Often times, in the church, there seem to be a few issues that are looked down upon, and thus left unaddressed. These topics may even be very prevalent, but because they are highly rebuked in the Bible, those who struggle with them feel they have to hide what they are going through in fear of being judged. I struggled for years with one of these seemingly forsaken behaviors, self-harm (Ungodly belief #1- I am alone).
For almost a quarter of my life, I found myself entangled in a cycle of constant self hate which led me to release huge amounts of anger and frustration on my own body (Ungodly belief #2- I deserve pain).
This addiction began, for me, at the very young age of 11. I didn’t know why I felt the need to inflict extreme amounts of physical pain on myself; I just thought it was better than hurting someone else (Ungodly belief #3- Hurting myself makes hurting okay).
It made me feel a very unique sense of relief, so the idea of stopping this terrible behavior seemed impossible (Ungodly belief #4- Recovery is not possible for me).
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was defining myself from what I was going through because I didn’t know who God said I was (Ungodly belief #5- What I do is more important than who I am).
I tried to hide it the best I could, but eventually, after two years of being alone in my struggle, the secret was revealed to my parents through a friend (Ungodly belief #6- If someone knows my secret, I will be rejected).
They were terribly confused, overwhelmed with sadness, and began blaming themselves as many parents seem to do when something is wrong with their child (Ungodly belief #7- It was my fault my parents were sad).
They put me through heart healing ministries and countless therapy sessions, but nothing seemed to help. I was completely stuck in what seemed to be a never-ending cycle of complete despair (Ungodly belief #8- I will never get better).
Up until this past August, recovery didn’t even cross my mind. I desperately wanted to love myself again, but I couldn’t even imagine the possibility. This addiction had completely taken over my life to the point where I was even hospitalized for it (Ungodly belief #9- Something was very, very wrong with me).
But, I am not trying to spread a message of hopelessness and struggle, so I am going to fast forward a bit to the day I knew my life would never be the same. August 2-7, for me and many other people, was an unforgettable week, youth camp. Youth camp has been known for changing people’s lives, but I never thought anything like that would happen to me (Ungodly belief #10- God doesn’t have time for me).
As previously described, my life was falling apart, but during the entire time I was self-harming, there was always a part of me that truly had the desire for recovery, and this hope had become stronger throughout the extent of my addiction.
During the second day of youth camp, I began to see that I had been having these feelings for a very important reason. I kept hearing, over and over,
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”
This verse from Psalm 37 became my anthem during the three short days remaining at youth camp because I knew that I honestly would not survive much longer without a supernatural touch from my heavenly daddy. I had hit rock bottom, but fortunately, Jesus never lets us stay there for long.
My first step towards recovery didn’t come until the next morning, though, when I confided in two trusted youth leaders about what was really on my heart. I mentioned during our conversation that I wanted to completely recover (despite the popular opinion that it is not possible to fully recover from a mental illness). Deep down, I knew, that to do this, I would have to get rid of every object that I had previously used to harm myself.
But, wait, this part takes a little bit of explaining. The thoughts to give up my self-harming “tools” (for lack of a better word) were rooted much deeper than just the obvious “remove the temptation” method. To be honest, this part has been quite symbolic during my recovery. Before, even, when I wasn’t self-harming very heavily, I would still keep multiple tools around as a safety precaution, or as a “just in case” type of measure, but I knew, that to fully heal from this, I would need to take back control from the thing dictating my whole life (but, by that, I really mean just passing the control right along to my Abba daddy). And, by actually throwing the controlling substance away, I could then make a space for Jesus to come fill my life again.
I do want to make it very clear, though, throwing out my self harming tools would not have been important if I didn’t also experience the heart healing which I will describe later. I could have, at any point in time, gotten something else to harm myself with, so this action was definitely necessary, but very symbolic as well.
To continue, my two youth leaders at Catch the Fire were extremely excited that I was finally ready to take this first step toward complete healing. They immediately took me to a place where I could sit together with them to ultimately discover the root of the problem and help break through anything holding me back from discovering my true identity.
There was one part of the process, though, in particular, that I believe was the most helpful. I was told to close my eyes and imagine me and Jesus sitting together around a campfire. I was then told that Jesus was giving me little note cards on which to write every ungodly belief I ever had about my life. You probably noticed the list of them earlier, but unfortunately the number of cards didn’t end there. It took a really, really long time to address as many as I could think of, but after that, the true healing began. I was told to still envision the same campfire picture, but now to take it one step further. I walked towards the fire with my Daddy and and dropped the cards in one by one.
I watched every card burn, and simultaneously felt this huge wave of joy and peace rush over me. I then explained what I had felt, and with the help of my youth leaders, described the Godly beliefs that I could now accept.
After doing this, I was finally able to, once and for all, throw away every single one of my self-harming tools.
This was not the end of my healing, though; I still go back to that same campfire almost everyday to completely demolish the beliefs that have only recently surfaced. I haven’t self harmed in almost five months, and I do consider myself completely recovered!! But I did not recover because of therapy or antidepressants, I was completely healed by my heavenly Father.
Throughout the last five months, though, there have been many people who have told me to cover up my scars because they are not nice to look at, but that is like telling me to cover up the healing I received also.
This changed my life; I was ashamed, but my Daddy took that away. My Scars Don’t Define Me and where they come from no longer define me because I am defined by the One who set me free. This story is not one of hopelessness and rejection; it’s one of healing and redemption.
This one week changed my life forever and I will never be the same. I will not cover up my scars in fear of being judged because my scars don’t define who I am anymore.
And the beauty of this is, this does not only have to be my story. My Scars Don’t Define Me, they don’t need to define you.
We all have scars, whether they be physical or engraved on our heart. Healing can only begin once we uncover our hearts and let our good, good Father step in.
Anyone can visit the same campfire that I so often do.
It will always be there; Jesus will always be there, so let Him define you.
(Godly belief #1 – God l0ves you, heals you and is always for you.)
* If you, or someone you know, struggles with self-harm check out: To Write Love On Her Arms. You are precious. Share your story. Let others help you.
Here’s a beautiful article about freedom from Bulimia and Self-Hate. Read More.