It took me years to claim a title as a writer. Even as I write that today, I can feel my heart race a bit worried someone is going to call me out and expose the fallacy of that statement. Truthfully, this season I expected myself to be writing up a storm while our nation was walking through so much chaos and heartache. However, I mostly sat frozen unsure of what I could offer the world right now. So I mainly just listened. Although I haven’t always shared my words for everyone to read, technically I have been writing since I had braces and collected beanie babies. Recently, I lifted the lid of a large brown box to reveal journals of every color and size that spanned over 15 years of life. I flipped through the pages and witnessed time flying by. Of course the earliest I had to skip over because I didn’t need to read about who sat next to me at lunch or how basketball practice went that day. I fast forwarded to college, missionary adventures and becoming a newlywed. During these times, I had so much passion for life and faith. As I read, I could sense my fierce fearlessness to take on the world with an optimism that God had great plans for me and my future.
In September 2012, at the age of 26, life flipped upside down for me in just one moment. The assault was brutal and by God’s grace I miraculously survived, but I was forever changed. You can see the transformation in my journals. A dramatic shift takes place in my writing as that fierce fearless girl full of faith came face to face with unimaginable trauma and had no idea how to navigate it. I had experienced a supernatural encounter with Jesus while walking through hell and back. All of a sudden, there were more questions than answers that showed up on the lines of my journal pages. My faith that I had always claimed since I was a child went on a roller coaster ride. In the weeks and months afterwards, I wrote much of how I was struggling. 8 years later here I am flipping through these pages, feeling some of the same emotions still. I read my own words and realize I have actually learned a few things along the way.
“I feel like I am going crazy. If only I had more faith would all of this just go away” Oh my heart hurt as I read this journal entry I wrote shortly after the assault. I spent way too long trying to react and respond with the right kind of faith and condemning myself when it didn’t seem to hold up for me. Within weeks, I was in biblical counseling memorizing verses left and right and declaring His goodness to everyone I met. I spent hours reading the Bible and in prayer everyday. I did all the “right” Christian things, but was still suffering from nightmares, extreme fear and anxiety attacks. I was still crying myself to sleep every night. I often worried that I was failing my faith or it was failing me. Today I know that if you have walked through suffering and trauma, it is okay to be broken. Being broken doesn’t mean you’re not trusting Jesus, in fact it might just mean He is nearer to you than you realize. (Psalm 34:18, The Lord is near to the broken-hearted). I like to camp out in the Psalms for awhile and soak in all the lament and heartache that David so vulnerably expresses. If a man after God’s own heart can say over and over that he is hurting and struggling to trust in God’s goodness, than I can too. Trauma is real and does real complex damage to the brain. We are blessed to have the scientific knowledge to understand this and strategies to overcome it. I have taken a while to learn that having a therapist and seeking out mental health treatment, does not take away from the sufficiency of Jesus in my life. Saying “Jesus is good” and “I am struggling” in same sentence doesn’t make us a hypocrite, it makes us authentic. I am learning to be honest about my faith, and with that comes great freedom.
In November, just 2 months after my attack I wrote “ I feel like I am being trained to respond the “right way”. I wish the voices would just be still. I don’t wanna hear all the ways I should change my thinking or what techniques will help me get over this. I want them to listen and just hold hold my hand. I just want them to recognize my pain”. I can feel the pain of not being heard or seen as a person as I read this. I probably would have felt guilty saying this outloud years ago, but now I know how important this truly is. I was so blessed to have so many people who cared for me in this season. So many people with good intentions wanting to encourage me with verses, quotes and songs. I am forever grateful for those. However, learning to just listen and hold space for someone’s pain has the ability to show love over all else. I still wish for this in 2020. The friends who have stayed through everything are the ones who have sat and cried with me, not knowing what to say. They are the friends who do not fear the awkward, but recognize that grief is a long journey and stay anyway. I see Jesus always drawing near the broken and lost, acknowledging them as people with frail humanity and loving them with his very presence and availability. I long to be more like Him when I interact with those who are hurting. I know that it is incredibly difficult to bear someone else’s burdens when we have our own, yet that is what Christ has modeled for us. True love doesn’t look past other people’s pain so we can feel better about ourselves.
In April, just 7 months after my assault I wrote this “ They say time heals, but they must mean that a lot of time heals. I had no idea that I would still be struggling with this so long after!“. I smile and shake my head as I read the words ” so long after”. Here I am 8 years later, still dealing with pain and heartache that are repercussions of this one event. I wish I knew and accepted then that I didn’t have to have it all together and figured out in just a few months. I needed grace for myself to take the time to walk through healing. I think the older I get, the more I understand how precious time is. And when I say precious, I don’t mean it in the way that would encourage you to go faster and work harder, but in the way that encourages slowing down and being patient. There is a season for everything and I believe in stewarding the season we are in. I am guilty of wanting to push past this season and not see what God is doing right in front of me. I want to get to the point, where the pain is less, the fruit has been produced and all is well. I want the next season to come without the work of sowing and watering. That is not how this life works though. I am learning to pay attention to how God is shaping me now and the purposes he has for me now, not next year. I have been walking through hard seasons for awhile now. It feels like this season of struggle and waiting are never-ending. I know that the truth is that no season lasts forever. Summer eventually turns to fall, fall into winter, winter to spring and then we are cycle back to summer again. Grief may come with us for a lifetime, but the seasons come and go bringing both new difficulties and new victories. I have had a great amount of healing and growth over these years. My wounds are slowly being healed with each day that passes. I can look at my physical scars on my body from that came from that day 8 years ago, and be reminded of God’s deliverance, God’s providence and God’s goodness to have walked with me through all these years. Those scars are a part of me forever, but they aren’t the first thing I see anymore. In fact there are days that go by when I don’t think twice about them. I am encouraged to know that can be true about my emotional scars as well.
I imagine I will always be one to write out what’s going on inside my head and my heart. Writing brings me clarity and a calm to my soul. Writing down the questions I have in this season,helps me look for the answers in the next. I am thankful for the gift of being able to look back on the last decade or so of life and know that even through the doubt and the anger, it is clear that Jesus has held me fast. This is through no work of my own, yet a surrendering of my story to His story. May God be glorified as we continues to work on me in the years to come.