A Subtle Gift

I want to experience that eighteen-year-old lost, confused, and searching place in me. I never wanted to revisit these old emotions for fear of what they did to me at the time—drove me into self-destructive means of escape. But I was given a subtle gift a few days ago that changed all that. I now want to feel everything eighteen-year-old me was feeling–he is still as much a part of me as the forty-seven-year-old I am now–he has so much good to bring to me.

This started a few days ago when I received a message from a lady who I briefly dated twenty-nine years ago, at the age of eighteen. The way I remember it, we spent our 3-4 months together, taking acid and partying  just before she went into the military and me to rehab (the first of many).  I never saw her again after that, but she has remained a part of my story that has stayed with me all these years–I wasn’t sure why–but it has taken me back into some deep grieving over this period in my life.

I told her I was really glad to hear what she’d done since we parted, but I was really curious about all the years prior to our meeting. She told me a couple of heartbreaking stories of trauma and abuse, and I just felt crushed by them. I wish I’d known back then what I know now about story. All I knew then was that I felt completely lost, and she seemed lost too. Our paths crossed at a baffling time in each of our stories, but neither of us could have communicated what was truly going on—where we had been and what had happened to us, or why. We’d spent only a few months together, and then parted. But this short-lived story stayed alive in me. I don’t think you ever really completely part from some of the characters in your story—they stay there for a reason—they have some truth to bring you.

I just spent a year looking at my own story through the eyes of dear hearts who could see it far more clearly than I. It was so hard, the truth uncovered was unbearable and I didn’t think I would make it through it. I am still so amazed at how wrong I was about the events in my childhood and how they kept repeating throughout my life. Knowing this shed so much light on those few months so many years ago, and it brought back the deep loneliness and wounds from that time; ones that I had repressed. I mean really, this was the time right before my meth addiction really started; my life went from confusing to extremely deadly. So this is an important time for God to bring up. This time represented the state I was in right before the ferocious self-destruction really began. Some of it had already taken place, but the needle took it much further.

This is a unique to opportunity to be able to look back and see with new eyes what was really going on in that brief time. We were two wounded teens who only knew something was not right with our world, but couldn’t have begun to communicate what that was. If only I could go back and look into the eyes of those two young hearts and say Hey, this is what’s going on here; the world you see is not as real as the world you can’t see. You are at the center of a brutal war over your hearts and both of you have been horribly abused, neglected, and traumatized; this isn’t your fault! You are, right now, trying to make life work in this world the best way you know how. But don’t worry; there is also a love story brewing in the midst of this savage war. You have a True Father who loves, and cares about your hearts, is deeply hurt by your wounds, and will rescue you both. He will take you back into the pain; help you to name it, and bring healing and restoration to your precious hearts.” I didn’t know that then, and wouldn’t for another 25 years. But the truth is that I can still tell myself these things. The eighteen-year-old is still here, and because of this gift I can see him today with empathy and kindness. I can grieve with him and lovingly welcome him home–just as he is.

I’ve learned that as long as I’m alive there will be more truth exposed in me—more healing that needs to take place—and it comes when I am in a place where I can handle it. God is too kind to let it happen at any other time. And he doesn’t seem to heal any wound that I deny exists, so it means experiencing the pain again so that he can take it away. He doesn’t take me where I’m not willing to go, so I had to give Him permission to take me as deeply into these teen-aged memories as he needed to.

The Gift

The beautiful gift of this story is that she remembered something about me that I had forgotten, and desperately needed to remember. She read my blog titled Calling Me Home that went into how much I’ve hated myself for the things I’ve done, and my own brokenness. Her words were along these lines: “If it helps, I can tell you that what I remember was feeling cherished, and respected by you. You were kind and never judged me, you were never pushy, always made me feel special, and protected. We had long heart-to-heart talks and I’d never been able to be that honest with anyone; it felt safe.”

I’m trying to be a decent writer, but in no way can I express the profound impact of those words. See, nearly every time I look back on my life it is with self-contempt, and I haven’t been able to see any purity, only the stains. In the memories of my story, I’m always cast as the villain. But  she was absolutely right; I remember now that I did cherish and honor her. Her well-being was important to me. My heart was open, vulnerable, and good, even in the midst of all that fear and self-destruction. I feel God saying, even now, That’s who you were then, and that’s who you are now.” He has not given me a heart of stone—going back with him into this painful time has led to finding a “Ruby in a mountain of rocks.” His gifts are indescribable, timely, and always deadly accurate against the accuser.

What the enemy meant for evil, God meant for good.

There is no book I can read, no sermon I can hear, no prayer that I can pray, nor action I can take that will fill the perfect void in me. Only you, God, quench my thirst, only you lead me to Life. I long to be with you—to experience your Spirit’s fiery passion throughout my body, soul, spirit, mind, and heart—to dream, dance, play, and create with you through eternity. Come!

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4 comments on “A Subtle Gift

  1. Mike Butler

    Lonnie,
    What a beautiful picture of God’s restoration. I can see so much of myself in your words, knowing that there are places I have yet to visit. I keep asking the Spirit to take me there and, in his time, I know he will. Thank you brother for what you have written.

  2. Chris Michie

    Yes Jesus, COME! Thank you for sharing how you are embracing every subtle gift… How you give more and more permission… and show us through your story how we can enter our story.

  3. Jeff Phillips

    Lonnie – stunning and beautiful. Thank you for sharing. It really brought some invitation to healing in my own heart. Hope to see you soon.

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