|Theresa Harvard Johnson|
By my dear friend Theresa Harvard Johnson
Grace In HealingCopyright 2012 Theresa Harvard Johnson
I am an invisible girl, sitting in an invisible chair;
People walk by me, never noticing that I am there.
They can't hear my invisible screams as I rise or see me my invisible stand;
and when I reach for an embrace, they slip through my invisible hands.
Can someone tell me what's wrong with me?
Why are these people just passing by?
Does my invisible tears upset them,
when they hear my silent cry?
I am tortured in my existence,
I'd be better off if I wasn't here at all.
Because I know that if I was chopped down as a tree,
no one would hear or see my invisible fall.
In my youth and most of my adulthood, I struggled to express any heart-felt emotion outside of an intense, unquenchable rage – which nearly destroyed me. I didn’t know it then, but I came to realize that whatever I couldn’t speak I could somehow write.
My writing consisted primarily of poetry (perceptive, depressive and very, very dark) and short stories (fantasy, romanticism & fiction). Most of my early writings painted pictures of the deep depth of emotion buried inside me from a lifetime of severe abuse and neglect.
I remember sitting in my ninth grade art class at the close of the school day one evening when my favorite teacher, Sherry Jamison, sat down beside me, placed her hand upon mine and tenderly asked, “Theresa, are you okay?”
I can remember looking up at her with such emptiness inside me and answering, “I don’t know Ms. J but can I read you this poem I wrote.” You see, this is how I answered my friends when I was too afraid or to ashamed to speak. It was always a “let me share this poem” or “why don’t you read this story I wrote.” Beyond my trusted notebook, I rarely shared my heart.
I took a huge step reading that poem to Ms. Jamison that day. I took a leap of faith in trusting her, and as a result, she became a powerful exhorter in my life – someone who “could see” me. The seeds planted during that time have strong roots in who I am today.
That poem marked the beginning of a deep mentoring relationship – in art and in life. Now, as I look back on that time, I realize that Ms. Jamison learned a lot about who I really was that school year. She was the first adult to hear or read my private poetry and short stories – some of which revealed the effects of the physical, sexual and emotional abuse that shaped my mind and numbed my emotions. She was the first person to say to me, “Theresa, you have a brilliant mind and unlimited potential. You need to know that you can have a good life.”
I’ll never forget what she said to me that day. I’d never thought that my life would be any different than that of the people around me, after all I was hanging out a shot houses (where you could buy liquor for a dollar a glass) and juke joints at night (back yard dance clubs in people’s homes or apartments) when it wasn’t safe for me to go home. She put her hand firmly on my shoulder and looked me squarely in the eyes: “Theresa, look at me,” she insisted. I remember lifting my head from such a deep, deep place of shame. “Look at me! None of this is your fault! You didn’t do anything wrong. What is wrong is what has been done to you.”
I’ll never forget the overwhelming emotions that coursed through me in that moment. I wasn’t thinking about what had happened in the past or even where I would go from this point. I simply remembered thinking, “I’m not invisible anymore.” People could see me. I remember feeling so happy that someone cared about me. I had a mentor, who over the months that followed, would walk with me as I transitioned from my home, the physical and emotional abuse I was facing daily at the hands of my mother, and into the foster care system.
Somebody cared. I had value.
You see, there are times in the midst of our healing process in which “we question” where Jesus was in the midst of the suffering. We wonder why He didn’t stop the pain, why he didn’t interrupt the rape, the molestation, the harsh words… the terror. Even though I was a believer, I spent YEARS not fully trusting God, understanding him as Father or believing that the fullness of His love really extended to me.
As a result, when things seemed to go haywire I would find myself asking, “JESUS, WHY DIDN’T YOU SAVE ME? WHY DIDN’T YOU INTERVENE IN THIS SITUATION?” I don’t know about you, but I walked through this valley more than once in the midst of maturing in my faith. While the situation might have been different, the root was the same: There was a place in me in which I believed God had abandoned me all those years ago. Therefore, anytime something major happened in my life…. my soul (on automatic pilot) would revert to those painful times.
It was in this place of questioning the Lord in prayer one evening that I received an answer. While I didn’t know what the Lord was going to do, I knew it was a time in which this question, for me, would be buried forever. I laid my head back in my office chair – quietly, yet uncontrollably weeping, repentant, grateful and in need of breakthrough all at once. After some time passed and I’d calmed down, I heard this in my Spirit:
“Theresa, I was with you in every violation, struggle and place of pain. I eagerly read your journal entries, poems and short stories as you wrote them. I listened to your words with the force and gentleness of every pen stroke. I laughed with you in the midst of your joy, and wept with you in the midst of sorrow. I grieved with you at the center of all that was lost and stolen. Beloved, nothing concerning you has EVER been hidden from me! I was YOUR PEN. I was the one capturing your tears in a bottle! I was with you when you didn’t know my name; and stood patiently, waiting to come into your heart. I was leading your high school teacher, and others who have come your way. When YOU realized you needed me and granted me entrance into your heart, I embraced you without hesitation and I rushed in. YOU have always been mine. I am holding you, even now, in my arms and releasing wholeness in every incomplete place in your soul. Receive it. Today, I have your trust.”
With my head lying back in that chair, the tears fell – not of sorrow, but of release, peace and joy. Countless medications, in-hospital treatment and therapy sessions could not do what God did in that moment. It was over.
These were tears of healing, closure, peace, understanding, VICTORY and… rest in my Father. These were tears of true forgiveness. I was able to finally let go of this debilitating part of my past.
From that moment forward, I was able to see Jesus as my advocate through my pen all those years ago. I was able to see him through Ms. Jamison’s hand and all those like her whom God had sent throughout my life. Sitting back in that office chair, I was SO VERY THANKFUL, GRATEFUL! I was able to see and RECEIVE the grace in which His love has truly consumed me.
I came to know this truth from pursuing His presence: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 CJB, “Three times I begged the Lord to take this thing away from me; but he told me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is brought to perfection in weakness.”
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