Last week, I wrote a two-part series about Friendship, which focused on the concept that vulnerability leads to courage. As I have thought more about some of the messy, painful parts of my own story; the parts that leave me feeling exposed, I realized that although I am not unique, the journey I have taken may be. Though initially unconscious of the steps I have taken to rewrite my story, I have most definitely moved through a process where I can now live peacefully with my past.
This is not to say shame and regret do not rear their ugly little heads every once in a while and try to pull me into that dark place, where self-protection and self-sufficiency reside; leaving no room for others, they certainly do. And even though this is a painful place, it strangely feels safe because the only one who can hurt me here is myself. You know this place too. I think we’ve all visited at one time or another. Some stay longer than others, while others never leave. What happens in this place, however, is hurt grows, bitterness creeps in, and the light becomes blinding. If we choose to stay in this place, rewriting our stories will be impossible!
I’ve heard it said that “What we think determines how we feel, which then impacts how we behave” (I wish I knew whom to credit for such geniuses).
Think about this for a moment. I bet every one of us can pinpoint either a story or a situation where our thoughts have been high-jacked! Our minds play on loop: I’m not good enough, I am unlovable, I’m unfixable, I don’t amount to much…” These falsities poison our minds and somehow, if we are not careful, we can actually believe them. Proverbs 4:23 cautions us when it says, “Be careful about what you think. Your thoughts run your life”.
What we can derive from this is Satan wants us to get caught up on the external things we do, not our thoughts. If our thoughts are the wellspring of life, it is essential we begin here as we rewrite the ending to our stories.
We cannot change our past. We can undo what has already been done. We have endured heartbreaking things. Harm has been done, trust has been broken, lies have been told. So, if we are going to rewrite the ending to our stories, we have to get ready to “prepare our minds for action; be self-controlled; set our hope fully on the grace Christ is giving to us” 1 Peter 1:13-14 (paraphrased).
What that looks like:
Understand that wrestling with our past, as painful as it might be, is necessary in order to move forward. It’s ok to mourn the loss of innocence, the loss of a childhood, to face that we did not get what we needed, or the fact that what we had was stripped away from us, etc. It’s OK to acknowledge that parts of our stories are wrong, bad, evil, painful. We don’t like these feelings; they hurt. They are the very ones that cause us to run the opposite direction, to glaze over these parts of our stories, not just because they are uncomfortable to us, but we know they make others feel uncomfortable as well. Somehow, we have made ourselves the decider of what they get to feel. (how silly is that?)
My glazed version of one of my stories: I was raped. I’m kind of comfortable leaving it right there. It’s all most people can handle. No questions asked, no details to share. Minimal pain ensued.
Here’s what wrestling with that looks like:
I couldn’t function for days—even the basic tasks such as getting dressed were hard. My body felt as if it were moving through sludge and yet, my mind felt as if I was floating in a numbing hazy. I avoided the mirror because I didn’t want to see myself. I felt ugly. I felt ruined. I feared everyone could tell by looking at me what had happened, which in one moment moved me to tears and in the next, hardened my heart. I feared making love with my own husband for months afterwards because every time I closed my eyes, I saw my attacker’s eyes; and every time my body began to relax, I was jostled by the imaginary feeling of his heavy-handed grip on my waist. I wondered if my bruising and tearing would ever heal or if I would be physically damaged as much as I was emotionally damaged. Flashbacks haunted me both day and night for seeming forever. To be honest, I don’t remember when they became less frequent. It just seemed they were always there and then disappeared; though even now, 17 years later, I am startled by something and my mind replays that night.
Sigh. That hurts to write; really hurts. And it is that kind of pain we glaze over to make both ourselves and others feel more comfortable. However, if I chose to stay in this pain and live, as a victim, my thoughts will hold me captive. I will be locked in an imaginary cage, suffocating. And though I am fully protected here, I would spend my entire life pining for freedom, where I could grow and thrive as God intended me. And you as well. With Christ, we have the power to stop the chatter and to cling to a life in FREEDOM.
Brene Brown says it this way, “[We] either walk into [our] story and own our truth, or [we’ll] live outside [our] story, hustling for [our] worthiness”.
No one gets to hold that kind of power over me; nope, I’m not gonna let that happen. I own my truth. I get to say where the story ends.