With a black pen on a yellow piece of lined paper I write down parts of my soul I would rather keep buried way down inside myself so no one will ever see.
It is like sandpaper against the inside of my arm, but I write what makes me anxious and fearful and insecure. I shovel out my ugly and my shameful and my selfish. I heap it on top of my mean and my proud and my worthless.
I'm doing this not because I take some sick pleasure in seeing how bad I suck at life but because a wise woman has taught me it is the first step in learning how to live true life; to have peace and joy in who God is and who I am. But I'll admit, this really is a funny way of going about it, and I'm not sure I like it.
But I keep at it. Except now it's a document on my laptop and going on three pages long, and I'm not even halfway done yet. It's filled with fears of what people think of me and anxiety over failing and dissatisfaction at not being able do more with my life and always wanting more instead of receiving gratefully what God has given me.
I look at myself, flayed open on the screen in all my gunk.
There is another version of myself that isn't showing up here. One that is full of desire to do worthy things, to be full of joy, to love others deeply and truly, to work hard, to be confident in who I am, to be strong in faith, to have a pure heart, to be thankful. The truth is, this me gets suffocated and trapped under the me staring at me from my computer screen. Hopelessness is quick to overcome me because I just can't seem to escape myself on my own.
But I remember two things: I do not stop here, and even though it is just me sitting here writing down my deep and vulnerable, it is not for me to fix or solve or figure out, as much as I might try. It is for Christ. I sit defeated with my list of soul muck because I'm powerless to do anything about it. But I hand it over to Him. To Him, who takes the list with electric eyes and rolls up His sleeves because now He finally has something to work with.
And we are on the move, and there is hope again.
But we are not there yet.
And this hurts. This allowing of God to work through me and dig me up until the me he had in mind is finally free. It hurts a lot. And it also humbles. I relate to dragon Eustace in C.S. Lewis' The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, who tried to scratch off his skin but each time he did, it came right back and he had to scratch it off all over again. Only Aslan was strong enough to tear deep through the tough, dry, dragon scales to finally recover raw, pink boy Eustace.
Something else occurs to me. Eustace only learned how to be his true, good self while he was stuck in the dragon skin. I think it's like that for us too. When we actually face them, it is our dragon skins that help us have a change of heart because we realize how desperately we actually need one. In this place of humility, where we feel we are as low as we can possibly go, is where God can finally make something good out of us because we finally let him.
I think this is something that has to keep happening. I just finished a beautiful book called A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman, and in it she says that we are not formulas where you plug in some numbers and hit equal, and we are fixed for good. Instead we are poems. Poems are filled with lovely lines of hope and love and finding what we were longing for yet also with haunting lines of defeat and hurt and losing what we hold dear. Sometimes they are high on the clouds and sometimes they are down in the trenches only to be brought right back up again.
This is how we are in this life, full of beauty and heartbreak tousling with each other within us. Even so, the idea of being created as someone's poem is like a deep breath of morning air after spending too much time beneath the ground inhaling dirt. It is startling and at the same time sweet and beautiful and strengthening.
Especially when we can trust the Poet.