Fatherly “Merman” Love

I know. Odd title to this weeks’ blog. Before I lose you, let’s jump right into it. Have you seen The Little Mermaid? If not, it’s a 1989 Disney movie about a mermaid named Ariel, who dreams of becoming human and falls in love with a human prince named Eric, which leads her to making a magic deal with the sea witch, Ursula, to become human and be with him. Pretty intense for a children’s movie, ain’t it?

While there’s quite a bit circulating this whole ordeal and many principles that can be learned and unlearned from the plot of The Little Mermaid, a striking truth unfolds when Ariel gets caught up with the deal made with the sea witch. I apologize if I am spoiling the plot for whoever hasn’t seen the movie, but here you have it. Ariel is forbidden by her father [merman] King Triton, the ruler of Atlantica, to have any interaction with humans. He warns her of the danger, he warns her of the evil but Ariel, in her matter a fact way goes against her fathers’ leading. After the destruction of all of Ariel’s pride possessions that crushes her, she rebelliously seeks the sea witch, Ursula. Ariel makes a deal with Ursula to have her transform her into a human for three days in exchange for Ariel’s voice. Within these three days, Ariel must receive the “kiss of true love” from Prince Eric. If Ariel gets Eric to kiss her, she will remain a human permanently. Otherwise, she will transform back into a mermaid and belong to Ursula. Seems doable, but you and I know that if you make a deal with the devil it probably won’t pan out the way we’d hope.

As fate would have it, on the third day Ariel is too late and Ursula wins. She now owns Ariel however, King Triton intervenes and initially tries to destroy the agreement, but to his surprise, Ariel signed a binding contract with Ursula. Ursula however, was willing to breach contract if the King would sacrifice his life for Ariel’s. In true fatherly love, King Triton, without hesitation give his life for his daughter.

A striking truth of Fatherly love or in this case, fatherly merman love is represented in this great exchange. Cheesy, I know. This Fatherly Love is one many of you may not identify with in terms of your earthly father. You may have grown up without a father. You may have grown up with a father that represents everything but what a father is. Your earthly father may have willingly given you up to the sea witch and gladly live his life without a care for you. Your earthly father may have lost his life. I don’t know what representation you have for a father, but what I do know is that while earthly fathers may not be the greatest, and while we may greive over the lost of this fatherly love you and I have a Father that represents and encompasses true love; an everlating and unconditional love. He has lived and forever will live. Like King Triton, He gave up his life for you and I so that you and I can truly live. While we may be like Ariel, rebellious, difficult and stubborn in our own lust of life and love making deals with the devil, our King, our Father, traded His life in order for us to no longer be captives.

Philippians 2 talks about what this Father of ours did. In His triune nature, he,

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likenes. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! (6-8)

Making deal with the devil only leads to our demise. Dabling in sin, entertaining sin, condoning sin only leads to death. We see that time and time but in our lustful nature we tend to forget what we exchange for the quick fix and earthly gratification. Sin is nice. I will admit, but the consequences of sin is not so nice. It scars, it wounds, it destroys and it kills. Jesus however, He came to separate us from sin. He gave himself up as atonement, the greatest sacrifice in order for us to live clean and pure. This Fatherly love represents what love is. Love that sacrifices and cares deeper than earthly words can express and human minds can grasp in understanding.

This Fatherly love is readily accessible to you and I. All it takes is our hearts; a great exchange of our hearts tugging to the world and giving it up to a Father that is true and good. So my question to you is my dear friend, Ariel…. did you make a deal with the sea witch? Are you deep in sin drowning and grasping to escape? Your Father, your savior, whose name is Jesus is not out of reach. If you call on Him, he will and desires to save you. I plea to you… surrender.


The Darkest Valley – PT.2

One moment of courage can change the trajectory of your entire life. For me, that moment was when I walked through the scary office doors to my very first counseling appointment. If you read my previous blog, you know that it only took two months after first signing up and then canceling my counseling appointment for me to finally gain the courage to do the unthinkable, go to counseling.

In the Christian world, at least the Christian world I grew up in if you went counseling you were crazy. I mean that literally. I understood counseling was made available for people who were mentally not there. People who were borderline suicidal, somewhat crazy, or all-around crazy. I confidently placed myself in the “somewhat crazy” category since I did not fully want to be in counseling but was crazy enough to do it. Now I see how delusional I was to even think counseling was for the crazy. How the tables turned.

I’ve started and stopped counseling a total of three times. The first time was during my freshman year in college. That was the first time I said out loud the awful terrible that had happened. It didn’t come instantly. It took several counseling sessions for me to finally admit to my very patient counselor why I really was in her office. I had walls. Big walls. Hard ones that I refused to have anyone dare to break. Before each counseling session, my counselor prayed and after each counseling session, she prayed again. Every word in her prayer tormented me until I finally broke down and was honest. Completely honest about how that one night changed and wrecked who I saw in the mirror, who I believed I was and the fervid hate I had towards men. I thought I was a monster. A monster for allowing the assault to happen. A monster because I brought it on to myself. A monster for being dumb to think I could trust anyone. And a monster because I held scars that made me see an ugly reflection looking back at me each time I glanced at the mirror. I was a monster that was living a very fake life and in desperate need of counseling.

Counseling was messy. My resistant and impenetrable heart softened after each session that the impossible became evidently possible right before my eyes. I was healing. Every session entailed gut-wrenching, painful, agonizing ugly crying moments of truth. Things I didn’t even realize that were a part of what had shaped my thinking were brought to light which explained the why behind the what. Inadvertently, despite my view of counseling and stubborn heart, I realized, counseling helped. The big challenge after months of counseling was to tell my parents. And just that I did. I asked my brother and sister-in-law to drive me home to Houston. Once there, in my parent’s bedroom, I opened up without shame and revealed what I thought I would never be able to do.

After I word vomited I waited in what felt like eternal silence. I had prepared for the unthinkable. A part of me still believed that no one would believe me. For crying out loud, the lead Pastor told me that so if he said it, it must be true, right? The look on my parent’s faces was not one of unbelief. Rather I saw instantaneous regret and shame. Not in me, rather in their efforts to keep me safe. I remember clear as day that night in their bedroom as they held me weeping and in agony and for a split second I saw myself. The agony I had secretly held to myself for years prior. I knew I had to reassure them it was not their fault and will never be their fault. I knew they had a journey for themselves to take to heal. But that’s their story to tell. I love my mom and dad both. I love them wholeheartedly and have loved them even deeper as we bonded over a tragedy. God always somehow makes good out of evil and that good healed my broken heart.

After telling my parents, my siblings were next. It was hard. They were and are my best friends. Like my parents, I saw the regret and shame they inflicted on themselves. For not protecting me I presume. For lack of foresight maybe. Or maybe from seeing their baby sister wounded by people they trusted and even confided in. But I was no longer wounded. Eventually, they began to see that, but like my parents, they needed time for themselves to heal and walk their own journey. I loved my brothers, but my love and bond for them deepened that day. Again, God always somehow makes good out of evil and that good healed my broken heart.

I went to counseling a couple months after my first breakthrough and then summertime came which led me overseas in Egypt for a lengthy internship. I didn’t sign back up for counseling again until Jarrod (my husband) came into my life. I was treading new waters with now having to reveal the depths of my heart to someone I was beginning to love. Jarrod, in his patience, did not rush or question me. He was patient with me when I asked him to not hold my hands. He was patient with me when I asked him not to kiss me. He was patient with me when I didn’t want to hug or be embraced. And then one day, in his patience, Jarrod loving advised me to go to counseling. He knew I was wrestling and that I needed someone to talk to. He knew that those walls I had up were stemmed from deep wounds that started the beginning stages of healing but weren’t quite there yet. So again, I signed up for counseling. Another messy process. How do I love a man? How do I trust he won’t hurt me? How do I trust he won’t use my body for his needs and take advantage of my innocence? After months of counseling sessions, I took the brave step and opened up to Jarrod who patiently gave me time. The time I needed to be comfortable enough to be vulnerable.

He never once judged. Rather, Jarrod looked me dead in the face eyes locked into mine glossy from compassionate hurt. After my word vomit, he gently said “I love you, Vashti. Everything about you. I see you. Nothing but you. The pure heart that first attracted me to you and the pure heart that’s before me now. We will get through this.” And we have. I’ve never felt more safe and protected. I guess his 6’7″ built body has something to do with it, but in all honestly, Jarrod is exactly who I needed.

My last counseling session was months leading up to marriage. The sex bed petrified me. As much as I thoroughly trusted Jarrod, the tinge of fear always resurrected when the nightmares aired their ugly face. All the what if’s resurfaced and again, with time, a very patient soon-to-be husband and counselor we made it to the wedding day. The absolute best day of my life. A day I probably would have run away from had it not been for the God moments perfectly orchestrated and my choice to respond to those divine encounters.

The cross was my answer and still is. Every part of healing pointed back to the blood-shed on the cross. Transgressions of all nature are paid by a perfect man for imperfect people. Every counseling session brought out a new understanding of forgiveness. It brought out a new revelation of God’s redemptive work. It brought out a new understanding of my wrecked heart that desperately craved healing and wholeness. A price I was willing to take for the sake of my wellbeing and sanity.

C.S. Lewis said it well,

Forgiving does not mean excusing… it does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart – every wish to humiliate or hurt him or to pay him out.

I refused to live in hate. I refused to live bitter. I refused to feel like a monster for the rest of my life. I refused to live with insecurities and poor self-esteem. And in my refusal, I had a very tough choice to make. I needed to forgive my transgressors and I needed to forgive myself for the self-hate I inflicted. There’s no excuse for the assault. In time, the consequence will come. Not by my might, rather through Christ my vindicator. What is also inexcusable is living with hate that kills. And I choose not to walk with a cloud over my head the rest of my life.

Even though I have walked one of the darkest valleys, I will fear not. Because I know who is my comfort. I know who is my healer. I know who is for me. And I know who will vindicate and justify me. I know He will do the same for you.

My journey isn’t quite over. There’s far more to the healing that has been left unsaid. In time I may share more, but I will leave you with this.

If you are or know someone that’s a victim of any type of abuse or assault, don’t shy away from speaking out. You owe it yourself and the safety of those around you to be bold. Seek help. Seek counseling and don’t be afraid of the messy healing.

If there’s a verse I would encourage you to study as you walk the tough road to healing, it’s Psalm 23. I actually had to memorize this verse around the age of 5 and haven’t forgotten it since. It’s one of my favorite Psalms and one I fall back on whenever days get tough. I challenge you to dive into all the treasures hidden in this Psalm. You won’t regret it. Healing is right before you. Jesus is waiting on you. He won’t force nor coerce you into healing. Rather, it’s your choice.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord

Bleeding pain.

Have you ever hurt yourself before? Maybe you fell and wounded you knees. It may have been someone else that hurt you. A car accident, accident on the play ground or just a fluke thing. Think back on a moment where you physically got hurt. When we get hurt, our immediate response is to fix what is damaged or broken. You break your arm, you get it checked out and placed in a cast in order to not have lasting effects of an unmovable and incapable arm. A part of your body gets cut open, you apply pressure to the wound and get stitches in order to avoid bleeding out and infection. When we are physically hurt, we know the importance of healing and healing properly. When we are hurt emotionally though, we lack the courage and strength to address these types of hurt. A lot of the times it’s not because we don’t know how to gain healing, rather healing emotional pain can be the most painful. I’ve learned that if we don’t heal what hurt us, we will bleed on people who didn’t do the hurting. And eventually, we will remain wounded and crippled.

I can be very stubborn. Especially when it comes to healing. So much so I’d rather keep going injured than taking the time needed to heal. A couple years ago, I sprained my LCL. My knee was swollen and puffed up like a water balloon. Walking was excruciatingly painful and bending my knee was simply not an option. I was told to ice, rest and elevate my injured knee. Most importantly, to take caution in order to prevent re-injury to the ligament during it’s healing.

The doctors order translated to me as, weakness and control. Surly all his orders were not necessary. Today I live to tell the story that they were indeed necessary because had I listened, I would not have the difficulty I face when running long distances or being on my feet for long extended periods of time. My rejection to healing has caused re-injury and pain bleeding into other parts of my leg because of that knee injury. Stubbornness doesn’t pay much other than being a learning lesson to everyone else.

Many of us are bleeding our pain unto others because we’ve failed to seek healing. Our hearts have been punctured by someone that we then walk around bleeding our pain on those who never hurt us. Failure to address and seek healing in emotional pain, only leaves you crippled, injured and more prone to re-injury. A lot of times the reason we hurt so easily is because we’ve been carrying childhood hurt. Carrying childhood hurt has made us wounded adults, bleeding on people. And those same people we are bleeding on, we unfortunately place the pressure on them to clean up the mess we’ve made from bleeding our hurt everywhere. It’s a rippling effect.

Any type of healing can be extremely painful. I’ve experienced the uncomfortableness of physical healing when a cyst was removed from my lower back and the only way to heal properly was to leave a hole in my back and have a nurse dress the wound (that is to clean and apply salt and water to the wound) daily for 3 months or until my the wound no longer remained a wound. The healing process made me sick to my stomach. Let me tell you. Having someone clean a fresh wound daily is no joke. Then to add salt and water to the wound didn’t make it any easier. It felt as if they were scratching my flesh and burning it. Even typing this up is making me sick. The healing was uncomfortable and painful. Had a nurse not cleaned and dressed my wound daily, the wound would have become infected and that infection could have bled into other areas surrounding it.

You see, healing is not simply a means to make something as if it never happened. I have a scar on my lower back that reminds me of two things:

  1. A cyst that crippled my lifestyle for almost a year.
  2. Healing and God’s faithfulness.

The latter of the two is most important. Just because my body has healed, it doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten that experience or the pain that went with it. Healing does however, allow us to live freely and in strength. No longer do we walk hunched over in pain, but we can walk confidently and boldly. We are not prone to re-injury when healed, rather when a similar pain comes around, we have the right tools to help us address the hurt, “dress” the hurt and gain healing.

If you find yourself bleeding your hurt on someone that didn’t hurt you, it’s time to apply pressure to the wound for the bleeding to stop and then dress the wound with salt and water. While I wish we can do this with emotional hurt, what we can do is apply pressure to the wound by unpacking the hurt you’ve been carrying around. Like a cup filled with infirmity, we need to empty out every feeling you’ve ever held towards whatever it is that hurt you. Lay it all out in the open. Cry and scream at the top of your lungs if need be. Once you’ve gotten rid of all the infection, you can then start dressing the wound with salt and water of God’s word. Whether you believe Jesus is real or not, try it for yourself. Find scripture verses about hurt and pain and read those daily. Alongside that, you may need to ask someone for forgiveness, ask yourself for forgiveness and clean areas in your life that you’ve allowed yourself to bleed on. Like physical healing, this doesn’t just happen in one day. This requires daily practice. It may take quite some time to fully heal, but once you’ve healed, then that’s when you can live out your healing.

Many of us are walking around bleeding our pain on others. We fail to address the wounds we have and have been living for years a crippled life. Our attitude is crippled, our language is crippled and the way we look at life has been crippled. Failure to heal opens the doors for re-injury and immobility of areas in our lives we’ve neglected. I want to challenge you to seek healing. It may be something from childhood, or it may be something more recent. It may be something you did to yourself that you’re ashamed of and never addressed or walked through. Don’t keep living in pain from unaddressed hurt. You may not realize it, but you are bleeding your hurt on people around you that never did the hurt. I challenge you today to address the wound, dress the wound and walk in freedom. It’s up to you!

Are you bleeding your hurt on people who never did the hurt? If so, how can you make steps towards healing today?


Emotional Debt Collector

The number one leading cause of death in the United States is said to be heart disease. Heart disease conditions include heart arrhythmias, coronary artery disease and heart defects. In my very limited experience, I’ve observed one of the leading causes of spiritual death is likewise, heart disease. No, this isn’t anything nearly as related to that of the heart disease talked about in medicinal practice. This spiritual heart disease condition comes in the form of anger (present hurt) and bitterness (past hurt). Whether spiritual heart disease can lead to physical heart disease, I do not know. But I’d air on the side of believing it does. There’s a reason why doctors ask, “are you stressed or is anything stressing you out?” The parts of us that are unseen directly affects that which is seen.

Anger and bitterness. The world calls these emotions. Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy writes on “emotion” stating …

No aspect of our mental life is more important to the quality and meaning of our existence than the emotions. They are what make life worth living and sometimes worth ending.

Anger is a natural response to unmet expectations and perceived injustice. Bitterness is unresolved anger. These emotions are directly linked to our mental and physical health. Unlike most emotions, anger and bitterness left unaddressed can lead to death, both physical and spiritual.

Refrain from anger and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. - Psalms 37:8

The writer of Psalm 37 encourages us to stay away from anger and more so, reject wrath. They also proceeded with, “fret not.” Fret is when anger shifts to worry that it eats away that later becomes bitterness. It’s a process. In order to avoid the out of control version of anger, we first must start with avoiding becoming easily angered. But that’s easier said than done, am I right?

Have you ever met someone that was instantaneously bitter? Probably not. Ask any bitter person you know, “so, what happened? Why do you feel the way you do about _______?” They will tell you of a moment(s) of anger that overtime led them to feel the way they do. They may even say “I will just never get over it.” Maybe the bitter person is you. You know exactly why you feel the way you do about ________ and you’ve refused to let go. Don’t get me wrong, becoming angry is not a sin. It’s a natural response to injustice. Becoming bitter is where things become tricky. When anger shifts to bitterness we become emotional debt collectors seeking an apology from the one that hurt us, from society and sometimes, even from God. We effortlessly strive for something we will never receive and justify our bitterness by living in the rut of hurt.

A friend of mine worked as a debt agent for an organization. Her job was to call those who owed the organization letting them know their bill(s) were overdue. She was simply doing her job, but those on the receiving line did not like what she had to say. She was degraded and emotionally abused for seeking debt being paid on the organization’s behalf. This affected her mentally, physically and emotionally. This was my friend’s job. For some of us, we’ve taken on this job on behalf of a loved one. We’ve become emotional debt collectors for our parents, siblings, and family. We’ve taken on a job title that was never ours. Similar to my friend, we are left mentally, physically and emotionally callused.

Emotional debt collectors can be a role we take on without even recognizing it. Either because someone directly hurt us or someone we know. Emotional debt collectors won’t rest until the emotional debt is collected. Forgiveness is completely out of the question. Unfortunately, too many of us lack the realization that our newfound title of emotional debt collector has left us mentally, physically and emotionally crippled. We rejoice when the one that hurt us suffers, we wish the worst on them and lose the quality of life with those around us because our focus is, revenge.

I am not a people watcher, but I am a people listener. I know, it’s odd, but you should try it sometime. If you’re by yourself, take a moment to simply sit and listen. Want to know the condition of a person’s heart? Listen to their tongue. The tongue is the bucket, and the heart is the well. Emotional debt collectors live and speak in the past. Their tongues speak from hurt and emotional pain left unresolved. Their heart wells not with joy, rather with painful bitterness.

I’d like to say Christians do not struggle with this, but that would be a flat out lie. Christians struggle with this the most in my opinion. Why? Because we’ve developed self-righteous mentalities. Martin Luther once said, “Be careful not to measure your holiness by other people’s sin.” That’s what emotional debt collectors do. We live in victim hood and view those who’ve offended, hurt, and crossed us as they are nothing. We elevate ourselves in hurt and degrade those who hurt us in shame.

Here’s what I know, bitterness is equally as dangerous as any immoral sin. Heaven is not going to wait for you to collect your emotional debt. If you found out today you had a heart disease and your lifespan is cut short unless fixed, you’d probably try your best to get that fixed. You would tell that heart doctor of yours to do whatever it takes. Even if it’s as dangerous as a heart transplant. That attitude should be the same for those of us who struggle with emotional heart disease. Your heart doctor is the one who created you. Whether you believe in God or not, if you need a cure for heart disease, ask Him to work on your heart. I’ve asked God to give me a heart transplant after tirelessly seeking to collect emotional debt. That’s a story for another time, but I’ll tell you this. I sure am glad I did that. When my heart shifted, it was only then did I realize the forgiveness I was seeking wasn’t for the one that hurt me. Forgiveness was for me.

Are you an emotional debt collector? Heaven’s not going to wait on you to collect your emotional debt. It’s time to trade the title you’ve given yourself as emotional debt collector, for forgiveness and peace.