The words were written seventeen years ago but they are haunting me today.
I didn’t uncover them until two years ago when my parents asked me to sort through five boxes of my old stuff. It was a strange feeling to process as I stared at the boxes containing the “highlights” of the first twenty-one years of my life. Twenty-one years packed into a few boxes. Crazy to think how much “stuff” can be stuffed within five cardboard boxes.
As I dug through old memorabilia, keepsakes and photo albums, each memento was a glimpse into my former life – my life before Christ. The majority of what I recalled was good, but seeing the physical proof of my life’s grittier moments made my scars that much more noticeable.
I had felt lost, buried, and alone. I was naïve and then no longer innocent. Broken. Seemingly beyond repair.
Within those cardboard boxes I found message after message written by high school peers thanking me for being vulnerable and opening up my heart. It reminded me of some of my darkest days feeling hopeless but at the same time like I deserved the position I found myself in. Even after voicing my concerns to some peers and receiving their love and support, I still couldn’t flee because I believed the lies I was told. I thought they were all part of normal life. A life that I deserved. Which of course, was just another lie. No one deserved the shame and pain I was experiencing.
The hopeful words of my peers scrawled on paper and in my yearbooks were signs of my desire to fight and flee from a toxic relationship I was in. Unfortunately, their words did not resonate with me or make much noise or impact because the shouts of the enemy were much more loud, powerful, and overbearing.
“I am the only one who will ever want you.”
“You’ll never be good enough.”
“You’re nothing without me.”
The words were there, in my head, heart and on paper, but my voice was too weak to speak. I wanted out, I knew what I was experiencing was not good, but I was brainwashed to believe everything was fine and normal. I wanted to escape and had tried, unsuccessfully, twice, before finally breaking free.
I wish my subtle S.O.S. would have made the red flags fly sooner.
That was me and I so wish it wasn’t part of my story. I like to imagine that time in my life being different than how I experienced it, but that isn’t my truth. The signs were there, yes, and I found comfort in a few peers to confide in but I had no solid ground to walk on. I had some good people in my life back then but none who were able to save me. No one who had pointed me to Jesus. I had received encouragement and verbal support, but not strength or hope for the long road ahead. Instead, I spent over two years stuck in an unhealthy situation. My words, my heart cries, were merely empty cries with no substance. They faded away as soon as my tears were wiped aside.
I didn’t realize how bad my situation was until I finally mustered the courage to escape. The wounds took a long time to heal. The scars that remain are memories of the past, a time not totally forgotten, from a person who no longer is the same.
I did not possess the strength or wisdom back then to make my life different and I didn’t have a support system to help me consider another way. Instead, I felt trapped and alone. No one knew what was happening behind closed doors so everything appeared to be fine, solidifying my consideration that everything was normal. I didn’t realize how bad the situation I was in actually was until the situation was no longer mine. If only I would have known Jesus back then, or if someone in my life would have breathed Life into my sullen soul, surely my life would have been different. I know now that Jesus really does save and the strength of His Spirit can fill a person up and sustain anyone for any journey they may find themselves on.
But if you don’t know Jesus, how will He find you?
I pray you will not just know but believe with every little piece of your big, beating heart how much you are loved, seen, heard, and known (Psalm 139:16-17, Matthew 10:29-31). Jesus will never forget nor forsake you (Romans 8:10-11). He will leave the 99 in order to go out, find you and bring you safely back home (Matthew 18:12-14). If you don’t know Jesus, I pray you will run to Him for comfort, security and redemption because He can and will save you. Call out His name, heck, cry out His name. Whether it’s a whisper or a full on shriek for help, He will hear you (Psalm 3:4, Psalm 34:15, 2 Samuel 22:7, 1 Peter 3:12).
I can say that with full confidence because at the end of my dark period a person (my now-husband) came into my life who shined a light so bright I could not see anything other than what was directly in front of me. It was Jesus and He was offering me a way out from a worldly lifestyle and redemption for a fresh start that would eventually lead me down a path towards healing and sanctification. At that time, almost 15 years ago, He had heard my cries when I called out His name and He responded, immediately. I have not been the same ever since.
Save our souls.
Lord, even if you are not there physically with us may we be reminded that Your Spirit is able to reside within us if we can only choose to accept Your son as our Lord and Savior. You hear our cries, You know our names and You call us Yours. Save us, oh Lord. Save us so we can spend our lives helping to save the lives of those who feel lost and alone. Amen.