My Story – Before Him

A preface…

Since this is a blog about where my heart and God’s story collide, what could be a better backdrop than my own background, including original and subsequent collisions? It’s probably overdo. That said, these next few posts are kinda winding and long because, by nature, life stories cover whole lives. Or, lives up to the point of telling. And while I am calling this “my story,” it’s only so to a degree, since one’s story is always inextricably linked to others. So where I feel sharing my story will hurt or reveal too much about someone I love and I know they’re not ready to share, I use discretion with broad descriptions, limited details, or the telling of it at all, simply because their story is theirs to tell. My ultimate goal is transparency, but in order to honor those I love, some details have been left out.

Now for the why? The simplest answer to that is, because I feel led to. Kinda like this entire blog business to begin with, which is basically my attempt at obedience to a call from God I think I hear. But, it’s also because we humans share many things in common, including battles, blessings, and scars, and I believe in a God who delights in sharing the truth of them. A God who actually searches for this truth in our inmost being. A God who cannot lie and therefore fights for us to live free in His Light of Truth. And, I believe that bringing truth into the light provides a healing and relief from the realm of darkness like nothing else can.

What’s more, I just have this hope that if I let you in on my inside, you may be more willing to let God into yours. Or, maybe you’ll relate to one of these places or seasons or struggles, and you’ll know you’re not alone. Maybe you’ll even tell me, so I know I’m not alone. And, then maybe – just maybe – we can walk out our stories in complete honesty together, towards healing, hope, and wholeness in the body of Christ. In unity. The way I believe it was intended.

Mostly though, I’m sharing it because, while this is indeed my story, I pray you see very little of me in it, and instead see God, The Hound of Heaven, Who has relentlessly and undeniably pursued me all my days. The God Who is also pursuing you! And I pray with everything I have that you can trust Him enough to give Him the WHOLE of who you are, as you walk out your story both In and Through Him.

A Children’s Tale

Sometimes a children’s tale is the best way to get a big idea across, so here’s my attempt at one:

Once upon a time there was this little girl who had the love of her whole world. And although she felt that love with every breath, she could never seem to feel all that much at rest. And while she walked the world with many she loved and loved the many in her world as best as she could, something still seemed so unlovely about her heart. She just couldn’t be okay, basically from the start. Sadness, frustration, fear, and feelings that overwhelmed, were easy to find. She struggled to get ahead, to catch up, and always felt too far behind. She was as fragile as glass, but learned to cover it with a fiery anger and venomous tongue. Then would silently voice that venom daily to the person she’d become. She wished she was different… looked, acted, or felt. And wished she could be enough, not so much, a little less, and certainly not such a fantastic mess.

Every choice she made seemed to be for her harm and all the guilt and shame she carried began to suffocate any charm. Her life held many moments of beauty, laughter, and love, it’s true. But, there was this cloud that followed ‘round, leaving the atmosphere shades of gray and blue. I often wonder about her thoughts and emotions, why they were so many? About her hopes and dreams, why they were so few? I wonder why she felt so broken and stuck in a world with so much left to do? She was a glass half empty. An unused vase. So much potential, but a basket case.

Some days she’d pretend to have it all together. Many days she couldn’t get out of bed. Every voice that swirled around her became the voice in her own head. How could she know anything at all, when she cared so much what they all thought? How could she love anyone, when she loved hating herself a whole lot? She thought about harming her life, though something always gave her pause. Fear just seemed her best friend, with or without cause. Sometimes I believed her too introspective, too much in her own head. Too broken, stuck, and filled with questions to ever settle down and simply live.

She thought she knew what she wanted, but became her own worst enemy. She never understood the world around her and compromised all integrity. She had no excuse to live the life she just couldn’t stop herself from living. She made no excuse and every excuse and gave in to most temptation.

See, I’ve thought about this girl on so many occasions. I’ve wondered “Why?” and “What if?” and “If only?”, though no longer wonder how she made it. Because the truth is, her Prince Charming finally did came riding to her rescue. And with His love and blood and broken body, saved her, while wiping clean her record.

A Broken, Yet Repairing Itself Love

Now, for some context. Without one shadow of a doubt, I was born into love. And although it was a somewhat broken, yet trying to repair itself because it was recently rekindled after some years apart kind of love, it was love all the same.

Think two people, brought together by tragically tough childhood circumstances and poor choices made entirely way too early. Think two people who’d experienced close to a life-time’s worth of living by the ages of 25 and 30. Think two, no, let’s make it three people by counting my 9 1/2 years older than me sister [And yes, that math is shocking, so don’t feel bad if you gasped after you subtracted from our parents’ ages. It happens to the best of us!], who each welcomed their newest addition with excitement and a renewed hope for another chance at lasting love.

And as for the faith side of things, well that was a bit broken, too. So much so, that one could’ve easily missed its presence entirely. In our family, faith was more like a well-worn security blanket, thinly veiled and woven loosely throughout the branches of our extended family tree, with most of its threads barely visible in lives bruised and battered and many ideas and beliefs way too scattered to ever truly lean on, let alone try and pass down. So, it was likely more of a nice thought than anything else, and certainly one that seemed way too out of reach or daunting to deal with for my parents, especially in the more messy moments that made up much of my childhood.

As such, my personal experience with all things faith looked basically like this: I was taken to church for a short period of time as a very young child, where I napped on mom’s lap; I attended one vacation bible school around four years old, where I only remember awkwardly donning paper chains on my wrist and ankles in an even more awkward skit performance; I have a few vague memories of Sunday School with friends, plus one much brighter memory of hanging out with another sweet friend whose mom often read us Bible stories after lunch, which I really enjoyed, though can’t recall any details. There’s also the time I remember having a thought sort of about God lying in the grass as a young girl. While staring up at the clouds and looking for shapes, I remember wondering whether or not there was a heaven. But, just like those clouds, the thought quickly passed from my mind’s view. Now, people are often surprised when I say this, but it’s truly is the only time I remember thinking about God while growing up. I simply never considered Him in any serious way. And finally, from high school through college, my sister and her husband brought me to their church any chance they could get, though I remember no details.

Yet, there was still and always the love. And yes, it’s that one thing that matters so much in a family – because even broken love can cover a multitude of sins.

And there’s absolutely no denying its wide reaching and completely enveloping existence on both sides of my family. Crazy as it could sometimes look, each truly seemed to love their own in the grandest way they were capable of loving. Truthfully, never a day went by that I didn’t feel loved unconditionally in my family of origin. Oftentimes even favored and doted over. And, not until I was an adult did I even understand that many people can go whole lifetimes feeling unloved in their own families! So, I am grateful for all that love. I am grateful for every single loving member in my great big, loving family. It truly was lovely to feel so loved.

Because, this kind of love is good. And, so important. The best of all the earthly gifts, really. It’s absolutely crucial to reaching adulthood with some chance at success. There is no bonding without love. And attachment issues lead to all sorts of long-term relational disorders. We all know this.

Alone and Overwhelmed

But, it’s also what makes my story so hard to understand sometimes. Because I was truly loved. Unconditionally. And I didn’t experience abuse or loss or serious trauma. And I was raised in a two parent home, living the esteemed American dream, with many friends and encouraging relationships, plus likely more than my fair share of opportunities and natural gifts that left me with very few external struggles, leaving one to easily conclude I had everything a child needs to thrive. And, likely, I did in most ways…

Yet, there is no one who gets through this life without pain and my story has its share. You see, there were actually some deep wounds and family brokenness beyond my ability to control or truly comprehend, which left me to often feel confused, hurt, afraid, or angry. I was also that quintessential 80’s latchkey kid you’ve likely heard about. By eight years old I was coming home to an empty house, so felt very alone. In fact, “lonely” was how I’d go on to refer to myself for many of the years that followed. At the time though, it was just the way it was, so I’d usually fill up all those afternoons and summers with phone calls, TV, all the friends I could gather, a good amount of childish trouble, plus a fairly sizeable share of overwhelming thoughts to ponder.

And as the years passed by, these overwhelming thoughts began to magnify, and something started to seem wrong with me on the inside. Like my children’s story alluded, life could oftentimes feel more like the shadowy, scary parts of the worst kinds of fairy tales, before the rescuer appears and the good ending happens. Even though I felt loved, I rarely felt at ease. I was instead very shy and fearful, plus often unhappy with myself, wanting to simply be “better.” At anything and everything. And while I wasn’t exactly sad all the time, I often felt exhausted because I wasn’t who or what I wanted to be and couldn’t find a way to achieve it. And the emotions brought on by those endless thoughts and fears, seemed way too heavy for my head and heart to hold, much less understand.

So I grew up into this loved, yet sad kind of girl, with a quick grin and giggle, plus a fair share of other cover-ups. Because we often wear masks, don’t we? We can look around and feel like nobody struggles the same way and quickly learn to play pretend like we’re four years old again. Dress-up and all. Until all we have left is a version of what we feel is best, or worse, what we think others want.

And I was eleven years old the very first time a mask slipped off, exposing just enough fear and self-hatred to mix toxic with one too many of my overwhelming thoughts void of satisfying answers. It was a Friday night and I was home alone. I took a bath and suddenly this idea enveloped me, much like the steam that was rising from the hot water in that tub.

See, that entire day and evening I’d been distraught over a minor thing really, but in that moment I believed it to be the worst thing and the idea of silencing all that poisonous swirl suddenly became an actual option, so down into the water I sank. And I counted. And I really enjoyed that I couldn’t hear a thing anymore but my counting. And I remember opening my eyes and knowing I could sit up, and I wanted to – and I didn’t want to – all at the same time. Until I had to. Thankfully.

Eleven years old. And, I never told. Not for a long time, anyway. This was my secret.

Before I go on, though, I feel a need to be very clear and careful here. I’m in no way comparing my personal experience with any of the more serious struggles in the area of suicidal thoughts or attempts. Trust me when I say I understand well the difference. However, I do want to be open with my story, which sadly does include a few dark moments of wishing an end to some of the most overwhelming pain could come sooner rather than later. And while this fortunately wasn’t a desire I had to battle too often, in a few of my lowest places, I did consider more seriously a “how” and unfortunately moved in that direction. The first time was the bath. The next time was with pills. The third, a razor. Thankfully though, each of these moments also held thoughts of family, plus a fair amount of fear of the unknown, and I was gratefully spared any undesired outcomes.

Because death wasn’t truly what I wanted. I knew that. And so, for me, these experiences simply became more like a backdrop to my exhausted mind. Or, like the formation of those clouds, “that followed ’round.” I couldn’t name why or explain them. Like the loneliness, it was just the way it was. And deep down, what I do believe I always knew, was that I was really only desperate to end – or, at least make sense of – all the overwhelming feelings that haunted and the thoughts I couldn’t find enough strength to battle.

Out of Control

What I found instead, was a life of compromise and experimentation, surrounded by cycles of shame, fear, and anger, plus an innate ability to hide, while very intensely hating myself for all of it. Revolving relationships, skipping out on responsibilities, compulsive behaviors which included obsessively picking at my skin and other minor forms of cutting and self-harm, plus repetitively poor personal choices that circled around my life like mini tornadoes, ripping across the landscape, until I basically followed nearly every one of my desires deep inside a dank and dingy basement full up of more pain, shame, regret, and fear.  

And my mind and heart seemed to race nearly non-stop with self-directed negative thoughts and their resulting overwhelming emotions, leaving me to feel out of control and unable to meet my own standards most of the time – until I eventually just gave in and lived out of control. If it was available or accessible, I likely attempted it. If there was a line, I wouldn’t simply cross it, I’d very often leap over it with both feet knowing full well I’d suffer consequences later. I rationalized and bought all kinds of lies and made up my own to suit any situation. It almost felt like, if I was gonna regret it later, I was all about doing it then.

That was never a conscience thought, mind you, but it was what kept happening and I seemed to lack any control over stopping it. I was essentially my own worst enemy. I can’t explain it any better than to say: I really struggled to make lasting decisions that would benefit me in any of the ways I’d been taught were important. So, I simply indulged in a lifestyle well beyond my years and outside of the knowledge of most. I could dress it all up sometimes with masks of pride, words, or the grin, and even short-lived actions, but still felt exposed.

And there, I basically stayed, trapped. On any given day, I just couldn’t seem to live up to my own ideas of what I believed made me acceptable. They could be about the silliest of things, too – which were usually only the amplified voices I chose to cling to and allow to define me while I grew up.

One might say I suffered from perfectionism or depression or some form of OCD or ADD. Or a personality disorder like borderline, or even anxiety. And one wouldn’t be off base, either, since a couple counselors and doctors expressed these same sentiments over the years. To me now though, they’re each only labels that explain certain behaviors that can really only take you so far in any true, lasting healing. [Although I am a believer in therapy and medicine when you need it, which I did need and utilized to help me for well over a decade.]

And so, as you might imagine, by the time I was well into college, it was hard for me to even look in a mirror. I knew I was hurting myself. I also knew where and what and who (mostly) I wanted to be. I’d been reading self-help books for years and was quick to look at others and see what their problems were (yuck!). I chose to major in Psychology and even went to a few counselors to try and sort out many of my own issues, looking for the why and resolution of it all.

Yet, when it was all said and done, I still couldn’t seem to get the me I was, to be the me I felt I needed to be. So, I remained this massive wreck and all the anger at all that wreckage started to pour out on anyone who came too close. Especially myself. Until eventually this anger became a badge of honor because it was the only thing that made me feel in control. It seemed to ease my fears and was a way to let out my emotions without looking so weak and wrecked. But, every time I raged, I was only left with shame and on it went…

But let’s save all that for Part Two❤️

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

Ephesians 2:1-3

9 thoughts on “My Story – Before Him”

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