Sunday, November 20, 2016

Empty (Psalm 34:1)

   Today has been the hardest day I've had in a very long time. This month has been hard. The past several weeks have been draining and I've been struggling and not feeling like myself. And today...well today took the cake. Today was brutal. The details are personal, but I am in a lot of pain. I cried all day. I wept, is actually a better word. I wish I had words adequate enough to express what I'm feeling. I'm not sure I have ever hurt so much. Today wrecked me.

   When everything first happened, I ran and called my sister, and after sufficiently swearing her ear off, I played Ever Be by Bethel and I sobbed. I listened to worship music the rest of the day because it was the only thing keeping me from losing my mind entirely.

   I remembered my favorite quote from a monologue by Joanne Tucker.

"And I started thinking that maybe the state of having nothing and feeling just so used up, well maybe that's sort of the state God wants me in. You know, not so full of all my ideas about myself and how much of a rebel I am. But just sort of ready to listen."

   Today I screamed and swore and cried and worshiped and fell on my knees and threw up and thought I was going to have a heart attack. Even now as I write this I am in denial, I am afraid, I am aching, I am suffering. 

   I am empty.

   I realize that I have been pushing God away for far too long. I have done things the past couple months I know I should not have done. I have made huge mistakes. I have given my tiny heart away and now it's broken. I know a part of that is my fault. I wanted my own way and I didn't want to wait. I rejected a lot of boundaries that people in my life warned me about and of course, it's now I see how much those choices hurt me. How they are hurting me. 

   And I have nothing left to cling to. 

   There is so much aching in me and so much pain. 

   I know I had to come to a decision. I could either succumb to this pain and let it kill me. I could never get out of bed again. I could cry and not eat until I died. Or I could let this pain make me stronger.

   I'm not saying this to be poetic or cute. I'm saying that today as I was on my third hour of nonstop crying, I decided I didn't want to live this way. Because there has got to be a reason all this has happened. I did not go through all those terrible things in my past just so I could relive them. I was not made to be in this much pain.

   Really, its times like this where you can really see where your trust is in. 

   This time, I'm ready to put my trust in God.

   I think I'm finally ready to listen.

   There's one thing I haven't been able to get out of my head all day. It's that God is teaching me to be soft. I swear, that has come up so many times. My heart doesn't want to be open anymore. I don't want to love people anymore. I am not sure my body can take any more pain. I have been through too much. But God wants me to be soft. God wants me to be kind. To love. Love without fear. 

   At this point, I am too broken to object.

   And this is where God wants me. Humbled. Rid of myself and all the stupid notions and ideas that I have about how great of a person I am. Two months ago I had it all together and I didn't need God and I didn't need anyone and now I don't want to get out of bed and I can't lie to anyone and tell them I'm okay because I'm not okay. 

   But I will be.

   I will not become bitter. I will become soft. My pain will not distort my vision so I see a cruel world. Today I saw people and I loved them for the first time. Today I realized how empty I am. Today I craved church, I craved fellowship, I craved honest worship time. I wanted church to be every day because my soul is such a wreck I know that's the only thing that can give me rest. 

   "Your praise will ever be on my lips."

   I keep coming back to that lyric. I'm remembering all those things I learned in 2014 about needing God and having faith. I keep reminding myself that God is good no matter what. Whether or not I ever feel better. Even if my heart breaks a million and one more times. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

   I guess this is where God can finally use me. When I'm not so full of myself and can actually admit that I'm a mess. 

   I don't know what's going to happen. I probably won't feel okay for a very long time. I'll probably hurt more. I know I'm not strong enough to face this, but I don't have to face this alone and that makes is better. I think God is trying to teach me to trust in Him even when I'm in pain. His grace is sufficient. 

   I re-read the epilogue to the NaNoWriMo I wrote in 2014, the book that changed my life, and it spoke to me. 

   "On days like today I thank God, through clenched fists, for my suffering. Because all that pain made me soft."

   All this pain made me soft.

   I wrote those words like 8 months ago, before I knew what those words really meant. 

   What I'm trying to say is that pain is inevitable. But when we're in pain we have two choices: let it break us or let it grow us. And I think the misconception about that is what we think it looks like to let pain grow us. We think it looks like smiles and being Okay all the time and not letting our suffering effect us. I don't think it looks that way at all. I think it looks like screaming and sometimes cussing and admitting you feel like you're dying; but holding on to Christ all the more during that process. It's being willing to be vulnerable and let Him mold you. 

   "I will extol the Lord at all times. His praise will ever be on my lips."-Psalm 34:1

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Making A Monster

   This is an essay I wrote for a Hispanic Heritage Month essay contest at my school. I won an honorable mention for it. It isn't my best piece, but I did want to share it with you. I have been thinking about this topic a lot and I realized it was not something I speak about often. However, I do hope you find this essay thought provoking. I've been very caught up this week in a mass amount of homework + NaNoWriMo so writing new content will not happen this week, so I leave you with this essay about diversity and representation instead.

   Growing up as a white, middle class, mostly privileged girl, I was never made
aware of the challenges that people of other races face in regards to diversity. I walked through
life mostly ignorant of their struggle. I didn’t know what it was like to not be able to identify
with people in movies or characters in video games when all the protagonists were a carbon copy
of me. They had the same blonde hair and light skin. I didn’t appreciate the features I had that
would, by the world’s warped standards, consider me beautiful.

   “It's that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural
level, any reflection of themselves.” Junot Diaz said this quote in a speech and it opened my eyes
to a reality beyond my own experience. See, in my life, all I ever saw was my reflection. Girls of
color struggled without a voice and without representation. They were isolated from seeing
themselves. If they were without a mirror, than I was the opposite; I was locked inside a room
full of them. I was forced, day in and day out to stare at this reflection of myself until I despised
what I saw.

   Everywhere I turned there was a reflection of me. There was another movie about a white
girl and white girl problems. There were advertisements catering to me. There were books about
me. There were products and clothes all designed with me in mind. It’s suffocating. It’s
exhausting. Seeing so much of myself leaves me sick in the stomach. Nothing is ever different or
new. I am stripped of my individuality as our culture continues to send messages that tell me I
am merely one voice in a sea of others. I am nothing.

   There is nothing interesting about one blonde girl in a crowd full of them. People looked
just like me. The characters in the novels I read were so much like me I was forced to deal with
the fact that I may not be as great as I like to think I am. Self hatred is always rooted in pride.
Self hatred comes when the illusion of who we thought we were gets shattered by reality.
Not only that, but the complete whitewashing of our society leaves me ignorant and in
some cases, naive. I lack the ability to connect with people of color because I am so obsessed
with the image of myself. We have created a system that thrives off of our lack of knowledge.
We know nothing of the struggles that other people face because we are so hyperfocused on us.
We live to please ourselves. We work to take care of ourselves. How many times in our day do
we take to think about someone else? Do we even know what it’s like to consider a point of view
that isn’t our own?

   That’s the worst part though. I can claim to hate myself and be sick of the obsession with
white people, but I do not know who I would be without it. I would not be able to live in a world
where I was not constantly romanticized. People like me have been privileged for so long it’s
embedded into who we are. If people like me were not on the pedestal of the American dream, I
would be utterly lost. When I stop to think about this idea, it occurs to me that this is what people
of color feel like every day of their lives. They live without any indication in our society that
they are here.

   Yet I will go about my day and feel pity for myself and the so called struggles I go
through of being just like everyone else. I will pretend that I know what it’s like to feel
misrepresented in media or culture. Even after I come to understand that there are other people in
the world who have it worse than me, I will continue to feel sorry for myself. Maybe I’ll shed a
tear as I stare at the TV full of commercials with thin, white, females. I’ll read another young
adult novel about a white girl and her dramatic love life. In any sense, I will forget about the
world around me once again and feed into the notion that I am the only person that matters.
You can make a monster of a person by denying them a reflection. You can leave them
worthless and feeling alone. You can refuse to give them the basic human right of
acknowledging their existence. The second way to create a monster is by making them believe
they are nothing special. We are all the same.