I M P R E S S I O N S / / G U E S T B L O G
In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! For I have overcome the world. // John 16:33
Heartbreak is inherent to the human experience. In our journeys through the valley, it can be easy to lose sight of the hope and promise we have in Jesus. This series is designed to offer hope, encouragement, and purpose through powerful testimony, shared experience, and the redeeming work of the Father.
In nursing school, during our most stressful seasons, my professor would have us close our eyes, take a cleansing breath, and think of a place that brought us peace, intentionally training our minds to take us there.
For me, my place of peace was always the ocean.
The smell of salty air twisting in the gentle breeze, leaving my lips with the faint taste of the sea. Standing exactly where the water greeted the land, sinking my toes deeper in the sand. Inhaling and exhaling with the roll of the tide. Letting the waves crash over my sun kissed legs. Lifting my face towards the sun, goosebumps traveling throughout my entire body as the rays of light warmed my soul. The deeper and deeper I traveled into the ocean, the less outside noise I could hear.
But what if my perception of the ocean was completely distorted, and instead of experiencing a place of rest and refreshment, all I could see was the possibility of drowning? A place where fear reigned and hope had no say. The ocean - an angry tempest that pulls you underwater unexpectedly, with the possibility of never coming up to the surface for air. Being held down unwillingly while you struggle to break free. The punishing continuous pain as your lungs start to cave in, making something as natural as breathing now seem impossible. You are surrounded by a haze of sheer panic as you begin to realize that you are totally alone, sinking deeper into the dark. No one will save you, you start to think. No one can hear your cries. No one can see your hurt under the surface - this is the feeling of being in an abusive relationship.
I spent a majority of my college career engulfed in fear.
I felt it when I was rejected - made to feel unworthy. I felt it when I was abused and couldn't tell anyone, believing somehow it was my fault. I felt that I needed to hide who I was, apologize for who I was, over compensate for feeling "less than". Because I was away at college, I was able to hide the deepest parts of myself from my dearest family and friends. I played the role of the diligent nursing student, spending all-nighters in the library while everyone else partied and skipped class. I poured all of myself into my relationships. College for me was a time of trying to find my identity, I wanted to fit in so badly. As I searched for affirmation in my relationships with guys, very slowly I let one in particular distort my view of myself and of my life.
I was no longer able to function on a day to day basis without the gut wrenching thought that someone was out to harm me. A dark cloud of fear consumed my every thought and every action. I couldn’t eat, and the times I did force myself to eat, I threw it back up again from anxious thoughts of never feeling safe, even in my own dorm room. I barely slept, and when I did I was so submerged in fear that losing sleep was better than what awaited me in my nightmares. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I hated who I was and felt shackled to shame.
If you have never been in a toxic relationship, from an outsider's perspective one wonders "Why didn't you just walk away at the beginning?" But what is misunderstood is that it's a single occurrence, one burst of violence or rage that starts the snow ball effect. The reality is, instilling shame and fear into another human being is a very gradual process, like drowning in an ocean, you slowly become isolated & alone. They apologize for their actions, promise they will change, with nothing to show for it down the road. It's a vicious cycle that sucks you in deeper and deeper.
I have no explanation as to why we encounter painful experiences. But what I do know is His love is the only thing strong enough to break through the lies of the enemy and reveal the truth of who we are in Him.
Is in not interesting that the symbol of our conversion is that of water?
I think back to my first genuine encounter with God, which happened after walking away from that relationship. It felt like a wave, crashing over all of my fears and failures, cleansing me despite the fact I knew I didn't deserve one bit of grace. The idea of cleansing through baptism that Jesus speaks of throughout the scriptures, shows us that we have to come near death, by dying to ourselves, that we might come back to the surface and experience new life.
In Luke 3:21-22 when Jesus is getting baptized, the heavens opened up and the Holy Spirit descended on Him like dove. A voice from heaven proclaimed, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” God extends that same statement to you & I. You are so loved.
God delights in you despite all of the times you deliberately turn away from Him.
The more I let that resonate in my soul, the more He heals the deepest wounds and scars of my past. Jesus died bearing our shame and sin on the cross, but He did not stay there. As He rose from the grave, so we rise from the water being set free from oppression and bondage. Jesus sets us free, but it's up to us to decide to walk into that freedom. When we surrender wholeheartedly to Jesus, and allow ourselves to be submerged in His complete and cleansing grace, the very places we thought would kill us, can become our places of peace - entire new worlds to explore with the new life we are given.
I share my pain because is it a part of my story, but I don't let it define who I am and who God has called me to be. I now have the honor and privilege to walk alongside women of all ages carrying around the guilt and pain tied to their pasts, and I get to love them from a place of coming alive in the only One that can restore our deepest selves.
To battle pain, we must stop running and face it. The longer we deny it, the longer it will take to heal. Unfortunately, releasing shame and pain doesn't happen overnight. It is a continual adventure of discovering the depths of God's love. A love so pure and selfless it has the power to transform us, re-create us, and continually renew us. Let Him replace the emptiness and pain with the richness of His love.
Allow yourself to go under.