Do me a favour.
Take your thumb and place it right in the middle of your sternum. Below the heart. Above the diaphragm.
Are you doing it?
I want you to imagine that spot. Right where you pressed your thumb to flesh. I want you to imagine a dark, oppressive pain. Not a mortal wound, but a chronic ache, a daily reminder of its existence.
This is my pain. Right in the middle of my chest. Most days? Hardly noticeable. Somedays? Impossible to ignore.
When I was a baby girl – just a toddler – I had a poisoning incident. Up until age two, I was a normal, happy, bubbly, little girl. But when I escaped from my bath and toddled out the back door and saw the can of BBQ fluid which looked so much like a can of soda – something changed. I went from robust health to critically ill in a moment. Because that fluid didn’t just enter my stomach. It’s trickled down into my lungs. A delicate system further compromised by toxic chemical.
After nights of touch and go, I was declared a miracle. Sure, I needed some aggressive chest pounding therapy. Yet, healed. Physically. Except the lingering dark spots on my lungs. But healing.
However spiritually? I remained critical.
Although I recovered in body, my spirit took on lifelong damage. While healing my body, my tiny soul embarked on a new fight. A fight to belong. A fight to be accepted. That delicate time of childhood crushed by pain. A pain taken personally. You see, a child under five can’t reason the difference between physical pain or emotional pain. And somehow, little me translated excruciating physical pain into punishment. That I must have deserved the pain. I was a bad girl.
Physically I recuperated, but emotionally and spiritually I remained damaged. The damage to my lungs slowly healed, yet that dark, black spot remained imbedded in my chest.
The black spot has followed me throughout my life. When pain happens, an arrow hits me square in the ribs. And rejection. And disappointment. And failure. A reminder. An ache – heart broken, but I deserve it. I have been a bad girl.
My experience with the “bad girl” curse means shame and anger still linger. In any good, I still expect the bad to follow. I’d like to tell you I’m all better now. But that would be a lie. The truth is some days it’s worse than ever. As time marches on and my circumstances don’t change and I make the same mistakes and I am alone and lonely and desperate and depressed – that damn spot is a reminder that I don’t warrant the good stuff. I’ve been a bad girl.
The question is: how do I rid myself of that spot? If it were as easy as a simple prayer, I would have been freed years ago. Maybe, like Paul, it’s my thorn in the flesh?
I don’t know.
I question: do I merit hope? It’s taken such a beating lately. It seems easier to tuck it away and accept that life is not abundant. Should I live without expectations? It’s impossible to not compare yourself to others and ask: “why not me?” And when the answer is “no,” always “no,” – where do you go? What do you believe?