As the honeymoon ends and redemption sinks deeper into my heart, I'm forced to look back honestly over my life and figure out a few things.
Here's what I know:
I don't regret anything I did. It pains me that life had to be that way, but I see the beauty in survival. Am I proud of that life? Not exactly. It's hard to swallow the image of the little girl I wanted to be with the reality of the one I was. It's tough to reconcile the loss of a dream life, of the little things girls dream of. It's difficult to imagine and stomach that time when I ate out of trash cans, lied habitually to keep my secrets, gave up my body to others' pursuits of the flesh, and manipulated those in my path to give me some semblance of the love or acceptance I thought I deserved. I'm not proud of the way I lived; but it was how I had to live, and I don't regret it.
What I regret is my damaged relationships. What I regret is the people who came into my life and made a difference, but who never got to know. Or who may never know me now as a redeemed woman, a daughter of God. I regret that they may always know me as trash, a manipulator, or worse. I regret that they might never know the profound impact they've had on me, how they changed my life through something as simple as a smile. I want them to know more of me than a little girl in trouble living a life of the darkest secret.
I want them to know the love in my heart. I want them to know my openness, the ways that even in hardness, they affected me. I want them to see the pieces of my life put back together and a woman strengthened, a woman who is about to blaze her trail through this world. It pains me that I could never tell them the truth; should I tell them now? Should I tell them of my prison, of my darkness and my past? Would they understand? Perhaps they always understood. It's impossible to know.
It's just hard as each day passes and I see another small piece of my life redeemed - in the smallest ways, even as something of the survival self tries to creep up and I have to shake it off, knowing I am NOT that person any more. It's hard because as much as I love the freedom of God and His incredible work and diligent love, there are so many people I wish I could talk to one more time, hug one more time, share a cup of coffee with and tell them the truth...and show them something better. In many cases, that is precisely the goodness they said they always saw in me, the true self under the heartbreak and torture.
It's hard for me to cope with the fact that not only did I miss out on a lot of great things in my life, a lot of influences that could have been had or could have been stronger, but I did a great deal of damage to a lot of people. I could justify it to the ends of the earth, and I know most would understand. But I cannot forget.
Is it wrong to want to go back and have a cup of coffee with everyone you ever met, everyone who know some form of yourself you wish they hadn't? Maybe it's just me trying to redeem my own life so that I feel deserving of what God has already done (and continues to do).
If you have known me before, if you have been privy to my past, please forgive me. I never meant to hurt you.
And celebrate with me this beautiful redemption. Whether you see me every week or haven't seen me in over a decade, know this: I'm not who I was. Most of the time, I hardly recognize myself.
And it's AWESOME.