I like to imagine that I have my own bodyguard. A tough guy, who is equally intelligent. Imagine James Bond, minus the misogyny, following me around and protecting me from the world’s terrors. Oh, and the terrorizing is primarily internal, so he also lives in my brain. You know…phenomenal cosmic powers…itty-bitty living space.
My brain bodyguard has been a hard working guy for the last couple years. He’s worked every weekday and then straight through the weekends. He’s even had to put in overtime, working every effing holiday. I’m sure he gets tired, but he keeps showing up with his weapons of truth and encouragement whenever I am tempted to crawl under a rock of shame. When I am eager to walk the path of comparison, he reminds me to walk the other way. In attempt to help me stand confidently, rather than quivering in a corner, he prompts me to see the truth, without relying on the lies in commonly used, but altogether false, phrases:
“In the end, we only regret the chances we didn’t take.” False. We regret the times we hurt people. We regret the mistakes we made that caused distance and division. We regret our failures. That being said, we don’t live in those failures. We brush ourselves off and keep moving forward, but we sure as hell regret hurting people. We aren’t sociopaths, for crying out loud.
“Live. Love. Learn. Regret Nothing.” False. Regret SOME things. We need to allow ourselves to feel the searing pain of regret without fearing that we won’t recover. Because the truth is, we CAN completely acknowledge our wrong doing, feel horrible about it AND recover. God’s work through our defects is actually the definition of grace. When our failures are transformed and we grow there is a double blessing. We are restored AND God is glorified. The learning is beautiful and the growth is immeasurable, but it is only true growth if it comes from a desire to never do it again. Which by the way, is also known as a regret.
Anyway, back to the bodyguard. Even though he is on fleek and does his job “hund-P” there’s a crack in the wall. There’s a backdoor, a way in, so to speak. You see, when I go to sleep, my bodyguard takes a break, and quite often I have terrifying, shameful dreams. I am continually assaulted and accused by a person who had every right to be enraged with my selfishness. Everything about the dream interaction is chaotic; it’s noisy and polluted. There’s rage and anger coming at me with any response I make to the person. Every apology is unwelcome. Most recently, last night that is, the person handed me a frightening book and told me I had to read it in its entirety. (Yes, this is what nightmares can look like for writers…pretty boring, I know.) The book was terrible, not because it was part of the “50 Shades of Grey” series, but rather because the title spoke of my personal weaknesses. This morning, I can’t even remember the words on the cover of the book. It was bright blue and the lettering was yellow, but the guilt inciting words have receded back into the darkest recesses of my mind. Not being able to remember them in the light of morning has given them added power over me.
When I rose, and my husband and I began to make our bed, he asked, “How’d you sleep?”
“Not good. Dreams, well, nightmares.” I answered.
“Oh no…what of?” he asked.
“Same thing. Shame. Always shame. It’s just exhausting.”
I can’t blame my bodyguard for taking a break while I am sleeping, especially when I consider how hard he works in my waking hours. I brush my teeth and look in the mirror. The bodyguard still hasn’t shown up. I am alone. As I walk out to the kitchen, I make the mistake of opening a social media app on my phone (because no one else ever does this when they are already feeling awful, right?). The very first post reminds me of a large event happening at my former church. This is a huge trigger for me. Something that I had once spearheaded before I self-sabotaged my life is right in front of me. I see tables. I see painted pillars. I see mistakes made in the name of lust. My hands are shaking, and I hear a ringing bell and a woman declares, “Shame!” (That’s a Game of Thrones/walk of atonement reference…I don’t actually own a bell.) Eventually, I grab some hot coffee and wander out to my front porch to read and recover. The breeze has caused a film of dust to fall on my books. They are gritty to the touch. The trees are full of birds, winged rodents, making noise. They chip and sing, but it’s not my song. It’s meant for someone else. The tears are coming now–but there is still no sign of my bodyguard. Is he sick? Did someone get to him? Where is he? Why am I alone?
I don’t have a particular plan when I open my Bible, but there is bookmark shoved in the book of Isaiah. I begin to pour into the words. I’m reading and I’m praying. I’m looking for a salve. Unfortunately, the bookmark is at Chapter 28. The subtitle is Woe to Ephraim. These are not the pleasing meme worthy verses that are so often Instagramed. I read them anyway. I will not pick and choose and only focus on the popular verses.
I arrive at Chapter 29. The subtitle has only a slight variation: Woe to David’s City. The variation is not a good one in my case. I push through because, oddly, the pain of the nations is not making me feel worse. It is making me feel normal and reminding me that I am not alone. I am not the first person to make choices that brought woe. I am not the only one to mourn and lament. I continue reading for two more chapters: Woe to the Obstinate Nation and Woe to Those Who Rely on Egypt. I am just about to close my bible when I see the heading for Chapter 32: The Kingdom of Righteousness.
As I begin to read I am no longer looking for a salve. I am just absorbing the calm that has taken over the porch. There is a quietness that I am not only comfortable with, but relishing in. A light breeze moves the wind chimes and their bell-like sounds blend with the music of the sweet birds. An altered perspective is a glorious thing. And as I read a verse jumps from the pages of Isaiah and lands on my heart.
Justice will dwell in the desert
and righteousness live in the fertile field.
The fruit of righteousness will be peace;
the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever.
No, I am not three hundred miles away participating in an event, and I cannot silence every regret that surfaces while I am sleeping, but when I am awake, when it is quiet and when it matters most, I am not alone.