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Off the Floor, On the Path

March 7, 2008

“For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your holy one to rot in the grave. You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever (Psalm 16: 10-11).”

My third-grade birthday party was going to be the best day of the year. My friends had all RSVP’d, and many of them were coming – including the very blond and very cute Ryan Halverson. My stepfather rented a film projector from the library along with two reels of kid films. He set it up in the basement, and we all got out the party supplies.

We were ready.

A half-hour before the party began, my mother became angry with me. “You haven’t finished your chores today, Jessie,” she said. “Do them now.” She thought for a minute longer. “And your consequence for not finishing them already is to do more chores during your party.”

The familiar feeling of helplessness rose up in me as I got down on my knees and started scrubbing our yellow linoleum kitchen floor. Hiking up my dress, I washed the floor in circles as my friends started to arrive. They filed past me silently and then were directed downstairs to the basement where my party began without me.

I kept cleaning. I could hear the sounds of the films start. My friends laughed at the movie. I continued working.

Ryan came upstairs, a confused look on his face. I noticed his gray wool sweater and dark jeans. “Um, what’s going on?”

“Oh!” I laughed heartily, “I’m great! I just am doing some stuff up here for a while. Thanks so much for asking.” I widened my eyes to make sure no tears would fall in front of the boy I liked.

I don’t remember much else about that day – but I remember the numb feeling deep in my gut. As a child, when these types of experiences happened, I could not feel angry. All my emotions went deep inside me and survival took over.

This experience, along with many others, shaped much of my heart as a little girl. Now, as an adult, I find it difficult to express my feelings – especially with the people that I love. I am afraid that if I allow myself to feel, the emotions may swallow me up – because I do not know how to handle them.

When I read Psalm 16 this morning, I really identified with David. I’ve never been chased around by a mad king and forced to hide out in caves, but I think I understand a little what it is like to have a “soul among the dead.” A dead soul, a soul afraid to feel, afraid to let God and those I love into every part of my heart.

If I open up every part of myself, if I make myself vulnerable, will I be hurt?

But God is, step by little step, showing me His path of life. For me, it means starting to say, “Um, I feel angry about that…” without being afraid that my husband will leave me or hurt me for expressing anger. It means learning to stay in less-than-perfect situations without wanting to escape. The path of life for me is learning that I can trust God and I can trust Hugh. They are not going to hurt me. They love me. And even if I make a mistake, I can trust that they will be gentle with me.

No one is going to make me clean the floor during my birthday party anymore.

God is not content to leave me in the grave of my numb emotions. He has a better, more life-filled plan for my life than one characterized by fear and insecurity. And I have to trust Him each day as He wakes up my soul and as He shows me which steps to take.

Lord, wake up my soul. I want my dry bones to dance! Call life into the dead places in my heart, Father! Pour out your Presence and fill me with strength to walk on the path you are leading me on. I want to be with you, God. Thank you that your path leads to “living with you forever.” In the name of your Son, Amen.

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2008 10:06 am

    Oh, my word Jess. I just want to take you in my arms and squeeze you. I am crying for your third grade self. I can’t even imagine. For you to have gone through the things you have gone through and be praising God on the other side of the storm – you are one incredible woman. God made you special. I pray today you are blessed.

  2. Katrina permalink
    March 7, 2008 11:20 am

    Jess, You don’t know me, but I am a friend of Kelly H. She has told me wonderful things about you and I hope to meet you sometime. I found your blog from her’s and I am so blessed my it! I have some similar testimonies as yours, and your passion and heart for the Lord is inspiring to me.
    Thank you!

  3. March 7, 2008 12:08 pm

    Oh how my heart aches for that 3rd grader. Oh how my heart rejoices for you now! I am so mad and so happy at the same time. May God bless you dear sister for the things you had to endure. I am screaming out to God for you…that God will lift you up with his righteous right hand!

  4. March 7, 2008 12:23 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing. That really speak to me this morning. My story was not so severe, but I can relate to the numbness and the difficulty expressing feelings now to those I love and those who love me and would want nothing more than to help me…I only I knew how to let them. But slowly, ever so slowly God is teaching me, and with tender baby steps I am getting there.

  5. March 7, 2008 12:54 pm

    Powerful, Jess. I love the title of this post. You should write it on a card and stick it on your mirror. You are on the path, girl. No more floor for you. My heart breaks for that little girl, too. I’m so sorry. I have no doubt that while you still have healing ahead of you and while you are still learning to trust Hugh and God, God has mighty plans for you. You’ve survived so much; He will redeem all you’ve lost, even birthday parties.

  6. khubatka permalink
    March 7, 2008 1:49 pm

    There is not much I can say other than I love you, and your vulnerability challenges me, and your faith inspires me. You are VERY special. ((hugs))

  7. March 7, 2008 11:15 pm

    The enemy must tremble when you write, Jess, cause it is so filled with the power of God.
    “But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
    My glory and the One who lifts up my head.” Ps. 3:3
    I can just picture Him, cupping His hands under your chin, and tipping your face up to His and saying, “No more will you be put to shame, Jess…You are mine.”

  8. March 8, 2008 8:48 am

    *sighing again*

    yes, I know that feeling that you can’t get mad. then you’ll be like HER, and we can’t have that, can we?

    hmmmm, as usual, I’ll be chewing on this all day.

  9. Patty permalink
    March 8, 2008 12:36 pm

    It’s amazing as I read your story, I was thinking – where is this girl? Has she been reading my mail?

    For the longest time I thought no one could relate, but I too had similar experiences, and learned growing up – not to show emotion. Always be strong was my mantra. And as much as I still think, emotions shouldn’t rule our lives, I know they are important and we can’t keep things bottled up.

    God does want us to be vulnerable not robots. Thank you for your honesty and transparency.

    For someone who says she has a hard time expressing herself, I think you’re doing a fantastic job! Please don’t stop writing! 🙂

  10. March 8, 2008 3:09 pm

    Jess…
    You don’t know me, I’m from Illinois and found your blogspot. Just wanted you to know I read yours daily as I can relate to so much you express. You have blessed me so richly and I pray God will continue to do the same for you. Some pastor once told me, whatever your mess was, God will use that for His ministry and you have done that. Be blessed in knowing you are a beautiful daughter of the most High King. In His Love Alone…Laura

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