He comes in with the first rays of daylight.
He places Himself in the corner of the room to watch me in silence as I pace the floor. He comes after a long night's battle, when the darkness has reached its peak. When I've reached my breaking point. To take me through it – the storm.
He's my sunshine and my rain, my fortress on a dark hill, my best friend. To Him I pour out my darkest, dirtiest secrets, my weakness, my anger, my fear, my ugliness...
He can take it.
Give it to me Lisa, He says. It’s why I came.
An old memory washes over me, one that I’ve tried so hard to forget, one that’s been sitting underneath the surface, unchanged for years, still burning, still stinging when I sometimes pull aside the covers that keep it hidden.
He leads me closer to it now, so I can take a good look.
I’ve come to set you free, He says.
I look, reluctantly, I turn away, look again, and now it starts coming at me full speed, kicks me in the stomach and slaps me across the face, the ugly memory, and the dizzying shame of it: A confessional letter, a love letter – of sorts – sent by me, to a married man!
And the stone wall that I received in response…
It makes me want to hide like a dirty dog.
“I just wanted him to hold it,” I cry. “The secret. Is that so bad? Just hold it, and say, ‘thank you.’ Just say, ‘I received it, and it’s my honor to keep it here, safe for you, hidden in my pocket. Of my jacket.’
"I just wanted him to see me, my heart. That’s all I ever wanted, all I ever asked for. Because – I needed to show myself like that. Anything else would’ve been pretending. You know that. Just pretending, like everything else. And I needed that, because they never saw me. Not one of them… not my husband, or my mother, or my father – or anyone else for that matter, not one of my friends, not one of all the people that ever mattered.”
He watches me in silence.
“But he threw it back in my face! My heart! Like it was a piece of garbage. Like some dirty thing! Like they all did, killing me like that, by throwing it back in my face.”
And now I see him enter the room too, the ghost of that other man. He comes in and fixes himself silently on the opposite side of the room, watching me from a distance with a face full of shadows.
He’s become this phantom now, some legendary character that keeps running through the corridors of my mind, night after night, mocking me, still haunting me after all these years. I don’t know how much of his character is real anymore, and how much I’ve added to it myself, making him even grander. Scarier, wiser, sexier…
His face has started to morph into a fusion of all the faces of all the people that ever rejected me, all of them for different reasons, all of them staring at me now with superior judgment and disgust, asking: “Who’s this joke wasting our time?”
I listen to their voices with eyes wide open, paralyzed with fear, surrendering to it like a rabbit waiting to be swallowed whole by a python, until He steps in and interrupts the downward spiral.
Lisa! You know who’s talking. Don’t listen!
“It’s him, Satan, isn’t it?” I whisper.
You know you’re not a waste. You know you’re important.
“Yes! To You! But just You…Never people…right?”
He won’t answer, so now I start my ramble again.
“You know – and sorry, you know I’m just talking, so don’t take this too seriously, but…I have to say this, because it’s on my mind.”
Just say it.
“I know You love me, and I love You. And it’s good! It’s good... You know I love You so much…But sometimes, I think about it. I think about Your love. And I think. Just because You love me, well, someone might say it’s no merit that God loves you, because He loves everyone. Someone might say, ‘this guy just loves and loves, He has no taste. Place the tackiest person before Him and He thinks: 'This person is great.'
…So what does it really say about me that You love me?”
He smiles with eyes both happy and sad.
And there it is. The root of the problem.
I slump down before Him.
He places a gentle hand on my head and lets it sit there, while I cry in a silent heap before Him.
Lisa, Lisa, He sighs, the one who knows how to give love, but doesn’t know how to receive it.
“Because I don't know how to love myself!” I finish the thought for Him.
“How can I convince anyone of Your love, when love is not fully present in me? I know there’s no fear in love! People will call me a hypocrite, all of them! They'll smell the fear in me, and say, “why should we listen to her? Her Jesus isn’t real.”
I think about all the people in my life that ever let me down, so many of them, their faces flooding my mind now, faster and faster they move. And in the forefront, leading the pack – his face.
Talk about him.
“It’s so bad though – all of it!”
Just let it rain. It’s safe with me. I’m your umbrella.
“Okay then. Some saint You got here…Looking at this from the outside in, I know what they’d say, all of them, if they only knew, the Christians. I mean, what does this look like? Nothing but problems here, questionable, eye brow lifting things. Who am I? The woman with the scarlet letter? Just look at this, all this dirt attached to my life. Expressing love in a letter to a married man? Nothing but sin here, that’s what they’d say, all of them, looking from the outside in…”
Yes, but I’m on the inside looking out. And things look mighty different from My perspective. You know that.
“Yeah…But why did you put me through it? Why did you want that humiliation for me? Why did you send him to me? You did send him to me, didn’t you? Knowing that I’d fall for him? You did want me to send him that letter, didn’t you? It was You, wasn’t it? Or was it the devil? Did I make a mistake? Did I sin?"
I need you to know the answer to that question yourself. I need you to spell it out and be absolutely sure, so you won’t care when the criticism comes.
“Okay. I get it… Besides, it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks.”
There are too many walls preventing My work through you, Lisa. Just let Me open you up. Let me free you. No matter how fears the storm inside. It’s why I came.
And now I’m reminded of the Disney movie, Frozen, that's been promoted everywhere lately, on the TV and radio, and the billboards next to the freeway. In it Elsa, the snow queen, keeps hiding her true self and feelings from the world, preventing anyone from seeing the violent storm that's sleeping inside. The quiet tunes of the theme song, Let it go, fills my mind.
“Before I met him – I thought I was alive. I thought my faith was alive. And I wanted to teach everyone to be just like me, a little copy... But it was stupid. Just stupid! Because all it was, was an act, and I didn't even know it. I thought I was the real deal, but I was a ghost, living inside of a fantasy, and made invisible – by my abusive husband! And like that snow queen – Elsa – just controlled and tamed to death. And I believed it! All of it. When the truth was that all I was doing all day long was walking around, sleeping with my eyes open.”
You were frozen.
"And now You want me to fall deeper into You? And reality? You want me to awaken this storm inside of me?"
It’s already here. All you need to do is let it go. And I’m here to help you.
Now let’s revisit that shame. Just feel it, don’t be afraid. Let it rain.
And He sends them on me, those acidic thoughts that constantly haunt and mock me. Like Pac-Man running through my veins, eating up my blood on its path as it goes.
“Sad mess of a human being, outsider and extremist, scary freak and misfit. Never belonging, never fitting in. Shivering wimp, miserable loser, dumb baby cow with long cow eyelashes watching people with constant fear. Always crying, always whining, bringing embarrassment to herself and others, nothing but problems, endless grief – And if that’s not all – a WHORE too! Longing for married men, a drooling cow…”
Or just a woman.
With a body that responds, imagine that. And a heart that’s real. That beats for real. A heart that happens to belong to a woman. Who's also human.
“When the thoughts come,” I cry, “those thoughts, and feelings…I think...what right do I have to feel this way?”
You feel what you feel. You let those feelings be. Feeling is not a sin. It’s what you choose to do with those feelings that matters. You know the difference.
“Well okay then. But what I mean is, and this is the worst part,” I hide my eyes under my hands, “what makes me so heavy that sometimes I can barely lift up my arms in the morning.”
Yes. Say it. I want to hear you say it.
Those feelings that I feel. What if he’s completely disgusted by them – and me? Wants to throw up by the mere thought, talks about it with friends over beer, laughs and shivers. This drooling cow…
It doesn’t matter what he thinks, Lisa. What matters is what you think. Are you a cow?
“I feel like one. So ugly now. E.T. incarnated. Makes me want to crawl under a rock and do the world a favor, just pack my bags and move into a cave and hide there for the rest of my life.”
Speaking of that cave. I actually had the opposite in mind, I want you to pack your bags and move out of it, finally. Expose yourself and soak in the SON!
“What do you mean?! You want me to just bare my heart completely? Everything? Like some kind of fool? Be open about all my weaknesses? And this crazy mess?”
“But why?! Is it because when I’m weak, you’re strong?” (2 Co. 12:9)
It’s through your weakness that they’ll be able to see Me.
“Fine, fine. I’ll do it for You. Hold on. Let me go look for my clown nose, I left it somewhere…”
You’ll need that humor, so keep it. Now I want you to talk to him again. It’s time to let out your anger. Let it rain.
And He takes me by the hand and leads me over to the other side of the room where the man is still standing. He places me before him and steps aside to the background.
I look at him. Here it comes.
He shifts his feet uncomfortably, glancing at me from under his brow, not really wanting to look at me.
I used to be a member of his orchestra once.
Ah the orchestra! An orchestra to be proud of, one that from time to time sent out tunes to the world that where so beautiful, and so refreshingly different, that it left everyone in awe.
“The best music must always include an element of chaos,” he lectured, and showed us how, so majestically, the master of music himself.
But I didn’t fit into his orchestra, or plans, those plans that he'd figured out in his head so beautifully, just like he’d figured out the whole world – and God too! – all working together so perfectly, even the disappointments, everything having its own set place, all sewed into the sad fabric of life, creating that organized chaos that he managed so well, the conductor of music.
In walks offensive Lisa with her screeching flute, sending out all kinds of crazy tunes, breaking windows and knocking over chairs!
“No, we play by the rules here!” he’d holler to me, suddenly forgetting all about the chaos.
“Is that so?” I said, and wiped the stage clean with one swipe, with that God-forbidden letter, trouble-maker as I am, his chaos being too dead for my taste.
After all, I’m in the business of the living, not the dead.
He explains his position to me now, slowly and carefully, like you would to a dumb child, all the reasons for my necessary removal, all the rules and regulations of the orchestra that protect against disruptive behavior – my kind of behavior – placing his words so beautifully, and eloquently – after all, the man knows how to talk, and does have an excellent point. A number of them, actually.
Agreed. I understand – all of it!
“Yes.” I say. Yes.
“But coward. Still" I hiss, and stare him down, “for not responding to my letter like a human being.”
He turns his face away. I can feel his irritation all over my skin.
“Didn’t know how to respond to something like that, didn’t know what to say. What the hell did you expect?”
Yes what? I stall and shrink back for a moment, getting all small again. Yes, how do you respond to a letter like that, in all seriousness? A letter full of anger and contradictions, a mess of a letter, love and fear and all my insecurities, illusions and madness gathered into one single clump of mud that I just threw at him from out of the blue in some kind of surprise attack, like some sniper hiding on a roof top, taking down innocent people on the street.
Truly, how do you respond to something like that?
“I…don’t know,” I stutter, and blank out for a minute.
“But not nothing!” I collect myself.
“Not nothing! Not all your windows and curtains shut and doors locked and bolted. Not that! When you were supposed to be the guy who was able to HANDLE IT. Like you said you would. Handle my chaos! Wasn’t that your sale's pitch for me anyway? To bring out the inner chaos, and the TRUTH, so that the music in me could follow? Well I brought it, didn’t I? Everything you asked for. All that chaos. It’s just that it was the wrong chaos for you, and the wrong truth, and not the one you wanted. But I brought it, didn’t I? Like a good student. All my chaos and my truth, all for the sake of the music, and when I did, you RAN.”
He looks away, all gone now, eyes measuring walls.
“And then you threw me in the trash. Like some science experiment gone wrong. Just like that, like a piece of garbage, because it was the easy thing to do. Yes! Treating me like someone less than human, making me feel like a freak and a creep, when I trusted all my weaknesses in your hands, my horrible, unspeakable weaknesses, because you told me that you'd be able to HANDLE IT.”
His eyes, still measuring walls.
“So you know what? Forget about my romantic feelings for you, forget all that, because it was never about that in the end. No, not really. It was about the TRUTH!
"And just so you know, as a friend, as a human being, you betrayed me. And I want you to know, that what you did was below my standards. Because I would never do that to another person, respond so coldly to something so painful and honest as my letter was. Especially when it’s someone as fragile as you knew I was.
“Just don’t have it in me. You’d have to kill me first.
“And that’s the fundamental difference between you and me.
“It’s a matter of Respect! Decency! And Courage!
“Spell those three, and learn them. Learn from me for a change!"
He’s looking at me with a blank face now, a tiny flicker in the corner of his eye.
“I don’t even know why I’m hanging around you anymore. Leave my room, leave my house, leave my head, and stay out! Because you’re the one who doesn’t deserve my company, you spineless rat. I’m so many spiritual miles ahead of you that you can just crawl behind me and eat my dust! –Sorry God, I just…”
He’s returned to my side now, and stands there silently, looking at me with kind, serious eyes.
I slump down before Him again, exhausted, grabbing hold of His robe.
“God, I don’t care anymore whether he thinks he did right or wrong, because I think he handled it wrong, and I don’t care what anyone says, because I think it was spineless!
"According to MY standards.”
Yes Lisa, YOUR standards. That's the whole point. Not his standards. You don’t need him to validate you anymore. You don’t need anyone to do that for you.
“I know. Because I only need You to validate me.”
No Lisa. You need YOU to validate you. My validation you already have.
I think about that for a moment.
“But it still hurts so bad, the rejection! Because I still care! That’s why it hurts!”
The tears start welling up again.
I know. But don't stop caring, Lisa. Caring is good. Keep that. So you can remember him from that place of warmth. So you can say goodbye…
Another flood of tears.
"But God, I felt connected to him. I did! When we sat down, just him and me, and talked about the music. I felt close! When does that ever happen to me? And how can it be that one person feels so close, but the other one doesn’t at all, how could it all be in my head, even the friendship? What if it meant nothing to him, none of it, just business as usual?
Yes, what if? Then what? Are you going to discard your feelings then, because they weren’t received, or are you going to stand by them? They’re yours after all, not his. Are you finally going to stop apologizing for how you feel and who you are? No matter what the response?
“I’ll try…but God, it’s so hard. When you love someone, and your love is so real, and you pour it out and say, 'here you go, here’s my love, a gift to you, and to them it means a hill of beans.'”
I’ve known that feeling Myself.
“Oh, yeah…I – forgot.”
Lisa. Did I change my love when people didn’t love Me back? Did I stop loving them when they rejected Me? Did My love go away? Did I change?
“No!” I cry.
Lisa. From now on you carry yourself and your feelings bravely. You carry your love, received or not, with your head held high, whatever people think, whatever they say. You won’t conform to other people’s needs, you won’t change, you won’t sell out, not for anyone, not anymore. We’re not going back to that place anymore.
“God! I forgive him! For everything! I know you want me to anyway, and I do! I forgive him, I forgive him, for treating me that way, for stripping me off my humanity and discarding me like an old mitten, I forgive him!"
That's good, Lisa, in due time you will.
"Will you help me?"
You know I will. I'll lead you by the hand.
"Ok. And God, I’ll pray for him. For the rest of my life, I’ll pray." I sob. "That’s good, right? You want me to pray for him, right? Pray that he’ll be okay, and that he finds You, and You save him, if not saved yet. You know these things, I don’t, but if not saved yet, then I pray that all the doors to heaven would open wide, so You can come in and save him. So he can find eternity and come to heaven with You. With us."
"Hunt him down God! Circle him like an eagle! Give him no chance, but to surrender to Your will. And his family too, his wife… You love her too, just as much as you love me,” I whisper.
You know it.
“So let them be good to each other then! Her to him and him to her. Let her be his blanket in this cold world, and let him be tucked in by her – and by my prayers. Give him a little happiness God, give him peace, let him stay healthy, take away all his worries…”
Now that’s love.
I sit at His feet wiping my tears in silence for a moment.
“You know God. I think I scared the living daylights out of him. That’s what I think now. With my intensity. My truth. That’s it, isn’t it? I scared him. Like I scare everyone who gets to see a glimpse of my true face. You know that’s my greatest fear anyway, that I’m too scary, too much… I just scare everyone with my truth. As soon as I open up and release, that’s when it comes – the storm.”
Perhaps. But we don’t care, not anymore. You just march on, Lisa. You come in My Name. Release the storm from within. I AM in that storm!
“But God, I’m so broken! So fearful and afraid of people, all of them! How can I ever heal? You’re the only one Who can fix me, because it’s so bad that You have to do it, because I can’t fix this. You’ve broken me into so many millions of pieces that I just can’t get healed anymore! You have to do this for me!”
What’s impossible for man is possible for God. All things are possible with God. (Mt 19:26) Remember Lisa, what breaks on Me and dies in Me will also heal and live in Me. (Ro 6:8)
“What will You do?”
It’s not for you to know. But don’t you worry about a thing. You just leave everything in My hands. And meanwhile, you rest in Me. Focus on the good, look for Me in the little things, seek Me where I can be found.
And now I start hearing another song, I hear Julie Andrews singing My Favorite Things from the Sound of Music.
Cream colored ponies and crisp apple strudels… Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles… Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings…these are a few of my favorite things.
Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes...snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes...Silver white winters that melt into springs...these are a few of my favorite things!
For a moment I lie wrapped up in that music, warming myself next to it like a kitten before a fireplace.
When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad…
“Hey God, this song is for little kids.” I call out. “Let’s not tell anyone that I’m enjoying it, okay?!”
I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad!
“See, this is what most churches don’t get, God, Your simplicity! How you come in simple ways like this, in the spirit of love and joy, like in some simple secular song that pronounces Your wisdom. No! They want to put You in a religious box, a stiff formula, and always dress You the same, based on their own limited opinions and ideas of You – a recipe for death. And when you don’t come that way, like a dog responding to a whistle, they replace You with a lie, a program that mimics You and forces everyone to participate in their huge productions, forces people to wear masks, places their hearts in straitjackets, forces them to pretend that they’re something that they’re not…Oh how my fingers itch to pop that balloon of pretension in the churches!"
Will you start by popping your own?
That makes me pause for a minute.
“Well alright then.” I sigh. “I guess I'm still hiding... But it’s not like I’ve been given so many options either! It’s not like there’s been a bunch of people welcoming the real me with open arms. Nothing but isolation all my life, that's what it's been. Why did You isolate me God? Why my whole life?”
You know the answer.
“Because it’s in this desert where I get to know You?”
So now that You do know Me, I want you to start making preparations to leave the desert. You know I never wanted you to stay here forever. How else can you tell people about Me?
“But leaving the desert is scary! Having to face people for real. People are scary, they’ll just confirm all my fears, that I'm NO ONE TO NO ONE, like I was no one to all the people that ever mattered to me...Or they'll laugh at me! Or worse: I'll just realize that I'm too much for them, too scary, and disgusting too, and then Satan will wound me and then I'll die!"
Then you’ll fall on Me.
Have I ever dropped you? Have I ever let you go? Haven't I always raised you up on the THIRD DAY? Wasn't there always new life afterwards, after each death? A surprise, and a path, and a new beginning?
Why would this time be any different?
“Because this time it’s going to the very CORE of me – all my fears! Exposing myself to people like that, the scary, freaky me, and then just having to watch them reject me. Why put myself in their careless hands?"
But aren’t we about the TRUTH Lisa? How can we show the world the truth and leave out the truth of Lisa? How will that work? Release the storm!
“But God! How can I show them all of me, the truth and the mess of me, and all these embarrassing feelings? It’s just too much, and too extreme, and the fear is too strong."
Am I not stronger than your fear? Did I not conquer YOUR FEAR on the cross?
“Yeah, but still…what You’re asking of me – is death! My hands are shaking, my heart is pounding, I’m shivering all over! I just want to stay here forever and hide.”
Come out, come out, wherever you are…
Do you love me Lisa?
“You know I do!”
Then leave your cave of fear and go feed my sheep!
After writing this essay I experienced a sudden relief from the severe lower back pain that I'd suffered from for the past 8 years. For the next two weeks I was completely pain free and slept like a baby.
The experience led me to the realization that my back pain had been, and still is, tied to blocked emotions. I learned that killing my feelings (especially the feeling of love) is never the answer, and that it causes bodily pain and sickness, as well as a number of problems in my relationships to other people. I realized that the way I had tried to block my feelings was not healthy. I understood that I had misunderstood the Bible scriptures that talk about denying yourself, and thought it to mean blocking feelings. I didn't understand that what I'd been habitually doing to myself was unhealthy and keeping me sick. I also learned that certain false human doctrines and attitudes that exist in organized Christianity had contributed to these erroneous thought processes in me. I realized that contrary to what I'd always thought, I'd partly internalized some of these unhealthy attitudes.
I realized that I'd been kept imprisoned by a religious spirit.
Shortly after these realizations, the poem "Echoes" wrote itself.
As the words of the poem emerged from within me, almost prophetically, simultaneously a strange, living parable also took form. It started off as an expression of love between God and me, but in the course of the writing strangely morphed into something that also had to do with the man of the essay. How that is, I don't exactly know. All I know is that during the writing process I felt a heavy presence of God fall over me, while some important emotional piece inside of me that had been missing for a very long time, fell back into place. There was a profound sense of peace and healing that came with this experience.
There was a communication, a non-verbal exchange of thoughts taking place within me. I have dramatized that exchange below:
Jesus: Lisa, I love you. You're my bride.
Lisa: I love you! You're all I have now! Everything else is shattered and broken.
Jesus: Lisa, I have a message for you.
Lisa: What is it?
Jesus: I want you to tell the man of your essay that I love him. I want you to tell him that I long for him and think of him every day. That all the time, all day long I watch him. Wherever he goes, whatever he does, my eyes are on him. All day long my love burns for him, hoping that he would see me. That he would come to me.
"WHEN will you come to me?" I ask, "WHEN?"
And when he doesn't come to me, it hurts me. But still I love him, still I long for him, and keep looking for him. Still I keep circling around him, wherever he goes, whatever he does. And when he turns his back on me and mocks me and curses my name – I don't care. No. Not at all. Because I understand why he does it. Because I see it – his pain. Not the mocking words, no, they're nothing to me. It's only his pain I see, all day long. It's his pain that I worry about, that hurts me, that I want to heal.
Because it's HIM I see! All day long.
(An impression of John Denver's Annie's Song is placed on my mind)
Lisa: I know that you love him like this.
Jesus: Lisa, will you give him this message for me?
Lisa: No God – Please! I can't! Don't You understand? I'm done with the messages! I'm done with the humiliation! I give him this message and it'll be the last nail on my coffin. Then he'll really have reason to think I'm crazy. What more proof does he need? This time – he'll call the cops on me!
Jesus: Lisa. I specifically chose you of all people to give him this message.
Lisa: But why me? Why not someone else?
Jesus: Because you're the one, Lisa, the only one, who truly UNDERSTANDS my feelings for him!
And this is when it hit me.
I finally understood the connection, the living parable hidden behind it.
It had to do with Christ's broken heart, His longing and vulnerability towards this man – a feeling so similar to mine. We had this common, this broken heart, Christ and I.
I also felt that Christ wanted to express His love and longing towards this man specifically through a WOMAN, because somehow that more accurately expressed the nature of His love for him, and because the man needed it done that way.
The message was also universal, applying simultaneously to all His children, all the men, women and children that He seeks and longs for, all His lost sheep: This was how He feels about all of them.
But somehow this man was a symbol of them all.
Another impression I was left with was that Christ's love reminded of the burn between a lover and his beloved, as described in the Song of Songs in the Bible, that the poem Echoes also relates to.
Later I told my therapist about the whole thing. I see her every now and then. She helps me deal with the aftermath of my traumatic past, as well as my current, difficult life circumstances.
"Interesting," she said. "It's almost as if Jesus is asking for your help. As if he's the patient and you're the psychiatrist?"
I laughed at the thought and told her that I didn't think Jesus needed any help from me to manage His emotions, but that on the contrary, He was fully at peace with who He was.
"Jesus doesn't need a psychiatrist!" I exclaimed. "He IS the psychiatrist!"
After the visit I was driving home when another communication came in response to my previous conversation with my psychiatrist. The thought that came confirmed to me that, indeed, Christ did not need me to be His psychiatrist. But that instead, what He intensely and desperately longed for, was for me – as well as everyone else – to be His FRIEND. (Jn. 15:15-17)
I felt that this was important; for people to learn how to be a friend. A real friend. Both to each other – and to God.
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (Jn. 15:12-13)
Finally, much later, one more image came, a final image, putting many things in perspective, and to rest:
It was of a young school-aged boy walking down the street. The boy was slightly dragging his feet as he walked. Almost like someone who'd been stabbed. He was holding a crumpled piece of paper in his hand, a hasty note, staring into it in a state of shock. Almost as if having received a deadly blow from it. Something was scribbled on the note, a caricature? The boy was staring into the note in deep despair, and his face was a mask of death.
This essay is written and dedicated with compassion to that young boy.
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