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To Honor the Self

Originally published Tuesday, 05 July 2022.

I drafted a blog post to you on May 19 and never finished it. I sat, keyboard in lap, on a Thursday afternoon, and searched for self-understanding. Why am I feeling the way I feel? How can I sort through this apparent confusion of the heart? And now, six weeks later, I read the words typed out from the married feelings of both frustration and hope and consider the gift each of us receives when we, individually, pause, honor the self, and contemplate the place where we are.

I believe in the value of going backwards, sometimes, in order to go forward. And so, with these words written to you one late spring day but never shared, I begin again, writing to you . . .

I thought I had been upended, that all that was familiar was gone. I thought I would be left with mere glimpses of her—the self that guided me through identity, who taught me who I am, what I believed, what it takes to survive. But she hasn’t left. She is still here, a stubborn wraith who believes she knows what is best. I don’t know how to love her. Oh, how she has hurt me.

I am turned inward, my new self and my old engaging in a battle tireless and unending. The old rising up to bully the new: Who are you? How can you be relied upon to get us through? You don’t look at all strong. What, even is your name?

I am mute. (The old self does this to me every time.) And the new self, young and tender and vulnerable, has already forgotten she is beautiful, she is strong, she is perfectly, so perfectly, brand new.

So, here, with words, I try to find her. (I must do what I know.) And I vow to love her, as she deserves. Only because He loves her. Only because He loves.

Because before, that was never enough, you see, for the idols of self, success, and productivity—what the old self bowed down to and adored—screamed hard and long for attention. Keep up, do more, prove your worth. But, in my heart, the new self hears the whisper, gentle and sure and kind: You are not enough now, like this, like this, like this.

Oh, God, help me. At my core I still struggle to feel loved—to feel like enough, and yet You are doing something in me, something good and lasting, though uncomfortable and a bit frightening. The coping mechanisms that I used to cling to for survival are no longer here. And I don’t know what to do. The self that is desperate for love is also the tyrant fighting against it.

So I search for the the lost one, the one who has stayed too long in the shadows, trying to find her way home. Oh, Self, will you let down your defenses? Will you let yourself be loved? Will you let yourself be found?

I worry she will forever be haunted by a deep feeling of lack rather the feeling of deep love.

Why dear Self, can you not be trusted? Why are you so easily deceived, prone to beliefs and behaviors that, at their core, isolate you? Why are you convinced you are vulnerable, weak, unprepared for life’s battles? Why do you heed this most insidious whisper (oh, this voice sounds familiar): You are alone, you are alone, you are alone.

When this lie penetrates the heart (when it is allowed to penetrate), and this happens most often due to the isolation she chooses, she believes there is something in her that is lacking. Lacking intelligence, lacking beauty, lacking confidence, lacking status. She feels alone and she feels lonely and she feels hungry to achieve the attention of anyone who will give it to her. In each action, spoken or unspoken, she asks these questions: Do you see me? Do you like me? Am I enough?

She chases down love while convinced that love’s chasing her isn’t possible.

For most of my life, I have been a tyrant of my self. My deep dislike for who I am—never enough, never enough—compelling me to withhold myself from people. And now, I don’t know—I don’t know how to do the work of self-discovery without using the same tools I’ve also used before: produce, strive, prove. These are tools that hold little allure to me now. . .

And that was the last word I wrote.

I share with a friend how my experiences with God lately have been mostly memory—founded on times when I felt close with Him—and I am aching for renewed connection. I know there is more for me—that He has more for me—and I want to bare myself wide open before Him so that nothing interferes with intimacy with Him, that nothing gets in the way. And I want to honor my precious self my listening to the One who loves me most, who can untangle my mess of confusion and provide clarity and kindness and hope.

And, with my friend near me, we listen for God’s voice together. Will you join us too?

As you listen, consider a look back, within a certain season, at your precious Self. Go back to a moment a few years ago, or two months ago, or a week ago and do your best to recall something that was challenging you, or frightening you. What was hard? Or exhilarating? Discouraging or frustrating? When you consider that situation, reflect on the person you were then—and the person you are now. What did you want then? What do you want now? How did you feel then? How do you feel now?

Write a poem that is a kind of gentle, honest observation of a specific moment in your past. You can write the poem as a letter to yourself now—or yourself then. Or you can just tell a story of memory, giving special attention to the feelings beneath the feelings. Honor yourself by asking questions about your emotions then—your emotions now. Be surprised by what you discover as you write. There is something for you to see here. Trust it. Listen. Write.

When you have written your poem, please consider sharing it below—and/or join the kind, encouraging community over at Loop Poetry Project and share it with us there. Learn more and join her.

With much love and hope,

Jennifer


Rewriting

On the floor I found you,
knees pressed toward
hands outstretched,
head down, wondering
if you’d show me what I
didn’t know. And now
where are you? My impatience
taunts me, for memory can’t 
show me how
to fall in love with 
you again. Break me–
in all the ways I try to 
hold together, my voice
untrustworthy, 
my song with 
no notes to sing. I 
know nothing 
now, in the beginning, 
being created 
once again.

This post appeared originally at jennifer.camp

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