I was sitting at a table facing my husband and the window behind him. The little restaurant gets all of it’s character from being in a turn of the century building. The nuance gets to stay because it makes patrons feel a little cultured. The place isn’t pretentious, but it has a flair of something that brings in the rumpled business man who likes taste more than stature, college boys having lunch with their mothers, and couples wanting to lunch in a place tucked away.
They crossed my line of vision as they walked down the sidewalk. He was young and a bit on the small side. His mechanic’s uniform was too blousy and new to have any street credit yet. Holding his hand was his young wife. She walked slightly taller and thicker than him. She was dressed a too hot for eighty-four degrees, like she worked in an office that was too cold and didn’t get a lot of business. They were just another couple grabbing an afternoon vacation, trying to feel a little human before they have to go back to jobs that just get them by.
I saw them walk in like they had never been here before. I was twisting my lemon slice into my water. I never can get all the juice out without getting it all over my hands. I don’t like to leave the lemon in my glass because I’m not sure how clean it is. If they slice the lemon too thin, it just gets mutilated and I need two or three to really give my water a little lemon bite. I sat smashing lemon bits against the bottom of my glass with my straw while the couple held my attention. It didn’t help that they were at my two o’clock, but there was something about the guy’s body language that made me watch.
He was looking around more with his eyes than with his head, like he didn’t want to be noticed, like he was feeling ‘less-than’. He was holding his own hands, now, and not hers. They were barely breathing, neither said a word. It was like they both felt they didn’t belong but wanted to see what would happen if they walked in. I think the door shutting behind them sealed their presence too tightly and he looked like he wanted to run. He had a dejected look from the moment they walked in, like he was expecting rejection, but he still stood there too afraid to move or make his presence known, but he held his head up. I liked their bravery, even though it wasn’t necessary.
Not a single person in there noticed them but me, and they became a piece of art while I listened to the sounds of glasses hitting wooden tables and forks scraping against ceramic. The low murmur of conversation wasn’t aware of the invisible battle of self-worth that followed them like dust from their road. Only two people were working in the front of the restaurant and both of them were waiters. They sat people as they came in, then waited on them once they were seated. Both were in the back when the couple came in.
The couple gave the world less than two minutes to undo a lifetime of struggle before they turned around and left. They walked in expecting to not fit in and I watched them fulfill their own prophecy. And I wondered, how many times have I done that?
They crossed my line of vision in reverse. A mechanic and his wife holding hands and walking without words. Both heavy with the rejection they brought with them.
The mind plays tricks. Post traumatic flashbacks can fade a smile on the forgiven and send them back in the bunker long since abandoned. The forgiven, those extreme cases that cause doubt in just about everybody else, are like wounded soldiers who’ve returned to their homes, only to find another kind of war. The real wolves have been killed or scared into backing off, but the humans dressed as wolves are making a Spring celebration of “how great we art”. Mutilating the tools that were designed to recuse, breaking off prongs they deem confusing and useless, and turning them into something that looks right, but sends people running to the woods where the trap is set.
The mind plays tricks. Aftermath dreams that “all is grace”, and your human inflicted punishment is over, acknowledge enough reality to make you wonder if it’s a promise. In the light of day, you realize it’s just as possible to be another form of torture.
I dreamt the father no longer had to scratch days, then weeks, then months, then years on the waiting room wall. I dreamt the mother was no longer aging in a barrel like bitter wine, but had turned into the fermented sweetness that summer days ache for. I dreamt the child was holding on to her own piece of truth, a cocooned bond, and not lost to him…
I dreamt the father got to see his daughter.
I always dream in color bathed in a vibrant white light. I always find out I’m dreaming before I’m finished.
The sun shone through her hair and her cheeks were round with a youth she passed a few years ago. When I saw how young she was, I knew it was a dream. And I hoped that youth would still let him form in her wings, making them fuller and rounder. I backed away from him so that he could have this moment all to himself. The moment where the first question was about to be answered.
I watched his face to see how this was going to affect him. He always hopes. I don’t know how he stays so soft when he’s been hit so hard. In my dream, he’s up for spiritual parole and his committee is filled with people who gain from his loss. Why would they ever set him free? They’d have to admit so much wrong. It’s this that makes me doubt miracles.
I searched the mother’s eyes for any sign of mercy. In my dreams, I can see it.
For a moment I got to be somewhere else. I got to see the world my hope has created and I got to see the father find out the answer, at least in my dream, …she remembers him.
His daughter remembers him.
Some things I write about can only be understood if you’ve read the book.
I’m trying to find a groove. Something that won’t wear me down.
It’s 3 a.m. and I’m still on fall back time.
Sometimes I feel over-exposed and I pull away for a bit. I enjoy being alone in my head and if I’m writing, I’m writing for you. You’re in my head. Many of you have connected with me on the level I’m trying to reach people and you’re with me every time I write. I may never hear from you, but I know you’re there. I can relax with you. I’m talking to ‘soul mates’ in kindred sense. We’re related by pain.
But, even with that, I need to pull away. The fight gets rough sometimes and I have to recede to rest. I’ve never cared if I have a bunch of blog hits. I take this message seriously. It will reach who it needs to reach.
Some of your processes were a lot longer than mine. Some of you have been going through the hell for years. Most of you still are.
I write about places I no longer live. I’m not still in that place, but I know that nobody writes about it, so I want to. I want people who use computer search terms like “God, please help me!” to find this blog. A parallel measure of my faith brings God here. Some of you bring God here. You’re making a difference, too.
I know I’m not always right. I want to know when I’m wrong. I’m just happy to make people think. I don’t try to make people mad, but I seem to sometimes. It comes with the territory and I like this location.
When people write me to tell me to ‘move on’ or to start picking apart my mentality or redemption, then I get frustrated. They’re missing the point. Writing is art. An artist creates his best work when he hurts the most. Even the artist fifty-years past his darkest days will still produce art with the darkness in it. That’s what makes him a great artist. The dark is only understood by the light.
I have just discovered that if I started being silent about what I know, and started living more pastel, I would look more ‘healed.’ I had no idea there was a certain look to healed. Healed isn’t being happy all the time. Healed is finding the truth. The truth propels you further than your emotions and capacity for pain. Truth is your escape. It’s a break from the chaos. It’s sustenance for the journey.
I want my message to be one where people can find truth. I want them to give the scriptures another chance. God has so much to say and I can just point it out. Go to Him. Don’t dwell on me. It wears me out because I just want you to open up to Him. I’m a turnoff to a lot of people. But they’re people who need their box broken and burned. God doesn’t fit in a box. He can regularly blow your mind until you can’t take anymore. I often wonder if some people haven’t felt that in a long time.
I’m a little bit harder to reach now and I’m not always the best at returning emails. I read them all, though.
I’m quiet and usually socially awkward. I watch and listen. I love talking to people about God and grace, but I don’t small talk. I’m private about everything but Him. That ends up requiring me to tell the story of my scars, so it gets intense. Small talk doesn’t fit.
I’m thinking about the ‘Sifted As Wheat’ conference. I broke the website, but I’ll figure it out. I keep trying to picture the conference and, more than anything, I just want it to be comfortable. I want people who know what it is to be hated to feel loved. Come if you can love people. Come if you need to be loved. Can you imagine the healing?
This is the second in a series of word studies that I am doing to try to reveal the best explanation of a specific scripture.
For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.- Hebrews 6:4-6
What is “the heavenly gift”?
Life, grace, righteousness (Vines)
And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.-Romans 5:16-17
Once again, scripture shows that Jesus cancels out Adam’s legacy. Adam brought condemnation. Jesus brought justification.
It’s depressing to me that people find it easier to believe in an angry God than a God of mercy. People find it easier to accept defeat than to believe in victory. The problem is that they can’t get over their relationship to the Law.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do.–Romans 8:3
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.-1 Corinthians 15:56
Think of it like an abusive ex who was a good person until alcohol made him or her a terrorist. The fear-laced memory of the former is stealing your ability to be loved and accepted by anyone new.
It’s hard to accept a gift if you don’t trust the giver. What’s in it for them? And what are they going to require of you if you accept it?
I remember when I was six-years-old and living in a foster home with a couple that couldn’t conceive their own children. I always thought it was why the foster mom didn’t seem to like me. She would point out my flaws and had an uncanny knack for making me feel ashamed of myself for being me.
I was the only child in the house and used to sit in front of the mirror and pretend I had a friend. I would stare at my features trying to figure myself out. I had a hard time feeling real. Sometimes I would try to see my real mom in my face. But, most of the time I would stare at my body and wonder what made me unwanted.
When I would catch her watching me, she would tell me that I was “very vain” and walk away. Her words cut through me like a serrated blade and I literally winced.
I still wince.
I tried to be good and to show her that I had manners, but when I called her ‘ma’am’, she grabbed the skin on my throat, tugging me toward her so that we were face-to-face. While pinching my skin so hard that I could feel my heart beat in my neck, she gritted her teeth and told me that I was never to call her ‘ma’am.’
I wanted to give her gifts for Christmas, but had no money, so I went in my room and looked for something she might like. My real mom was a gypsy, and every time I got taken away from her she would give me pieces of her jewelry so that I would be connected to her. I went into my room and found one of my mother’s rings. I never would have given it away if I didn’t think it would make my foster mom love me.
I didn’t have a box, but wanted it to be safe, so I hid it in a wad of soft toilet paper. Then I sneaked a scrap of wrapping paper and some tape.
When I placed the gift under the tree, the foster mom went over and picked it up. I could tell I was about to be in trouble, but I knew that when she opened it she would be impressed. It was a piece of my six-year-old heart in that terribly wrapped wad. I suddenly felt ashamed seeing what looked like an odd piece of trash in her hand. Christmas was still a few days away, so it surprised me when she ripped it open. She was so rough with it that the ring fell on the floor.
She bent down to look at it and said, “Serena, you don’t give people your used junk as gifts.” Then she walked away.
I felt small and sick. The foster mom had rejected me and I betrayed my real mom. I picked up the tainted ring, threw it in the bathroom trash, and went to my room because I couldn’t hide my emotions. I felt alone and I wanted my mom back. I thought I was honoring her by throwing it and the memory it would now represent in the trash, but it kept calling out to me in my mother’s voice. I ran to the trash, dug it out, and put it under my pillow so that I could hold it in my hand all night. Cleansed with the sweat of my sticky palm.
I went on to several different foster homes after that. They weren’t all as lonely as that one, but I never did get my fill of love.
I told you all that to tell you that it has always been hard for me to accept love. After I became a Christian, I still felt like a foster child with God. I wasn’t one of His prized possessions. I was a dirty little street kid that He let come around. I felt like He had bonds with others that He didn’t share with me. I felt like He spoke secrets to others that He never told me.
I was still loyal to Him and tried to prove my worth. I wanted Him to love me and I never had to question it if I never did anything wrong. I relied on my conscience to give me a vacant spot on His floor. But, I still felt like an odd piece of trash in a scrap of wrapping paper.
When I sinned my huge, horrible sin, I was told that I was no longer welcome. All of His other kids told me that His love doesn’t reach to the depths of my filth and the decent thing would be to disappear. They honored Him by throwing me away.
I felt small and sick. My shame screamed in my ears and my heartbeat mocked my spirit. I was the rejected betrayer, once again. I was the ring calling out from the trash.
God came running after me. He left everyone in the house and called my name into the night.
God never spoke to me when I was earning my way the way He does now that I am incapable. I find His grace in the clarity of His voice. I find life in what I hear Him say. He never called me righteous until I knew for a fact that I wasn’t.
He held me through my night and cleansed me with the blood in his sticky palm.
That’s ‘the Heavenly gift.’
I only have a couple of photos of myself when I was a child. I have a photocopied picture of myself when I was six, but I ‘X’ed it out when I was little. A forever reminder of my self-worth. This is the closest I could get to my age from the story. It’s a picture of me when I was three.
Below are some suggestions for discussions:
Events in your past affect the way you handle life now. Things that you struggle with in your relationships, even in your own head, have a root. Often times, we make attribute human qualities to God. We limit Him. This makes it hard to trust His love, to accept His ‘heavenly gift’, and believe that He is not judging our worth based on us.