We all have parts of our past that we would like to re-do, forget, or erase. Maybe you said something that hurt someone. Maybe you did something you regret. Maybe you can’t quite pinpoint what it is, but you just wish you could’ve done life differently. Well, me too.
This is my “I wish I could take it back” story. The one I worked so long and hard to hide. The one that kept me up at night in shame, and made me grit my teeth in regret.
This is something that 98% of you don’t know about me, and a little part of me still wants to keep it to myself. There is a little piece of me that says, “if you don’t write about it, no one would know and no one would blame you”.
But God would know.
And he wants me to share this with you.
He wants me to tell you that you are not defined by the mistakes you’ve made.
The shame you feel won’t last forever, but you have to give it up to him.
You feel alone now, but you don’t ever have to be alone in your pain.
He wants me to tell you that you. are. loved.
Just before I entered high school, my family went through a really rough time due to a mental illness of a family member. It surprised me. I was angry and confused. And I felt isolated from those around me. Between the stress of moving up to high school and the fear of the stigma that comes with mental illness, I felt secluded. Don’t get me wrong, socially I was fine at school and I had friends, but I didn’t let anyone in on what was happening at home and inside of me. I kept everyone an arms length away. I didn’t know who I could turn to or what I would say if I did talk to them. I not only feared the stigma, but I also feared being labeled. Would people treat me differently? I told myself that no one would understand and I firmly believed that.
My emotional scars formed and grew over time, and I guess I decided I needed some physical scars to match.
I wish I could remember the first time I decided to put a cold piece of metal to my skin, but I can’t. I tried really hard to remember but I just couldn’t do it. I think maybe I spent so long trying to move past it and forget it that I just lost a lot of details. But it doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that I remember what it felt like to know that it wouldn’t really help, but I did it anyway because I didn’t know what else to do. I remember that for a split second I felt in control, despite the lack of control I had in all the other seconds of my life. I remember the fear I felt when I realized that I could now be called a “cutter” or “self harmer” and I felt like that’s who I was. I remember that I never once contemplated taking my own life, but I just couldn’t seem to wrap my mind around the pieces of my life I felt like I was gathering up on a daily basis. I remember the regret that sat like rocks in my stomach for so long. I remember many times trying to tell someone, anyone, but physically not being able to form the words and spit them out.
I remember that the scariest part was that after a while it began to feel normal, like it wasn’t a big deal that I was harming myself intentionally.
Although I can’t pinpoint when or where it started, I can tell you exactly when it ended.
It was a Saturday and I was working at a local retail store like I always did on the weekends. About halfway through my shift, my manager came up to me and told me that my mom was waiting in the stock room and needed to talk to me. I thought that was strange because usually when she wanted to talk to me she just walked up to me in the middle of an isle like a normal customer. When I walked up to her I was smiling, but then I saw her face. And then I saw my grandma’s face.
I’m sure if I was holding something, it would’ve dropped out of my hands just as fast as the tears began falling to the worn out carpet under my feet. They told me that my best friend’s brother had passed away; I was shaken as I walked out to her car to leave. My legs felt like jelly and I sobbed the entire way.
As we mourned the loss with my friend and her family, God used that to shake me awake and say, “you aren’t really living right now”. He used it to open my eyes and tell me that he had much bigger plans for me than that. That night I sat in my bedroom floor weeping in repentance. I went through my things and disposed of the tools I had used, ridding my life of them. I decided that I couldn’t do that anymore, it just wasn’t a choice.
I realized just how bound up I had been living. I was living in chains that I had put on myself, and that was a harsh reality for high school me. I was redeemed by the blood of Jesus years before, but I wasn’t living like it and I sure didn’t think of myself as such. I thought of myself as my mistakes. I was a self harmer. I had equated my identity in what I had done and what was going on around me, but that was never how it was meant to be.
My identity lies firmly in the hands of God and nothing can change that. NOTHING.
Not what I do, what someone else has done to me, or what I will do in the future.
I am his.
I spent many hours, days, and nights repeating to myself Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
For a long time after I quit, I still felt shame and guilt whenever I thought of what I had done and who I thought I was. But the more I meditated on these verses and let God teach me again who I was, the shame lost its hold on me. Guilt no longer came knocking on my door. I began to view myself more of a child of his than a mistake of his, and News flash: God doesn’t make mistakes.
John 8:36 says, “So if the son set you free, you are free indeed”.
I was set free from those mistakes and chains I had layered upon myself. I was set free from the identity I thought was mine. I was covered by grace that doesn’t falter under the weight of anything.