But I am sure that ever since I was a child, I have longed for transparency. But, sensing my own own filth, my own dirtiness, I doubted it was possible for me. I grew to hate what I thought was myself so much that I desired to bear it all before all so that there would no longer be the secretive, deceptive white-washing of my shame. I now know that it was my sin I hated, my carnal self, myself without Jesus. Then, however, I only felt trapped. Wondering how long I would continue to hide the facts. Convinced that I was by far the worst sinner of them all.
I had nightmares about fire and strange creatures dancing and writhing in pain. Yes, dancing (as in celebratory dancing) and writhing with pain. I didn’t even like my nightlight because I thought it looked like fire on the wall, but I didn’t want to be in the dark either. I did not understand the implications at the time. There are a couple of times I remember being by myself in a dark hallway or room and hearing someone whisper my name.
What had I done that was so bad? I cannot tell you. There is no singular event or particular, but I knew that I was dirty, and I didn’t know how to take a shower. I worried that everyone would smell me and abandon me in repulsion. Even my own family. The lies that I was worthless and a mistake began to sink their teeth into my flesh. Several times I plotted how I would take my life. Once I was able to hold my breath until everything began to turn black. I was momentarily frightened by the power I had over my own consciousness and, for the moment, decided it was more desirable to continue with the charade than to end my life. I know I was under 7. I would, from time to time, tell everyone in my family that I loved them in preparation to no longer occupy this world. Funny how I was convinced I would go to heaven even though I was so disgusting. Once I remember making a “deal” with God that He could send me to hell if I sinned again. I also remember getting in trouble with my parents for something. My dad asked me why I did it, and I told him I had decided to give Satan a try because his deal sounded pretty good. I may have been around 7 or 8. I suppose, to my young mind, Satan seemed attractive because there were no expectations to meet. No sense of failure.
I was not a “bad child” in the worldly sense. I didn’t take pleasure in being unkind to anyone or bullying my friends. In fact, if I perceived I had offended someone, I would often become very upset and chide myself saying things like, “You’re the worst person in the world.” and “How could anyone love you?”. Ironically, I was often told that I was beautiful and kind and that I loved and wanted to please God. As I have said before, I thought, “They must not really know me.” I remember one lady that I really looked up to and respected saying, “You are beautiful on the inside and out.” It was a huge compliment, but I was sure she was mistaken. She didn’t really know me either. But, for some peculiar reason, I wanted her to. I wanted to really be known because I felt it would be liberating (even though I’m sure liberation was probably not in my vocabulary then). I longed to be accepted and told that it was okay to be filthy, even though I desperately wanted to be clean. I think I felt that if someone told me it was all okay, it would make me clean. Growing up I purposely attached myself to people I felt had very low standards. Low expectations. In high school I took physical cleanliness to extremes from my food to personal hygiene. I would sometimes receive compliments from friends on my high level of cleanliness. It made me proud that someone was pronouncing me clean. I reveled in the momentary victory. It just wasn’t the right Someone, so the feeling wasn’t lasting.
My desire to be liked was labelled as “kindness” and “sweetness”. Another successful facade. Again, I was not a “problem child” or “troubled teen”. I did my share of dumb things, but managed to never have a criminal record or become pregnant at 16. All outward signs of inward sin and turmoil. I became okay with my sin as long as it wasn’t recognized by others. No sign. No label. No scarlet letter. Just inward darkness and nothing I could do could pierce it.
To say that I had a moment of clarity and light would be a lie.
I developed unhealthy habits like binge eating and laziness. I did go to school and work, but every event became about what I could do to please myself. Even my “concern” for others was tainted my my own need to feel accepted and useful.
I couldn’t have been genuine if someone had paid me.
Not being able to unselfishly love and not feeling that anyone would love me unselfishly if they knew the real me, made it very hard to understand a God who could. But I wanted to. Oh how I wanted to. I wanted to understand that being clothed in white in heaven didn’t mean that the white garments were just covering my sin, but that it had been cast far away. That I was clean inwardly as well as outwardly.
A song that really got me thinking in the right direction was Casting Crowns “Who Am I?”
Who am I, that the Lord of all the earth
Would care to know my name
Would care to feel my hurt?
Who am I, that the bright and morning star
Would choose to light the way
For my ever wandering heart?
Not because of who I am
But because of what you’ve done
Not because of what I’ve done
But because of who you are
I am a flower quickly fading
Here today and gone tomorrow
A wave tossed in the ocean
A vapor in the wind
Still you hear me when I’m calling
Lord, you catch me when I’m falling
And you told me who I am
I am Yours, I am Yours
Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin
Would look on me with love
And watch me rise again?
Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea
Would call out through the rain
And calm the storm in me?
I am Yours, I am Yours
Whom shall I fear?
Whom shall I fear?
‘Cause I am Yours
I am Yours
“I am Yours”…that was something I had a hard time picturing, imagining, understanding. Am I really His or is it contingent upon my performance? Not being a disciplined person by nature and also having a short attention span, I felt as though I could not achieve or finish anything. I remember, as a highschool senior, achieving somewhat of a routine. I would run 2 miles on the treadmill in the garage every evening, shower, read my Bible and pray and then go to bed. It didn’t matter how late I got home or how tired I felt, I felt incomplete unless I had done these things. I became somewhat obsessive. I felt guilty when I could not accomplish one or more of the items on the list and I eventually gave it up because I was tired of keeping it up. I didn’t like the pressure. (One of the reasons I never wanted to be on any sort of athletic team. I couldn’t handle my failure negatively affecting everyone else.) I remember how relaxed I felt and how I was able to rest easier after trying to achieve for so long.
I think it all goes back to motivation and the heart. I was seeking meaning and fulfillment and self-worth and probably 20 other things as well. Not understanding the height and depth and width and length of it. Of this seemingly monotonous pursuit. I still don’t understand. Ecclesiastes is very close to my heart. But I believe. I believe that I serve a God Who is infinitely smarter than I.
My daughter recently asked me while listening to Third Day’s “Soul On Fire” why a lot of songs talk about fire inside you. My mind went to the day at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and it was as if tongues of fire touched them, enabling them to communicate the Gospel to other people groups in their individual languages. (Acts 2:1-11)
The Holy Spirit…a fire in our souls that leads and convicts and prompts and will not let us rest until we have picked up our intended cross and begin to obey our individual calling.
What I love about the Third Day song is that it says :
God, I’m running for Your heart
I’m running for Your heart
Till I am a soul on fire
Lord, I’m longing for Your ways
I’m waiting for the day
When I am a soul on fire
Till I am a soul on fire
Even the disciples of Jesus did not immediately become “on fire” when they first decided to follow Christ. They had to wait. They pursued. It’s as if they said, “Lord, we may not understand. We may have veils over our eyes, but we are coming after You. We want to know You. No matter the cost.” And after considerable doubting and stumbling and mistakes and fear, they received His Spirit, when He decided it was time.
We wait for that fire to illuminate our souls and not only bring all to light, both good and bad, but consume us, so that is all we are…a fire for Christ in a dark world. We are fully known and fully made clean. Fully dead to sin and fully alive in Christ. We allow our filth to be consumed by His brilliant, burning light.
I still struggle with really claiming the freedom and cleanliness. I over think and over analyze. I give my thoughts and reasoning way to much credit. Sometimes all I can do to refute the lies is to say, “Lord, I’m running toward Your heart, until I am a soul on fire. I know that You are the only One that can truly fill and consume.”
Please be encouraged! Satan wants you to feel like you are worthless and a without hope. But there is hope, a glorious hope in Christ who makes us new and clean and complete. We don’t have to surrender to our filth, only to Jesus who takes away the filth of the world. He has already paid the price for us, He just wants us to willingly come to Him so He can pronounce us clean.
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. -Romans 8:1-2