I used the miter saw yesterday for the first time in I can’t remember when. Strangely, it took me a moment to recall how to unlock it. Just a brief moment. It all came flooding back to me, though: the how-to, fear, sorrow, and recklessness. Woodworking doesn’t evoke any of these emotions; it was what I quickly saw standing over the saw.
A girl who thought for certain she was anything but. I shrouded myself inside frumpy clothes and ball caps, and underneath an unmanaged mane. I was looking for a safe place to hide. I wore out my trench coat and work boots between sawdust, wood stain, and fire. But there I stood in shorts and a tank top, sans ball cap, and I could feel the awkwardness of our first hello since going our separate ways years ago. It was bizarre — it’s a saw.
The gnarly blade, I often fantasized about. I couldn’t stop replaying running it over my finger. Maybe just the top knuckle. I came dangerously close to it. I ripped through so much wood in a concentrated amount time that I barely took any precautions. I loved the risk and threat of it. The power it spun into a violent whirl. So sharp. So high pitched. I could almost feel the damage it would do. Ironically, this is also just the finger’s tip of my blinding pain and wrestle to stay alive.
I understand these are warped thoughts. Now, anyhow. Then, I thought they were my own sadistic sentiments. Many of you don’t know the degree of my struggle the past few years and that’s probably a good thing. For the few who do know, I am giving you a teary nod this moment, for loving and luring me away from the ledge of nonexistence. You prayerfully repositioned the rope from my neck to my waist and pulled me back to safety.
I am ashamed at how selfishly I indulged my pain. Yet, that’s how pain does. It demands all the attention, rivals every other sensation, insists that it be tended to every waking moment. It’s no wonder we can go blind in it when its very nature is to remain before our eyes. It holds up hurts, failures, betrayals, injustice, and disappointments. It howls that we would fix it. And if we don’t, it only throbs deeper.
Taking off a piece of myself would not have stopped the pain. It’s maddening to see how often we try to remedy pain with more pain. This is a dynamic I am well versed in, sadly, yet in light of that I find I do understand those who are seeking resolution through self-destruction. If everything hurts, then everything must go.
I recently listened to a missionary couple share about their work with trauma kids overseas. They highlighted a young girl who had cut off her hair in hopes to not look like a female, per her trauma. I began to collapse inside. I bore witness to that ache so intrinsically, it nearly folded me in half. I understood her attempt. I understand negating identity in order to find a safer one. I’m familiar with disconnecting from realities that threaten your very worth as a human being. It’s all unto survival. It’s unto making it out alive.
These are sad stories, I know. I would not leave you without hope, though. There is living hope for those dying in despair. There is an oasis higher than the mirage of pain. There is a way through it that leaves you (and your digits) intact. It starts with a very distinct cry that is only heard in the frequency of heaven. A desperate, guttural cry that rings out above the noise of clanging and hanging chaos. The SOS of the soul that shoots a flare right into the thick of it. And heaven hears. Heaven sees. Heaven responds. Don’t you dare let go of hope. Look upward — your redemption draws near.