My flu-addled mum took a minute to scold me for my inability to let go of my past. As in she yelled at me, in that way that mums do when they mean “I love you so much why can’t you see what you’re doing is hurting you?!”
And she’s right. It is hurting me.
I viewed grade school and high school–my ten years in my pre-university alma mater–as a nightmare. I carried with me, in an ever-enlarging backpack, every single drop of hurt: the exclusion; the official labels from my teachers that I was a “problem child” with a “bad attitude;” the taunts of my classmates of “You’re not smart enough to get a real scholarship.” and “You’re not pretty.”
I carried them with me for so long I began to believe them, and my angry, rebel’s heart, acting out, ended up acting according to expectations. It took many long years to re-program, to let God be God over my life, to embrace the status of “new creation.” I’m still learning to embrace it, to act according to my status as beloved child of Christ and not wounded, angry rebel. And part of the reason for that is because of my inability to let go.
Pain pushes us forward. But it can only do so for so long. Part of the reason why I fought so hard, in university, was because the pain gave me something to prove–that I wasn’t worthless, or useless, or stupid. That I was an asset, not a liability. But I forgot, mid-stream, to let the pain go and the little victories keep pushing me forward. And the pain kept me angry. And the anger turned to pride.
Now, when I face my high school teachers and classmates, it is with that scornful face of angry pride that masks a girl who has hung on to the pain for so long it has begun to fester. The wounds should have healed by now, should be faint scars, but at each turn I’ve been ripping off the scab. I can’t forgive. I’m too angry. I want them to answer for their “crimes.”
…but in the end, the bitterness has me answering instead. I am taking poison and expecting my enemies to die.
My friend Jethro had peculiar insight into my inability to let go. He’s a philosophy student, and writes with a poetry and compassion that I wish I had. In our last email exchange, he explained, in not so many words, that we hang on because we want control. Want possession. Want for things not to fade away.
I want control. I want possession. I want to rule my life and wave my successes as a banner that says “SEE! YOU DIDN’T BEAT ME! YOU LIED!” But the fact is, it is not my banner to wave, but God’s. He has done the work. He has proved them wrong. My pride, my ego and anger, is only marring his triumph. What’s worse, it’s destroying me–until now I am crippled by an insecurity so strong all because I care so much about the opinion of people who honestly, truth be told, did not know what they were saying because they did not know me.
(How deeply do we know people, anyway?)
And it was partially my fault, because I carried a backpack of pain so big it blocked out who I was underneath. I wanted the pain not to fade away, even as I mourned it and wanted to heal. I hung on to this pain…
…And now I need to let go. As difficult as even saying the words are. I am so full of pride it’s beginning to ruin the happiness that is my life now. It is beginning to poison my redemption. And that pride is deeply rooted in the pain I won’t release, the victim mentality I hang on to.
That old life, those old pains, are over. I am not that ten year old “problem child.” If I could, I would hop into a TARDIS and visit her as Amy did her younger self, to hold her and give her ice cream and tell her she was all right, that she would be okay, that things would get better and people would and do love her and these things shall pass. That God loves her, and so there is nothing to prove.
But I can’t. I can only tell those things to myself. That I am okay. That God has made me okay. That I am loved. That I can lay down my arms, my big backpack of pain, my pride and anger, and submit to the will of the One who has led me out of every Valley into green pastures and still water. Every little win has been a little wind buffeting me upwards until I gain confidence to soar, but pain and pride have been weights weighing me down.
I don’t know how long it will take. Hatred has become a habit. I am reluctant to forgive because it feels too much like absolution, like saying I never hurt. But God demands we forgive, because he forgave us, and for all my pride I know there are still many crimes that can be laid at my door. I am not innocent. And I need to grow up, to mature in Christ, to step into the plans he has for me deliberately, even if it means letting go of so much that has been “me” for all these years.
I choose not to hate anymore. Not to shroud myself in anger. I choose an open heart. I choose the wins and the winds buffeting me upwards. I choose love instead of pride. I choose to let go and let things fade. Because I trust in God’s justice and God’s mercy.
One last hug to that sad ten year old, then I give her to God to comfort, and I take wing from where I am, to the next challenge, the next storm, the next set of wins and winds, where He will see me through.
(Probably was more incoherent than I intended but I’m fighting off the beginning stages of my mum’s flu.)