pimps and John’s. Does anyone else find themselves inching along that line, believing that they’re worth nothing more than the dirty money passed around filthy men’s hands? Hands that vie for the atrocious relief of their own brokenness, by tearing up your body, your soul?
How did I get here?
This is a road that I wouldn’t wish for anyone to walk.
I breathe deep to forget.
And this is what I feel: I feel the unending ache of it, that it’s somehow all my fault, even though my brain tells me it’s not. Where butterflies are supposed to fly and hearts are supposed to expand and thrive and enjoy life, there’s a choking heap of a ground up soul inside, and I’m the one grinding it these days. Iron spears stick out of me from every angle, but each time I try to defend by shoving one out at the world, I push it deeper into my own mess of shredded humanity. I don’t want this lens anymore, I was once the happiest of happy people. And I have chosen the attitude of gratitude and the path of life, but still this battle never ceases. And when I see only through my pain, I know that things aren’t as they appear.
I just want to see truth, to see from the top of the tapestry, from the bird’s eye view – not this tangled mess of discouragement, disappointment, doubt, and despair. I’m supposed to be the living, the fully alive, in a world where people walk in shadows and they don’t even know it.
I breathe deep, this time, to remember.
Remember what I so chronically forget. The miracles. The testimonies. The stories of faith that have shaped history and shaped my own life. This is what I remember: I remember truth. My truth, that no one else can know, no one but God. My shoes, that no one else has walked in, no one but Jesus. My pain, that no one else can feel, but this one, perfect being chose to bear for me. And I remember the joy I’ve known because of him, the playfulness, the whole-hearted-belly-laughter that he created. I remember the way he’s opened my eyes to see the beauty all around me, even in the ugly places, just like he sees it. I remember how I’ve locked myself up and shut out all the love that he tried to offer, and how he so slowly and gently drew me into his safe presence until I could let him touch and break open my hard heart. Or how he lures me away to the secret, hidden places, where I am alone with him, and he whispers to my heart the words I thought I’d never hear. And how the peace I find there holds me tighter than any fear or any failure or any fundamental lie I’ve believed.
Finally, I flicker through the darkest moments: I remember suffocating half to death over a toilet bowl after swallowing all the rape-kit pills the doctor made me take, and how I heard you speak it so clearly as my lungs held on for any bit of oxygen; “You’re not going to die like this.” And you made my chest stop heaving and my body lulled to sleep beside my one friend who always loved me more than I could return. I remember how I’d trap myself in the bathroom and sit my thinning body on the shower floor, praying for a miracle, and I didn’t know it then but you were there holding me closer than I’d ever known.
I remember how he had me starving: starving for love, starving for nourishment, starving for hope and protection and kindness. How he degraded me night after night and I had no voice, and when he was about to do something truly unspeakable to me, how you said no when I could not. How even though I couldn’t see any light at all anymore, you wouldn’t let me suffer any longer, and you said it for me: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” – and brought me out of the darkness I was in.
I remember when I found my first dog, my best friend in the world, choked to death on the floor, and how I screamed and wept and held onto her body as we slid around in the backseat of the car, speeding pointlessly to the vet. But I remember how it broke my dead heart right open and it saved my life when I cried that day. And how you comforted me with the wet, hot tears from my own eyes leaking onto the pillow where she used to sleep just one day before. The memories go on and on, and from the outside, maybe it looks like a tragedy. But from my inside view, it’s been a journey of honor, one of knowing you are real and knowing truth apart from understanding and hope no matter what happens.
And as I remember, I think, “What if my story isn’t nearly as important as I’ve thought, and at the same time, infinitely more so?” Could I learn to live, just simply live a life? An ordinary life that doesn’t chase acceptance or self-glory or grandiosity, but simply serves humbly and loves sacrificially and feels passionately and gives all its got. What if the most extraordinary things are really the most ordinary things done with Love’s great purpose? I want to know the stories of hope and faith, humility and courage, sacrifice and the outrageous power of a life given like yours, Jesus.
The power of testimony is a power that can’t be explained.
When we testify, when we speak of what God has done, an unseen force reaches out into the places where no man can go. Our stories, told for freedom, shake loose the hardened hearts and the imprisoned souls, liberate the hopeless and oppressed, and strike the enemy like a venomous snake, with fangs of victory that scream “I WILL NOT GIVE UP!”
And though I don’t always feel it, and though life is filled with uncertainty, I know this: I haven’t come this far to give up. He hasn’t loved me this fiercely so that I would sit in a religious bondage that knows nothing of the naked intimacy He longs to have with us. He’s always been for me. Always been in love with me. Chose me before I chose him. Chooses me when I am against him. Loves me when I’m cursing his name, crushing his heart, mocking his holiness to cover the shame of my impurity. But it’s God’s own fragility that He chose to weave into the sinning skin of humans. It’s this humble mix of strength and softness, beauty and delicacy, power and longing – that makes us bearers of his image.
And maybe telling my story, really telling it, is what sets me free from the fear of man. Maybe it’s what sets me free from the opinions of others. I know that when I begin to talk of Christ, I begin to suffer, for the world hated him and it will hate me because of him. But I cannot be the unfaithful in this moment. How can I turn my back on the one who gave everything and suffered all things to redeem my dirty heart? For his love for us, he sacrificed himself. And He offers perfect love while I offer a wicked, lustful, wandering heart. He says, “by grace, through faith” is all it takes. If we believe He is who He says He is. And this is all I’ve ever wanted: to be known and loved. All any of us wants, if we’re being honest. We are, more than we could ever know.
I want to know the extraordinary stories of ordinary people. People who aren’t shouting their own splendor across the world, but who are living to bring glory to God through their one little life. It’s not the telling of our stories for our own benefit, but the release of our testimony for the freedom of another and the glory of God: this is why we testify. And the testimony of a character is most powerful through the lips of someone else, so God allows us to witness for him.
So, let US tell YOUR story, God. Let US testify of YOU...Christ in us.
P.S. Don’t hesitate to contact us with your own powerful testimonies of God’s love. We would be honored to feature your story!