Bear Hugs from God

When my dad discovered that I was self-harming, when he pulled up my sleeves and noticed the fresh-that-morning cuts on my arm, he pulled me into a giant bear hug—the kind only dads can give—and refused to let go.

I imagine God is the same way, especially when it comes to those who have walked away, those who have doubted, those who have lamented and struggled.

I doubted for a long time, but I’ve had faith for longer.

Doubting is easy, having faith is hard.

When you’re being raped, it’s hard to have faith that one day God will use this for good.

When you’re cutting yourself open and starving yourself, it’s hard to have faith that God made you, and will continue to make you, beautiful.

But there I was, having faith I was starting to outgrow. When I was little, it fit like one of my dad’s t-shirts: large and floppy. Now that I had struggled, it fit like one of those old t-shirts it’s time to get rid of: too tight in the middle, with holes in the armpits.

It’s hard when your faith is shaken. You begin to wonder if it was strong enough to begin with, if you were a good-enough Christian to begin with. Doubt begins to creep in when your faith doesn’t seem big enough.

I never stopped having faith, but I let doubt take control. I was like one of those tight rope walkers who tense up and fall when they look down and realize how far away the ground is.

The night I attempted suicide was a night much like this one. I remember it vividly: the house was quiet; snow, sparkling under the light of the moon, was falling outside my window. The roads were covered in snow, and tree branches were dancing in the wind. It was beautiful and magical, serene and tranquil, but it wasn’t enough to save me.

My doubt was.

As I lay in the darkness of my room, waiting for the pills to do their job, I could see the light of the moon shining bright.

The doubt I had been feeling for years had eroded a place for hope and faith. And I know that doesn’t make sense, but believe me when I tell you that one the night I tried to kill myself, I was angry at the beauty I saw outside. I was angry at the way God had created nature and man, called both good, but he had seemingly abandoned me.

I was angry, but I still held on to a little bit of hope.

So as time slowed down and the earth began to slip away, I made a last ditch “I don’t know if God exists, but if He does, I hope He hears this because I’m all out of answers, and I can’t do this alone” cry.

And He did. And He answered, not with a shout, but with the gentlest of whispers.

“You’ll be ok.”

He answered with a whisper, but I’m sure He was like: “Finally! I told you that you couldn’t do this alone, and I was here cheering on the sidelines like an idiot screaming, ‘Come on, you can do this!’ But you weren’t paying any attention to what mattered. You were too focused on your past to think about your future or your present.”

And He’d be right. I was.

When my dad discovered I was self-harming, he pulled me into a bear hug.

When he discovered I tried to kill myself, he pulled me into his lap and threw his arms around me, as if to say, I’m never letting you go.

I imagine God did the same when I finally surrendered my pain, my past, my failures, and returned to him.

I imagine him saying, “Come on, Child. We can get through this together.”

 

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I’m Convinced

This weekend was Conference Finals for Bible Quizzing (for those of us in the Genesis Conference, anyway). Our theme for the weekend was: I’m Convinced. . . that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. 

Throughout the weekend, we discussed ways we are convinced, or ways we doubt, that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God at the Campfire Testimony Service, which is the best part of the weekend, in my opinion, because it is so great to hear what God is doing in the lives of the Bible Quizzers. 

And even though I’m no longer a Bible Quizzer, I still felt God telling me to stand up and tell the group what was on my heart. So, I did, but I fear it was a mess, because I am much better at writing than speaking. I have decided, therefore, to write out and share again what I said this weekend, because I hope it will make a difference in someone’s life.

My name is Kaleigh, and I’m not a Bible Quizzer. But, I was for a long time, so I think that should count for something. I’m sharing tonight, because I feel as though God has placed these words in my heart to share with you tonight, and I’ve learned it is best not to ignore God.

I have suffered with Depression for so long, I cannot remember what it’s like to not feel a sense of inadequacy all the time. I have been through many things in my life: I was sexually assaulted, I struggled with an eating disorder and with self-harm, and I’ve struggled with the idea of an all-loving God.

If God loves me, why has He allowed me to experience hurt?

Is God real?

Does He care?

Doubt is easy; faith is hard: It’s easier to doubt in the existence of something than it is to believe fully and completely in something. And I wanted easy. I was so tired of getting up in the morning and trying to fight my way through life. I had little faith, and it was all used up by the time I placed both feet on the floor. I had faith that the floor would not collapse under my feet, but I couldn’t have faith in God to carry me when I needed Him most.

Doubt is easy; faith is hard.

I can see the floor, but I didn’t think I could see God.

And then I went to Guatemala this past August.

And it changed my life, but I almost didn’t go.

You see, I’m not a big fan of crowds of people I don’t know. So, when God told me that I was going to Guatemala, I laughed. There was no way I was going to board a plane with 20-some-odd people I barely knew, fly to a country that spoke a different language, and show the love of a God I didn’t think cared to people.

It was like Jonah all over again: God said, “Go.” Jonah said, “No.” I was Jonah in this situation (I didn’t get swallowed by a whale, thank goodness).

Ignoring God doesn’t get you anywhere, and neither does arguing. So, I went.

And a transformation began to occur within me. I began to become convinced of the power and love of God. I shared my Testimony with a group of Junior Highers in a mountain village in the middle of nowhere, Santa Cruz, Guatemala. What happened next reminded me that God has a plan for everybody.

One of the Junior High Girls came up to me in the afternoon and asked if we could talk: “Podamos hablar?”

I said, “Por supuesto,” which means “of course.”

She asked me how I found the strength to get up in the morning. And I told her I had God. I opened up my Spanish-English Bible to some verses I remembered studying while I was in Quizzing.

And then I read her Philippians 4:13: “Todo lo puedo en Cristo que me fortalece.”

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

I helped this Junior High Girl accept Christ, and at that moment, everything began to fit together. I realized everything I’ve been through has a reason. Had I not gone through my trials and my hardships, I wouldn’t have been able to help this girl find God.

God has a plan for my life, and I don’t know what it is, yet. But God’s timing is perfect, and it will be revealed soon.

God has a plan for your life, too.

So, I don’t know what your struggling with right now. But, we’re all struggling with something. I don’t know what you’ve been through. I don’t what God has in store for your life. But I know it’s great. He has great plans for all of us.

There’s a reason for your struggles. Everything has a purpose (even if right now, in this moment, the struggles you’re going through seem like more than you can bear). God has a plan for you, and I promise you, one day, your life and experiences will start to make sense.

I’m going to leave you with two thoughts:

The great philosopher Winnie the Pooh, once said, “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

1 Corinthians 10:13 states, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

I am convinced God exists because of what He has brought me through.

I hope one day you are convinced, too. Because doubt is easy and faith is hard, but life is so much more wonderful when you have faith.

God has great plans for your life, and when your suffering seems like too much for you to handle, God is strong enough to carry it.

6 Years Ago, I was Raped. This is kind of sort of (but not really) about that.

My body is a temple, which is better than a castle. Cinderella and all her princess friends better watch out, because I am a true Princess. A daughter of the True King, and I have come to claim my place in His Kingdom.

For years I’ve been looking for my beauty in all the wrong places.

You see, six years ago today, I was sexually assaulted. And for years I believed I was no longer beautiful. I had been dirtied by an act that society told me was my fault. I was impure. No longer worthy to be called innocent. No longer worthy to be called beautiful. No longer worthy of love, and I couldn’t even love myself.

I tried to destroy my temple of a body any way I could, over and over and over again.

I failed to realize I was beautiful all along.

I was beautiful when I was skipping meals. I was beautiful when I was self-harming. The temple was beautiful; the destruction of the temple was not.

Eating disorders are not beautiful.

Self-harm is not beautiful.

Mental illness is not beautiful.

But, I am. I am beautiful, and I was beautiful when I cut myself open trying to cleanse myself using my own blood. My scars are not beautiful, but I am.

I am beautiful because I have been sanctified through the washing of HIS blood, not mine. I am not a god, but I know a God who has made me in His image, making me beautiful despite my sins, despite my past, despite my scars.

I am a temple, and I destroyed these four walls of my body, but I have been rebuilt by the master carpenter. And I am stronger than I ever was before. I have come to realize that I am not ugly even though I have ugliness in my past.

Rape is ugly.

Self-harm is ugly.

Eating disorders are ugly.

Mental illness is ugly.

I am beautiful because of the way I have preserved through it all. I am beautiful because I have overcome. I am beautiful because my worth is not found here on earth, but in heaven. I am beautiful because I am a temple, a daughter of the King.

My beauty is not lessened by my past. My value does not decrease because of an act done to me by adolescent boys who were never taught how to properly treat women.

I am beautiful. But it’s taken me years to realize I have so much more to offer the world than my beauty.

 

 

What’s in Forgiveness?

“Always forgive your enemies-nothing annoys them so much.”- Oscar Wilde

Forgiveness sucks. (By sucks I don’t mean it sucks in the figurative sense. I mean forgiveness is hard. It’s difficult, unpleasant, easier said than done, troublesome. But it’s absolutely necessary if you ever want to get anywhere with your life.)

I’ve grown up learning the importance of forgiveness. I’ve learned Bible verses and parables and all sorts of biblical knowledge about what forgiveness is and how to forgive. And to be honest, I’m still learning what it means to forgive.

I’ve always associated forgiveness with an apology. I’m sorry. I forgive you. But realistically, that’s not the way the world works. Apologies and forgiveness are not mutually exclusive.

APOLOGIES AND FORGIVENESS ARE NOT MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE. Often times in life, you won’t get an apology (at least not a sincere one).

This is a concept I haven’t understood until recently. I’m extremely stubborn and maybe sometimes a bit prideful, so I never understood how I could be expected to forgive someone if they didn’t admit they were wrong.

I understand now.

You see, after I was sexually assaulted, I was extremely bitter. And then one day I wrote a blog post in which I “forgave them.” I thought that was it. I could finally let go of my past. I could finally be free. That tells you how much I know (which when compared to everything there is to know, is approximately nothing). And then I started to feel less bitter. I was still depressed, I still had random mental breakdowns, still freaked out anytime I was reminded or saw any of my attackers.

That is until two weeks ago. Two weeks ago, I saw one of them in Target. I didn’t freak out. I didn’t go into the bathroom and cry. I just kept walking. And that’s when I realized I never actually forgave them.

I said that I forgave them, but it was arbitrary and meaningless. I did it out of obligation and not necessitation. I didn’t need to forgive them, just like  I thought I didn’t need God.

Forgiveness is an active thing. There’s no such thing as passively forgiving somebody. Until you actually forgive with your heart, it’s void, empty.

So yesterday, I facebook messagd the guy I saw in Target two weeks ago, who by the way, was the one that caused my sexual assault. I sent only three words, I forgive you.

I doubt I’ll ever get an apology. An apology isn’t needed. I just need him to know he’s forgiven, because I don’t know where he is in his life, but maybe being forgiven will impact him in a way that hasn’t happened before.

And if it doesn’t, that’s ok. Because truly forgiven has impacted my life. Being truly forgiven by somebody who is truly perfect has impacted my life.

I don’t always deserve forgiveness. I’ve sinned. I’ve messed up. I have no idea what I’m doing half the time. God loves me anyway. God forgives me anyway.

So, yes, I forgave this guy, because I want to be more like Jesus. I also forgave myself. Because one time I tried to kill myself. I forgive myself for the scars I purposefully put on my skin. I forgive myself for all the hurt I caused myself. God tells us to love our enemies, and sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

I know I am.

I’ve forgiven. I’m finding healing. And I’ll always be living with Depression, but that’s ok. God loves me anyway. I’m forgiven anyway.

Our Father which art in Heaven.

Hallowed be thy name.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done

on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, bur deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever.

Amen.