My word for 2012 began to expose itself to the light weeks before the end of last year’s journey through willing (my word for 2011). The depths, the exposure, the risk, the journey reminded me of our explorations into lava tubes in Northern California years ago. An intense event in nature long ago had formed pathways, hollow tubes throughout the molten lava that hardened into a network of interwoven tunnels. Dark, enclosed, meandering paths beneath the surface. One could easily lose one’s bearings and get lost within the darkness. My husband the miner tied ropes for us to stretch out as we journeyed deep into the tubes. We could tolerate the risk of going deeper because we knew we would be able to get back to where we had begun. When we ran out of rope, we turned and followed the path out of the depths, out of darkness and into the open again.
As I approached 2012, residual feelings of confined spaces and directionless darkness still lingered. And I was intimately aware that I have stayed hidden in the shadows behind walls…from God, from my husband, my family, and from life.
It was in the darkness of the night as a little girl that I first started to hide…from the wounds imposed on me and the humiliation that kept lurking after me. Then I would hide away reading stories not meant for childhood eyes to read. Shame stuck to me like a stubborn price tag that wouldn’t peel off. Sticky note to self: I am bad.
Sometimes, though, I forgot about my favorite hiding spot under the back porch or high in the branches of the Japanese plum tree. And I ventured out into play with the neighborhood kids. I wasn’t hiding when my mother left home. I walked home from sixth grade and she was gone. Never to be caught exposed and vulnerable again, I knew I needed a better hiding place…one that I could take with me and was accessible anytime, anywhere. It was then that I began building the walls around my heart. Sticky note on heart: I am not worth loving.
I felt safe outside my walls when I met my husband more than 36 years ago. I was happy and blessed when our first baby boy arrived. Another son arrived three years later. We were laughing and playing outside my walls when we moved (again), lost our jobs and found out we were pregnant. I mistakenly chose abortion. Sticky note on my wall: I make bad decisions.
Over the years my walls have grown familiar and somewhat comfortable to perch atop. I don’t stray too far beyond my walls. So, less than two years ago, when my husband told me about his sexual integrity issues, I could simply forgive and retreat within the safety of my walls. Sticky note on marriage: I do not speak up when I am hurt.
I went to a Women in the Battle weekend last year because I was stuck all over with sticky notes. I didn’t know why I had no motivation, no joy and no insight from God. Arriving an hour early, I sat alone inside the walls of my vehicle in the hotel parking lot mindlessly checking emails, catching up on Words with Friends, and playing Solitaire on my iPhone.
The next morning—after a full day of teaching and group sessions—I found myself thinking about a man named Lazarus. I found his story in the Bible and read: So the sisters sent word to Him [Jesus] saying, “Lord, behold, he [Lazarus] whom you love is sick.” My lack of motivation and joy felt like I was sick too. Maybe the women in my group—my new sisters—had seen my own ‘sickness’ and petitioned to Jesus on my behalf.
I read more. But when Jesus heard this, He said. “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it. But Lazarus had been dead for four days. Martha lamented that Jesus had not arrived sooner to save her brother.
I needed to read more. So, Jesus again being deeply moved, came to the tomb. Jesus must have cared deeply about Martha and Lazarus; I pondered if He could care so much about me. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” New sticky note: Jesus cares. Jesus can remove walls.
So they removed the stone. Then Jesus said: “Father, I thank You that You have heard me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe You sent Me.” Replacement sticky note: If I stay hidden behind my walls, I miss out on God’s goodness for me, and to others. And if I do not speak up, I have missed an opportunity for others to believe…how much we are loved, so that we can love others unconditionally. How much we are forgiven, so that we can forgive when it is undeserved. How much sorrow is redeemed, so that we can freely reveal God’s mercies through our stories.
And when Jesus had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, (that seemed to read) “Julie, come forth.”
Beckoned from the shadows, from behind walls, I have been released into the OPEN…my new journey for 2012. The call back to life and into the open was not only for Lazarus, nor just for me (although I felt that way), but is for all of us.