Heal the tree and the fruit will change.
I spent the last week working the Training Camp for January squads. All three hundred and fifty alumni, staff and future Racers camped out on the banks of Lake Allatoona, spread out beneath the red and gold leaves of autumn. It was stunning. Every morning, I’d wake up while it was still dark out and throw on whatever clothes I could find without a headlamp. I’d stumble into the lodge and press “start” on the coffee pot, then wait expectantly while it brewed hot and strong and dark. I’m not much for talking in the early morning hours, to tell you the truth, but I managed a smile and a few coherent sentences before my second cup.
One morning the kitchen team made congee–an Asian fish and rice soup–for the Racers. The staff got scrambled eggs; we did our stint with fish soup at our own Training Camps and had no intention of repeating the sardine-laden experience. To be honest, I didn’t eat much of anything. The only thing that even sounded good was a hot grilled cheese sandwich, the kind made with Kraft’s processed cheese and entirely too much butter. The kind that sends you right back to second-grade lunchboxes in its familiarity.
There’s something to be said for a place where people are allowed, even encouraged to be broken. Where they’re asked to willingly eat the congee when everyone knows they’d rather have grilled cheese.
Every night, I watched as Racer after Racer fell to pieces in the arms of teammates, squad leaders and trainers. I saw these whole and healthy people inviting their Racers into the broken because ultimately, that’s where Jesus can do His best work. Mostly, I didn’t pray with the Racers. I stood in the back, interceding and worshipping and remembering that I wasn’t so very different from them a year ago. In fact, I wasn’t different at all. I was the same.
I was painted blue for B Squad and shouting our cheers. We were the squad known for singing while we did the dishes; I learned more Taylor Swift in a week than I’d heard my whole life. I avoided men like cooties were an actual disease and dared to defy my team leader when he–yes, he, because God’s got a better plan than me–told me that I would be the Financier of our team. He won. I got visions, words and broken in less than ten days. And that was just the beginning.
I was a ticking time bomb who didn’t know she needed to explode.
I stumbled unwillingly into the broken at Launch, when my squad leader–mid-prayer–stopped, looked at me and said, “Breakdown brings breakthrough, Heather.” I exploded then, releasing all the pent up pain of twenty years. And there was freedom in the exploding. There was freedom too in the moment when I realized that my heart could take me places that my head was afraid to go. And when a group of girls heard my story in all its completeness and didn’t shy away from it, didn’t treat me any differently when the knew the ugliness of it. (This is how it should be, by the way.) And on, and on, with a hundred other victories besides. A hundred thousand other broken places.
I realized this week that my story is far from over. The story of my healing is far from complete. I still get consumed by fear sometimes, on days when I am sure that my story is too much or somehow, not enough. That it will scare good women and good men away if they knew the fullness of it. But Jesus sees it differently.
Chichi, ever wise, reminded me yesterday that my story is not one-sided. There is not only the broken, although the brokenness and scarring are the piece I most often see. And the thing is, she gently told me, that if I only share the scars, I will see myself as only scarred.
Isn’t it crazy how you can flee into the broken and come out whole?
This week, Jesus reminded me of a promise He made me a long time ago:
I am loveable and He loves me.
There is a reason that I can willingly go into the broken places of my life and let Jesus heal them. That I can write brave blogs and swear that this story will not be the source of my silence. That I can choose to believe in the goodness of God in the face of such heartache.
And it is that my story is not only about the broken. And it is not only about pain. It is also about joy and redemption and a God who loved me enough to rescue me.
Knowing that makes it all worthwhile. All the pain, all the time spent in the broken, all the mistakes and all the betrayal, all the hours spent facedown on the dining room floor in silent supplication, all the tears and rants and rages, all the midnight purges of my Facebook friends. All the congee when I wanted grilled cheese. All the lies I fight every day. It is all worth it, because He LOVES me.
My story is a story about relentless, reckless love and a girl who is made worthy by it. I’d be willing to bet that if you let, you’d see that that’s what your story is about too.