the whole hearted way .

It’s been 300 days since I gave my heart back to God and for the last 192 days He has challenged and questioned every set ideation I had around what it meant to be His daughter. I googled ‘what it means to be a daughter’ and ironically the first page that came up was ‘what does it mean to be a daughter of Christ’. I opened it and the article began by retelling the story of the only woman in the bible that Jesus ever called His daughter. This woman was an outcast for more than 12 years, she lived each day without knowing the love from another and then her life changed when Jesus called her His own. I can’t pretend to know what this woman went through because I have known love over these last 21 years but I also can’t say that I ever really knew love until I knew God’s love; though I’m not sure I have allowed myself to know His love. The article went on to say that being a daughter of God means that we have a forever Father in Heaven, One who will never leave even if we disappoint Him time and time again. It said that being a daughter of God means that we have the greatest love one could ever provide; a full, unconditional and eternal love. I’m sitting here crying because I don’t know how many times I need to purposely ‘let God love me’. I keep finding myself overwhelmed, feeling unwanted and unloved, questioning where God is and why I can’t feel Him. Worship music is playing as I write this and the lyrics fittingly sing ‘when I feel abandoned and lost on my own, You are my home’. What happened to that concept? How could I forget what God so faithfully revealed to me in my week alone with Him [last admission]? My God, my Home.

My hearts been searching for God. Do you remember getting lost as a child, separated from your family? I remember when I was only little, we were visiting our family farms in Snymansbult along the Noordkaaprivier when we one morning decided to head up to Kruger park. We went through Barberton and stopped at a PicknPay near the ‘Jock of die Bushveld’ statue, whilst inside the shop I got separated from the rest of the family. I’ll never forget the way my stomach dropped when I realised I couldn’t find anyone I knew. Going up and down the isles I was frantically looking for a familiar face; everything inside of me yearned to be safe again, to be found and embraced. I found my family in the end but there was still that lack of love that my heart still yearned for. 

The reason I shared that memory is because I have been experiencing that same deep yearning, only this time it’s been for a deeper, more profound love; God’s love. I feel like a child because I keep searching for God, searching for His love as if I could find Him in some tangible place. I’m painfully aware that God isn’t attached to a place. Over these past weeks I have battled greatly and I think T put it well when she said that it’s been terrifying, because I previously haven’t allowed myself to experience the magnitude of emotions I have been wrestling with. It’s been hard and even the most simple forms of self care; showering and eating, has felt impossible and in that I’ve been rudely reminded about the fine line my body still teeters upon between healing and crumbling. The vast absence of my safely trapped has hit me like a tidal wave and I haven’t once been prepared for it. Of course I knew that stepping out of my safely trapped would be uncomfortable and difficult to begin with, but I counted on being safely held and protected. Unfortunately, I am yet to experience being safely held to its full extent. I’ll forever come back to T’s concept of just ‘letting God love me’ because allowing myself to be loved [safely held] amidst the distress of shame and worthlessness, will continue to be one of my greatest battles. In my deep yearning for God’s profound and unconditional love, I recently ventured out to the riverside in search of Him. I laid on a blanket and listened, waiting for an invitation to be safely held, waiting for God to meet me there with His divine lingering love. The rapids moved quickly but gracefully, the clouds followed suit and before I knew it: I fell asleep there, watching and waiting. I didn’t know why God wasn’t meeting me, the other night T told me that He is always with me but I don’t understand because lately He’s been harder to find and harder to feel.

My battle against Gollum has lately been more of a defeat than anything else but with each small win, I remind myself that though we are spiralling; we are in some way, shape or form, spiralling upward. I can sit here and beat myself up for all the times I’ve fallen short but the reality is that I’ve punished myself enough and I have to try to believe that God understands; He still loves me in my brokenness, doesn’t He? As blade collides with skin I wrestle wondering, can God still love me? Does self-harm make me any less of a Christian? Am I still allowed to be His daughter?

It’s a poisonous cycle, the one of self destruction. I find it’s a lonely one too because as I look around me, there is not one person I have felt able to honestly speak to over the last few weeks; those that were there, aren’t anymore and those who are there, aren’t approachable. I feel so alone and the more I venture back into my safely trapped, the further away from God I feel, the deeper the shame becomes and the more impossible it seems to go back to the Father. But I forget that He is my Father too. I’ve somehow come to view God as some unattainable figure but that isn’t who He is. God keeps finding ways to remind me that He is very much here, He is waiting to embrace me the way the prodigal son’s father embraced Him. I’m just struggling to grasp this with a confidence that allows me to be safely held and vulnerable.

I watched an interesting TedTalk that spoke about the power of vulnerability. The woman who spoke was Brene Brown, she is a research professor who has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame. E and H have both shared her books and podcasts with me over time. In her talk she named ‘wholehearted vulnerability’ as the core birthing place of everything good in a relationship. Imagine being in a relationship where you are able to be vulnerable, wholly and deeply seen but still loved unconditionally. That’s the kind of relationship that God offers us, the kind of relationship that He offers me as His daughter; The problem? I’m afraid. I tried to explain to T that I have this deep yearning to sit in God’s presence, to just be with Him and spend time with Him— However, each time I go to do that, I feel weighed down by a heavy blanket of shame and fear. I feel numb but at the same time I feel everything so deeply, I don’t know how to do the whole vulnerability thing because it feels scarier now than it did before. As I kept listening to the TedTalk Brene went on to say that the things that make us vulnerable, make us beautiful. She said that vulnerability isn’t comfortable but it’s precious and necessary. Part of me wants to believe that I’m able to be vulnerable with God and that He would still love me, but I can not explain how terrified I am. It’s silly really because I’ve convinced myself that I can hide the deepest parts of myself away from God when in reality He’s already seen every piece of me— H and I discussed this over lunch last week. It’s been hard to be near to God over the last few weeks because in my weakness, instead of allowing His strength to be made known, I allowed my safely trapped to be my safe place again; I was too afraid to be safely held.

There’s a book I read, ‘She dared to call Him Father’, and it told the most remarkable story of a woman who found God for the first time. She told of how tangibly she felt God’s presence and how she could physically feel the Holy Spirit come and go. I remember being in awe of how close she was to God and I found myself wondering what was so wrong with me because I often feel so far away. Looking back I realise that she was wholly vulnerable with God, she quite literally opened every part of herself up to Him and gave Him all of her— she chose the wholehearted way. I don’t know how to do that. At the river that afternoon, I wanted so desperately to be tangibly in God’s presence but I couldn’t find Him. Though looking back I stand to question whether it was Him I couldn’t find, or if it was me so fixated on finding Him that I didn’t see He was right there all along? I think a lot of my ‘searching’ for God has been an excuse and distraction from the shame that’s prevented me from being vulnerable; from being safely held. 

You see, over the last few weeks God has made Himself known to me in various ways; a series of moments beckoning me toward a wholehearted pursuit of Him, toward the wholehearted way. Since that afternoon where I slept by the riverside, I have had to experience God in the most tangible and unexpected ways, before I could again find myself at the river; only this time everything had changed..

Between my two visits to the river, the first place God made Himself known to me was on a farm outside of town. I’d driven just shy of 2hrs to a farm in Mindarabin, I was there to look after a heavily pregnant dog. I went out with the intentions to pour myself into my studies and whilst I did study, I ended up spending four days on the farm searching for God like some silly lost child. The homestead I stayed in was big, made out of old bricks and raw wood. It had these large windows, thick oak cills with dust covered hinges. Above the dining room table was a metre by metre chandelier; a wooden wagon wheel with lightbulbs all around the circumference. The farm itself was large and I found myself feeling quite small; more lost than I’d been feeling over the last few months. But I’ll tell you now that there’s something indescribable about being alone, hours from anyone with acres of land around you; I can’t find the words to articulate what it is but I know it’s something deep and it’s not something you come across often in life. You may roll your eyes but I felt a bit like how I imagine Lucy would have felt when she stepped into Narnia for the first time.

A lot of my time was spent walking out on the farm, marvelling at God’s handiwork. I walked for miles through muddy crops of wheat and fields of canola. From the homestead all you could see was wheat, as far as the land stretched but as you walked further through the paddocks glimpses of yellow canola fields drew nearer. I spent hours and hours, over the four days, looking for God and for a way to be vulnerable with Him. Unfortunately I can’t yet declare that I found either, but I know that He made Himself known to me in various moments along my walks.

The wheat was only knee high but as the wind whistled through the green pastures, I was sure I could hear my Father whispering to me. I entered the pastures and stood in the wind: listening. For a moment I stopped searching and I waited for Him to meet me there. My heart felt a fleeting love, it was deep and that profound type of love I spoke of earlier. Only for a flicker of time did my heart truely feel that love, then as the pressing for vulnerability sank in: the doors of my heart slammed shut, leaving me yearning even more deeply for that love but in an abundance rather than fleetingly. That was the first time God made Himself known to me. The next time I experienced that profound love was a the next day when I walked through the fields of waist high canola. From the homestead I walked subconsciously for an hour before I stopped. Around me were just fields of yellow. It was the furthest I’d walked in one direction since being out on the farm and I realised then that it would be a good near 2 hrs before I’d make it back. There was nothing other than canola around me. I’d long since lost sight of the farm sheds, the silos and the wheat fields. No matter which way I turned, all I saw were little yellow flowers. I felt God liken His love to the canola; infinite and all surrounding. I wrestled with this concept because if His deep and profound love was all around me then why did I battle to feel it?

I kept walking through the yellow fields and the further I went, the deeper my boots began to sink with each step; clay. As my boots broke the ground I reflected on my own brokenness. I’ve heard humans be likened to clay in a biblical sense, where God moulds us like clay. Ann Voskamp often speaks of the need to be broken before we can be moulded. Was this what God was doing in me? I couldn’t understand because I thought He’d already allowed enough brokenness, I thought that He’d begun moulding me in February some nearly 200 days ago when He began His remarkable transformation of me? Did I at some point begin re-moulding myself and changing His handiwork? Has He found a need to allow more brokenness so that I can find myself once again surrendering myself to His hands so that He may once again mould me into His hands and His feet? Hands. I remembered then that whilst I was at the riverside, before I fell asleep, I washed my hands in the river and prayed that God would cleanse them and make them His own. At that point I was aware of the role my hands played in keeping me bound to my safely trapped, I was aware of my own fragility and aware that I needed to become one with God again. Nothing had changed as I stood in the clay amidst the canola, amidst God’s love; I still needed to become one with God. There my Father again made Himself known to me, ever so gently reminding me that I am His creation and in order to be His hands and feet, I need to vulnerably allow myself to be broken and moulded by Him. Could I trust the One who calls me His own?

The heavily pregnant dog and I kept walking as I pondered those questions and not long later, we couldn’t go further as a dam had flooded across the fields leaving everything substantially underwater. Turning around, I never did quite see just how far the land went but I suppose that’s a bit like God’s love.. as the canola, so His love, stretches around to every corner of our atmosphere with no end in sight. I doubled back and after a kilometre or so I turned left down the edge of another paddock. With the canola on one side and open fields with sheep on the other I walked toward the trees in the distance. At one point I stopped and giggled to myself as my boots sank into an unforeseen patch of manure. I smiled as I remembered a conversation T and I had about loving the notion of farm life but not being one to pursue it. Though I found myself quite content in the solitude of the farm, the manure was certainly something I could have gone without. My family has lived on farms for generations, we had too, but upon moving to Australia we traded paddocks for the city and I’ve spent the last 13 years anxiously awaiting the day I’d buy my own bit of land and escape once again. Anyway, back to the manure; I think that whole scenario in some way reflects where I am at in my journey. 

You see, I knew it wouldn’t be a smooth walk from leaving the hospital for the last time, to then fully recovering and being firmly grounded in my relationship with God. After all, it’s not that simple or straight forward; but I think part of me blindly wished it would be. I caught up with H for another study date the Monday I was due to meet Dr Coleman. I was sharing with her about my anxiety around seeing Coleman because the last time he saw me I was on psych with an NGT and no will to live. I told H that I wished my review was 7 weeks ago when things were still going well because then it would be easier. We discussed what I would say in the review and I was quite set on lying my way through because the thought of saying how brutal things have been, felt more impossible than I could bare. I’m not going to disclose details on here because I’m too ashamed to share them yet but I know that things hadn’t been this brutal on all fronts for a while now. H and I were chatting and aside from encouraging honesty and hyping me up, God used her to remind me of a lot of truths I’d been trying to lose sight of. H reminded me that God sees everything, He knows my story inside and out, beginning to end; and you know what? He loves me all the same. H reinforced that I can’t hide from God, I told her I’ve tried to convince myself that I can because I’ve been too ashamed to enter into His presence. She then reminded me of the cross and what Jesus did for me, she told me there is no greater love. Tears started to swell in my eyes and I told her I just didn’t know how to accept that love. H looked at me and what she said next made each hair on my body stand up; “just let God love you”. I smiled through the tears and told her the significance of those five words and how T said them to me for the first time in hospital last year. I shared with H about how God’s been showing me that it is a concept I’ll have to keep coming back to until I reach a point where I’m able to let Him love me unconditionally. H reminded me that sometimes it doesn’t matter how I feel because God’s love for me isn’t tied to my emotions; she’s not the first to have told me that and I know she’s not wrong either. The journey I’m on is hard but as Coleman said: “to get out of hell, you have to walk through the misery”. If I’m going to suffer, which is inevitable, then I would rather suffer well— I suppose it’s just not that easy at the moment. 

I lingered in the manure for a second longer and realised that I’ve spent the last 2 or so months stuck in that same manure. Along my journey I hit a patch where I allowed myself to be safely trapped and I became so blinded by the stench of my own suffering, that I lost sight of God and moved out of being safely held. As I consciously stepped out of that manure, I felt God calling me to simultaneously step out of the manure I’d been, not so safely, trapped in for months. I tried but it would take more to pull me out; it would take vulnerability and I wasn’t ready yet.

The next morning I woke to a sunrise that was literal gold, every room on the East side lit up with a deep glow. The last photo above was taken in my room, unedited and raw. As the atmosphere filled with the warmth of the sun, my heart likened it to the warmth of God’s love. This was yet another moment where He made Himself known to me. I set out for a walk later that morning, no cloud in sight but little did I know that by the time I neared the homestead again, I would be dripping from the rain and facing the most tangible crossroad between continuing the path I am on, or choosing the wholehearted way

There were several paddocks with herds of sheep that ran at the sight of my approach, their cries filled the atmosphere as they ran. I smiled when I saw a little lamb staggering behind the rest of the herd, because once again God had made Himself known to me. You see, I have been that lamb, I am that lamb, and still He waits for me, He leaves the herd to come back for me and He watches over my every stumbling step. There’s a little lamb down Prideaux that I pass some afternoons and it too reminds me that I belong to God. The dog and I continued to walk and we later entered a paddock that looked more like a forest than anything else and the blue sky above slowly disappeared behind the tall tree tops. The trees themselves were filled with bright coloured birds and I wished then that I’d listened to E and put more effort into learning the species of birds and their unique calls. The dog chased the birds and before I could be annoyed, God showed me the grace in that moment. You see, the dog in her protective nature perceived the birds as a threat and chased them away. In that same way, God is protective over us and He willingly fights our battles; if only we surrender them unto Him and allow Him to. 

God’s protection of me as my Heavenly Father is a concept I battle with so often, I battled it most recently over this past week. The question has always stood to ask where God was amidst the traumas that have taken place, or where He’s been each time they’ve come back to torment me. It’s quite easy enough to say that God has always been right there, and granted maybe He has but then the question stands to ask why He didn’t protect me throughout any of the traumas. Last week I found myself walking through a carpark at dusk, there were enough cars to consider it not abandoned but there was no one in sight. Everything inside of me tensed as I saw an older man coming toward me, as he drew nearer I hurried my step and he began loudly speaking about my body. I was quickly backed into a corner near the trolley bays and he was a matter of centimetres in front of me. He reached out toward me and kept talking about my figure as if I weren’t there. I ducked and ran— though that wasn’t anything significant I was still terrified and it brought back past flashbacks. Where was God? I thought back to a sticky note that T gave me when we last met, she’d written a list of things for me to look up and at the top of the list was Exodus 14:14: “The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still.” I wondered what that meant and then God showed me: I didn’t need to understand, I just needed to be still. I’m not sure if you remember but a while ago on a past post, I reflected on what it meant to just let God love me and the word let in Latin meant to sit. It’s the same concept here because being still requires me to just sit, to just be and find peace knowing that the battle is already won. What if my deepest desire to just sit with Jesus, at the foot of the cross, in my Fathers presence, was after all possible? What if God could look past my shame and love me regardless? What if I could boldly just let Him love me? 

I wandered aimlessly for quite a while and as time went on the clouds rolled in and the unforeseen rain finally fell upon the earth. The ground beneath me broke open to receive the rain, the way our hearts are designed to vulnerably break open and receive God’s love. With each step I took, I was working through everything that weighed heavily on my heart. I then stumbled across something that led to the most profound breakthrough I’ve experienced since June 13th. 

As I looked to the ground, I stumbled across an old bolt that is now carried everywhere with me as a reminder of the breakthrough that came, so tangibly bursting through all doubt and questions. I held the bolt in my hands and immediately thought of the cross. The cross. The answer to everything was the cross. My hands shook as I held it in my hand. How could I possibly look at the cross and still question my Fathers devotion to me? I started speaking above the worship music that played and I shared with God what my heart was feeling and His words to me were clearer than ever before. I’m getting goosebumps again as I write this because believe me or not, but God literally parted the clouds and as the sun broke through and warmed my skin, I heard Him whisper to me through the gentle mist that if I ever felt lost, alone, unwanted or unloved.. all I needed to do was look to the cross because there is no greater affirmation. As perfect as God’s timing is, the song that played next was ‘love came down’. When my heart is overwhelmed and I cannot hear your voice.. hold onto what is true.. the life I have because of your Son.. love came down.. I remind myself I am yours. I am God’s and that is something I’ll continually have to purposely remind myself of, to consciously choose to believe and hold onto; even when it’s the last thing I feel worthy of or can fathom. 

My stay at the farm was brief but God made Himself known to me, and He didn’t stop once I left the farm. You see, that’s one of the beautiful things in learning about God: He isn’t tied to a place. As much as God made Himself known to me at the farm, He isn’t only at the farm. In that same way, as much as He makes Himself known to me at the riverside, He isn’t only at the river. This has been one of the hardest truths I have come to learn but it makes me fall all the more in love with my Father. Driving home from the farm I listened to another podcast, hoping it would distract me from the war that still raged within; the fight against choosing the wholehearted way.  H and I caught up the day I got home and she gave me two Bible verses from Romans. The first was Romans 8:18, Our present suffering is incomparable to the joy that is coming. The second was Romans 8:31, If God is for us then who can be against? I’ve spent a week or so dwelling on those verses but I find that I’m struggling to fathom what either of them mean.. How can I trust that there is joy to come when everything right now has felt so heavy? How can I trust that God is for me amidst the suffering? I know the answers to both those questions, God has revealed them to me many times in the past and I’ve written about these things on previous posts; it’s just hard to hold on sometimes. 

It was 4.21am. A confined space, locked doors, darkness, heart racing, begging to stop, two men over my trembling body: I woke screaming. A blood curdling scream at the top of my lungs into total darkness: brutal brokenness. The nightmares hadn’t been that bad in a while and my first thought when I woke was how desperately I needed God. My second thought was how I wished I listened to E’s ‘new age bs’ and set up some sort of bed side safety box; all I really wanted was the old rusted bolt I found on the farm because that was the most tangible reminder of God’s love for me. My heart pounded for a while as I tried to catch my breath, I needed God. He says I am His daughter: beloved. But where is He when I need Him most? Where was my Heavenly Father? I felt unsafe and alone. What felt most painful was the fact that my very first thoughts were of Him.. In my utmost distress it wasn’t any one else that I thought of first, or even second.. Before I thought to reach out for prayer it was my Father that I thought of, it was the cross and His love. Laying in that bed alone, all I wanted was to be wrapped up in that unconditional, safe and profound love— my Love, my Father. Oh how I longed to sit in His presence. “Where is God, where is He, I know I ask you that but I mean it, where is He?” My heart physically pulls downward each time I remember that line. I didn’t know it as I said it for the first time, but it has since become a line that haunts me and comes from the deepest parts of my spirit. I can still hear the sound of my own voice, breaking as I was sobbing; I was with T, in the midst of when things were really bad last year, that was a line I put forth to her. I didn’t think much of it, I just blurted it out and it came from the deep of my deep: it was what pre-consciously ate away at me and it was my hearts most nagging question. It’s a year later and I’m still asking that same question.. How do I dare? As I stared out the window into the blackness of night, my arms wrapped around my chest and suddenly all the arguing between Freud and other cognitive theorists in regards to the processing of trauma meant nothing to me. As my nails dug into my skin I hoped for a physical pain that outweighed the emotional, I was desperate to not retreat into my safely trapped; I knew that if I picked up a blade, I wouldn’t be able to stop. My body at that point was physically nauseous. Time had passed since my initial thoughts of my Father and my decision to reach out to my nearest for prayer. As my mind ever so cruelly replayed snippets of my explicit dream, I cried out to Him. In the magnitude of my fear and my shame, I found myself whispering into the dead of night I asked Him that if He could hear me, that if He was there, then would He please hold my heart. As I ever so gently whispered ‘please hold my heart’, over and over, it was as if a pin dropped the third time I said it. The racing beats subsided and I felt a hollowness around the outside atmosphere of my heart; it’s impossible to describe but I knew that it was my Father’s hands, He was holding my heart in its brokenness— in my brokenness He held me.

I sat wrapped in a blanket in front of the fire at the home I’m in at the moment. For a while I sat watching as the orange flames swallowed the wooden logs, turning them white as the coals glowed orange. I recall watching one of the flames as it danced with the wood, it seemed almost as if it were too afraid to fully embrace the wood. The flame would creep nearer, then it would withdraw. It repeated this dance for a while until almost all at once the flame wholly embraced the wooden log. I thought of myself and how closely I have resembled that flame. I remember T once describing me, painting the picture of me as a wounded animal in the corner, no where to go but too afraid to accept the helping hand outstretched; the way the flame was too afraid to wholly embrace the wooden log. In both scenarios I am afraid, and in both scenarios God’s love is what I’m most fearful of. If God loves me and if I accept that love, then that means I need to be vulnerable and I don’t know if I can do that. There’s a song called ‘I am loved’ by Maverick City Worship. Aside from being one of the most beautiful worship songs, there is a line in the song that read: ‘there is nothing sweeter than to be in your arms, near to your heart where I belong’. What do I need to do to be near to God’s heart? To be welcomed to sit in His presence? To be safely held? It’s taken time, but I looking back over the months, I do think I learned to accept the outstretched hand and I think I’m learning how to wholly embracing God’s love for me— however the decision to do so will be a daily one and one I will have to make consciously until it becomes habitual. I wondered though, how is it that I am able to accept the title of being my Fathers Daughter, if I am unwilling to step into His calling? There is only one way to pursue the Father: that is wholeheartedly. Our heart were created to crave God. I recently spent 5 hours at TC’s parents’ home, they’ve become like grandparents to me and we often spend time going to town or sitting down for tea.. her mom and I are actually spending Thursday together in town. Anyway, on this particular afternoon we spent hours talking about God and marvelling at His goodness, His provision and His creation. As humans we are created for connection and the connection we have to our Father is the one that matters most.

The concept of our connection to, and relationship with, God was again spoken of in Church a few days ago. I didn’t hear a lot of what was said but I heard that to be hungry for God is to pursue Him and I know that I’ve been trying to pursue Him. That same Sunday I had gotten dressed in my cute little suit and spoke to Jesus the whole drive to church. The night before hadn’t been easy but I was looking forward to seeing T again and spending time with God, in fellowship with those around me. T, her husband and I settled into our seats, with our coffees and laughter; it felt like home, family. I knew within me that I was safe and secure in God, but what I didn’t know was that nothing could ever quite prepare me for a wave of ptsd. Worship had barely begun and my hands were shaking, I was trying so desperately to keep them still and to take a deep breath but my breathing was fast and shallow. I stood for as long as I could before the flashbacks threw me down into my chair. I scribbled 3 words onto a page before showing T and leaving the auditorium. Scrambling into the bathroom stall, I locked the door and sat on the closed lid. Breathe girl, breathe. My mind flashed the most cruelest memories on repeat and I fought back the tears. Voices came in so I quickly hurried to fix my hair and as I looked up, I saw T standing in the door way— around her, all I saw was God: safe. I was far from okay but I knew I wasn’t alone, we stood outside and spent time breathing before going back into the service. I rolled my eyes at myself when I flooded the atmosphere with olive green and focused on my breathing. As T and I spoke outside, all I wanted was my Father. I wanted Him to hold me, to wrap His arms around me and to cup my face in the palms of His hands. I wished then that I’d had that rusted old nail, a tangible reminder of God’s love for me; though even in that, I knew God’s love wasn’t attached to the old nail, it was there— always there. I looked up at T in a moment of silence and there stood my tangible reminder of God’s love. He was there, in and around us both. The rest of the service was hard and honestly, if I didn’t need to touch base with H afterwards, then I’d have likely gone home sooner. I tried to tune into the word but my mind kept pulling me back to the darkest corners. I closed my eyes and spoke to my Father, I knew He was there. When I opened my eyes, I stopped digging my nail into my skin and I saw the ring on my finger; it was my promise to pursue God above all else. I let down my walls and as I felt His spirit linger, I knew that I was choosing the wholehearted way, I was pursuing Him.

The PTSD flare ups have only been growing in intensity and frequency. Since Sunday alone I’ve been battling more deeply. Monday saw me pathetically escaping to the riverside with the only symbol of safety I’ve carried since birth: a soft toy from home in South Africa. Pushing aside all feelings of being a pathetic excuse for a 21yo, I tightened my grip and clenched my jaw. As skin tears I can breathe, a fleeting moment of relief from the constant gasping for air; until the tightness in my chest returns with a vengeance, squeezing the life out of me. I feel buried and overwhelmed, drowning beneath the brutal waves; darkness, screeching, handprints, silhouettes, deep pressure, repetition, raspy voices, heavy breathing, silent tears, it goes on. My mind becomes a broken record that plays my darkest fears on repeat, fragments of my past I’ve tried so desperately to forget. If suppression were a sport, I’d be winning first prize for over a decade now. Hear me now, when I tell you that there are pieces of my past that remain unspoken, there are boxes that I haven’t dared to touch and confessions I haven’t dared to share; not even with T. My family, both past and present, there is so much more than what meets the eye. Strangers, old and young, black and white. No perpetrator ever cares, they don’t think about whether they themselves are clean, whether they use protection, whether they are hurting the body that lays beneath their power. But why would they care? They only care about having their needs met, regardless of who they torture in between. God still is there, I have to believe that He is still there. I have to believe that He still loves me and through the trauma, He is carrying me.. Oh how I hope He is carrying me.

The irony in my struggle with vulnerability is that I’m becoming braver in making connections with the world around me, but I’ve been at a stand still with God. My safety and security in God has allowed me to be bold with others, but why not with my Father? Since meeting H, the two of us have had various intimate prayer sessions. Through her I have connected with 6 other women and in small ways I’ve been able to peel back layers of myself to form new relationships. I’ve gone to a number of dinner parties at H’s home and I’ve taken part in sharing during Bible study. These are things I never thought I would do again.

CA and I caught up for another coffee and she connected me to KA. I was invited to KA’s home for dinner which was an invitation I boldly accepted. She cooked the most divine meal and the atmosphere was safe; God was with me. After a few uncomfortable questions were asked, I decided not to lie and I found myself sharing with both KA and her husband about my journey with AN and my recovery. Later in the evening KA and I were sitting alone in her lounge chatting about art when TC came up in conversation, the two of them had known each other since Katanning many years ago and since moving to Albany she had switched GP’s to seeing T (what were the chances in this small town). Three hours passed before I went home and I didn’t once overthink the fact that I’d just shared one of the largest secrets I’ve held close for years.

I could share many more examples of ways in which I’ve stepped out vulnerably but my question stands to ask why it is I struggle to be vulnerable with the One who already knows all of me?

At the beginning of the post I told you that by the time I reached the riverside again, everything would have changed and it had. I experienced God in various ways and at last I found myself at the riverside again. My final and most recent visit to the riverside came and as the clouds rolled in I parked my car in its usual spot. I sat and began counting the ripples of the river as they lapped against the shore, I thought of how perfectly they displayed God’s endless love. I moved closer to the shore to see that my plant had died and though I knew at some point it would, I didn’t expect it to die so soon. The lifespan of my plant barely made a week shy of 3 months and there were times where I thought it would die for sure but then it picked up again and was okay. My journey with God’s been a bit like that lately; fleeting. I’ve spent so much time searching for God, wondering why it was He who was fleeting but I was wrong. God hasn’t been coming and going as He pleases, He hasn’t hidden from me: it’s been me. As I looked at what remained of my plant, I realised I’d been the one coming and going as I pleased, hiding from God and rejecting His presence out of shame and fear. I’m learning that God isn’t a fleeting God; He is lasting. God doesn’t appear and then vanish, He doesn’t show up in one battle only to run away in the next. God’s love and desire for relationship with us isn’t only a momentary thing, it’s eternal. In His word [1 John 2:25] God said “and this is what He promised us— eternal life”. I looked to my wrist [Isaiah 41:13], “For I am the Lord Your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you: ‘Do not fear, I will help you’”. I can lay forth many other verses throughout the bible but in the end what matters most is that God didn’t say that He is only here for a while or until things get tough; He is here for the long haul. So why is it that I’m constantly searching for God in the depth of my suffering? Does His word not promise that He is right there? Why is it that when I see the cross, I’m blinded by the suffering and brutality of it all; where as when God sees the cross, He sees the resurrection, He sees victory and love? My mind is so wired to see the brutality before the beauty. And as I sat by the riverside I closed my eyes because my eyes no longer wanted to see unless they could see though God’s eyes, I didn’t want to live a fleeting life searching for the One who is always right there.

I rose and walked toward where the trees beckon out over the river. As I walked along the largest called tree, I sat once again with my feet dangling above the river, metres from the shore. It is here where I now sit, drawing this post to an end. With my eyes closed I encountered my precious moment with my Father. In a state of wholehearted vulnerability, I allowed myself to be raw with God, opening my heart to Him once again. Words from the prayer T prayed over me last year, on the day I gave my heart back to God 300 days ago, circled through my mind; God has never been anywhere else than there for me, He is always there, I may not always understand but I know that God loves me and cares deeply for me, He is holding my hand on this journey. In prayer I spoke to God and gave Him all of me: every battered and bruised piece of me, each box and dark corner, each scar and failure. Do you know what He whispered in the wind? I felt Him cup my face between the palms of His hands as He welcomed me home: His beautiful, precious and loved daughter.

My God has created me in His image, since the 13th of June He has helped me see myself the way He sees me and I have no doubt He will continue to do so. This doesn’t however, mean that I won’t struggle to see my worth in Him. Since my week alone with God and my daily choices to recover all in, I have gained a substantial amount of weight. I sometimes look in the mirror and I can’t help but cry because I struggle to understand how anyone, let alone my Father, can look at me and think I am beautiful. I’m used to my family picking my body apart cruelly and not telling me that I am loved or beautiful, but I’ve noticed over the last few months that as I’ve appeared to be stronger in my recovery, others have also stopped saying anything. When I was at my lowest weight and I thought nothing of myself, it was then that people were often telling me that I was loved or that I looked beautiful. Ironically, now that I’ve gained weight and I appear to be in a better place, that’s all changed. And it’s not that I expect or want people to tell me that they love me or tell me that I look beautiful, it’s more the absence of it that I’ve noticed and it’s come from those I least expected. I’ve gotten good at putting on a mask again and those who could once see through, no longer can because they too seem to have a preconceived idea of where I am at in my journey. As my self doubt has grown, as my self worth has diminished, I have found myself hourly needing to go back to the concept of being safe and secure in God. Whether I feel it or not, I know that He loves me. I know that I might not always understand how or why, but that doesn’t change God’s love for me. I have to believe that my Father still smiles and calls me His own, He says I am still beautiful and I am still His daughter. He may not be tied to the river or any other place, but He meets me there and He will always meet me wherever I am. The deep of my heart yearns for Him and I now know that I am forever welcome to simply sit in His presence, to just be with Him in the most raw and tangible form.

I’ve spent 300 days fleetingly trying to pursue God in my suffering and in my recovery, but I realise now that the only way to pursue God is to choose the wholehearted way. I don’t know what that looks like and I’d say that I’m going to spend time figuring it out, but I don’t think it’s something I need to figure out. I can’t figure out how to pursue God wholeheartedly, I just need to do it, it’s like falling in love with Him over and over again. It’s like the way I need to just let Him love me. Choosing the wholehearted way means choosing God, it means choosing to suffer well, it means allowing myself to wash up at the foot of the cross— it’s a choice I need to vulnerably step into each moment of each day. I haven’t had social media for a few weeks now because I chose to remove any distraction throughout my degree and I’m now additionally choosing to step back from my blogging for a while as well. As much as I blog to reflect God’s goodness and record testimonies of His faithfulness to me, I’m choosing to do that with pen and paper; a more intimate and intentional way of spending time with Him. I’ve spent 300 days half heartedly pursuing God, and I’ll now spend the next 300 days and all the days to follow, learning to pursue Him wholeheartedly.

As I prayed my most vulnerable prayer whilst sitting over the river, I knew in my heart that the road ahead wouldn’t be easy. I again had to let down the walls around my heart, I needed to allow God to take my bricks. This was only the beginning and I knew I would fall again, I will fall again, but this time I know I will be held and embraced. I will still battle trauma and feelings of shame, but I know I will still be loved as I am. There’s nothing straight forward or simple about this way of living with God, but I know it is the wholehearted way in which He beckons us all to live.

I have been met by the One who calls me His own and I have been embraced by the most profound and eternal love, here I will forever stay safely held in the presence of my Father. This love is not one I need to earn or prove that I deserve, it is mine because I am fearfully and wonderfully made – beautifully broken. My Jesus is the only One I want, the only One my heart yearns for each hour of each day. I am still falling in love with God, through every up and every down. This is me vulnerably surrendering and choosing to walk in the wholehearted way.

– c x (11.08.2021)

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