Deeply rooted anger and control issues have been surfacing lately. On the one hand it’s terrifying and embarrassing to see my ugly heart exposed like this – even if only Bryan and the kids see it – but on the other hand it’s liberating to bring into the light all the hidden rage I’ve been suppressing. On top of the anger, I feel a tremendous amount of shame for harboring such anger. It takes a lot of energy to keep all that tension stuffed inside, and when it leaks from my inner pipes the pressure of my explosion is like the exhaust from a rocket blast.
Last night and the night before, I dreamed a thief stole all the flowers and bushes from my yard, leaving only the supporting stakes and empty containers. Even the front gate was gone, and the beautiful wisteria that hovers like a protective umbrella over the entrance. When I woke up I didn’t think much about it, other than it was a strange dream to have. But as I snuggled with Ruthie in the front room, noticing how nicely all the foliage shields our open windows from the street, it suddenly hit me that my dream might mean something.
I recalled again the image of the bare dirt at the front of the house, with nothing but dead bamboo stakes sticking out of the ground; of the ugly chain link fence, now exposed in the absence of my clematis and honeysuckle vines. I remember in my dream, how I took in a quick breath when I saw the barren arbor over the entrance to my yard, and the gaping hole in the fence where the gate used to be.
My house was completely vulnerable and exposed to the street, and there was nothing to see but dirt and rocks and dead sticks.
This has weighed heavy on me this morning. I know from scripture the love of Jesus does not leave us feeling barren and exposed. I know from scripture that he turns our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. I know from scripture that he does not forsake us.
The only conclusion I can make of this dream, then, is of my own fear and shame at the hidden darkness of my heart being exposed. I’ve wrestled with God for years over control of my life, and I have hid the anger and self-loathing as best I could.
Yesterday I discovered a plastic tub filled with camping gear I had lost – camping gear that was packed up in the rain last summer. When I opened the lid I was overwhelmed by the smell of mildew, and as I cleaned it out I threw away handfuls of decomposed, unidentifiable, mushy matter.
When I am truly honest, this is what I think of myself, this is how I think God sees me – dirt, rock, dead sticks, and vile, decomposed, flesh.
I’m reading Cry of the Soul, by Dan Allendar, and in it he talks about people having one of two responses in relationships: fight, or flight. I am definitely a fighter. When I feel personally attacked by another person (real or perceived), I lash out at them; when I feel abandoned by friends or family, I rage with jealousy over their other relationships; and when I feel loved by someone, particularly by God, I respond with contempt. I can finally admit I am enraged with the idea that God would love me.
Allender describes this kind of contempt:
Contempt is our means of fighting against the arousal of hope when someone moves toward us, offering kindness and tenderness….Contempt vocalizes the core question, Does God love me, or will He turn away in disgust?
Despite the dreariness of what I write, I actually feel as if my soul is being let out of a cage. And when I cry now, my sobs are for the gratefulness I feel that Jesus really does love me and continues to pursue me, even though I feel vile and barren.
I think a new chapter of my life is beginning, one in which Jesus opens all the forgotten plastic tubs in my heart and doesn’t turn away in disgust. Knowing how fiercely I resist exposure, these will not be fun times. But I am intrigued by the warm excitement I feel at the tender advances of my savior, which can only be described as similar to the warm excitement I felt when Bryan pursued me for marriage.
It is exciting and terrifying, all at the same time.
Ironically, it is raining now, which will only make my garden grow more lush and more colorful. There will be no thief to rob me of this joy. There will be none who can take what has been planted.