blurred identity .

I’ve written and re-written this blog several times over the last five weeks. You see, when I write on here, I write with God. So when God feels absent from me, I struggle to articulate what is on my heart. I still believe that His Spirit whispers gently to me, but the process of hearing all the things He has to say drags out a little longer than usual. As I begin writing this blog for the last time, I am laying in bed, on the farm and hours away from anyone I know. Over the course of three days, I lost all identity and found myself face to face with my Creator. What would come from this encounter?

I arrived at the farm a little after 11pm on that Friday night. Going to the farm always feels like going home, it’s the place where God without fail makes Himself known to me each time. There’s a room in the house that has been named as my own, it’s kept open for me and no-one uses it while I’m away. However, arriving home to the farm that night felt different to how it had on any previous occasion; There was an absence and as I closed my bedroom door, I caught my reflection in the mirror. Who was she? The girl staring back at me?

There are answers that we search for when our worlds fall apart. If we are wise, we seek out God, but sometimes, even in our wisdom, we seek answers above Him. This is where I fell short. As I sat in the sheering shed on Sunday morning I read a post that Ann Voskamp had shared to her instagram page only hours earlier. The post read: 

“How would understanding the reason for suffering matter more than knowing God Himself stands with us in it? If we had a God small enough to understand, how could He be a great enough God to stand with us against all that we face?”

Ann Voskamp (06.03.2022)

I pondered this concept as I looked out across the dry and dusty paddocks. The land around me stretched for miles. I was last on the in farm in October and the crops have since been harvested; what was once endless fields of green, was now nothing more than a dry desert of sticks and carcasses. Heaviness tugged on my heart as I thought of how my relationship with God had changed in that same way; My faith, once deep-rooted, thriving, strong and healthy, now left thirsting for more than the dry dust upon which I lay, among the carcasses of my own betrayal. Was I nothing more than alike with this godforsaken land? 

The magic that once rested upon the farm, the ways in which God revealed Himself to me there, had all vanished and all that was left behind was a bittersweet reminder of what once was. Had He too, walked away and given up? No. Surely not, because isn’t the very essence of what Ann wrote, exactly what T told me as we sat by the foreshore for coffee back in January? Where did my faith go in my period of grief and questioning? 

It was only then, sitting in the sheering shed, that I realised it was within the same time period of grief, coffee and questioning, that I fell subject to a search for everything other than my Father. I became consumed by my longing for answers and explanations, so consumed that I lost sight of the only One I needed more. It was all within that same time frame that I became the one to walk away and give up. I didn’t realise this tragedy until that Sunday morning on the farm, when reading Ann’s questions felt all too much like dejavu. 

It recently surpassed 500 days since I chose God, since I returned my heart to Him and made Him my Home. I question to you now; Would you understand the magnitude of who God is, if I told you that over the last 500 days, God has rewritten upon my heart what it means to be in relationship with Him? Would you be able to grasp how deep God had to reach down into my very core, in order to grab hold of and undo the roots that have become so entrenched into who I am and what I have grown to believe?

“If you sin too much, God will leave you”, “If you keep apologising but don’t become a better daughter, God will stop listening”, “If you’re not good enough, God will give up on you”, “But most of all Christelle, if you do these things, God will stop loving you”.

– My Parents.

Imagine for a moment that you are 3 years old, for the first time you are beginning to grasp the concept of this higher figure and as time passes, those four warnings above become something drilled into you everyday until you’re 19 years old and you decide that God doesn’t exist anymore. Why? Because the pain of Him not exisiting outweighs the pain that comes from questioning how He can exist without love, without forgiveness, without patience, without grace and without relationship.

That was the God painted to me over the course of my childhood. I shudder; A memory flashes before my eyes and I see it now as if for the first time [disclaimer for the vulnerability attached to sharing this memory].

Eight years old. A blow up mattress. A foreign home that your aunt and uncle just moved into. It’s late at night and the shadow of your 24 year old cousin leaves your doorway as he locks himself in the room next to you. Your aunt has said goodnight, leaving only your uncle left.

… I close my eyes, in the remembering …

And then there she is. Sitting on the floor in the corner of a dark room. Red stained between her legs. Silent tears that seep into the nothingness. The only thing on her mind: “Another sin, my parents were right, God can’t love me now”.

Does your heart not break? That was only the beginning of what would become something almost too familiar, that by the time such a sin takes place yet again at the end of 2019; that 8 year old girl, now 19, finally gives up on the idea of a relationship with God. 

She is turning 22 now and that girl is me. As I walked through the godforsaken fields across the farm, I felt a war waging within me; A battle between flesh and spirit. God is fighting for me, but in my present weakness, I am, what some might refer to as an ‘easy target’ for the enemy. 

Throughout God’s word, He makes it known to us that our flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). In Romans 3:23 we read that surely all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. No sin is greater or lesser than another, all sin is equal; this is something I am yet to grasp or understand.

Romans 7:18 says; “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” That very verse captures quite accurately where I have been in my heart. I want to pursue God, I have wanted to seek Him and Him alone. However, I tried to do it on my own and realised that within myself I do not have the ability to carry out my hearts desires [a sole pursuit of my Father]. 

What I am yet to tell you, is the ways in which my flesh has failed me, the ways in which I searched for all that was not God and the ways in which I sought to numb the emotions I felt. What happened in the hours that lead to that first night on the farm?

There’s a level of vulnerability that comes with being honest and what I often forget is that God is there with us, He knows everything and if He already knows, yet He still loves me, then isn’t that all that matters? I’m moving past the shame because that isn’t what this is about, this is about God and how even though my identity became blurred; I will find it again within Him.

They say that you seek out in a man, the same attributes as your father or those whom played a significant role in your upbringing. I never thought that to be true, however, now I find myself questioning if perhaps there are similarities to be drawn between men like my father, uncle or cousin, and the other men who have taken advantage of me over the years. 

In my desperation to numb the emotions of all that has taken place over the past few months, I gave up my search for answers, and instead sought out different avenues that I thought might bring release. How? By exposing myself to harm in every way other than that of a flame or blade. 

The night my father beat me and abused me, before physically throwing me onto the pavement outside the family home, that was the third night in the span of merely five days. I drove to the riverside and laid in the middle of the road. Praying a car would numb the burning inside of me. Three out of five nights last week was spent in my car, riverside, following an abuse of power and control.

The time my instinct trauma response turned me into that scared deer in the corner of a room and took me back to past places I have tried to forget, was the time I stupidly crushed and sniffed a stash of quetiapine (Don’t worry, I’m shaking my head at myself too). Praying for the memories to fade away.

I had sex seven times over the long weekend, different men, none known to me and none all too caring either. They wanted the high, I wanted the numbness. Some exchanges passed quickly, without any red flags. Others, I wasn’t so lucky. None were enjoyable in the slightest, in fact I found myself physically ill throughout each session; not once reaching a peak of any kind.

Friday nights encounter was the one that tipped me off the edge. He was too much like the other men in my life. It was all about the power for him. Taking off the condom because ‘he couldn’t finish’ with it on, despite my specific request for safety. Pressing my body down in the most violent of ways, just to make it known that he was in charge. Fingers around my throat, his nails dug into the flesh of my neck as he continually tightened his grip and pushed me downward. Slapping me violently, whilst biting and hurting me in ways that crossed all my boundaries. There I layed beneath him until he finished, my body limp and my mind in a place far away from the present. Praying for it to be over.

I got away that Friday night. As I reached my car, the alcohol was wearing off and it was too sore to move. But I had to move. I needed to move because I needed to escape. As I opened another drink, I hopped behind the wheel and sped down the dirt road. Tears clouded my view and hitting 130kph, I took a blind corner and my car slammed into a ditch. I felt around for my phone in the dark, locating it on the floor in a corner, I turned it on. A text from T; ‘Hope you’re ok?’. My stomach fell as a sudden wave of regret washed over me as I remembered that I’d already cancelled my breakfast with T, because standing on the side of a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, blood running down my legs and my heart dragging on the floor, seeing someone safe was all I wanted.

Time passed and by 11.30pm I had gotten my car back on the road and had made it back to the farm. In the shower I washed my body. Left arm. Right arm. Chest. Stomach. Hands. Neck. I worked my way through each area of my body, almost ritualistically, as I had learned to do over the years; Careful not to make a mistake, otherwise I’d have to begin all over again. The washing afterward was always the part that mattered most, it was the moment that my mind would numbly take over and I wouldn’t need to think or feel. I bled and pained that night. And on my way to climb into bed, I closed my door, catching a glimpse of someone unknown to me. Where was my identity now?

On Saturday I wandered the land around the farm. For the first five hours of my day I walked from dam to dam, across the paddocks, often sitting down to read whilst the dog swam or dug holes. As I walked I came across a section of ground that had shattered. I reflected upon the process that would have taken place in order for the ground to appear as it did. You see, at some stage the ground would have been whole, it would have been smooth and strong. As time passed, I imagine rains would have fallen and the ground would have drawn moisture. Lastly as the moisture dried, so did the ground, only this time the ground dried into pieces; shattered after the storms. 

It’s uncanny really, the resemblance between God’s people and the ground. We live in a fallen world. We were born free of sin, whole and pure in faith. As we grow we are exposed to the harshness of the world around us, the brutalness of storms and as the rains fall upon us [any forms of hardship or trauma], we soak up that hurt and our flesh becomes us. In time we then too, become like the dried and shattered earth, our faith no longer whole and our lives an image of brokenness. 

But wait.. there is hope!

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:

The old has gone, the new is here!”

2 corinthians 5:17

I have heard the Bible being described as a ‘guide’ for our lives. Recently in church we learned about the concept of ancient paths, thus being the concept of looking back over the lives of those in the Bible and learning from their stories; Following the ancient paths that God outlined throughout His word. 

God continues to use His word as a means of not only revealing Himself to me, but as a way of installing hope and reassurance. I do not like who I am. I do not recognise the reflection in the mirror before me. I do not know who I have become. My identity is blurred and it is no longer bound by my faith in my Father. Why?

What causes our faith to waiver? What causes us to feel distant from God? 

In prayer I asked these questions. The answer my heart received was: ‘a shift’.

Walking down Prideaux on a recent afternoon, I found myself staring into the clouds to see the smallest nest, swaying violently in the tallest tree. How could something so fragile, withstand such storms? In my last post earlier this year, I said that it felt as if the slightest shift would cause my foundation crack and everything would begin to fall apart. Since then, the winds have blown and for a while amidst the storm, no matter how hard I fought to keep God first, I lost sight of Him in the heaviness. 

You see, the way that the slightest shift in foundation can cause a magnitude earthquake. Or how the slightest shift in measurement for construction can cause the most detrimental effects. In that same way, when our focus shifts even the slightest bit away from God; everything changes. Here we immediately shift ourselves out of His presence, and even though God never leaves, we dangerously begin to feel as if He has.

Over the last month or two since that afternoon along Prideaux, I have reflected upon this concept of shift. And as God has continued to reveal new aspects to me, I’ve begun to string together times over the years where I have allowed these shifts to take control of my life. Shifts don’t even have to be huge! Just think about it, the slightest of shifts in life can sometimes have the largest of impacts. I mean, the slightest shift in vibrational frequency can shatter glass., the slightest shift in even just one degree, can alter a ships course of direction. I’ve seen this recently in my own life; relapse, self destruction in the form of sex and alcohol, abuse and pain. Why? All because of a shift in my faith; my questioning and doubt. 

My heart broke on the farm, as I realised that whilst my faith had shifted, my identity had blurred, at that same time, I had spent the last two months trapped in a space where fighting to live took more effort than the latter. There’s almost nothing more heartbreaking than realising that you’re spending every day fighting to learn how to want to live, rather than actually wanting to live or trying to die.

Is this where the hope comes in?

2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that in God, we are a new creation. You see, God is always at work within us. He is never done writing our stories. Even when I chose to allow men to use my body, God was still there; His heart bled out with my own and He mourned with me and for me, but He never left me and He never walked away from me. Forgive me, but I think my parents were wrong: God doesn’t give up and leave me if I sin too many times. I walked past thousands of small rocks that has washed up after the rains, looking at them I felt God liken them to my sins and all the ways in which I fall short of deserving His relationship, love, forgiveness and grace. All the things my parents said I would never have access to in my relationship with God, has been given to me ever so freely, by Himself. Standing there on the farm, looking at those rocks, I knew that God would sift through each and every dirty and ugly thousandth rock, just to be in relationship with me. I knew that there was nothing I could do, or not do, in order to shift His loving gaze from me. He stays, God always stays.

“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb,

    Before you were born I set you apart.”

Jeremiah 1:5

My soul finds rest in the knowledge that my Father knew me before I was born, He set me apart, He had a plan and a purpose for my life, He knew all that would transpire throughout my journey.. and you know what? He still formed me and created me in His image. 

‘Before you were born, I set you apart’… I look around, as I conclude this post tonight and my life is in the process of being uprooted. Despite anything that has happened to me, in the past, or even just in the last week, despite all of that, God still wants me. I can not comprehend why, but I know that He does want me and He still has a plan for me. The season I have been amidst over recent months has been a season of darkness, of grief and mourning; But behold, God is bringing me into a new season, one of uprooting and planting. God is drawing me out of the darkness and He is beckoning me toward His light, His ‘new thing’. One of my many 19s that God has given me was Isaiah 43:19 where He says; ‘Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness, and I will make rivers in the desert’. God is creating a new life for me, He is giving me a new identity within Himself and I am learning how to make Him my Home. In both a spiritual and physical way, God is planting me in new faith, in a new town and He is making a new thing. I will spring forth and flourish in Him. I am unable to fathom how God managed to pull all the strings that He did, but He truely has made a way and a river in the wilderness.. Ann releases a new book this month; “WayMaker”.. I wasn’t going to buy it but I think now I might. God is so good to me and I have no doubt in His truth that He speaks over me is true, and I have no doubt that He will keep His promises to me.. He has a plan, a purpose, He will give me what I need to make it through (especially when things fall apart), He will carry me when my feet can not walk, He will provide for me and comfort me, He will protect the relationships I hold dear to my heart, He will guide me and He will never leave me. All I need to do? A whole-hearted pursuit, without the doubt and questioning.

I sometimes fear the loss of my identity, the blurred confusion of who I am and the things I have done.. Yet, if I close my eyes, I can feel the gentle beckoning of my Father:

“Come near My Child, I see who you are underneath your brokenness, and I still call you ‘My Beloved’, I still love you all the same.”

-c x (09.03.2022).

 

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