I. Am. Wrecked. My heart is beginning to shatter. My back is about to break. My body is bruised and I am ever so weary. Last week, I had a friend text me and say, “Embo, ya know, sometimes you’re so quiet that I forget you’re suffering.” I read this sentence repeatedly and my heart broke. I wept. And wept. And wept. I’m tired. Not the I-only-go-to-school-and-do-nothing-else tired, but so tired that I feel as if I’m on mile ten of a marathon and my legs are about to give out.
My first thought is, “What the hell did I sign up for? This is hard. Too hard. Life has been hard since I was five years old. I don’t like hard.” The next is, “Why am I still running? I’m tired. So unbelievably tired. My heart can’t take this. This is too much.” Last but not least, I’m wondering how much farther I have to go before it’s over. “When is the pain going to stop? When does the suffering end? This is excruciating. My legs are done for. I quit. Where is the finish line? I’ve been running for what feels like forever and I still don’t see it. This is a never ending race.” For the love of marathons, this is a never ending race.
I’m in the fire. I’m in the midst of what seems like the hardest crucible of my life and much like Job, I’m wondering where God is. The foster care system is suffocating, my foster parents are suffocating me, school is suffocating me, and oddly but still true, the new church I have to attend is suffocating me. If there’s one thing I’ve learned so far, it’s that instead of telling people how you actually feel, you tell them what they want to hear. Sad truth, but nothing happens when you explain how you feel. You aren’t heard. You’re just a kid. You aren’t regarded. Your opinion does not matter. You have to make them happy and bite your tongue. You slowly dissolve from the inside out. You’re voiceless and powerless in a failing system. We take great care of ourselves by shutting ourselves away. No feelings, no attachments. Just expect the unexpected. Have the audacity to hope for best and always expect the worst. Waking up and realizing that this is your reality is the worst part of every. single. morning. This is what you call surviving.
Imagine a teenager — let’s say she’s a 16 year old — who lacks a voice, a family and even a home. Now, stop imagining, because she’s real and probably lives within 100 miles of you. The truth is, she exists all over our country, yet many of us remain unaware. We remain unaware of all of the young boys and girls who lack a voice, a family and/or a home because they remain in a system that leaves them powerless.
A fellow foster kid told me, “I wish I was aborted. My mom didn’t want me and they promised her I would grow up like a normal kid with a normal childhood. I’ve been in 10 homes and I’m 14. What part of this is normal to you?”
It’s a broken government-run foster care system that is condemning kids to a life of hopelessness.
Welcome to the system.
Children are being damaged so much more in the system than out.
Your independence is crippled. You are furious because you don’t have normal. You wouldn’t know what normal was if it written in big black bold letters on your hand. You miss home, and yes, these problems probably do sound trivial, but trust me, it hurts ten times more when you finally allow yourself to call a place home only to leave again. Returning home is the worst. The worst thing about leaving to go home, a friend’s house, or a church camp for a weekend is that all the while that you’re there the one thought that’s looming in the back of your head is: I have to go back soon. And that’s the worst feeling of all. When you leave you dread it and when you come back you dread it. It’s the worst feeling I’ve ever experienced. Your heart hurts. You don’t get to have the normal last summer with my friends before you head off to college next year. You can’t even explain how hard this is or put it into words that pinpoint the pain you feel. It is excruciating.
It is both a blessing and a curse to be so keenly aware of affliction.
I’m the type of girl who doesn’t like to wear her emotions on her sleeve. No matter how confused, anxious or upset I feel on the inside, I’m always trying to keep the image of someone who has it all together. I hate vulnerability and I hate feelings. My view on this has changed over the past week. God slapped me upside the head with truth. Funny thing about truth, it has power. It’s a death and resurrection . It crushes us. It kills us and it hurts us ever so deeply though the instant it kills us, it formulates into something true and honest, and somehow we’re revived, alive again.
Vulnerability creates all sorts of possibilities and it is the unknown of those possibilities that frightens us. It makes us run. If we’re wrapping ourselves to conceal the vulnerability the unknown has to go through copious amounts of layers and sometimes love doesn’t reach to where we truly live. It’s the subtle reminder that the cross is a symbol of the very essence of humanity: vulnerability. The kind of vulnerability where you struggle openly and honestly. The kind of vulnerability where admittance can occur. The kind of vulnerability where we can divulge in our fragility and demonstrate just how put together we aren’t. The kind of vulnerability where the mask falls as we allow ourselves to be known fully, deeply, and intricately. It’s a hard truth. Jesus died for my humanity. He died for my vulnerability. He died so that I could be fully known. He died so that I could know that there is much more hope in vulnerability than there is in my false wholeness.
Genesis 6:6 states “And the Lord regretted that He had made man on earth, and it grieved Him to His heart.”
“… It grieved Him to His heart.”
Read that verse again. WE grieved Him to His heart. Humanity grieved Him to His heart. WE broke His heart. Humanity broke His heart. Like me, some probably thought, “God’s heart can be broken? How? He’s this big all mighty powerful being. God’s heart can be broken?”
The answer is yes. God created man. He loved them, but man didn’t love Him back and God’s heart broke. God’s. Heart. Broke. The unshakable, forever victorious, all mighty, undefeatable, and infallible God had his heart broken. His. Heart. Broke. Our God is vulnerable. He is. Jesus was pinned to the cross enduring more than excruciating pain because He loves us so, so much in fact that He did it first. Humanity did not come to Him first; He came to us. He didn’t wait for us to get better. He didn’t wait for us to clean up before the approach. He loved us while we were still sinners. This vulnerability, this love all encompassed into a person who came down from the most perfect place for humanity is the greatest gift I’ve ever received.
“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
— Romans 5:6-8 NIV
Adam fell in a garden and was thrown into the wilderness. Jesus triumphed in the wilderness and was raised in a garden so that we could conquer all. Peace will never be obtained if we’re still holding on to the hurricane. The hurricane will crush us and we’ll be drifting in a pool of despair.
I’m giving myself permission to feel deeply, openly and honestly. I give myself permission to suffer. I give myself permission to feel anger, hurt, sadness, pain, love, joy, happiness, and elation. I’m give myself permission to recklessly abandon and not harbor my feelings by placing them into a collective box. I give myself permission to cry, kick, and scream up to heaven knowing all the while that He is STILL sovereign. I give myself permission to admit that I am not invincible. To admit that I have scars, I’m deeply wounded and I’m suffering ever so deeply. I give myself permission to feel freedom despite it. To know that in order for God to use me He has to work in me so He can work through me. I give myself permission to drop the mask of put togetherness that I’ve seemed to keep on for so long. To know that God loves me in the midst of my depravity and my not put togetherness. I’m giving myself permission to drop the veil.
Give yourself permission. I’ve started the race. This is my marathon. I signed up for it and I’m not quitting. I’ve got a running partner who is always there to pick me up when I stumble and when my legs are about to give out. This is the never ending race.
Shoutout to the lovely Ronda Visintainer, who sees straight through my mask via phone and in person. You’re my gem. Love you! (Cue the incessant need for Dr. Pepper, Sour Patches, Jolly Ranchers, and Mike N Ike’s. This is going to be rough guys. Thank you for running the race with me.)