It’s okay when things get hard. Or when something may be easy but you mess it up with pride, anger or acting out of unresolved hurt.
Or is it?
This past week, in my soul tending work – on my journey – I’ve been focused a lot on healing some deep brokenness. It wasn’t what I set out to do but when I sat quietly and watched the clouds or when doodling quietly, I had to dig into the things that were bubbling to the surface.
And because I’d been burying them for so long or calling them less harmful things than they actually are, they came out ugly. It cost me somethings of value that I’m still regurgitating and attempting to leave in God’s ever-capable hands.
THE WOUND + THE LIES
A lot of prayer and Bible reading – and a lot of unexpected encouragements – have helped me begin to see my why; really my wounds. And of course, like most of us, the reaction wasn’t really the entire story.
See, I’ve been through a lot over the past 35 years. And because wearing a mask and elevating what other people have felt or diminishing what I feel, think or have experienced is less than everyone else’s fill-in-the-blank, I have dug some deep roots around the lie that I’m not valued or good enough.
Since the first year I opened my black mouth to answer the teacher’s question (I so loved school – my top strength is LEARNER) in a room filled with white voices and registered their responses; not necessarily unkind, but definitely different. I began then to see different as “not good”, truly “less valuable”.
I began to wear “less” or “weird” or “not measuring up” as if they were my other names. My grades weren’t great because I spent more of my time trying to assimilate, adjust + fit in than pouring into the topics presented. And because I was working overtime at deciphering the hidden language or code that is often spoken in classrooms, organizations and government, I did not have the energy or strength to speak up when the material/content ripped open holes in my understanding of who I was in that version or perspective of education.
Now, you could say to a 10, 11 or 12yo that their identity should come from Christ. And that I shouldn’t have taken things so seriously or been so sensitive to the way that things were presented; I am after all a child of God. And it’s true. My family was living in church each week for h-o-u-r-s (that felt like days) every Sunday. (I ain’t sorry for saying it Mama, you know it’s true.)
It wasn’t so much that what was coming in was so lopsided or narrow in its focus, it was how this highly sensitive, deep thinking – even from the first grade – black girl in an all white world – except for black church every Sunday – was doing with it.
And it felt wrong. I felt wrong.
WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU
Recently, some friends and I were discussing Serena Williams’ responses to her penalties at the U.S. Open. We are a smart group of women (librarians, sailors, chefs, hospital administrators, lawyers, educators) and all have opinions. I had extra.
As I was rambling my frustrations and couldn’t land the plane on my edginess in a direct flight (sorry ladies, I know it was more like a long domestic flight with 14 layovers) one of the women suggested how I and everyone speaking about Williams’ behavior from hindsight and – quite honestly from the outside – might need to consider “what happened to her”.
That maybe we would have more understanding and less judgment if we considered what she’s gone through to be at her level of professional tennis when the sport hasn’t always been the kindest to female players. In a country where there is so much animosity and tension about race, sex, class and equality.
It convicted my soul.
It dug into my wound.
Because y’all, I want people to like me.
Especially the people who look through me and don’t take the time to see me or know me. I hate admitting this, but it is my kryptonite. (Being vulnerable here, stay with me.) I feel so boxed in when someone rates and judges my reaction to WHAT HAS ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO ME but I perceive that, to them, it is not or does not seem relevant. There is no room in the conversation to ask (what happened to you gurl?) or if the question is asked, there is little patience or willingness to hear or understand. Probably NEVER intended, I hear what I learned and carried all those years ago as a 5th grader in that classroom – it doesn’t matter. You, Regina do not matter.
Rather, it becomes about bringing back control with the rules or the standard or the expectation. And in my foolishness, which I hate to admit, became about pushing ambition and drive to the top to prove the unknowing (in most cases unknowing- I hope) wrong.
Which you probably know only infected the wound more deeply.
HEALING THE WOUND + KILLING THE LIE
Here’s the thing.
Once it registers within me that you’d rather be right in your perception of me than actually know or hear me, I begin to swallow the hurt and push away from you.
I may get really quiet but bristle with anger and frustration deep within. In my silence, I rot. I believe that sharing my opinion will make the distance I’m already feeling and stepping into uncomfortable for you and that that is my fault.
Grateful for wise counsel from a woman further along the road in these things than me, I was challenged to start the healing process once and for all. Here’s what she shared with me.
- CLEAN the wound.
- COVER the wound.
- EXPOSE the wound.
Simple right? I love me some checklists…
I curled up in my quiet soul tending space and got my candles lit, journal and pen ready and was ready to tackle step one until I realized, Regina…
Before you do step 1, you need to spend some time identifying the wound.
So, I did. And eewwww…
I had to dedicate an entire page in my journal to writing out the wound. It was the stuff I mentioned before and even more puss-filled, icky stuff that makes the infection in the wound really stink.
I came to the realization that it was not really the things I’d been outwardly professing that were hurting me (people, missed opportunities, injustice), it was the stuff that I’d internalized and buried deep within myself.
Yes, people said things that hurt. They judged. They ignored. They de-valued. They were rude, dismissive, racist, prejudiced, complicit, unkind. They laid curses over me and used scripture to condemn me. They boxed me in to grieving the way they thought I should and left when I didn’t consider their feelings first. They talked about me behind my back and they criticized my decision to leave. All of it and more.
But, the biggest culprit was me. I’d done all of the same things to others in response to what had been done to me. And instead of starving the poison in my wounds, I nursed the junk and let it spread. I was infected and rather than identifying the wound, then cleaning, covering and exposing it in safe environments, I kept nursing my hurt with more hurt and believing the implications, the judgments and curses. I kept growing them and letting them shape me and let it overtake what God says about who I am to Him.
Yesterday, I started this soul work by identifying my wound.
And now, I’m developing the other steps. I’m taking my time; I’ve been keeping my wound infected for 35 years, it’s gonna take a little time for this heal. God is working on me, I am so thankful for His patience, grace + mercy.
So thankful that when I cut a fool:
An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins. Proverbs 29:22
He is big enough and not bowled over by it and makes room for my heart:
All prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. Acts 10:43
I’m not even responsible for cleaning up my mess/cleaning out my wound. In this process, my responsibility in step one is confession + surrender, so that He can do what only He could do. Right?
Like, if I could have cleaned out the wound(s) deep within my soul, wouldn’t I have already done it? Or never let them become wounds in the first place? Oh to have such self-control and live so perfectly all the time in response to everything us hurting people (and everyone is hurting with something at some time) are walking through.
Today, I’m in the tension between where I’ve been living (uptight, angry, stressed and just deeply wounded) and where God is taking me (peaceful, mature, dependent and healed). I wish it were prettier. this process. I wish that the people I’ve hurt and who have hurt me would be so able to see and understand and love me anyway. I so want this. I want us all to be cleansed by the perfect love of Jesus.
This is the reason for the soul tending work I’m doing.
I’m not Jesus. (Stop laughing, I never thought you were confused. Ha!)
I certainly don’t act like Him and reflect His light as brightly and consistently as I’d like or others may, but I know Him. And I can introduce you to Him. I can tell you that even though I did some pretty hurtful things this week, He stayed by my side tending to my soul. He still let me eat (I used to lose my appetite when in conflict). He still gave me rest (I’ve slept every night and rested). He still let me laugh (I would choose depression because I believed I deserved to be sad – face must reflect wounding). He still let me receive love (oh this one).
It’s not about your wound friend.
It’s not about your grief, your mistake, your self-talk, your anything. It’s about the healing He wants to do in you, through you, for His glory. I hope you’ll make some time on Day 15: Social Media Free Day or any day to sit quietly and call out what your wound is so that the healing can begin. I’m cheering + praying for you.
You’ve He’s got this Soul Tender!