Posted by: ImpendingDawn | November 8, 2010

True Success

“Be defined by your successes, not your scars.”

That was one of the points the guest speaker made at a youth conference I went to the other night.

I must admit, I did not like the sound of it. My first thoughts went something like this: Ouch. Really? THAT’S what I’m supposed to be doing? Guess I’ve lived my whole life entirely incorrectly…

And then I began beating myself up for it. It seems that I’m always beating myself up for something. I’ve defined myself by my failures – and quite literally documented them with scars – for so long that the prospect of another way of life seemed impossible.

Cutting began as a physical outlet for my inner anguish. When I was simply unable to take the weight of depression any longer, I began to mark my wrists with my own nails. The small pink lines caused pain, but were quick to heal and easy to conceal. Time went on and the self-harm got worse, welts deepening and growing more frequent. Addiction began to wrap its tendrils around me; I started to gouge my wrists when I wasn’t even feeling depressed. Then I “upgraded” to the sharp edge of a nail file: more blood; more pain; more effective.

Eventually, years of negative self-talk caught up with me and I began to feel like I didn’t deserve any amount of happiness. Self-harm became a nearly unconscious action. Whenever I felt what I deemed as “too much” joy, new scars appeared. My wrists, my arms, my hands. Deep gashes in my legs. Several hidden on my hips and ribs. Always there, always reminding me… This is who you are. This is what you deserve. Pain. Forever. Pain.

I caught myself creating a scar that night at the conference. God began to draw near to me, speaking softly to my wounded heart, asking my permission in whispered tones. And though every inch of my soul was screaming for him to come closer and free me of this consuming agony, I felt a sharp pain on my elbow as soon as my chains started loosening and my heart began to unlock. My nails, ripping skin. The devil, trying to keep me in his grasp.

I tore my hand away from my arm. I had been clean for 46 days and wasn’t about to break my record there. Best to just sit tight and wait for worship. Then I could make my escape.

Ah, worship… Worship terrifies me.  It requires a profound level of trust, thus creating a profound level of vulnerability. I do not like vulnerability. In fact, I rather despise it. So I tend to avoid worship altogether. 

And yet I long for it. Deeply. We all desperately need that closeness with our Creator. I suppose that longing is what drove me to the front of the worshiping crowd. I suppose that longing is what drove me to close my eyes and leave my body, lost in a search for a Father I had not had contact with in months.

And suddenly, there He was. He was all around me, inside me, surrounding me in every way possible. He filled me up, lifted my soul. I held out my arms to Him, surrendering all the scars. They were healed on the outside, my arms clean and unmarred, but I could see them perfectly. They were throbbing an angry red, all new and old, all fresh and festering. All in desperate need of a Father’s healing touch.

Tears were coursing down my cheeks and I hardly knew why. I was with Jesus again. I was forgiven, freed and redeemed. I was content in my failures, for my God once again held me safe in His arms. I was happy.

I felt a gentle touch on my shoulder and I turned to meet the concerned eyes of a girl who had been in my prayer group earlier.

“Can I pray for you?”

I blinked through tears, nodded my head.

“Any specific need?”

I cast my eyes down, shame and fear paralyzing me for a moment. Confession time. Then I squared my shoulders, lifted my head, and looked her in the eye.

“Yes. Depression.”

I paused. Could I do it? Could I come clean?

“And cutting.”

She nodded, bowed her head, and began to pray.

That was a truly defining moment. And no, it wasn’t a failure. It wasn’t another scar. It was a success.

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