My Chains Are Gone.

This week, I went on tour through Colorado and Utah with my University Choir! It was a fantastic experience despite having to sleep on gym floors and shower in high school locker rooms a few times. I got a lot closer with the people in my choir, which I think was my favorite part. The closer we are as individuals and as Christians, the better we work together as a body. I was also really aware of the fact that we were singing entirely for God’s glory, and that was exciting to me. Anyway, I could ramble about it, but I actually want to share (surprise, surprise) something God did this week and is continuing to do.
A couple of nights, we did get to stay in hotels (thank you, Lord, for real beds and sinks) and the first hotel had the most comfortable bed I think I’ve ever slept in… or maybe that was because I was previously sleeping under a bus seat before we arrived. Dead tired and brooding over the at the alarm I had to set for 545 am, I read some 1 Thessalonians and turned out the lights. My mind started to wander, as everyone’s tends to do before sleep, and for some reason I started thinking about one of my ex-boyfriends. I’ve danced my way around this word for years, but I can admit now that it was unmistakably an abusive relationship. It left a lot of scars that still affect me even now; it changed my whole life and that of my family. Three years later, I can openly talk about it and have used my experiences to help others: I count myself so blessed to be able to be a witness about it and teach other girls how to stay safe and avoid unhealthy relationships! But the fact is that it did poison me deeply and only through Christ have I come as far as I have. I pray for Josh (said ex boyfriend) often and am normally very intentional about how I think about him and the memories I have from that time in my life. For some reason, that night I was thinking about a memory that I hadn’t in a long time. And I just ripped in half again.

He’s with her. Just standing there in front of the steps of our high school. We’ve been broken up for a month or so now and they haven’t been apart since. I’ve got new friends. They’ve got money and hash and good parties. I’m fine: keeping my chin up and staying intoxicated often. I’m stronger than I was. I glance toward the door, waiting for Kaitlin to come out, and catch him looking at her. Differently than he’d look at me. The bump under her shirt is almost noticeable now. How could I have been so weak? I let him cheat on me. He slept with her with my stamp of approval. “I know, you’re just friends. I know I can’t see you anymore and give you what you need. I know you love me and I want you to have every pleasure in this life. You can give her your body, just let me keep your love.” What was my logic behind that? There wasn’t any I was just a dumb kid who didn’t want to lose him. I loved him. He was everything. What a fool.
Kaitlin finally starts down the stairs and I glance away toward the road. When I look back, she’s on the ground splayed out, face to floor, her books everywhere. “Oh my God!” I yell and rush past Josh and his soon-to-be baby-mama to help my unfortunate friend. She starts laughing and brushes herself off, mumbling about how much she hates those stairs, then continues past me. When I turn to follow her, Josh catches my arm. I cringe at his touch and turn like a deer in the headlights. I know the color has drained from my face as he opens his mouth to speak: “I don’t appreciate you talking sh*t about my girl. You need to keep your f*cking mouth shut…” the stream of curse words follows me as I hurry away, not acknowledging his questions or saying a word. I can’t. My throat is sandpaper, my heart is in my stomach. I am a wide-eyed, blank-faced coward. I run to take Kaitlin’s arm and we walk toward the barracks like nothing happened.

.     It took me three years to realize why this simple interaction was so terrifying: this boy whom I had loved with all my heart, given everything to and trusted with my whole life was acting like I was nothing to him. Lying in that hotel my heart was screaming: “You knew everything about me! Every dream and weakness and fear; you were my my best and only friend for a year of my life and this girl was just someone you were using for sex! How dare you!  I was not just a nothing one-night-stand. How could you?” Tears spilled from my eyes and I slipped out of bed, trying not to disturb my bed-mate (whom I’d met about two hours prior so it would be pretty dang awkward to start sobbing in bed next to her), grabbed my bible and headed to the bathroom. I sat on the edge of the tub,  settled my face in my hands, and silently sobbed, asking God to draw me close. This isn’t an uncommon occurrence for someone with clinical depression: I’ve learned to go straight to God, look my sorrow square in the face and then hand it to my Healer and Deliverer rather than trying to handle it myself. But this time was different. I was trapped in the darkness of this memory, black smoke and the heavy feeling of betrayal tugging my mind back into slavery. I rubbed my eyes and the opened them, suddenly realizing where I was.
Okay, so I was in a hotel bathroom… but I was also on a college choir tour in a beautiful part of Colorado with wonderful Christian musicians; I am living a life I never thought I could and always dreamed about! I am not trapped in that world anymore. None of that can touch me anymore. This is my NEW life! None of that matters anymore; it’s worthless and meaningless to my life now. I realized I was free from everything. Entirely free. And not because of anything I did, but because Christ has brought me this far. I have every chance and opportunity and blessing in life and I never have to worry about being trapped in that darkness ever again.
It can’t touch me. I am free.
The shadows of the memory slowly started peeling away, my breathing slowed and my mind calmed. Free to go and love and live; laugh, explore, make mistakes, ask questions, move and dance and sing and give; stand and speak and wander; read, write, teach… Nothing can hold me back. A verse popped into my head:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

I went back to bed, tears still streaking my face and an ache still in my heart, but now with warm healing bubbling up inside me. I hugged my knees under the cool covers and talked to my Friend and Father until I fell asleep, praising Him and enjoying His company. As I drifted into His peace I whispered the truth that I now cling to:
“I am new. I am new. I am Yours.”

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