In the quiet space at the end of daylight yesterday, I wondered why I still hurt so badly — will it never stop? — and felt so angry and hopeless. What could possibly soothe my soul? Why is nothing ever enough?
I sat at a picnic table between two rosebushes, breathed air that carried their scent, watched a bird bobbing on a fence above my head. I want to heal. Why can’t I heal?
Most of the time, I think I’m a fairly kind, gentle, compassionate person. But there is also within me a wounded, furious child who surfaces when I face disappointment, when people hurt me, when my hormones cycle. She lashes out at anyone who gets too close. She is bratty and entitled and furious at everything that was stolen from her. She can’t make sense of it. She is irrational and frenzied and she doesn’t intend to hurt anyone but she hates herself so deeply that she can’t help loathing everyone and everything that touches her. She feels that all she will ever have are crumbs, leftovers, dregs, second (or third or fourth) best. Her efforts always fail. Her God remains silent.
The facts of my life say she isn’t entirely wrong. I can’t conjure the things I need or want: financial security, a life partner, a dog who isn’t scared of everything, a church community, a book contract. Even my efforts to broaden my circle during lockdown have gone awry, sometimes comically so. (A friend suggested I write a “douchebags of quarantine” post; I have enough material.) So when the furious, injured child within me rears her head, I have no facts, no logic to refute her. And the love feels, in those moments, like a lie, an illusion, an insubstantial deception that isn’t strong enough to withstand the truth of her wounded rage. No one knows how to be with me during those times; it has cost me people I didn’t think I could afford to lose. But I can’t blame them.
In my journal, I wrote, No one has ever loved me enough to erase the damage his hatred did.
Being loathed that much left a deep wound in my soul, a wound laced with venom that has continued to fester and corrode and ruin everything it touches. No one has ever been able to love me enough to heal it. God knows my parents have tried. Some of my friends have. Rufus and my kitties do, in their own ways. But nothing touches it. Any sense or assurance or confidence I have in God’s love vanishes in the face of that terrible betrayal, that searing knowledge of how deeply another human being loathed and despised and purposed to hurt me.
I reread that sentence last night: No one has ever loved me enough to erase the damage his hatred did. And I said to God, “Can you?”
The response was immediate: Monique. I died for you.
In the Christian faith we are told, rightly, that Christ’s death and resurrection atone for our sins. I’ve heard it explained in all sorts of ways, but the gist is an individual story: I sin; there are consequences; Christ sacrifices himself to pay the debt so I don’t have to; subsequently, when God sees me, God looks through the lens of the cross, which erases my sins. The sins of others are between themselves and God; my responsibility is only for my own sins, one of which is lack of forgiveness, meaning I’d better work on forgiving the people who hurt me and leave the rest to God.
I had never thought about Christ’s death and resurrection as a means of healing in me the wounds left by others’ sin. But surely it is. Surely Christ enduring hell and defeating death is a healing narrative, the greatest healing narrative of all time. It’s Aslan storming the witch’s castle to breathe life over all the stone figures, Fawkes the phoenix weeping on the venomous wound left in Harry Potter’s leg by a serpent’s fang, Meg Murray defeating IT because the one thing she has that IT doesn’t have is love. (In case you can’t tell, I have been turning to YA fantasy classics for comfort reading.)
The shame, the hate, the stain in my soul run deep, and they lead me to sin, but those sins spring from the deeper, darker injury. A forgiveness that doesn’t touch that wound is a forgiveness destined to repeat itself over and over, because what I need is to be cleansed, purified. And while Christ does offer repeated forgiveness, he also, we are told, works transformation. Redemption. Sanctification.
The wound left by the hatred is, as C.S. Lewis says, “deep magic from the dawn of time.” The antidote must be “deeper magic from before the dawn of time.” Love.
I need to be made new. I am asking for that in these dark, lonely days: healing, transformation, renewal, restoration.
I understand now that this is why I have needed to be alone for quarantine even though that was the worst fate I could have imagined: because I had to confront the darkest, ugliest corner of my soul; to own it and call it out by name; to bring it into the light; to ask for healing, for wholeness that I cannot effect on my own. To wrestle my demon as desperately and ferociously as Jacob did his his angel. Therapy has gotten me to this point, but this is a wound that no therapy can cauterize, no medication can vaccinate, no hospital can cure. Only a love so deep and pure that it sacrificed itself — after sweating blood, after bearing a crown of thorns, after being betrayed and abandoned and mocked and humiliated — and endured hell and emerged triumphant:
only that love can cleanse and purify and heal this wound.