Monday, November 18, 2013

The Skeleton: A Query From a Friend

This is a guest post from a sweet friend of mine.  She is struggling with some things in her past and is reaching out to see if she is the only one, or if others can relate to what she is feeling.  I have already responded to her personally, but she is hoping that she can get insight and direction from others as well...

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I am an imperfect person. I have high standards of myself and I have messed them up royally. I think that all of us probably have skeletons in our closet. I don't think mine are as bad as plenty of people's out there, but my big skeleton is something that really makes me ashamed of even existing. I simply can't fathom sometimes that I have done some of the things I have done. And I am not going to tell you what I did. Because to you it doesn't matter. It could be any sin and it would be equally repulsive because any sin is enough to keep us from God's presence. So no, I won't tell you specifics.....But I am going to tell you the dilemma I have now because of my skeletons.

I believe in repentance. I believe that people CAN change. I believe that most people don't change and that belief is terrifying when applied to myself. I believe that IF people are going to change it MUST be done through the atonement of Jesus Christ and in turning to him for support. I believe that is the only way a person can be clean again after sinning and I believe that is the only way a person can change part of who they are. And who are we all if not our daily actions?

Once you have acted in a way that is grossly against your moral code, you find yourself hopeless and helpless. You hate yourself for existing. You think about other good people in your life and if they knew what kind of a horrible person you were how disappointed they would be.  It feels very much like what I imagine drowning feels like. It presses in on you from every side. It brings with it darkness that there is no escaping. Here is the thing. I have felt that. But I also have felt what it feels like to know without a shadow of a doubt that I have been made clean again and that Christ forgives me. I can't explain how. I can't explain why. I can only explain what it feels like and my joy. He knew that we would come to earth and make mistake after mistake. That is why a merciful God allowed the atonement. He knew we needed a way to be saved from ourselves. I have felt that first breath of air after months of drowning. That first light of hope that says that it might be ok. Not what you did is ok, but Christ is paying for it and he loves you anyway, and you are clean again. You are redeemed, despite your wretched choices. It feels like a 100 pound weight is lifted off your shoulders. It feels like the release of a buildup of years of tears finally allowed to flow. It feels like sunlight after a storm. It feels like flying. It feels like freedom.

You would think that after feeling that I would be immune to sinning again. You would think that the thought of Christ spending another drop of blood on me would be enough to make me make perfect choices for the rest of my life. I would think so too. And we would be both wrong. I wish I could. But I keep failing. And do you know what? It is easier to fail the second time. And easier the third. The more you fail in that area, failure in that area becomes a part of who you are. You doubt your ability to ever change. It feels like a trap even worse than the one you started in.

I suppose it is as simple as drawing a line in the sand. You decide, you know what? I am going to be the "one" of ninety and nine. I am going to be the anomaly. I am going to be the one who changes. I will never, ever, ever repeat this behavior again in any form. I will screw up in other ways I am sure, we all do, but this dreadful specific area will no longer be my sin, my curse. I think it must be like alcoholics.....You have to recognize when something is more of a temptation than you can actually stand up to. Once you know that, you have to find ways to keep yourself from being in a position that would allow you to cross the line. You have to make hard, solid, fast rules for yourself and never let yourself cheat those rules.

I have been working on this step. It isn't as easy as one might think however. Just when you think you know all of your triggers, something new pops up. A new way for you to disgust yourself with your choices. And then you have to start over. You add new rules, you repent again, you wonder how Christ can keep forgiving you when you yourself are feeling how old it is getting. Time after time, "Here I am again, sorry....." But you keep coming back. Why? Because the alternative is to submit and be that filthy grotesque person that you couldn't live with. So you accept the grace and mercy that you don't deserve one more time because it is your only option at hope..... you rebuild your boundaries and you try again.

And it works. Step. By. Step. You start to really feel different. You start to really feel stronger. You start to believe in yourself. You start to feel that you are strong enough, with his help, you might actually be the change you previously doubted possible.

But what comes next? You start to fall in love. And the feelings start to get so confusing. I have to tell him what I was so he understands who I am. He has to hear it from me, not anyone else. For a healthy relationship, he has to know all my secrets. But if I tell him who I was there is no possible way he would stay. How could he possibly understand the changes that have taken place in my heart? How can he possibly understand the years and years of infinitesimal changes I have made by sheer brute force, constant determination, and recommitted dedication? How could he love someone who made such filthy choices in the first place, even if he can see the change? He will think what I would think. "How can I be sure she has changed? People can change, but they usually don't. Is she worth the risk? I have been burned before. I am not looking for a risk. I can't be burned again." And you hope beyond hope that he will see that we are all a risk. I am not the only person with skeletons in my closet. I am not the only person who needs the atonement to beat out the filthiness in me. I am not the only sinner. But can he see? And is He right anyway? I do continue to make mistakes. I am always improving, but I am so far from perfect. What if he takes a chance on me and I one day collapse? What if he is right and people really don't change? What if I destroy him for a second time? Is that a risk I can take? Would it be better for me to just be single for eternity? No one can crush me, and I won't crush anyone. There might be so much less hurt that way. And so much less joy.  I can't be the only person who feels this way.

Why do humans have such a need to find the cutoff. "That is too far. There is no coming back from that." It is wrong. It is so wrong. There is always coming back. There is always repentance and hope from the Savior of the World. There is always hope.

So I will tell him. And I will trust in Christ. He will either run away because he has valid fears of me from my past or he will stay. But God does have a plan. One for me. I know that he wants me to be happy. He didn't promise me riches. He didn't promise me a trial free life. But he promised that if I am faithful to the best of my ability and endure to the end and I turn to his atoning grace I can live with him again. What else matters in the eternities. If he runs, it will hurt. It will crush me. It will build another foot thick layer in the already 8 foot thick wall around my heart. But if he runs all I have to do is close my eyes and feel my saviors warm embrace because he won't run. He will never run. He believes in me even though I am not worth his belief. He will always give me another chance. He will always be my support. My guide. My light. My hope. My foundation. My rock. My savior. MY savior......wish me luck....or better yet....pray for me. 

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Thank you my sweet friend for sharing a piece of you with us.  I applaud your courage and willingness to look at hard things in order to get better!

5 comments:

  1. Dear Skeletons, You are spot on. Tell, and whatever the result, Christ will carry you through. And you might be surprised. I am an example of someone who fell in love with someone who felt they had something terrible to hide. They covered it for years until I finally found it on my own. And then finally they were honest with me. And the only thing that gave me true pause about the entire thing, was the fact that they had hidden. We were wounded,but the atonement healed us. And continues to heal us. And will continue to heal every single one of us. Press forward! May you find all kinds of love in the process!

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  2. I know exactly how you feel and I have very similar fears myself. I know that I will have to make similar choices in my future and I am freaking out just thinking about it. It's scary, but I believe that you are doing the right thing. I struggle everyday thinking about all of the horrible things I've done. There is always the fear that I will make another mistake. But the Atonement has so much power. It heals, redeems, lifts us, carries us, gives us peace...etc. So whatever happens...happens. Sometimes it's making the big jump into the unknown trusting that your Heavenly Father has a plan and will always take care of you. No matter what comes next for you. Thanks for sharing your story.

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  3. My first response to you is you are BRAVE chica! It's such a mark of humility to realize that those skeletons need to be disclosed. I am inspired by your courage with this incredibly difficult feat. I have thought about when the time comes for me someday and I, too, will haveto disclose my own past. And I will have to rely on the Atonement too, and have hope and faith that the Lord will take care of me, whatever way it turns out. Good luck and I know that the Lord is mindful of you in this difficult situation. But, change is possible through the Atonement. And no one is perfect. No one. You have people behind you cheering you on. I have no idea who you are, but count me in as a support for you. :)

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  4. I wanted to share excerpts of what I responded to my friend, to share with all what my thoughts are:

    I don't know what the 'skeleton' is that you speak of, but I can pretty much guarantee it's either something I've done, thought about doing, or heard of others doing. That's one of the major things I have learned about Satan and his tactical advantages. He is very sly about getting us isolated - and then once isolated - pummels us with whispers and screams that we suck, and are dirty, and are horrible, and are worthless, and hopeless, and we'll never make it and we are so unworthy. And because we are isolated and alone, and those are the only words we hear, we can't help but believe them. And then we believe them for so long that it becomes knowledge. We become his slaves.

    You described the repentance process perfectly - it is such a sweet gift.. to be released from so much heaviness. I have felt that exact same deliverance many times in my life, and I continue to do so.

    One thing I found though (prior to recovery) is that even though I had worked the repentance process and been forgiven for much of what I had done, I still felt deeply embedded shame for it. I could not seem to let go of my own feelings surrounding the sin. Feeling like i was the only one, that I was horrible, dirty, worthless etc. I feel that those feelings were a big part of the reason I kept returning to the sin - to numb out the dark feelings. I couldn't stand them. I couldn't handle them sober. I was stuck in an endless cycle.

    My point is, I can sense that you still feel shame for that which you have done. I can tell because you have fear surrounding them. With shame comes fear. With shame comes isolation and the desire to hide the secret; keep it hidden for fear of judgment and ridicule. Just another way that Satan keeps us bound. He will keep every single hook in us possible in hopes that we will return to him.

    I didn't find freedom from my shame until I worked the 12-steps. Those steps offered me freedom that I didn't even know existed. I'm not sure I'd ever felt that freedom in my entire life given that my addiction started so young. But I knew it when I felt it. Step's 4 and 5 were huge for me - I walked away from them knowing I never had to revisit my sins again - either in action OR in mind. I never had to think about them again. I completely let them go. The only time they would ever come up again was when the Lord would open that gateway in order to share and help someone else. Many sisters will tell me something they have done and feel they are the only one... and I, in turn, can say "no, you aren't"... there is a quote that says "some of the most powerful words in the universe are 'me too'" and I truly believe that. Connection is so powerful.

    My last thought is that - you do not have to tell the guy you are dating all that you have done. My guess is that you still feel like you are hiding a big secret because of the shame that still plagues you. We are not built to keep secrets which is why it is so hard to keep them; so hard to live with them. It makes sense that you feel it necessary to tell him, because you still see it as a secret. You are still hiding it, scared of it, ashamed of it. But once you, through the Savior, release yourself from the shame - the mentality that it is a secret also disappears. Sure, it would be important to share that you have some things in the past that you aren't proud of - but details are never necessary. Even when people start working the steps after they are already married, they are counseled to not share details regarding acts that happened previous to the marriage with their spouses.

    Know that I love you. Nothing can make that change... and I only love you more for striving to overcome.

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  5. I appreciate this post. I appreciate all these posts because it is so empowering to know I'm not alone.

    I think I agree that you don't necessarily have to tell the details of your sins to your significant other, especially if you're just in the dating phase. When I finally, after years and years of wallowing in pain, managed to talk some things out with my stake president (during my temple interview--yeah I don't recommend that... go sooner than later to counsel with your bishop/stake pres), I asked if I had to tell my fiance, who would be my husband in just a few short weeks. He told me that he did not think it was necessary, but that it was my choice.

    I'd probably give the same advice to the writer of this post—that you CAN reveal the details, but you don't HAVE to. Part of the Atonement is being able to forgive yourself and let it go (that being said, I still struggle with this greatly), and that can sometimes be hard if you're worried about what your spouse/lover thinks of you. Of course you don't need to be secretive per se—I like what someone else said about touching on it vaguely but not going into detail.

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Thank you for sharing a moment with me:-)

Ezekiel 34:11-12,16

"For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick"