Letter to a hurting little girl…(and to any hurting little girls)

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Dear child,

I know the pain you’re enduring. I weep for you. I weep for how isolated and unloveable this pain makes you feel. I weep for how this pain will adversely affect the rest of your life. I weep for all the dark times ahead that you will have to endure. I weep for how broken your life will feel. How broken you will feel.

But I want you to know something: this pain is not your fault. You are not to blame. You are not to blame for the scorn of others. For the taunts of others. For the callous remarks of others. For the rejection of those who simply, in their own brokenness, didn’t know how to love you. You are so, so special, my child. You have a beautiful imagination, a keen intelligence, a sweet spirit, and a wonderfully sensitive soul. Your circumstances and trials do not define you. You are, beneath your humble exterior, a little princess. Like Sara, in one of your favorite novels, A Little Princess. She chose not to let her circumstances and the way others treated her define who she was. She held her dark, little head high, remembering that true princesses are not princesses merely on the outside, but princesses on the inside. And that is what you are as well, dear one. Remember that.

So hold on, sweet little girl. Your life will not be an easy one, and you will probably always feel a bit different from others because of the things you’ve had to endure, but never, ever let that uniqueness pull you down. Instead, embrace it, remembering your uniqueness is what uniquely qualifies you for the tasks and plans ahead. Remember that uniqueness when, one day in the future, you meet other boys and girls–and even adults–who, like you, have known tremendous pain. Your own suffering will enable you to have a greater empathy and compassion for others who suffer.

Lastly, dear child, know that you are loved. You may not feel loved, and you may feel God has abandoned you, but the truth is that His tender hands are what hold you, and for His own mysterious purposes that you currently don’t understand, and perhaps may never understand, He has allowed this pain in your life. If nothing else, He will use this pain to draw you to Himself, the only source of unfailing love, which, even if you don’t feel it, is always, always there. Hold onto Him, even when doubt and anger cloud your vision. He is holding onto you, and He loves you so, so much. One day in the future, when you hold a dirty, bedraggled little street girl in your arms, you will experience a taste of the love your Heavenly Father has for you–the kind of love that will hold you close even when you feel dirty and bedraggled. He isn’t the legalistic, perpetually angry God you’ve been exposed to since birth. I promise you. He isn’t.

One day, child, you’ll make it through all this. Don’t lose heart, though many dark days lie ahead. I know the tears you shed, and the pain you feel, for they are the same tears I shed today, and the same pain I feel today, but I know now that, though the journey through the valley of the shadow may seem endless, I do not walk it alone. You aren’t alone, dear one. He is there. And He weeps with you. He knows. He sees. And He holds you close.

So remember: no matter how others treat you, no matter how gut-wrenching your pain, you are, and always will be, a beautiful little princess. And may that enable you to hold your head just a little bit higher.

Most affectionately,

Your future self

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Pressing on…no matter what

This past Saturday I had the opportunity, via my community college, to visit and take a brief tour of the university I intend, Lord willing, to transfer to next fall. The visit excited me about my future goals, but was also a much-needed wake-up call to the realities of the possible major life-changes I am facing in the near future.

I am not your “typical” college student. It has taken me sixteen—sixteen!–years to figure out what I want to do with my life, and so here I am, in my thirties, pursuing a bachelor’s degree. I don’t regret many of my life choices over the last eighteen years or so–I’ve spent nearly a year living abroad, I’ve traveled to other countries, where I’ve done missionary work and volunteer work such as teaching English, and I’ve had many other life-enriching experiences. I’ve also worked at various jobs, some pleasant and rewarding, some very stressful, unpleasant and unfulfilling, which I think have made me a pretty well-rounded, versatile person. All of my experiences since graduating high school oh so many years ago have shaped who I am and have helped me discover where my passions, interests, and strengths lie, so that, finally, I can say with some degree of certainty: THIS is what I want to do with my life. I am definitely a late-bloomer. And I am ok with that.

Part of my late-blooming journey can definitely be attributed not only to my indecisiveness, but to not-so-pleasant life circumstances beyond my control, such as a major health crisis in 2007 that not only sent me spiraling into debt from medical bills, but into a mental and emotional breakdown which I am still trying to recover from. My life has not been easy. It has been characterized by setback after setback, and many physical, emotional and mental struggles, to the point where, even now, if I don’t see things improving in a very dramatic, immediate and tangible way, I am so tempted to give up. To give up on life, to give up on trying to get better, to give up believing anything good, happy, or ultimately lasting will ever come of my turbulent existence.

So my visit to the university this past Saturday left me with mixed emotions. I absolutely loved the campus–it was beautiful, with grand, old buildings, steeped in history (the university was founded by one of our first presidents), and full of a lively academic atmosphere that got my pulse racing with excitement. I could just imagine myself poring over my books in one of its spacious libraries with vaulted ceilings, strolling along its green lawns to my various classes, and just generally immersing myself in this whole new experience known as real college. I know, for most people my age, such feelings of excitement are long over, but having only attended community college so far, going to an actual, four-year university is both daunting and exhilarating at the same time to me.

But even as I pondered the exciting part of possibly going to this university, I also let myself face the inevitable challenges that would await me. I am no stranger to hopping on a plane and traveling half-way across the world completely on my own, to a place where I know no one—I’ve done it more than once, and I enjoyed it. In fact, I’d be doing it now, if I had the money. I was born a wanderer and explorer, and I love immersing myself in new environments and seeing new places. So the idea of moving to another city, only about an hour away from where I live now, to attend a university, shouldn’t frighten me. Admittedly, part of me can’t wait to move to a different city, to get out of the boring, hum-drum place I live now. But, strangely, another part of me is a bit frightened. Even with all the traveling I’ve done, I’ve never faced something quite so daunting as college. On my own. In a city where I know no one. For some reason, this intimidates me more than trekking across the globe on my own (which I’d do in a heartbeat, if it was safe, and I had the money). I know part of it is that I know how awkward, alone and out-of-place I’ll feel, at least initially, amidst a throng of preppy, much-younger, partying-type college “kids.” At least at the community college I currently attend, I am not the only “older” student, and there is much more diversity over-all in the types of students that go there. So I blend in rather well. But I know the environment will be far different at the university. And I wonder how I will cope with trying to connect and form relationships with many of my fellow students. I wonder how I’ll find community in a city where I don’t know anyone. I wonder where I’ll live. If I’ll have roommates. If I’ll like my roommates. Suddenly, all these “what if” scenarios start floating through my mind, filling me with fear.

I have come a long ways from where I used to be. But I’m still struggling. I still feel fragile, faltering and unsure of myself much of the time. So this prospect of going off to a university, in a new place, while exciting, also scares me. Somehow, facing the pressures of a university environment and college life frightens me more than going to live in a country I’ve never been to before. Consequently, over the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling a bit emotionally, as I ponder not only the realities of the challenges ahead of me, but of the continued issues and hurdles I’m dealing with in my everyday life. And that’s when the dark thoughts start to push their way into my mind. You’ll never get better. You’ll never succeed. Your life will end before it’s even begun. Why bother trying. Why bother trying to get a degree. Why bother trying to change your lot in life. If you have trouble finding meaningful relationships and friendships where you are now, what makes you think it’ll be any easier in a different city? Why bother with anything? You are a failure. Yes, despite all the positive things you’ve done in your life, you are still a failure. And that’s all you’ll ever be. So give up. Just give up.

Fighting such thoughts has been very depressing. I try to give myself pep-talks, but they’re only so effective. I try to quote Scriptures to myself, but they seem to only give me temporary relief. I admit shamefacedly that I am tempted, very often, to simply listen to all those dark voices and give up. Give up on myself and give up on life.

But I’ve got to press on, no matter what those dark thoughts tell me. If there’s one thing that frightens me more than any of my other fears, it’s living a wasted, completely self-absorbed life. No matter what those familiar, dark voices of despair tell me, and even though, yes, most of the time all I can see is how far I have to go instead of how far I’ve come, I know I was meant for more than this broken life I’ve lived so far. Somewhere deep in my spirit I know. And it’s this fear of not becoming who God intended me to be that drives me forward, even when it feels like hell itself is standing against me. Perhaps one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever received was from my current counselor, who told me I was “remarkably resilient.” This came after she discovered, in greater detail than I’ve told anyone before, exactly what I’ve been through and continue to deal with. I wonder myself sometimes, why, God, am I still here? And that’s when I know, if there is any resilience in me, I certainly can’t take credit for it.

I am super excited about the prospect of attending a university and hopefully one day acquiring my bachelor’s degree. I hope, and pray, with all my heart, that if I get that degree, I can use it to serve God on the mission field. That’s my goal. That’s my dream. But the reality of the difficulties that will cross my path as I go in that direction is ever present to me. I just hope I don’t finally cave to the feelings of discouragement and despair that so often hound me. I’ve come so, so close to caving.

I don’t want to waste my life. No matter how difficult the terrain, I must keep trekking. One foot. In front of. The other.

We never suffer alone

Sometimes just knowing one isn’t alone and that others have it even worse than you do is enough to bring comfort and hope in the midst of the deepest of deepest agonies.

Two weeks ago, feeling overwhelmed with despair at my situation, I sped down a darkened interstate after midnight, just driving and driving, crying my eyes out and pleading with God to speak to me. To at least let me know He understood and cared about my pain. I drove for over an hour to a nearby city and finally turned around and headed home, feeling sleepy…but God was silent. Or at least it seemed He was. Although I heard no voice from heaven, I did see two curious sights on my midnight journey. I drove past two crosses beside the highway. One, on the way, was lit up in front of a building; the other, which I passed on my way back, was simply a string of lights in the shape of a cross sitting near the highway. I don’t know if these were “signs” from above–God’s way of simply saying “I’m here”–but I wondered. I especially wondered the next day.

The next day I went and saw my counselor, still feeling down, and I confessed this spur-of-the-moment emotional collapse that propelled me down the interstate in the wee hours of the morning. Of course, she wanted to know what caused this breakdown. I felt that tugging again, to spill one of my deepest, darkest, most shameful secrets–one that I have borne in silence my entire life, and one that has caused me excruciating pain. I told a few other people a while ago, including my last counselor, but none of these people seemed to know how to reach out to me or help me deal with it. So I feared spilling my guts once again. But, as scared as I was, I agreed to share what was troubling me one more time. Via writing. I’ll take another chance, I thought.

So I took the chance. And her reaction, like those before her, took me by surprise. There was no rejection. No judgment. Only compassion. And even admiration that I had been able to cope as long as I have with this incredible source of pain. She called me “resilient.” But more than simply showing me kindness and being a listening ear, she has begun to give me practical ideas and suggestions on how to deal with my pain. No drugs were pushed on me. No magical prayer that would supposedly “heal” me. For the first time, someone has given me more than “fluffy” or “overly spiritual” advice. She tends to be very practical, and I really like this about her. So, at her suggestion, the first thing I did was some searching on the internet, and I discovered that, wonder of wonders…I am not alone in my pain. This shocked me. It also saddened me, because, after reading some people’s horror stories, I now realize, as bad as I’ve had it, some have had it even worse.

This was such an eye-opening experience for me. To simply no longer feel alone in one’s pain–to know there are others out there who can empathize–is such an amazing comfort. One of the things that has driven to me to such feelings of despair is feeling like no one else out there could possibly relate. And it has been this feeling of “aloneness” that has led me to hide my pain for so long. I’ve always thought I was the only one. Now I know I’m not.

God hears. He sees. He knows. And for the first time in my life, I feel He has given me a concrete source of hope. I can’t explain how liberated this makes me feel. I don’t know what the next steps for me are, and I’m still a bit frightened, but I have a courage to face this I’ve never had before.

Maybe there is a way out for me. It won’t be easy. I still have many obstacles to face. But, praise God, I am no longer in this fight alone. To suffer is one thing. To suffer alone–completely alone–is a million times worse.

No matter how “scary” or “intimidating” or “shameful” one’s secrets are, what I’m learning is that holding onto one’s secrets and not bringing them into the light is far more scary. It is only in the light that healing comes. Not everyone will understand. Some won’t know how to deal with your pain. Some will reject you for it. Some will give you bad advice. But persevere. Trust God. Let it into the light. Own it. Accept it. Face it.

It’s only there that healing comes. Never, ever feel like you must suffer alone. Because, in reality, none of us really does.

Asking & not receiving

I wept in agony last night in my bed.

Overcome by pain, shame, frustration and despair.

I’d been doing relatively well recently, until, over the last several days, certain triggers sent me into a downward spiral.

Last night’s breakdown was triggered by an event earlier in the day. A happy event. An event that at least made me happy for someone else. I attended the wedding of a friend, and it was one of the sweetest, most beautiful weddings I’ve ever been to. I was genuinely happy for my friend, for if anyone deserved the kind of happiness she’d attained, it would be her. She’s one of the sweetest, kindest, godliest women I know, and she’s been through a lot, so I could never wish anything but the best for her, and seeing her happy, with a wonderful man, made me happy as well.

But as happy as I was for her, seeing her attain what I’ve longed for for so long, and seeing the kind of person she is–the kind of person I long to be, but feel I can never be–left me reeling in pain. I told God–I’d do almost anything to be like this friend of mine. I’d do almost anything to have her character and sweetness. I’d do almost anything to one day gain the kind of happiness she’d attained. But that’s when reality sunk in. Yes, I was feeling some self-pity and envy–I won’t deny it–but more than that I felt despair. And I still feel that despair. Because, after years of struggling to find my way out of an incredibly dark valley of pain, and doing all that I can think of doing to find help toward that end, I am no closer than I was at the beginning to attaining freedom, healing, and wholeness. I feel trapped. And when I feel trapped, I lose hope.

So, overwhelmed by this sense of hopelessness over my situation, and who I am, I sat in my bed last night and wept. I wept tears that only God could see. I vented the pain that only He knows about. Desperate for comfort, I opened up my Daily Light devotional and read today’s Scriptures, and they just happened to be about asking God for things. Here’s what I read, taken from various Scriptures:

“Ye have not because ye ask not. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: for everyone that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth…This is the confidence we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him…Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it–Men ought always to pray, and not to faint. The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The Lord heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles…Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.”

These Scriptures sound comforting. It sounds so easy. Ask, and God will answer. Ask, and you shall receive. The problem is, what if you ask, and you don’t receive? What if you ask, and God doesn’t answer? I’m not talking about asking for materialistic, petty, selfish, and shallow things. Jesus said that the Father doesn’t give His children stones when they ask for bread. But sometimes I feel like that’s exactly what He gives me. I’ve been asking for bread–wholeness in body, mind and spirit, deeper friendships, meaningful fellowship–for a long time. But all of these still elude me. I’ve had tantalizing tastes of each, but every time it seems I come close to gaining these things, and breaking out of my darkness, I’m thrown back in, with more devastating force each time. And so I begin to question God. I begin to doubt His goodness or that He even hears my prayers. Because it seems to me that the things I’m asking for are good things. Things that any loving Father would want to give His child, especially if He wants that child to grow in holiness. So what am I doing wrong, I wonder? Am I so screwed up and sinful there’s no hope for me? Am I beyond redemption? Has God just tossed me aside?

I hope one day I can look back on what I’m writing now and say to myself, you silly fool. O you of little faith. But when you’re in the midst of pain so deep and excruciating that it feels like a knife through your soul, and God seems apathetic to your cries, it’s tempting to simply give up. Especially if you’ve been crying out for deliverance from your pain for many years.

I hope I can trudge on. I know that I’m merely venting right now. But hopelessness and despair are crushing my soul more and more often these days, and if something doesn’t happen in my life soon to bring me some hope, I’m scared of what might happen to me.

In my moments of darkest despair, I simply want to see Jesus’ face, like the sinful woman I wrote about in my previous entry. I wish I could have an encounter like hers. Because I’m just like her. I know I have the Holy Spirit. I know I have the Word of God. But the thing I long for the most, when the pain and shame are the deepest, is simply to see Jesus. Face to face. To have Him tangibly in front of me. Because sometimes walking by faith, and not by sight, is the most frustrating thing for me. I long to touch, to be touched, to feel, to know. And having a relationship with an invisible Person, Who’s often silent and distant, isn’t conducive to these longings, and is never easy, no matter what anyone says.

I’ll keep on praying, as the Scriptures urge me to do, and try not to “faint,” but I don’t know how long I can hang on, if God doesn’t answer at least one of my prayers soon. All I can hope for is that He hangs on to me when I have no strength to hang on myself.

Losing Eden

Shattered. Hollow. Fractured. Battered. Bruised.

This is me. My soul. My brain. My heart. Who is this young woman? I barely know her anymore, she’s so far removed from the young woman and little girl I used to be.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon wandering through some of my childhood haunts, enjoying the peace, solitude, and beauty of a sunshiny autumn afternoon. The house I spent most of my childhood in now sits empty, victim of an unfavorable economy, and so I sauntered unhindered up the drive, my eyes scanning the place I once called home. A flood of memories washed over me….mostly good ones….ones of innocence and imagination and days spent in carefree abandon. I sat on the well in the back yard, reminiscing, remembering days gone by, in which I used to play in that back yard with my siblings. Tears slipped down my cheeks before I could help it.

Why is it we never really appreciate something till its gone? I’d give almost anything in the world to have my childhood back, to have my innocence back, to have my imagination back, to be that little girl I once was. Even with all her pain and heartache. Because my childhood was indeed painful. Often excruciatingly so. But the world was still less dark then than it is now, even with all the pain I experienced. I was naive then, not totally crushed and cynical like I am now. I coped because I could imagine my way out of my pain. I coped because I lived in an idyllic setting, out in the country, surrounded by acres and acres of woods, who always beckoned me with their comforting presence whenever I needed to get away for a good cry.

Though many of those trees I once called friends have now been cut down, I greeted the ones that remained yesterday, wondering if they remembered me. Of course, that may seem silly, but to a nearly friendless child, stately trees that never mocked or abused, but simply stood still and silent and listened to my outpoured heart, were often far better friends to me than humans were. I’ve always thought how much of a kindred spirit J. R. R. Tolkien would be to me, were he alive, for he seemed to have the same view of trees. I could so easily imagine, as he did in his Lord of the Rings books, trees being alive and having personalities. In my frequent wanderings in the woods growing up, I’d always imagine I was entering a magical realm, where the trees were more than mere trees, and perhaps lurking in their shadows were elves and dwarves, trying to evade my curious eyes.misc. 043

Such was my childhood. One that, despite the painful parts, contained enough beauty and innocence and imagination that I can look back now and wish I could somehow return. There’s such a big part of me that wishes I’d never lived past my childhood. That I might’ve been spared the extra trauma and pain and descent into darkness that has characterized the last 10 to 15 years of my life. That I could’ve stayed the innocent little girl I was, instead of morphing into this hollow, fractured, cynical woman I’ve become. Quite simply, I’ve lost myself. Especially within the last 5 years. Pain too deep to even describe has shattered my mind and heart, morphing me into someone I barely recognize anymore. How much better, I muse, to have died young, than to end up where I am now. I keep hoping I’ll wake up one morning and find out most of my life has merely been a bad dream.

But I keep waking up to darkness. To pain. To an overwhelming sense of loss. Where nothing makes sense anymore. Where I can no longer look at my life and believe there’s necessarily going to be a redemptive, fairy-tale ending. I used to believe that. Writing stories, believing good can eventually come from bad, helped me hang on. I could look at my life and say, things are bad, but they’ll get better. And I’ve been trying to tell myself that for over 20 years. Now, I struggle to believe that anymore.

And it’s not just my own pain and darkness that have fueled this cynicism. The increasing darkness all around me has also shattered the innocent, safe world I once knew. I now live in a world where I read a story about a little girl who was abused by her parents, then raped and killed by a predator. She had no fairy-tale ending. She never had a chance. Yesterday a young man opened fire in a school, taking the lives of twenty precious, innocent children. Those children never had a chance. No fairy-tale endings. Only darkness and tragedy.

I am not the only one shattered, fractured, battered, and bruised. It seems the world at large is careening toward the same abyss I am. I am not the same person I once was. Nor is the world the same world I once knew. Innocence has been lost. Light has been replaced by darkness. I think I understand a bit better now how Adam and Eve must’ve felt when kicked out of Eden. No matter how much they wanted to go back, to relive their innocence in that idyllic place, they were forever banished. And it feels like I too have been forever banished from the simple, innocent joys of days gone by, when life seemed a little more beautiful, and it made far more sense.

I have lost my Eden. I have lost myself. And though I can revisit my old haunts, and those haunts can conjure up sweet memories from the past, all I’m left with is a tantalizing taste, and not the real thing. I can never go back. No matter how hard I try.

I’m heartbroken.

To other lives of silent despair

How many other lives are out there, pieces of silent wreckage floating in storm-tossed seas, their hearts, minds and bodies broken seemingly beyond repair, and no one sees? They put on their brave faces, not wanting others to see their pain, all the while feeling as if their whole world is crashing down on them. Or perhaps, their whole lives have been spent in “hiding,” masking the agonizing pain they endure, day in and day out, because they know unmasking that pain might mean utter humiliation. Or even when they try, in their own feeble way, to get help, to share that pain with others, they are misunderstood, dismissed, and ultimately forgotten. And so, the hiding continues. The pain continues. And one’s life often feels like a nightmare one wishes one could wake up from. One feels helpless, trapped in a soundproof glass cage, screaming in agony and despair, while everyone else simply walks by, blind and deaf to the cries of the tormented.

I know there must be other people out there who know what this feels like. I know I can’t be the only one. I wish I could meet these people. I hope, some day, if I ever get out of my valley, and God delivers me from the wreckage that is my life, I could minister to these people. That my pain would not be in vain. That is one of my most frequent prayers. There has to be some purpose to what I’m going through and have gone through. I can accept my pain if I know it will ultimately bring about good. It’s on the days when it feels like there is no rhyme or reason to my broken and battered life that I want to give up. That I want to end it all. Because who I am and what I’ve been through make absolutely no sense.

It’s no surprise to me when I hear of those who “unexpectedly” take their own lives, while friends and family shake their heads in dismay, wondering what would prompt someone who “seemed” happy and ok with their life to do such a thing. My advice: never, ever assume someone is ok or happy just because they act that way around you. The so-called “experts” say there are always clues to look for in someone’s behavior that should indicate depression and suicidal tendencies, but I would argue this is not always the case. Some of us can be extraordinarily gifted in hiding and masking our pain. And I think it has less to do with personality than it does with simply living in a Western culture where the weak and broken are marginalized. Where strength, good looks, power, self-confidence and other superficial qualities are esteemed. And sadly—and here I go again in my thoughts on the church—even the Western church, as a whole, seems to esteem the superficial and the strong. So it’s no wonder to me when someone “unexpectedly” takes their life. We are too blind and self-absorbed to see those around us who might be suffering in silence. And those suffering in silence, when they can finally no longer handle the weight that they carry, choose to end their pain by ending their lives.

Despite the despair I often feel, I don’t intend to end my life. I choose, against all odds, to believe something good will come out of all my agony. That God will keep His promise to bring me out of my Valley of Achor. But I know there must be others out there in this wide world that are also suffering in silence and believe they’ll never escape their pain. I wish I knew such people. The tragedy is that those of us who are suffering in silence are separated by that very silence. I wish that could change. So that no one will ever feel compelled to take their life “unexpectedly.”

Hope amidst the agony of despair

Last night and early this morning I lay in my bed, the tormenting and despairing thoughts so overwhelming me I had difficulty sleeping, which is rare for someone like me, who usually sleeps far too easily and soundly. Finally, things came to a tipping point this morning, as I dressed and did my toiletry routine in the bathroom. Tears had already been slipping discreetly down my cheeks, but suddenly the despair, frustration, and pain were more than I could handle and as I sat down on the toilet lid, I burst into agonized and loud sobs. There is a fan that runs pretty loudly and constantly in my little bathroom every time the light is turned on, and so usually I feel safest in the bathroom venting my cries to God, but, alas, this time even the fan was not enough to deafen my sobs.

I first need to explain that since the end of 2010 I have lived with my grandmother, and while this has been nice and beneficial in some ways, in other ways, especially in the area of privacy, this living situation has been very difficult for me. My previous living situation was with another family member, in a large house, out in the country, and to a private person like myself, who enjoys nature and a “closet” to shut myself away in with God, it was ideal. Whenever I needed a place to truly vent my tears and cry out to God, or to find solace simply in a walk outside, I had somewhere to go to. Now I’m stuck in a small house in the suburbs in an upstairs room in which everything I do is heard downstairs, I live with an overprotective and inquisitive grandmother, and it’s not even safe for me to walk alone in the neighborhood. I am extremely grateful I have a roof over my head at all, and that my grandmother’s overprotectiveness is really an indication of her care and concern for me, so I am careful not to complain about my current situation, however, it has shown me how blessed I was before. It has been a challenge my nearly two years here to find any sort of privacy—usually, to find it, I have to hop in my car and leave the house.

So, naturally, I was alarmed and embarrassed this morning to discover my efforts at concealing my pain via a bathroom fan were futile. I have vented in the bathroom before—feeling it to be more soundproof than any other room in the house—but those times must have either been in the evening after my grandmother was in bed, or maybe I simply didn’t sob and wail with the intensity that I did this morning. Whatever the case, this morning I was finally “caught in the act.” I heard my grandmother shouting up the stairwell, asking me what was wrong and why I was crying. I couldn’t have been more mortified. I stifled my sobs enough to reply I was ok and not to worry about me and knowing that she could hear me, I finally brought my crying under control. She asked no more questions, and when I finally went downstairs, about to walk out the door, I tried to act as normal as possible, and, thankfully, she didn’t pry any into my sobbing episode. But now I wonder if she will say something to my parents, my mother specifically, with whom she has regular chats. And if she does so, will I then be uncomfortably questioned by my mother?

I guess only time will tell. But in the meantime, as the pain and despair only build within my heart, I’m realizing I have even fewer places to go to where I can truly vent my feelings. The most agonizing part of all this is how desperately alone I feel in my struggles. Of course, God is with me….that much I know intellectually, but when one’s heart is breaking to pieces sometimes all one wants is the human touch—a friend to hug, to cry with, to pray with. And although I have a few good friends, none of them has a clue of what I’m truly going through, because I’m afraid to tell them. I still keep people at arm’s length, afraid to be vulnerable because it seems every time I am, I am hurt, let down, and/or abandoned. Even in the Body of Christ I feel there is no one I can trust, and thus continues the vicious cycle I feel trapped in, and thus increases my despair.

I don’t know what to do anymore. Some days, like today, it seems like I barely have the willpower to go on living, and yet, for some reason, I can’t quite bring myself to attempt to end my life, because I always think, but what if? what if, despite the living hell that has been 90% of my life, and the hopelessness I see when I look down the road ahead of me, God has a surprise in store for me? If I ended my life I would be robbing myself of that one remote chance that God could possibly bring joy and hope and healing and redemption into my ruined life after all. So, against all odds, it’s that “remote chance” that keeps me alive I guess. And maybe that’s really the grace of God. Because, in all honesty, given everything I have endured, I shouldn’t be here right now. I really shouldn’t.

Thoughts on the church & my lingering valley

I’ve been reading over previous entries in this neglected blog of mine, reliving the trials, tears and triumphs I’ve been through over the last few years, and it saddens me to realize I’m no closer to exiting my Valley of Achor as when I first entered it. I had hope for a while that I was nearing its end, but that hope was soon cruelly smashed to bits. My spiritual state as of now more closely mirrors the despair I felt in my last entry than some of the more triumphal moments of deep spiritual insights I have experienced in the past. I feel adrift at sea, clinging with one hand to a single floating beam labelled “God’s Grace” amidst towering waves and shark-infested waters.

Despair still tempts me sometimes beyond what I feel I can endure. God has done some amazing things in my life, and if it weren’t for His grace keeping me, I know I probably would have ended my life a long time ago. I currently can’t complain of too much—I’m still going to school, I have two part-time jobs that, while not very financially rewarding, keep me off the streets at least, I have a roof over my head, and I have a wonderful family. I am grateful for the blessings in my life and try not to take anything I have for granted, knowing how easily it could all be taken away from me. But then there’s always the “but.”

And the “but” is this: though my outward circumstances may not seem so bad, the internal conflict, emotional and mental issues, and private pain I have endured for most of my life still torment and nearly drive me to the brink of sanity itself sometimes. And though I have tried reaching out for help, though I have tried nearly every avenue of deliverance I can think of, all has proved ultimately fruitless and even damaging in some respects. And the increasing feeling within my heart, which I do my best to squelch with prayer and God’s Word, but still can’t shake, is that I am slowly suffocating to death. Trapped by my own weaknesses, pain and sin and unable to get the attention of the brothers and sisters in Christ whose love, correction, and fellowship I need so much. I keep hearing “you need community and fellowship with other believers” to truly be healed and set free, but what if community and fellowship are the very things one has difficulty attaining? What if connecting with other Christians is one of one’s chiefest difficulties? How does one find healing in what has only brought mostly disillusionment and pain so far?

And therein lies my dilemma and the source of most of my frustration and despair. Send me to some garbage dump filled with poor people, or to a group of dysfunctional and lost souls, and I will feel much more at home than I do in most churches. And I still can’t figure out if this is because there is something really wrong with me, really wrong with most churches, or perhaps a combination of both. All I know is that I feel stuck between a rock and a hard place and wonder if God intends to ever bring me out of my valley after all. I know there are times when I’ve chosen to stay in my valley, simply because I’m afraid of freedom and healing, but now I feel that even though I want freedom and healing perhaps I am too screwed up to ever be helped by “normal” Christians. The church is supposed to be a hospital for the sick and wounded, which is exactly what I am, but I’ve found it to be instead an intimidating place full of people who seem, unlike me, to have their lives together and don’t even glance my way. Thankfully the Lord has blessed me with a few good Christian friends, but I find it interesting that almost every Christian friendship I’ve acquired through the years has formed outside the four walls of a “church.” Again, does this say something about me, or about the church?

These are just some of the things I’ve been pondering lately as I fight to overcome the ever-threatening despair lurking at my doorstep. Especially as I desire to serve God in some capacity, be it in Bible translation or some other mission-related opportunity. I’m realizing I have some serious issues with relating to most of my brothers and sisters in Christ, and whether this is my own fault, theirs, or a combination of both, if I can’t find a resolution to it, I don’t know how I will ever be able to truly serve God, because I’m certainly not meant to serve Him on my own.

Thus, my feelings of despair. Thus, the sinking feeling I get when I gaze at the Valley of Achor stretching out before me, no longer giving me a view of a door of hope, but instead more of the same darkness I have endured nearly my whole life long. I don’t think I’m bitter or resentful toward those in the church who have hurt and abandoned me, but I am extremely disillusioned. I go to church, I say hi to a few people, I sing, and I listen to a good sermon, but I always leave feeling as lonely and overwhelmed by my problems as when I entered. Surely this is not what the Body of Christ is supposed to be like?

I don’t know what to do anymore. I feel so trapped. With no way out. Just clinging with what little strength I have to that beam of God’s grace in a tempest so frightening that it threatens to make me lose sight altogether of the God Who is bigger than the waves and the storm….and the sharks.

So this is life….

How far I have fallen.

How far away God seems right now.

How much my soul hurts.

How much my body needs healing.

How much my mind needs healing.

How full of anger and frustration I am.

What has happened to me?

Why does my valley of Achor seem endless?

I feel like I’ve hit a brick wall.

Hopeless and hurting, I’ve almost given up completely. On God. On life. On everything.

I feel as if I’m simply drifting along aimlessly.

Last night I lay in bed shaking and clenching my fists at God, weeping, feeling such an intense agony inside that I felt like smashing things in order to release all the pent-up words, feelings, frustration, and sheer hopelessness inside me.

How have I come to this.

Is there any meaning and purpose to life?

How can one truly know God?

Am I going to end up in a mental institution after all?—my greatest fear of losing my mind growing ever more and more of a possible reality?

Why am I stuck here?

Why can’t I simply GO???

Why did God create me, when He knew what pain I would endure, and what a screwed-up person I would turn out to be? What is the point of my existence?

I know I’m wallowing in self-pity right now, but I don’t care. I just need to vent. Because I have no one to vent to. No one but a God Who doesn’t say much in response, and this blog.

God, help.

God, speak.

God, save me.

Sadness

Sometimes everything just hits me like a ton of bricks.

Today was one of those days. I sat for about an hour on a pasture fence, underneath a deepening twilit sky, bats swirling overhead, lightning bugs blinking softly all around me, birds chirping…….and I simply wept. Sobbed like a baby. And I actually contemplated going off somewhere nearby to try to end my life.

I am not doing so well right now. It’s hard to be in the pit of deepest despair, sadness, and loneliness, and hide it away from everyone one knows. It’s hard to want a shoulder to cry on, but have none. I have God, but His comfort is not the physical kind. And how much I long for the physical kind right now.

I do not know what to do. Just keep praying, I guess. Just keep clinging to God with what little strength I have, and hope that He will keep me from harming myself or completely losing it.