We were born into a world with sticky, hot heat. Like Orlando but worse. And from day one we were told that lots of thick heavy layers were the only way to combat this climate, this world.
“It keeps your skin and senses safe from…everything…”
“Huh? How could…?”
“Just wear them.”
So we do. We wear everything we are told to wear (and some we aren’t). Until we decide not to. And we start taking off these layers, these scarves and sleeves. Then we are naked, or maybe one thin layer away from naked. And naked feels so good for the first time. Those coats were thick and heavy, we thought they were good and useful. They dripped with sweat, steam, and shame. They were not easy to un-peel from your body either. At least mine weren’t.
The coat of “all people are inherently wicked.”
The “But that’s what they said at church and youth group” one.
“You need to…”
The things you always felt were true may have always actually been true. Just like you knew deep down that layers and layers in summer in Orlando is bat-effing crazy. Maybe going to college is nuts, or maybe it isn’t? Maybe church is nuts, or maybe it isn’t? Is it possible homosexuality isn’t everything everyone says it is? What if hell isn’t what we’ve been told it is? Perhaps not every human needs to look thin and fit and camera-ready every moment of the day? Maybe perfection sucks?
I’m really enjoying the exhausting un-peeling. The act of stripping down is never really pleasurable (real stripping, anyway), but I finally feel the summer breeze saunter through these big front windows. And wow do those afternoon drizzles feel refreshing! Those coats sucked. Naked and unashamed is good.
It all started last summer, when in the throes of my spiral downward, I felt Him say, “It’s in the journals.” But why and how could God communicate to a wicked, drug-abusing woman like me? The excited flutter flew away as I rationalized, created fears around the Word, and then eventually dosed up again. Who needs the Words of God when you have oxy…
Then a literal ton of shit hit an enormous fan, and while I regained clarity after a few days in rehab I remembered, “It’s in the journals.” You see, I’ve been journaling since I was eight. My earliest entry is in 1996, I think. And the longest stretch I’ve gone without journaling is no more than 2 weeks. That means that it’s all written down already. Which is great, because the PTSD I have makes remembering it all chronologically and accurately nearly impossible. So I left rehab, entered an outpatient program, and then started intensive therapy. Occasionally it would come up again, but I had no clue what He wanted done with them, the dozens and dozens of tomes in plastic bins in my musty basement.
Things started to shift a few months ago, when a speaker at a women’s faith conference I attended reminded me of the call of the Joshua: “Be strong and courageous.” It was all I needed. Once I started entering the fears I had around the power of the pages I’ve written, I got the next Word. “Buy a scanner.” God bless the *Enneagram 6 husband I married, because when I rushed through the front door after the second day of the conference and said, “we need to buy a scanner!” he responded with a handful of questions to determine the type of scanner we would need to purchase to get the job done. It arrived in the mail a few weeks later, and it sat in the musty basement for at least a month. Until I heard the third Word, “start scanning.”
To tell someone with my past to not only pull out all those journals, but OPEN THEM, to not only open them but READ THEM, to not only read them but SCAN THEM!? Gnarly. Those pages hold things I never wanted to remember: What my dying 14-year-old sister said to me when we put on her first diaper. How my biological father, who I had just begun to trust again, responded when he declined an invitation to my 6th grade graduation. My mom spanking me with a belt until I was 14, and how ashamed I was because of it. What I did to myself that required over 30 stitches in my left wrist, in an attempt to get to the sister I had just lost. The medicine I stole from David. The abuse I hurled at my children. At myself… “Be strong and courageous.” So I started scanning, and I kept writing.
Meanwhile, after seven months of intensive therapy my counselor said that just several layers remained until I was as defenseless as I could ever be. The closer I got to those the more I realized what was going on in God’s heart and mind… The journals are for the world, not for the plastic bins in the musty basement. But I don’t write, I draw. How does one even get a book written? What if You’re right Abba, and this is a big deal? How could I shamelessly market myself? How will I love my family and friends well? Jesus, You of all people know how out of control my ego can get, how proud I am. I can’t let that lion out of the cage just when I’m starting to get a handle on it!
“Shh… Sweet, sweet Claire, I am The Lion Tamer! Be Strong and Courageous, Sweetie”
That’s when Paul Young, author of The Shack, showed up to speak at church one Sunday. “Those first 15 copies I printed at Office Depot did all I ever wanted that book to do,” Young explained. All I (Claire) ever wanted was for my children to know that their God is GOOD, all the time.
It was a gift my sister Ellen gave me, her hope and faith. That even if one has brain matter bulging out the back of one’s neck, it is possible to sing love songs to the One allowing it, or causing it… Just like Ellen I didn’t lose faith, and I never stopped begging for better. If my children could know and believe that no matter what happens, all they have to do is keep hoping and keep loving, then I have fulfilled my purpose. It was like he was reading my heart and my mind. Then he went a step further.
He spoke of an experience one night in which God woke him up very suddenly. He said it felt like a literal waterfall of creative ideas washed over him. Some time later, after sitting, stunned & excited, in these brilliant, holy thoughts it occurred to him to write them down. Immediately after that thought the waterfall stopped and God said, “Silly Paul, you don’t trust that this is a river!” Young wanted to dam up the waterfall (representing creative, inspired genius), create a stagnant…thing…bottle up the soggy nuggets from God and exchange them for identity. My jaw legit dropped open. It was where my fear was rooted. I didn’t trust myself, or Abba enough to let go of the Words regarding my journals, to let go of the journals themselves. His journals. I was afraid that if they made me “famous” it would feed my ego and bring to life the Claire that had been put to rest.
But I’ve spent eight months dying, every moment of rehab, every Monday night sitting on my therapist’s sofa, every tearful prayer. Little deaths all along the way; more death than even my bone marrow transplant… I’ve been dying for 27 years. And I know this is Life Resurrected. And I love a Lion Tamer. And “BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS!”
Then the next Word, “it’s not just in the journals.” Up until this point, I planned on doing all of this anonymously; on not “marketing” at all. Anything to keep the focus off of me. But someone strong in their view of how God sees their true self, isn’t tempted by what other’s think of them, right? And what about prophets? I read Herschel’s The Prophets years ago, and felt like maybe there were bits that pertained to me back then. Every day for the last month or so I have looked at it staring directly at me from the big living room bookshelf. So I started reading, and the pieces started to fall together, and I saw what was happening… (Also, as all of this is going on I’m deeply enthralled with Enneagram and what it means to be a redeemed 4. FOURS are prophets. Artists. The most introspective type of person. We have felt the depths of nearly every emotion, and can continue to regenerate. We listen and observe. We help when we realize we are truly of service to others. And when we are redeemed we create timeless pieces of beauty/art that help humanity.) It all started to make sense.
Moses walked down from Mt. Sinai in glowing effulgence from his time spent with God. Jacob limped away. If I have something that God has given me from my time, my wrestle, with Him then I am the one glowing and the one limping; God needs me. Not just the journals and the writing. Sweet Claire, the same way you burn with a desire for your children to know about my goodness, my faithfulness, my love, my beauty, that is what I need My children to know about me too! The restlessness you feel? The random tears you cry? The drive to physically touch people who you sense have a secret pain? The women your heart aches for? The people who need to know that they are already enough, that they are worthy and good? Those tears, feelings, thoughts & impulses are mine, too. Herschel says it is embarrassing to be a prophet, and sometimes I am gripped by fear & shame about the things I know I will one day publish on this blog. But if it helps people know that one can do things as fucked up as I did, and still He loves, then I will do it. If it helps one person, a person who just received an earth-shattering gut punch, trust that He is good and Romans 8:28 is true, then I will do it. Like Joshua, I will be strong and courageous.