If there’s any advice I would give to a younger me, its guard your heart. The people you love will mark you and leave their scent on you, until you will look down at your battered and weary self at 22 and want it all to end. I have loved deeply and been loved deeply, and every moment of those loves took something from me. I thought I was receiving. I wasn’t. I lost time and energy and parts of myself I can’t get back, to love that wasn’t born to last. I threw my whole heart and spirit in to falling in love and I didn’t look before I jumped. If I’d had any sense of self-preservation I would have paused. Thought. Measured. Waited. But I didn’t. I launched myself at love the way a rocket leaps into space. There is so much light and sound and excitement. But I found only darkness when I got there, just like outer space. Only silence. Love has wounded me deeper than any crime or assault ever could. Because it is the creepy, hulking figure that stalks you through the graveyard that you expect to hurt you. He seems like danger. You didn’t. None of you did. In your own little ways, all of you felt like home to me. I found peace and comfort and security in your arms and I rested there. But then you hurt me. You all did. You cheated or left or wouldn’t compromise or couldn’t see the real me. Some of the wounds are my fault, I know. I’ve left terrible wounds on others, too, and the blame lies with me. But if I had known what I know now… I would tell myself to run, run away screaming from any relationship that required my vulnerability, I would close my heart to those men who did not know how to love me the way I needed to be loved. None of you ever did. So while I know ‘everything happens for a reason’ and ‘never regret something that once made you smile’ I can’t not. Every love I’ve known has broken me further and if I could go back I would run away from all of you and all of it.
I breathe in pain, and I breathe out grace. I bring suffering and the heavy load of life, and He brings me freedom. I bring my weakness and He meets me with strength. I bring my failures and He loves me with endless faithfulness. When my body betrays me, when my spirit is downcast, when my mind is clouded by depression and sorrow, when I cannot find the strength to face the day – You are with me. Here in this broken, torn-up, traumatised, tormented place. You kneel with me in the dust and the ashes of my life and lift my face to the sunlight. You turn my eyes from myself to You. You love me with an everlasting love that is not based on perfection and performance but on Your sacrifice and Your heart for me. I can run away, I can try and ease the ache elsewhere, but You stand unchanging, never ceasing in pursuit of me. Because You know. You know I am helpless and purposeless and alone without you. You know You are everything I need to heal. You know in your kingdom and generosity everything I could ever need is supplied. You bandage my wounds, restore my soul, rebuild my walls, bring rain where there was only drought. Your presence is my guiding light, my only light, with which I navigate this confusing and illogical life. My only hope is in You and Your power. The power that tore the veil, broke death, emptied the power of the grave and released us back to You. This is not it. These earthly bodies with earthly infirmities, these broken minds that see so little; Earth is not a full stop. It is a transit point. We are here, for a time, and then we will move on to be with our Father. This is not it. There is so much more.
I think there is a lot to be learned about life, from running and exercise.
You always think you can’t go on any longer. But you can, and do. You are so much more resilient than you give yourself credit for, in mind and body and spirit. One more step. Just a bit longer.
It feels awful at the time, but it is so worth it afterwards. You feel like your lungs are going to split and your muscles are burning and sweat is running down your forehead but… ten minutes later and the world is calm again. Your head stops spinning. And you feel good. What is easy will never be worth it, but what is hard will be deeply satisfying in the long run.
It’s easy when it’s easy… but then it starts to be sore, or boring. Your feet ache, and your mind wanders. You are tempted to stop. And its only through sheer discipline you don’t. You are capable of so much more than you achieve when you’re undisciplined. With determination and resolve, you can achieve amazing things – so much more than you think you can.
You can’t go from the occasional jog to running a marathon in a day. It doesn’t work like that. Your strength is made in the everyday pushes and practices, in growing and developing your muscles. You have to do it to get better. You can’t be an expert without putting in the time and effort.
How hard is it to understand? You lose the right to speak in my life if you leave. You don’t get to lecture me. You don’t get to act the concerned parent. You weren’t there. You don’t know how I felt when you left, you don’t know how I felt when you didn’t want custody of me. You don’t know how betrayed and unloved I felt when you walked out on us. You don’t know how distant I felt from you all those years. You missed so many moments. Me leaving high school, prom, my first time getting drunk, my birthday parties, Christmases, my low moments when depression reared its head. You weren’t there. You barely know me; you know what I show or tell you, nothing more. And that was your choice, not mine. I would have loved to have had a dad who was there. Washed the car with on a Saturday morning. Cry to about boys and heartbreak. Be bought a corsage for my prom. But my mum was there. She always has, day in day out, no matter what, she was there, and the failure I have known is not her fault or cross to bear, because she has given me everything she had. She did everything she could. You didn’t. You chose and prioritised otherwise. So the consequences of your choice are these. You don’t know me. You don’t know the places I’ve been and come back from. You don’t know why I do the things I do or how deep these issues go. You see what I display to you. And for the rest of it, you don’t get to question that. Its nothing to do with you.
- Because your Father God doesn’t look at you and see failure. Or disappointment. We mess up sometimes. It’s not okay, and the pain of sin exists, but we’re still loved enough to die for despite it all.
- Because you have a family that loves you, two sisters and two parents and two more parents and two grandparents and a mad little dog, and they all are rooting for you and love you more than words.
- There will be beautiful friends who will listen to you, make you pee your pants laughing, buy you flowers, speak truth over you, drop off care packages and hug you til all the broken pieces don’t feel so broken anymore.
- Because you are brave enough to face anything that comes. You know that now. You have hope because of Jesus and you know you can withstand anything with him guiding you.
- Because in your heart you know who you are. And that person isn’t flaky, drunk, annoying, promiscuous or wild. She’s free, but she’s kind, intelligent, brave, honest, funny and caring. And that matters more than any past decisions.
- Because you’re going to slip up. You’re human. You’re never going to be perfect. But you are on a new trajectory and that changes everything. Its not just a game to you anymore; you are aware and consciously trying and God knows that. He doesn’t shame you for your weakness.
- Because whilst you were still a sinner, emptyhanded and dirty with shame, he loved you and saw in you his precious and beloved child. He will work every day of your life to grow you into the person he says you are. He’ll do it, because he loves you too much to leave you as you are. Trust the process.
- Because there is no mountain too high for him. No valley too deep. No pit too dark. No sin too shameful. No current too strong. There is nothing he cannot do and no monster he cannot slay. It all belongs to and exists because of him. He is strong enough and he cares.
- Because it is a bad day, not a bad life. It will all feel hopeless and leaving this life will seem tantalisingly appealing. But then a sunrise will come and a new day will begin and babies will be born and perspective will widen and the sun will shine and things will change. Remember those days when you thought you would die of the pain… but you didn’t. Because new days always come. And joy blooms where once only sorrow thrived. It is your job to ride the waves of those awful days and trust, always trust, that a new day is coming soon.
- Because there will be people that need to hear about the god who saves. There will be people that don’t know how mighty his saving power is and need to know. There will be people that have gone through the same and don’t know hope. They need to know. There will be people that need to hear someone be real and say “Sometimes it’s all bullshit. But we keep holding on.”
Yesterday, I spent the better part of two and a half hours sobbing my heart out on my living room floor, rocking back and forth, torn by regret, sorrow and disappointment.
Saturday night, my 94 days of sober ended.
I didn’t stand strong. I was ‘meh’ about it; I didn’t check what I was drinking, I did one shot thinking it was going to be fine and before I knew it, I was sitting bolt upright at 11am in last nights clothes and make up down my face and smelling like smoke, having been carried home by my friends at 5am.
I think for a short amount of time I managed to convince myself I was better. I was changed. I stood tall on the label; ‘sober’. It made me feel like something. It made me feel saved. It made me feel accomplished. I felt like I wasn’t that broken and bleeding person anymore, I was safe and good and for the first time in a really long time I was able to look in the mirror and not hate what I saw.
And then I lost it again.
I should have tried harder, should have stood firmer. I should have thought twice. I should have seen it coming; should have known I can’t do just one. I should have eaten dinner, said no louder, gone home and gone to sleep, not gone out to a place I know brings the worst out of me.
Because it cost me. It wasn’t just one night of fun. It cost me my self esteem, again, my sense of worth, my identity.
And that’s what no one understands. That I change. I become this whole other person, I’m promiscuous, I’m loud, I swear, I’m crazy and wild and I smoke and I know no limits. I’ll eat meat, fight my sister, never want to go home. It’s not just liquid in a bottle to me, it’s a whole other self that I detest and have to fight against.
And I don’t know how strong I can be. Keep being. I’m just this tiny weak person and I feel like I’m fighting this monster and the hundreds of monsters in my head and I feel so tired. I did over 90 days then I fell off the wagon with absolutely no warning.
I remember a week ago I woke up in a cold sweat after a nightmare. The nightmare was I woke up after a night out and I’d drank. That was it. And now its reality. The worst thing my mind can torture me with is alcohol, and that’s what I gave it to deal with on Saturday on an empty stomach and an aching heart. Ironic, isn’t it?
People keep telling me it was just one time and I’m still fighting and I can go back. But I can’t. I lost myself again, and I don’t know how to find myself again. I don’t know how to go back to that strong, confident person who had a stripe of self esteem. Because she didn’t think she was the most awful person ever. Because she thought she had something to offer her King. A broken life but a promise. And now that’s broken too.
I’m so tired of trying to do life with gaping wounds.
I’m moving on in so many ways. Daily I grow and change. My list of battles won is long, and everything I now have I owe to the Lord, because every victory has been won through my surrender and his might.
But there are still gaping holes in my heart that haven’t been bandaged. Have I even let God near them to heal them and bind them and restore me? Have I even let God in at all – into the raw, the uncomfortable, the deepest depths of my pain?
I don’t know that I have. What I do know:
When it gets uncomfortable. When I feel unloved. When I feel afraid. When my heart is seeking. When I am anxious. I reach out to find an anchor, to tether myself to. My anchor changes. It used to always be people. Sometimes I have conquered this, but sometimes, it still is. And that’s why I reach out to the past. To the people who I used to love and who used to light me up. My old life buoys.
George – who kept my soul secure as it ached after Seb, who guided my prayers and thoughts to Jesus, who was my strength and courage and my prayer chain and who hugged me when I felt unlovable. He was a picture of the Father’s heart, apart from the end, and I messed it up, because my heart was still broken and broken hearts don’t know how to love, not really. I thought he was my future, and he thought so too. I think we were both wrong.
Seb – my lighthouse through the deep, dark, cold storms of depression. Who laid down beside me when I was curled up listless in my room. Who carried my shopping and cleaned my kitchen and devoted himself to me wholly. The one who I laughed with, was comfortable with, felt like home with. The one who left me breathless, every time – up until the very end. Maybe still even now. The one whom I still carry the weight and shame of, so big and wide it could tear me limb from limb if I let it. The one who loved me unconditionally, and never asked for anything from me except faithfulness – and whom I broke in carelessness.
Wez – the one who never felt worthy of me, and I the same. The one who I couldn’t live with or without. The one who I could never make my mind up over. The one who borderline abused me before humiliating me with unfaithfulness and pain but took me for his own anyway, the most painful sex I have ever had because I felt like I was trying to compete with someone else and win him back. The one who kept me close on the off chance it didn’t work out and left me feeling like I wasn’t enough. The one who I never let go of, but learned to live without.
All these wounds, and more besides, that have just never healed. Josh, Jack, Izzy, Nanny, Grandad, Grandma, my health, my dreams. Loss after loss after loss. And I’m wondering why I’m trying to drown it out with alcohol, trying to bind up my heart with more boys and more sex and more relationships as if any of that ever helped me at all. I’m trying to subdue the wounds to silence, because I couldn’t bear to listen to the crying anymore.
And most importantly. My dad. The one who walked out on me, when I needed a father. The one who should have disciplined me, cut me down, kept me straight, led me wisely and just been there. He should have been there. The one who I hated with such intensity and depth. Because I felt abandoned, and I felt unloved. The one who I forgave for leaving, but I still can’t change the way he has formed my perception of men and will colour every relationship I have until I heal.
I’m tired. I’m tired of running. I’m tired of pretending. I’m so completely broken by life and what has happened. But I’m tired of trying to make it okay. I can’t stop the bleeding and I can’t fix myself.
I need my Saviour. The only one death couldn’t touch. The one who has never left me, forsaken me, or let me down but who has committed to me in unyielding covenantal love. The one who pursues me endlessly when I wander from him and stops at nothing to get me back. The one who holds my life in his hands, and has plans for me – so much brighter and more wonderful than I could ever dream. The one who knows me and my heart and soul in intimate, shameful detail, and loves me still. Loves me more than I could dream of. Loves me beyond words, beyond songs, beyond death. The one I have been searching for, in many guises and forms. True love. Perfect love. My other half. My father. My older brother. My number one and the first and the most special and important.
“Love is like everything you ever lost coming back to you.” You never left. You were always there, the real treasure. I just lost you in the blur, the tears, the insecurity, the pain that beat as steadily and endlessly as my heartbeat.
But I know now. I know who you are. And my feeble reaching out has shown me again who you are. You are the healer. The mighty one. The gentle one. The one who will steady me and embrace me and draw me in. The one who binds up my wounds. He cleans the dirt out and bandages them tenderly, not denying the reality of them but proving with every kind touch some love does not involve pain. God’s love does not involve pain. We were born to know this love and it enters the dark avenues of our hearts already knowing the way.
Lord I want to let you in. I want to know you more. I don’t want or need anything else. Just you. I want to be close to you and I want to feel your presence with me. I can’t do this without you, not a single day.