Updated: Jan 8, 2022
In healing, I look back often. Finding my voice and telling my story has come at the cost of dredging up old memories I'd rather forget. It can get heavy and cumbersome to repeat and relive traumatic events. This year, the 'ghost of Christmas past' got the better of me and at times I lived there instead of in the here. In the now. There are 'glory days' and then there are unglorious days of trauma and pain that, when recollected, cast shadows and darkness across beautiful landscapes in my present. And to be honest, I have a full and joyous and abundant life to enjoy. My budget was not big enough to endure the price tag of constantly looking back to 1989.
The Bible, a guide for my life and ultimately, my healing--had some words for this whole idea of looking behind; looking back. I tried to tighten my belt long enough to blurt out, "forgetting what is behind and pressing on to what is ahead, I press on.." If I squeezed my eyes tight enough and put my fingers in my ears and shouted 'I can't hear you' loud enough, I could try to drown out the past with sheer willpower and determination. But old memories die hard. On the one hand, I do everything to remember and on the other-
I beg for a dementia from the trauma. Our brains are in this tug of war to stay young and recall the best and the brightest or to get old and blessedly forget the abuse, the hard times.
The Scriptures tell us to forget and to remember. Forget what is behind. Lot's wife, do not look back at Sodom burning. Farmer, put your hands to the plough and move forward. Be like the Savior on His mission and set your face like a flint. Then, on at least three occasions: a miracle of deliverance and victory at war, a meeting with God and protection from angels, and a parting of the waters, Bible characters set up Stones of Remembrance as an altar to remember what God did for them. The Israelites, Jacob and Samuel all build this as a memorial for future generations to see and know God--and to remember Him with thanksgiving.
Stones of Remembrance look much different than towers of trauma I erect. It is categorically a different architectural construct. These were real Name-brand bricks interlocking the mighty, miraculous and supernatural deeds of God toward His people with grateful thanksgiving. Trauma towers reminds us of our enemies and all their power to harm and ruin. Stones of Remembrance: Altars of Thanksgiving remind us of our God the Miracle Worker whose Power delivers and transforms.
With that backdrop, my latest poem was born on the heels of one of the darkest poems I had written in years (likely to remain unpublished). My foci had shifted. To try and prove my relevance and to somehow prove my worth in the survivor community, I was missing all the miracles my story contains. And it led me to a dark place frozen in time--in the distant past. This poem, one of my favorites, reminds me of the Great Healer who took a young 19 year old girl, getting beat, hungry, lonely and afraid--and gave her a life I could have only imagined. Thanks be to God.
I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back.
I don’t want to be
A pillar of salt
Standing in the middle of the
I don’t want to be
Frozen in time
From looking behind
In the middle of my past
When others look at me
I don’t want them to see
A statue, salty with regret
Who just can’t seem to forget
The sodom that she left
Running for her life
Away from the misery and strife
Longing for a place she knew too well
A life of ugly stories to tell,
It just had to be
more than a backward glance
More than accidental happenstance
The stench of sulphur ashes filling the air
She gazed to remember, to stare
And found herself, staying there
So if I do look back
-Which I’m prone to do-
I want to kneel
at the stones of remembrance,
I want to feel
The altar’s sure foundation
Stacking rocks from my memory
Of miracles only I got to see
And grateful for the souls who lifted me
From the pit of misery
Thank You for parting the waters at the Falls, Lord
Thank You for granting Your Help
-In the presence of my enemies-
From those who wished to destroy me
Thank You for letting me dream
And see glimpses of heaven, Your promises
For angels, protecting in the pain
Your Spirit never leaving, breaking chains
Your Presence to hold me, come what may
Your Faithful blessing stretched out
Every moment, every day.
Thank You that in the name of Jesus
And in the blood of Jesus
You met me on my own road to Emmaus
Running out of the grave
Toward your new Life,
For I was a leper, healed
For I am lame, healed
And I. Will. Give. Thanks.
I will return to You walking and leaping and praising God
I don’t want to be a pillar of salt
Standing in the middle of a desert
In the middle of my desert,
I want to be
Surrounded by a lifetime of memories
Wrapped in thanksgiving, a memorial to the God of Hope
My very own rock garden of remembering
The Holy Ground of your calling
From darkness to light
From death to life
From despair to laughter
If I’m going to look back
Etch into my memory
A heart of thanks
For the Work of Your Hands
Stones of remembrance
My life built upon a Rock
For I. Will. Give. Thanks
He has caused His wonders to be remembered;
The Lord is gracious and compassionate.
I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.
Happy New Year!
May 2022 bring you many occasions to build altars to the Lord in remembrance of His goodness to you and yours.