Memories have been pecking away at me...creeping in, as real as yesterday. Not the good memories, but the bad – the foolish, humiliating memories, the devastating moments that I long to erase.
Without warning, they rush in like a tidal wave, mocking me, insulting me, threatening to dash me against the rocks, because there’s nowhere to run, no way to escape myself.
Suddenly, I hear my own sharp-edged voice:
I hate myself.
Sometimes it’s merely a thought. Other times, a whisper. Today, I spit the words out loud, just to make it stop. To halt the rising wave, to make the accusing voices Just. Shut. Up. To stop the harassment, the shame, the regret, the pain.
I hate myself. A truth that rises from the churning depths of me, like a bubble of air in thick molten lava…ugly, menacing, then empty…a hollow, shameful ache.
I hate myself. I hold fast to those three little words, with white knuckles and nails digging into flesh.
I used to think it strange how others cut their flesh with razors or glass, but I…I cut with an invisible blade, carving, slicing, maiming this heart already thick with scars.
And I love the hating, the punishing.
Because if I can’t escape myself, I will hate myself. Consume myself. Destroy myself.
I will crucify myself.
I will take myself to the cross and begin the hammering, the nailing, the piercing. Dismissing His sacrifice and mercy, I try, in my own strength, to crush, to crucify, to bleed out my blood in payment for my failures and yet in this, too, I fail. This one arm is always free – and I can’t complete the job.
The crucified cannot be the crucifier.
Someone else must do the hammering, the nailing, the piercing. I cannot even do this one thing. I hate myself.
Who will crucify me? Who will take this hammer and this nail and pin me to this cross? Who will make my blood run in the streets?
I hang on the tree, waiting…waiting for God to come and finish this job. To drive the final nail through my filthy hand. And Make. Me. Pay.
But the Crucified cannot be the crucifier. The Crucified will not be the crucifier.
He comes. But He will not crucify me.
He pleads with a soft voice, free of condemnation, “Nichole, stop. Please stop. You don’t have to do this. I’ve already paid. I stood in your place. I let you crucify me. Because I love you. Because I love you.”
The words undo me. I place the weighty, rusted hammer in His nail-scarred hands and my arm falls to my side. Lighter now, but I feel heavy. He eyes the tree upon which I hang; a distant sadness swims behind His eyes.
And I feel tired. Exhausted. Bone-weary. Hatred bleeds the soul. And when I look into His eyes, the fight leaves me, like a wave retreating to the ocean. I hang defeated. I think, as I close my eyes, perhaps I will yet die.
But I wake in His arms, the cross looming above. His hands rest on mine and I see, feel the thickened, discolored skin. Hatred scars. Sore and weak, I weep into His chest.
My hands drove the nails, but His were the hands that were pierced. My blood ran cold with hate, but His was the blood that ran red with love. Love for me.
Who am I to hate what He has loved?
But the hatred runs deep and the memories assault me.
I ask Him, Can you silence the voices in my head? Can you stop me from carving my heart into bits and pieces – a bad memory here, an unlovable characteristic there – cut out and thrown away? Can you save me from a million small murders? You conquered death. Can you conquer me?
He answers, Beloved, be loved.
What would it look like to let myself be loved? To live life loved?
When the memories come, when the assault begins, what would I do, if I were to live loved?
Perhaps, instead of running to hide, I could stay. I could wait. I could face and feel the naked shame, the exposed wounds. I could endure the burning ache of being known.
Instead of outshouting the pain with the razor-sharp sting of self-loathing, I could speak His words:
I could kneel before the foot of the cross, instead of climbing upon its weathered face. I could let those words wash over me and suffer the sting of being cleansed.
I could give Him my pain, turn my hurt toward His heart, my memories toward His eternal presence, my darkness toward His light. And I could receive His mercy, His grace, His healing, His peace, His joy….His everything.
And then maybe, one day, some day soon, I could see Him enough to see what He sees and know Him enough to know what He knows and love Him enough to love all that He loves. And on that day, I could say and believe – in the truest, purest, noblest and most humble sense – I love myself.
Because I love the Man, the Son of God, the Crucified One who refuses to crucify me.
© Nichole Q. Perreault