This is a real, non-photo shopped photo of the real-life ‘Lion Whisperer” Kevin Richardson, and those are real non-domesticated, living in the wilds of Africa, lions!. This picture presses on a wild desire of my heart. One I have had for many years, one so real yet so ridiculous that I didn’t even dare to share it with others, not for a long time. The desire to pet a real live lion. Actually that is the watered down “realistic” version of my desire. The full version is (if it were possible for a lion to be domesticated, and if I could afford to feed one) to own one as a pet. I would LOVE to have a lion, to play with him, to nuzzle my face deep into his fluffy wild mane and snuggle against him on a warm summer afternoon, lazing under a tree in the cool grass, reading a book or napping. And the enjoyment I would get in seeing the expression on the face of a visitor to my home, as my pet lion rounded the corner to greet them!
Why do we tend to hide our most wanted desires, hopes, dreams? Why do we keep from sharing them, ridiculous as they may be? Why are some things so precious that we dare not speak them aloud?
I am in a process, on a journey, one that will probably last an entire lifetime. The abuse of my childhood has left me with innumerable scars and deeply ingrained beliefs. These beliefs are not all truths, many of them are in fact lies. The process is the untangling of these beliefs and the pain and mourning that comes with the realization of what I thought to be true only to realize that it is not. How do we restructure ingrained thinking, and how do we stop harming ourselves when that is all we’ve know? How do we relearn to react to situations in a “healthy” way, when we have been programmed to react out of survival instinct and that usually means a “go to” behavior that is not healthy. How do we choose between what our heart says and what our brain says when they are opposite from each other? How do we decide to keep fighting when all of this is just soo very exhausting?
I jump back and forth over the highway of God’s ultimate desire for me from ditch to ditch. Sometimes I land closer to the highway, sometimes I land on the highway, but mostly it seems I end up in the ditches, at varying levels, next to the highway.
Depression is my go to survival instinct, along with isolation. I KNOW these places WELL, the tunnels that delve deep into the darkness, the darkest of places, even to the very foundations of darkness where you stand toe to toe with death itself. I have been there so often that I do not have a healthy “fear” of death. I have little value for my life, and although I have recovered from the days of desperately wanting to take my own life, were life to be taken from me, or were I to be in a situation where I had to choses mine over another’s…well lets just say that that is not a scary thing for me to think about. The verse, 1 Corinthians 15:55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” comes to mind. I’ve experienced enough ugliness on this earth that truly there is nothing but relief and joy when I think of leaving it and joining Jesus. It is a very different matter however, when thinking about other people, or loved ones leaving this earth.
I hate that my go to reflex is self-contempt, self-hate, self-harm with my words and thoughts, choosing to endue and work through physical pain instead of knowing when to stop, or choosing isolation over reaching out. I am in the process of changing these behaviors and it is HARD. However, surprising as it may be, even in the middle of all this mess God had chosen to use me, and I have chosen to let Him. I have discovered a passion, and a place where I “fit”, one that has always been there, but not channeled directly.
Because I am so familiar with the dark places of depression and abuse I am able to journey their with others who find themselves trapped in the tunnels. I can sit with them in that dark place and hold there heart with great compassion and understanding. I am able to share parts of myself that minister to their pain and bring some relief of not being “the only one that feels like this”. This work energizes me, I enjoy loving on people, I am honored at being chosen by a hurting person to sit with them in their pain, truly honored.
And yet I marvel at the double mindedness I can have towards myself. How can I breathe life giving words of love and encouragement into another person, yet slice myself to the core with violently hateful words and thoughts, towards myself? The craziness of it!
Why is it so much easier to see the value of another? Why am I not able to extend the grace and compassion I have for others towards my own hurting, healing, self? These are the places, and the questions I am currently searching. I too am allowing someone to sit with me in my pain and hold my heart. Maybe that is the true circle of life. If my bucket is empty and I never get the help I need, I will not be able to help others, and since helping others is a passion for me, in order to do it I MUST fill my bucket.
Back to the picture above. This year I took the time to come up with a goal for myself, it is in the quotes above, I added it to the picture before posting it. While looking at that sentence and pondering all that it means to me, I asked God for a picture to capture those words, something that spoke to my heart. I suddenly remembered a post I saw of this man on facebook, and how tears of joy and longing fell while watching him interact with these lions. I googled him, and God placed this picture in front of me, and instantly my heart filled, and tears came to my eyes. YES, that is EXACTLY IT! That captures exactly what I want to experience when I say “I will allow myself to hope and dream again, to listen to the whispers of my heart and entertain the possibilities and the what if’s”. What could be more “what if” than that photo?
I don’t want to spend the rest of my life knee jerking to the depths of darkness, and isolation when my hope is crushed, my soul is hurt, or my longings not met. I want to be able to embrace truth and grace for myself. I want the kind thoughts to be louder than the hateful ones. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life feeling foolish for allowing myself to hope or dream, especially when those hopes and dreams are crushed or remain unmet, floating in front of me, like a carrot in front of a horse. I want to live more on the highway, and less in the ditches, and I want to learn how to do it this side of Heaven.
Psalms 130:5 “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.”