The chirping of newly hatched birds coupled with a warm spring breeze wafting through the open window belied what was happening in my teenage bedroom. A fragrant burst of fresh cut grass being carried along that same gust of wind did nothing to cover the smell of burning flesh. Not for the first time I wished for the bravado to slice rather than burn my skin, but, the risk of dripping blood onto my mother’s pristine carpet kept that wish at bay.
Turning my thoughts back to the task at hand, I deftly flicked the lighters thumbwheel, watching in morbid fascination as the spark became flame allowing me a means in which to light the needle to a red-hot state. The lingering moment of anticipation before contact afforded me an opportunity to turn back, set the needle down and walk away, but I knew I wouldn’t do that, couldn’t possibly turn away from a moment of pain, a moment to feel something, anything.
Life, even at its most painful was still life, so much better than walking around in a state of constant numbness, feeling nothing, but hearing everything. The taunts of my classmates as they ridiculed my never changing wardrobe, frizzy hair and all around weaknesses bounced through my head as I set the heated needle to my arms flesh, biting my tongue to keep from crying out in pain. But oh, what a blessed pain it was. To be able to feel alive, even for that brief instant in time was worth a moment’s agony.
Savoring the throbbing ache, I silently walked to my closet, inspecting its meager contents with disinterested eyes. Yes, they were right, I did wear the same ugly clothes every day, but what they didn’t understand was why. Being ugly on purpose had more benefits than downfalls in my lonely world. It was a means of defense, a way to keep people distanced. I learned at a young age that keeping people at arms length was the only way to safeguard secrets that must be kept. An open heart becomes an easy target for pain, and I simply couldn’t squeeze another drop of hurt inside; numbness, nothingness, a blissful drifting on still waters was by far the better choice in my young mind.
I am now a grown woman, slowly learning that my secrets were never meant to be carried alone. Walking a path of self destruction for too many years has opened my eyes to the pain of others. Knowing that God never “allowed” my brother and father to molest me, but instead cried right along with me, and felt the same pain I did has given me the strength to want to share His love with others, those who feel as though secrets must be kept and carried close. The only way to set your mind free is to allow your heart to be opened and the love of Jesus to shine in. He is waiting to carry your life’s burdens for you and walk its path together.
The journey isn’t always easy, there are still days I trip and stumble, but the good news is that He catches me before I fall.
Please keep in mind, if you see someone being ugly on purpose, whether it’s the way they dress, the way they act, or just because you label them “different”, there is a reason behind those actions. Treat them with love, not scorn or a look of disgust which has the potential to send them burrowing further within themselves. The deeper we dig inside, the harder it is to come back out.