This shall be the diary of my womanhood. As I write, I am still sixteen. I am not a perfect woman, and sometimes I still act like a child. Sometimes I wish I still was. I can only get older. But I will live forever, and soon age won't matter. I must remember that God has a plan for my life.
Written seventeen years ago, on April 10, 1997
I've fallen in love with this man named Bill. It happened so quickly, inevitably and naturally that I didn't notice I was there until I was.
I want to be with him, but he is not suitable on a spiritual level.
I want to rebel, but I won't, I'm too scared. I'm desperately hoping God meant for me to fall in love with him and will bless the union.
I'm going to fast and pray for three days.
Written April 14, 1997
Well, here I am, Lord. I don't want to panic, so please reassure me I'm not going away from You. You do not slumber that keep me. You shall preserve me from all evil, You shall preserve my soul: my mind, will and emotions.
He is saved. He is God's. I am believing that God spoke to me clearly that night in the meeting. That I am to love this man and to be with him. That he is God's plan for me, not a huge temptation put there by the enemy.
That I can trust God to work in both our lives. And make them a glory to Him.
Lord, don't let my doubt drown me.
Written April 23, 1997
I've pledged myself to a man in words and deeds and it makes me feel slightly nervous.
But God watches over my soul, He will guard my going in and coming out.
You know it is slightly scary pledging your life to a man. There are no more sea walls, just the open expanse, spread out before you in all its unpredictability and vitality. Its openness for potential. You can no longer avoid life. Life comes after you.
Written two weeks ago, on March 13, 2014
I pulled out the green leather bound journal with the orange leaves- so romantic looking, surely it would be filled with poetry, girlish dreams and prose! There was some slight warning bell going off in my head as I looked at it, but I couldn’t place it.
So I opened it and I read about falling in love with Bill. My heart sank. For the first time in so many years, I saw all the verses I had scrawled out to God- to Jesus!- begging Him to guide me, determined to trust that He would. I had forgotten that I had called on Him. I had forgotten because I had meant to forget.
But I remembered those verses- that psalm in particular. Even now, when I read it, I wince away from it and try not to think why.
Then I closed the journal and got out another one- the one I write in now, and wrote a poem, but it wasn’t coming out anything like what I wanted it to; it was coming out ugly.
Then I closed that journal and I turned off the lamp and I went inward, but I was full of intense energy tightly held in, and everything there was clear. Jesus was standing in the front room, watching me with compassion, holding Himself still.
I went to Him, but it was as though my heart were wound up in string pulled tight and cutting into me, because I couldn’t forget the words I’d spoken to Jesus decades ago. I was standing on the edge of some terrible turmoil with Him and I knew I couldn't avoid it any longer.
“I don’t know how to be this way with You,” I admitted, because I knew it was going to be worse than anything we had gone through before.
Let Me teach you, He said, calmly.
“Okay,” I said, trying to be as calm. “Help me to learn.”
His love poured all through my inner person and it was painful! It was painful as it washed into the tight and cutting places of my heart. It was like when you have a cut and you have to put it under water to wash it out and it hurts worse- flares up into hot pain at the touch of the water.
I am Love, He declared, with unusually firm authority.
“That hurts!” I breathed. “Ah, God, that hurts!”
Then the pain eased away and I deliberately meditated on love. I brought to mind what that meant: love is patient, love is kind, long suffering- does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but in the truth. Love bears all things, endures all things, hopes all things, believes all things. Love never fails.
And then, remembering that and putting all my strength on it, I let the pain free.
I torn myself away from His arms and stared at Jesus, the betrayal beating in my body as though it were my heart. Grief and horror rose up in me, to realize that I had been praying to Jesus all along. That was the part I had deliberately forgotten: that I had been trusting Him. And He had failed me.
I had known Jesus then- heard His voice, felt His presence. I had already fallen in love with Him. Some of the most life changing spiritual experiences of my life had already occurred. I had left the church of my childhood and its rigid legalistic and apocalyptic doctrine, and all my friends and the only life I knew for Him. I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit in a Pentecostal church and prayed in tongues for hours, longing for Him. I had been trusting Jesus- not the impersonal, distant, frightening god of my childhood, but Jesus.
“It was You!” I breathed. “It was You!”
He fell to His knees on the floor, my pain hit Him that hard.
“I was asking You!” I shouted, gathering strength. “I was begging You!" I flung my arm out toward the wall, as though I could see all the verses I'd clung to at that time in my life, desperate for strength to do the right thing. "I plastered verses all over the wall of my heart, because I knew I was weak!” I shouted at Him.
I remembered those passages, how He would not let my foot stumble or slip, how much I clung to them- that He would not let me be caught in the snare, because I could feel myself slipping away, losing my balance.
Another wave of horror and loss washed over me, this time deeper, as I remembered something else. I had suffered repeated sexual abuse, leaving me ripe for another abuser to come along to pick me off, as is exactly what had happened.
And again deeper- I had not even known of the sexual abuse at that time- only that first memory, like the tip of the iceberg, everything else still repressed so that I could survive the layers of damage until I was strong enough to heal, but Jesus had known! He was God! He would have known exactly why I was weak.
“And You knew,” I whispered. “And You knew!"
I opened my arms, as if I could visually show Him the ravages of my integrity of self, the loss of my self worth, and the shame and the powerlessness that had been left in the wake of the abuse- how this had left me vulnerable, undefended.
“You knew this had happened to me, because You had been there,” I breathed. “I myself didn’t even know, but You knew, and You didn’t prevent it! You didn’t save me then and You didn’t save me later, though I was counting on You. I was crying out to You! To You, Jesus!”
My heart was thundering hard and dark in me. Jesus was standing close to me and He reached out to touch me, as if to hold me, but I tore myself away. It was as though His touch hurt me.
“No, don’t. Don’t touch me,” I gasped, in a low voice- ashamed, horrified, furious, betrayed. I couldn’t look at Jesus- the very thing that had been at the center of inexpressible joy and delight- that He was Jesus- was now the center of unspeakable pain and grief- He was Jesus!
As I was caught up in these inward things, tears were sliding silently down my face into the pillow. I didn't know how I would ever find my way out of this grief.
“Now look at me!” I cried, trying to stand up straight. I couldn't, I had to lean against the pillar. “Look at me! I’m ugly all over- calloused, broken in, broken down, blunted. So many others have their beauty, innocence, ideals, but I’m like a ruin! I’m only ugly, a wreck.”
I wrapped my arms around my stomach, feeling the bitterness sweep up through at the desolation of all the lovely things I thought I had been. I felt the influx of this bitterness and recoiled. The last thing I wanted was to turn bitter on top of everything else. It would be too much, the crowning injury.
“Don’t let me be bitter,” I begged with Him in a whisper. “I don’t want a bitter heart. Don’t let my heart turn bitter.”
I stepped off the front room and went down onto my hands and knees on the grass, the pain the was so great. It was as if I was bleeding out. I wanted to stop the bleeding with something, anything. I wanted to stop my mouth with something, just so I could stop talking, but not speaking didn’t mean I would stop knowing it. I was hitting that knowledge as hard as a brick wall again and again.
“I was vulnerable in so many ways- having just left that church and not knowing how to be a person, how to interact with people or how to think for myself, because all I had been taught to do was to obey, perform and withdraw. I had never even had a conversation with a man before! And all the while, he was lying to me! He was manipulating me! And I was depending on You! Why didn’t You do something? Why didn’t You give me a sign? Why didn’t You protect me?”
I thought of how my ex-husband had laughed at me, when he told me that he had been lying about knowing God, how he told me that he had rushed me and pushed me the way he did in order to marry me as quickly as possible, before I could figure out he who really was. If I had any real life experience at all, he told me, I would never have looked at him twice- which is true, looking back. He had played on my guilt, my compassion, and dysfunction. He thought the whole thing amusing.
Then I stopped and considered, desperately. “Did You? Did You give me a sign? Am I missing something? Was there a moment? Was there a time when You told me clearly what to do and I missed it? Was it all my own fault? I don’t remember…”
And then I did, and the shame that poured through me, the heaviness of that shame. I was loathe to think about it, to consider it, but I forced myself to remember. My parents kept warning me about him; they didn't like him and deep down, I knew something was wrong, so one night I went to break up with him, but I couldn't do it. I wasn't strong enough and I begged Him to make it right.
“Oh my God, there was a time,” I breathed, horrified, ashamed. “I knew it then, I knew it then, I went to break up with him, but he pleaded and I begged You! I begged You to give him to me anyway! I asked for it! I literally asked You for the relationship, and You gave it to me! It’s all my fault, it’s all my fault, I was stupid and self willed and sinful…”
Then I remembered how abusive my ex-husband was, how the rest of that year would play out with him. I thought about how, if my daughter asked me for something that I knew would hurt her, like a knife, even if she begged me, I would never give it to her. It would be perverse if I did.
I stood up straight, outraged. “How could You do that to me? I was like a child! I didn’t have a clue! That was why I was counting on You!"
Again my perspective changed. It couldn't be His fault; it had to be my fault. I had known, I had known deep down that the relationship wasn't right, and if only I had been stronger, more resolute. If only I had listened my parents! That alone made it entirely my fault.
"But no! It was my fault- if I choose it, it’s my fault…” I whispered.
Then I dropped back down, caught between these two conflicting, black and white frames for understanding what had happened. This was why I hated to think about this situation and why it was perhaps the one period in my life that is the least healed.
“But there was that time- I believed it!” I breathed. “That time I thought I heard You clearly tell me that it was Your will that I should marry Bill- that time in his church, that stupid song in particular- I saved it somewhere! God, it hurts!"
Remembering this shot pain all the way through me- I felt so much shame at my naivety, my baseless optimism and sentimentality. Going to his church with him, hearing that song, the lyrics seeming to speak straight to our situation, settling my doubts, at least for a time, and how I had kept that paper with all the others, as if it were something to be cherished and not some bitter joke, meaningless- worse than meaningless.
"And I believed it! Or did I just want to?” I mumbled to myself. “Did I let myself believe it because I wanted to? But no! For that moment, I believed it! I thought it was true! Oh God, how I can I trust You again? How can I trust You?"
My ex husband had quickly begun to try and tear down who I was- inside and outside. He made fun of and demeaned my intelligence, my body, my parents, my relationship with God, my creativity- everything about me. He had some weird idea of re-educating me and had me watch things with him like the Exorcist and Clockwork Orange. I would sit on that couch with my hands over my face while women were raped or possessed children crawled up the wall, appalled, my soul curling up inside me, so spiritually sickened that I was physically sick to my stomach.
He was passive aggressive. I remember the first time I realized this, his back turned to me and the feeling of abandonment and the despair of that moment, as I began to realize who he was, what my life would be like. A husband was someone who loved you and supported you and tried to understand you, but mine was refusing even to try, even when I held my terror at bay and spoke as reasonably as I could, even when I let my fears lose and openly begged him, sobbing.
Even begging him could not move him, but I think he liked to hear me beg. He pushed me to that point again and again over that year, until I had been burned out all the way through and could feel nothing toward him.
I thought about all this and how the rest of my life had played out, from that point, as I tried to figure out who I was in the wake of it.
“And after that,” I said, wearily, bitterly, standing up. “I never prayed to You for guidance. How could I believe any sign You might give? How would I know if it was really You or just myself- what I wanted to believe? And what was the point?”
I spread my arms out, to show my emptied self, nothing of value left, no great goal to reach toward, no more potential. I had been taught there was only one will of God for my life and any wrong action sent me away from that course and it could not be regained, only a lesser will. The life I was supposed to have lived for God was irretrievably ruined, never to be.
“What was there left to protect? Nothing. I had nothing left worth praying over.”
Again shame and regret swept through me. All the while, Jesus had been standing very close; when I fell down, He went down with me, when I stood, He stood. This time Jesus pulled me close and I leaned against Him, too exhausted to pull away.
"How can I be angry at You, when You simply gave me what I was asking for?" I wondered, wearily.
I didn't say that- you said that, Jesus replied, clearly, quietly.
"What?" I tried to pull my exhausted thoughts together. "What are You saying, Jesus?"
Jesus repeated this- that He had never declared that as truth, but that I myself was simply believing it. He repeated this concept not once but several times, as I tried to understand my experience in a new frame.
My old thinking had been black or white in a way that reflected teachings and emotional dysfunction that had undergirded my childhood and formed most of my first beliefs. Because I had rarely gone back to revisit this time in my life, those old beliefs had remained behind, untouched and unexamined.
But my life and my decisions at that time had not been black and white; they were layered and complex. My motives had been a mixed reflection of my wounds and also my desire to function as adult, even though I didn't know how yet. It was a mix of love and fear, selfish desires and compassion, good instincts smothered and untethered hope. I had been nineteen years old.
Part of my decision had been me and part of it had been my ex-husband's manipulation- and even his motives were not all bad. He was young himself- only twenty one, if I remember correctly. He genuinely believed that he loved me and that I should be made into someone sophisticated and intellectual, and I wanted someone to define myself for me- I no longer had the tightly knit religious system to do that for me and figuring out who I was on my own was too overwhelming at first- for my entire family and for a long time. All of us were barely managing to stay afloat.
Human suffering remains largely a mystery to me, and the easy answers I used to have for it I have no longer, but I realized that Jesus had never allowed my abusive marriage to happen simply to teach me a lesson. Writing it out like this lets me see how terrible this belief is, but it's one I held onto for years. Realizing this was like scales coming off my eyes.
"I simply made a choice!" I exclaimed. "Maybe it was terrible and ill informed, but it was simply a choice."
However, I still couldn't understand why Jesus had let me come into the path of a man like my ex-husband, just at that time in my life. Why couldn't He have kept me safe until I'd gotten my legs under me, until I had adjusted to the real world- the outside world? Why couldn't Jesus have just let me heal safely? I was in desperate need of healing, and instead, I simply received even further injury.
My thoughts went outward, to the rest of my life as it had unfolded from that one awful year. “And after that, I never trusted You,” I confessed, wearily. “I never trusted You. Did I ever trust You, afterward? I don't think I've ever trusted You!”
I pulled away in horror, thinking how true this was. I sunk back down to the grass. I had just gone on assuming that everything I did was sinful- it was easier that way, if I simply took all the blame and took God right out of the equation. How would I know if something really was His will?
Even if I did know, I knew I would never have the strength to be obedient to it- to my mind, I had proven that once and for all. This belief was further reinforced any time I tried to live according to any kind of religious standard afterward- I always failed, sometimes spectacularly, terribly.
I was kneeling on the grass when it hit me- I did trust Jesus. In fact, I trusted Him so much that I had given Him my entire self. I lifted my head in fear and looked straight at Jesus, for the first time since I'd begun this. He was full of sorrow, His face was lined with pain- He had felt everything with me.
“Do You know,” I breathed, “do You know how much of myself I’ve given You- how much I have trusted You? I have trusted you with my entire integrity of self.”
I know. Jesus spoke these words with such gravity that I understood how much it meant to Him.
“I have withheld nothing from You,” I whispered. “If You let me down now, I will never recover.”
This fear that this evoked in me was thundering so loud all through me that I could barely hear His response, but I heard Him speaking to the disciples- believe also in Me. I clung to this and thought about it.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled (distressed, agitated). You believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely on God- believe in and adhere to and trust in and rely also on Me," Jesus had said. (John 14:1, AMP)
Suddenly, everything that I had let out, that I had spoken, overwhelmed me. How could I have said those things to Jesus? How had I dared? I stood like a deer at bay; I went to turn away from Jesus in shame and fear, and just as quickly I turned back to Him. I flung myself into His arms.
“I want to take it all back," I whispered, desperate and fearful. "I want to unsay everything I said; I take it all back. I want it to go back to the way we were!"
We will be better, Jesus assured me, with steady calm.
This one simple phrase set my whirling emotions still; it was like one line of hope glimmering through.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me, I heard, and I whispered it and I knew that He had been with me in that deep valley of depression. He had never left me, as I had been taught that He would. Instead, He went with me into that dark cleft in my life where I had been broken and stripped of the beautiful things that I had thought were my identity, and afterward all the broken bones badly set, to be fully healed later, because it was all I could do then just to survive the dark, just to pull myself out of that one winter I was married and desolate and ashamed of everything that I was and everything that I had done.
“I don’t care anymore,” I murmured. “I don’t care if I never understand; I just want to drop this and rest.”
Jesus swung me up into His arms and carried me to the couch and held me close there. I put my face into His shoulder and breathed through the fabric of His robe, slowly and steadily.
You prepare me a table before me in the presence of my enemies, I heard, and I knew it was true- that all that time, He was setting up everything that I truly was- the things I had lost weren’t actually me- they weren’t of eternal value. Jesus was already setting me a table with things that would last forever, that would satisfy my hunger always, and He was doing this right in the face of my enemy, in the face of the worst the enemy could do- to kill, to steal and to destroy, but everything that was already mine and would always be was right there- an abundance of life and joy and identity that no one can steal and that cannot wear away.
He had been watching over my soul all along; He had been guarding my going out and my coming in. Jesus had brought me out into a spacious place because He delighted in me, as the psalm said, but the way to that space was not along a wide, easy path- it was straight through the worst that I or anyone else could do. Jesus is fearless. He is not careless or untouched, but He has no fear. He is this way because He knows that His resurrection always has the last word.
I lifted my head from Jesus' shoulder and looked at His face, still drawn and lined by the depth of everything we had just went through. “Look at You,” I said, tenderly. “All marked by grief and torn by pain. We’re both of us so beat up."
Later, I was thinking through everything that I had let come up in His presence.
“My heart is so open to You, even in the deepest, most folded in and turn up places,” I told Jesus, realizing it at a new level.
Your heart is like glass, Jesus breathed, in love.
Love came welling up in me and being caught up in His love, opening to it, was like drinking slow and steady from love that could never be shaken or moved, because at that point, what could destroy it? What can separate us from the love of God? There is nothing. There is nothing strong enough to do this.
March 17, 2014
“You are the Holy One of God,” I said and suddenly realized something.
I sat back against the arm rest of the couch, filled with amazement and joy and threw my hands in the air. “Do You know why?” I asked Jesus, knowing full well He knew why. “Do You know why that is Your name from ages, why You are called that?”
Jesus leaned toward me. He was full of love and laughter. Tell Me! Jenny, tell Me why that is- I am listening.
“Because…” and almost my nerve left me and then I remembered. “Because it means sanctified…” I looked at Him swiftly. “To be holy means to be set apart and You were always set apart. That was Your very name before God- because You were always set apart- set apart as the only uniquely begotten Son, and to be the redeemer, the atonement, the savior, the One who brings forth life.”
I leaned forward and took His face gently in my hands. “The Savior- which means, God saves. You are the very salvation of God, in Yourself, in Your person. That is not just Your name, that is Your very nature. It’s not just what You do, it’s who You are.”
Jenny, I love you, He whispered. You are in every beat of My heart.
That being the second time Jesus had said that, I sat back again to seriously consider that phrase.
“To say that,” I mused, “it’s as though You are saying that Your heart is beating for me, which is like saying that You live for me, and I do not think that is appropriate for You to say,” I told Jesus earnestly. “It’s the other way around. I am for You and everything is for You- all of creation was created for You and Your Pascha is what defines it all… I like this word, Pascha,” I whispered, going off track.
It’s an Eastern Orthodox word that means both the week of Passover but more centrally, Christ’s Resurrection. I like how the word holds everything together- it is not just His resurrection, but His Passover- Passion, death and Resurrection.
Then I returned to the central point and thought more on it. “On the other hand,” I said, “it is as though You are saying that You live for love, and that,” I declared, suddenly having insight, “now that, makes sense!”
And suddenly we were laughing and so full of joy and merriment. “No way!” I declared, grinning.
How could something so true make such sense? Jesus teased, lovingly.
“I know, right? How could it be, that the God whose very name is Love, should live for love? How much sense does that make? What a breakthrough, to discover this!”
And as I thought about His love, I remembered something.
“You thought of me every hour,” I whispered to Jesus, remembering this and remembering the verse that says- your thoughts toward me are without number. “When You were in the garden, pleading with Abba, You thought of me. When they came for You, You were there, because of me…
“Because of me, You remained,” I whispered to Jesus, caught up in awe. “Because of You, I am here. Because of You, I live. Because of You, I can rest in Your love- because You stayed there, to meet them there. You did not leave, flee away into the night in order to live another day. You stayed to die, because You loved me."
As I spoke, His love was flowing through me and mine to Him; I was caught up in this love.
“When they whipped You, I was there in Your heart,” I whispered. “When they led You away, when Your arms were spread out and nailed down, when You died. Because of You... because of You I am healed, because of You, because You remained to die, I was not left alone in the dark, in my suffering, but You joined me there and did not withhold Yourself from me. Because of You, I am lifted out of my sins, my limitations, my failures and I am placed in You…
“And when You rose to life, when Your heart beat again, You thought of me…” I whispered, because that was the best thought of all.
Ah Jenny, Jesus whispered. My heart, My own, My little one; yes, I thought of you always and all through that moment.
“My heart is wide open!” I declared, in amazement, feeling how the love and the joy and the delight was all rushing up through me, and how I was holding on to none of it, but letting it flow freely, strongly, all through myself.
You are a living jewel of My own making, Jesus replied, laughing.
And he raised us up with Christ and gave us a seat with him in the ·heavens [heavenly places/realms]. He did this for those in Christ Jesus so that ·for all future time [ in the ages to come] he could show the ·very great [exceeding; overwhelming] riches of his grace by being kind to us in Christ Jesus. I mean that [or For; Because] you have been saved by grace through ·believing [faith]. You did not save yourselves; it was a gift from God. It was not the result of ·your own efforts [works], so ·you cannot [no one can] ·brag about it [boast]. ·God has made us what we are [For we are his handiwork/workmanship/work of art]. In Christ Jesus, God ·made [created] us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.
Ephesians 2:6-10, Expanded