This year has revealed in me a tangibility and fragility that I have subconsciously disregarded or otherwise characteristically demonized throughout my yet short-lived life. Growing up as an angry, disturbed adolescent, learning to cope with deep hurt, anger, and often unexplainable, reactionary emotions defined the first large portion of my life. Unlike the common misconception of immediately transformed life upon the transforming sanctification of Jesus in his blood, becoming a Christian was the immediate forgiveness in my life I so deeply desired, but not immediate healing, nor an immediately transformative lifestyle. Becoming a Christian was a burden lifted from my shoulders; it was the relief that my clay heart, though it was far from Jesus’ heart and often seemed intrinsically evil, was being purified and perfected through the constantly molding hands of my Master Potter. Though I was justified by my faith, and forgiven by his grace, I was still hurting tremendously, often in ways that were impossible to relay and impractical to justify. In the tribulations of my self-inflicted emotional wounds that had gripped me for so many years—those lacerations that seemed to scar so noticeably and remind so frequently—my Master Potter spun my heart on his wheel, detailing my character with the most delicate care, never putting more pressure than my fragile clay heart could handle, but always putting enough pressure to sustain the tenuous build of my always changing perception of Him. He was doing exactly what he was pleased to do (Psalm 115:3).
Growing up with scars was difficult, and I often felt hopeless to overcoming the unbearable cycle of a seemingly unstoppable ache. In my early childhood, outbursts of highly intensified anger were a usual, often daily event. Punching holes in walls, breaking through doors, getting in fights with other kids in the neighborhoods—all a normal part of my life before I even started school. In first grade, I was angry, and I didn’t want to be at school, so I ran away, later to be arrested and taken to the station—whatever area you take an arrested seven-year-old. Through the following five years, I was suspended from school many dozens of times, sometimes for threatening students, sometimes for threatening teachers, sometimes for threatening myself, frequently for all three. I was taken to residential psychiatric rehabilitation fourteen times (if I’m remembering correctly) before I entered seventh grade. One day at recess in fifth grade, I restrained a kid that I didn’t like—no other reason—while my friend, who was a little league pitcher, threw four-seam fastballs into the kid’s body. We were both suspended for a length of time. I also remember getting in an argument with a friend in my neighborhood and breaking their leg.
My life at home was despicable. My parent’s took me to psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, doctors, and other people whose title’s I wasn’t and am not familiar with. I took every medication stabilizer under the sun, from anti-depressants to bi-polar medication, ADD, ADHD, and stuff for a lot of other acronyms. It seemed that every other doctor had a different diagnosis for my behavior. While I believe medication should be used if it’s needed, and that there were times that it helped and other times it did not, my will to do evil trumped what the medication was able to do in my heart and mind. Whether I was threatening someone else’s life or my own, I was in constant anger. The police, fire department, and ambulances regularly appeared at my house for fear that I would harm myself or someone else. I remember a day in the kitchen (this wasn’t the only time), that I was in an argument with both parents, and I pulled a sharp steak knife from the kitchen drawer and threatened my own life—not because I wanted to take my life, but because I knew it would be more emotionally traumatic for my parents than if I threatened their life. I was disturbed and broken as a child. I was an expert at verbally and physically terrorizing someone’s life. I could never explain to the other kids who knew me why the police were always at my house. I couldn’t explain to the kids in school why there were weeks here and weeks there of complete absence. My reactions made sense to no one, including me.
All of that was before I turned 13.
In 6th grade, I hated school, and hated everyone. One day I threatened to murder my teacher before bombing the school. I was immediately expelled from the institution, unable to ever return. In the following 3-4 weeks, I became a student at three different middle schools in the surrounding areas before dropping out of the sixth grade.
Several months went by when and I went to a fourth middle school for seventh grade. I also dropped out of seventh grade, because every day was torture for me, as though Evil himself was scraping glass on the inside of my stomach, screaming into my ears, forcing me to submit to evil, hatred, and anger. I couldn’t control myself, and everything I felt was intensified, all the time.
The next year, I went to a new school, and skipped eighth grade. I was always somewhat able of doing well academically, I just chose not to, and was generally completely apathetic to the idea of institutional learning. Now that I was in high school, the previous fifteen years of hate seemed to be more accepted, and I formed friendships with people that seemed to accept me the way I was. I still bottled up so much, every day. Whether it was skipping class to smoke marijuana, leaving campus to smoke cigarettes or just playing hooky, I continued surrounding myself with people that would continue to breed a yearn for evil in my heart. There were seasons in my life of deep depression. There were times of total apathy. Sometimes I was extremely sad, other times extremely angry. Sometimes I emotionally threw up on someone, other times I bottled it up for weeks or months.
Why do I say all of this? Because people hurt, deeply and unexplainably. Your life may not reflect mine, but you may have similar scars. Scars are scars. Sometimes they never go away. Sometimes we feel broken. Sometimes we can’t explain the way we are feeling, and we usually don’t want to tell anyone about it, because we know they’ll never understand. If it means anything at all coming from me (and maybe it doesn’t), if you have scars, share them. Preface your conversation with whomever you talk to with, “I just need you to listen. Please don’t seek to give me the right advice. I just need to speak.” Maybe that’s what you need. Perhaps all you need is to realize that you are normal, that everyone has their battles, and often times they are unspeakably difficult. Maybe you need to cry. Maybe you need to know how incredible God’s love is for you. It’s a simpler idea that “God loves his people,” but it’s not always so easy to consider how much he loves YOU, personally, specifically, whole-heartedly. He loves your emotions, and he hurts when you hurt.
We all need is a sense of worth; we matter, and to think otherwise is dangerous. Even when we are in the slimy pit, God retrieves us and cleans us.
“He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure.”
We are loved tremendously, first by God, then by so many people. Consider today all those in your life who love you.
I’ve been a Christian for seven years, and I think it will take me another seven, fourteen, twenty-one, probably more to figure out the way my brain works and why I am the way I am. I am often frustrated that I have had such a difficult life, and I usually end up blaming myself, thinking of all the ways I could have done so and so differently to change “X” or “Y” circumstance. The thought I’ve assumed recently is that I am what I am, but that God has made me and will make me who I am and who I will be. God perfects me the way I am unable to. Jesus purifies my heart the way he wants to, at the speed he wishes to.
Emotions and anger defined the first large portion of my life, but now I am defined by how Jesus makes me, and by the way he continues to change me.
Without God, I am who I am. But with God, I am who he molds me to be.