Content note: self-harm, suicidal thoughts
“Told I talked too much
made too much noise
I took up a silent hobby—
― S. Marie
Self harm. When the darkness inside at last leaks out and mars your body.
The reasons most people give for hurting themselves are complicated and diverse. Verbalizing the pain, punishing and satiating guilt, desiring control, a grasping to keep out the numbness.
My years of personal self-injury were mostly guilt-driven. As a preschooler, I saw an Easter play and believed that I needed to hurt myself for hurting Jesus. Every year, the repeat of the same drama I desired and dreaded so much drove deeper into my heart this need to crucify myself.
Little girl me thought that Jesus had to obey His father in the Garden of Gethsemane and die for me because she was a child and had to obey her parents. Surely it would be wrong not to, and Jesus couldn’t sin. Therefore, little girl me believed Jesus was like this abused child that was forced to sacrifice Himself for her.
She couldn’t understand free will. That Gethsemane was not about “I must” but “I choose.” That His love could never be forced.
So self-injury was more than just cutting. The bruises in hidden places and perpetual scabs all around my fingernails were just a symptom of an underlying issue. The proverbial iceberg that sunk the Titanic. An entire worldview lay under the icy waves.
When you believe that you are worthless, that you deserve to be punished and denied love, this perspective seeps mercilessly into every area of your life.
Self harm can be subtle. Some of my closest friends have said that they don’t deserve friendship or to even simply enjoy life.
“Aren’t we supposed to be focused on the next life and not enjoying this one? I don’t have to have friends. I’ll just be alone.”
“Why I am so stupid?”
“I don’t want to inconvenience the waiters at IHOP because I’m in a wheelchair. I don’t have to have pancakes.”
“Wouldn’t you eventually get over it [my suicide]?”
The words from our conversations drip like blood. Emotional wounds seeping silent tears. They don’t see that every person’s unique genetic composition and personality combination makes them irreplaceable. John Powell explained it like this: “You have a unique message to deliver, a unique song to sing, a unique act of love to bestow. This message, this song, and this act of love have been entrusted exclusively to the one and only you.”
The voices in our heads telling us that we are worthless are lies. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Abundant life. Abundant even in the little things. Enjoying hot, syrupy pancakes with friends. Late night laughter. Life contains hardships, but we don’t have to seek them out. My friend Cynthia Jeub recently wrote that we don’t need to live like we were born to be martyrs.
I can live free, and be “free indeed.” I have not been denied love. I am (and YOU are) so loved.
P.S. Me and Pastor Mark Adams from First Baptist Church of Beaumont who used to play Jesus in the Passion Play. I went back to visit last month.