Once upon a time, there was a little girl. She knew love. She liked to share. She liked to smile. She liked to run through her backyard with toy ponies in her hands and wild imaginings in her mind. She had a beautiful mother--a beautiful family--who loved her to pieces.
Then, she met hate. Constant fear. No father. She doesn't really know what this means, but she knows it makes her mom sad. The kids at school don’t like her. She’s weird. She’s shy. She wants desperately to be liked. She lies to seem more interesting, more likable. Friends are hard to come by. Friends disappoint. Friends leave. She’s lonely. She doesn't get it.
She gets older. She gets jaded. She starts to put up walls. She doesn’t want to be seen. She grows her hair long and hides behind it. Don’t look at me; you’ll see just how ugly I am. Ugly as the world where friends attempt suicide, and people die, and everyone's sad. She’s afraid of rejection, so she’ll have reject everyone first. She hurts them before they can hurt her. She’s abrasive. She’s hard-hearted. She’s rude. She’s superior. She feels ashamed. She wants to love, but she’s forgotten how to be loved, so she doesn’t bother with it. There are people who come along and attempt to break down her walls. Most fail. She trusts to the point of idolatry and wants desperately to be saved. Then, she fears to the point of idolatry and wants desperately to be left alone to save herself. The walls go back up. She hurts and gets hurt. She starts drowning in her sorrow. She swims and swims and swims, but doesn’t know how to pull herself out of this ocean she's fallen into. It’s all she can do to keep from losing consciousness.
And, then, something odd happens. She finds herself being pulled onto dry land. She finds that she can breathe again. She’d forgotten what that was like. She’d forgotten what it was like to just breathe.
I don’t know how it happened. I don’t know how I got pulled out of the water. I had no fight left in me; I was exhausted; surrender was my only option. And, when I finally surrendered, it wasn’t what I’d expected. I didn’t sink to the bottom, the way I thought I would--the way I should have if I'd been right all along to think I needed to save myself. But that wasn't what happened. Instead, someone came and caught me. He pulled me out of the rapids which threatened to devour me, and He placed me on dry land. He let me breathe. I didn’t know who it was. I didn’t even know it was a person. I didn't give it too much thought. I didn’t go actively in search of the One who had saved me. But He went actively in search of me. He started calling to me. He started making me think. He started to soften my heart and make it yearn for His. He started to show me that love had been the answer all along.
I switched from third person to first person just now because it is easier for me, not because it is accurate. That girl feels like a person from another lifetime, but she was me. I have always been Aurora, and I have always belonged to Jesus. That small, lost girl, that walking corpse--she, I, was His. She was not her anger or her self-righteousness or her bitterness or her pride. She was not her despair or her hopelessness. She was His, and she was made to dance with Him in green fields, and all along, He was there, driving her to desperation so that she would finally drop her pride and let Him carry her. He preserved her. He did not allow her to seek the affection of boys out of desperation, though she had no real reason not to do so; He saved all of her affections for Himself, such that when she finally said, “Yes, please, carry me,” He might give her her first kiss. The bread and wine touched her lips, but He touched her soul and took root in it and claimed it as His own. He taught her to be happy and free. He taught her how to love with abandon and without fear. He taught her and is teaching her so many things.
Sometimes, I reflect on my life and just can't believe it because I never thought I'd get here. Each day is so beautiful, even when it isn't. Today, I woke up and felt violently ill, and as I collapsed on my bed, sweating, ugly, grotesque, there He was. He didn't think I was ugly; I could feel Him trying to lift my chin towards His face. I felt ugly, though, so I pushed Him away. I did all the “right” things, sure. I offered up my suffering. I said the Hail Mary in my stupor. I tried to experience His suffering on the cross and unite myself to it. But I didn't succeed. Because His suffering on the cross IS Love, and I’d just pushed Love away. I refused to be held and consoled while I writhed in my pitiful state because I was ashamed to be so ugly before the Beautiful One. But look at the cross. Look at it. Look at Him writhe. Look at Him bleed and cry. Look at Him sweat. Should He be ashamed? Should we turn our eyes from Him? Is He too ugly? Or, maybe, is He the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Let Him hold you while you writhe because He is writhing with you. Don’t close your eyes. Let Him look into them. Let Him look and breathe love into you. Let Him know you. You spend all your time using your own efforts—in vain—to get to know Him, but have you really let Him know you? Have you given Him permission to know you in your perceived ugliness and given Him permission to tell you that you are beautiful anyway? If you haven’t, you aren’t doing Him any favors. He doesn’t want to watch from a distance. He wants to be there. He came here, as the lowest of the low, spat upon and tortured to death, so that He could BE THERE. Right. there. Deeply in love you with you and you with Him. You do not make His stomach turn. You make His heart leap. You set it on fire. Think of the very deepest love you have ever experienced. His love is greater still.
I obviously still need to learn this lesson, little by little. But please learn it with me. Know that you, too, are Loved beyond your wildest dreams. Please know that you are beautiful. That you have been created for love. That you are precious and bright and made to dance in green fields. If you are like me, then you have trouble believing this. Believe it. Love is real. Love is yours, and you are His. And you are never broken.