In my first visit with Abigail she shared that she is a ‘cutter’. When the pain and trauma of the past become overwhelming, it’s the only outlet she knows, so she reaches for the razor blades.
In exploring why she cuts, she shared how she ‘feels nothing’ all the time, but there’s this deep desperation that takes the life right out of her. By cutting, she told me, at least she ‘feels something’, and anything is better than the emptiness and ‘deadness’.
“Promise me you will call me, or text, or contact me somehow, before you start cutting, if it gets too much,” I said. “Don’t go through that alone. At least let me go through it with you.”
Abigail promised she would call.
I was concerned that opening up her story and revisiting the pain, especially with a complete stranger, would trigger flashbacks. And those flashbacks, I knew, could trigger an intense desire to cut.
I received a text later that evening, that resulted in the following text conversation:
(Abigail): Just sending you this cuz I promised I wud before I started cutting. Well it started… Just a little. ~ Abigail
(Me): What are you thinking? Feeling?
(Abigail): Like I don’t know if I can keep fighting. I just feel empty.
(Me): Can you do something for me… Can you whisper the name of Jesus? Ask Him to fight for you. Tell Him you are tired. He wants to fight for you.
I called her then, and made sure she would be okay for the night. It’s hard work, going back to all that pain, and learning to feel again, after so many years of suppressing everything, and not crying. To abandon her there, alone, would have made her even more high risk in the most vulnerable stages of working through the pain of the past.
I handle things very differently than a counsellor would, or even than I do later in the process. I don’t carry the weight of it personally, but I do ‘crisis’ calls like that to get clients through the hardest part of healing journey. My goal is to teach people to become strong, resilient and trusting in God, but those early ‘crisis moments’ require a Jesus with an audible voice, and a skin on. I am willing to be that ‘Jesus’ for them.
When I was confident she was okay, I withdrew until our next meeting. Dependency is a dangerous thing, and I would do her no justice to teach her to depend on me. She did quite well. I was proud of her.
The conversation continued, as texts do, in bits and pieces over the next little while. We talked about other things, her other struggles and ‘life stuff’, like church. She told how confusing it gets when there are so many ‘laws’ to live up to, and how Jesus really doesn’t seem to be enough, if we have to do all these things to be saved. She had so many questions about that. One text said:
“You need to see evidence that someone is a Christian by how they dress, act talk, etc. That’s how you show God you love Him. And praying and reading your bible every day!”
I assured her that our love for God shows, but our salvation is not dependent on how well we follow rules. He longs for our ‘broken gifts’ of sin, shame, pain, trauma and failure as much as He longs for any goodness we might have to offer. In fact, He longs more for those. When we give Him the brokenness, He heals and restores us, drawing us into relationship. Our goodness, if given in an effort to attain or prove anything, or to ‘help’ our salvation, becomes a barrier.
Abigail went on to share a struggle that I, too, and likely many of you, have also had. She wrote:
“I just find it so confusing. And how churches can say completely opposite things and still be serving the same God.”
“Maybe the main thing–salvation through Jesus–is the thread of truth we all carry,” I wrote back. “The rest is our broken attempt at loving Him. I believe He accepts our broken love offerings.”
“Even when it hurts other people?” Abigail asked.
I asked her for an example, and she continued. “Like focusing on hairstyles, dresses etc and ignoring people who are struggling…”
“I believe that is one of the greatest sins committed by the church,” I texted back. “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27 NKJV). This verse tells me that it is in serving/loving others that I love God.”
“What does it mean to be unspotted from the world?” she asked.
Always the easy questions, I thought to myself playfully. If there is one thing I love about Abigail, and there are many, it is her pursuit of truth, and her passion to know and understand that truth. If there is one thing that draws compassion from me, and again there are many, it is what life experience has done to her inner perception of God’s expectations. It is a heavy burden to carry, to desire truth, and have the perception that somehow everything hinges on us, on our understanding, on our performance.
It is the ‘rape of the mind’, when we are repeatedly taught and told that salvation hinges on any other thing, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified. It isn’t even in living up to the life He lived, though He is the perfect example and the one we want to be like. Still our salvation lies in the simplicity of the cross, and when we add any other thing, we make Jesus’ death in vain, and nullify the atonement.
I responded to her question by telling her that being ‘unspotted from the world’ is more internal, than external, more in who we serve than if or how we attain.
The Bible says God looks on the heart, not on the outward appearance and, yes, I already hear the voices in my head, ‘but the inside will show on the outside’, and there is truth in that. But, again, I would say, if it shows up on your clothes and not in your words, by speaking love, not in your bloody hands, by fighting spiritual battles on behalf of broken souls–not against them, and not in your dusty, dirty feet, by going into places that others dare not go… Then I would question whether you know the true Christ on the inside.
Do you know Him as God would desire to know Him? Does the dress, the veiling, the attire in general–whether Mennonite, Pentecostal, Baptist, or any other denomination–override that call to spreading the Good News of the Gospel? And spreading it completely apart from humanistic interpretation and manipulation, and the heavy burden of ‘the law’?
I told Abigail, as I will tell any Mennonite, that God accepts her dresses, her veiling, her prayers, and all that she does to serve Him, as a gift. He does not reject that gift.
But in remaining unspotted, I asked her. “What is the agenda of the world? Money? Sinful living? Greed? Immorality? Selfishness? Do I live my life out of this, or do I lift up Jesus Christ, shamelessly, as The Way? Do I spread the Gospel/Good News, of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, my Saviour? Or do I spend my time preaching my interpretation and system of rules?”
The thing we focus on, is the thing that becomes our ‘god’, and the thing we teach those under our leadership to focus on, is the thing we teach them is their god. In this God is lost, tragically lost, in too many church services, in too many churches, in too many of us, personally.
God forgive us, that women like Abigail struggle with cutting, desire for death and suicide, extreme hopelessness in every way, with the burden of sexual abuse buried in her memories–because, God forbid we admit it exists among us–and we continue to focus on a system.
God forgive us, that we don’t point her to the broken Saviour, wounded, bleeding and dying for her.
Repeatedly Abigail has told me that she believes He died, but not for her. That He is enough, but not for her. The oppression and criticism in her life, have made her feel completely unworthy, but more than that, it told her she is beyond the reach of grace.
God forgive us that we have not walked personally, with her, and others like her, through the raw pain and hell of life.
God forgive us, that we squeeze them out of church, rather than loving them, and holding and carrying, spiritually. In this, we have sinned against the heart of God, and brought shame on the death and cross of Christ.
Abigail and I agreed to pursue this further in our next session, and to explore what it means to truly know Jesus. What it is to have a relationship with Him.
What neither Abigail nor I knew then, is that within another session or two, she would find herself choosing between the Cross and her razor blades. And that would lead to a war with the enemy, unlike anything I have previously fought for someone, alone.
To Be Continued…
© Trudy Metzger
Return to: Abigail’s Story Part One
First post in Sexual Abuse Series
First Post in Spiritual Abuse Series
Thanks Trudy, for sharing a story that deals with the issue of cutting. It seems to be something a lot of Christians don’t really know about. I haven’t met anyone who has been a cutter, but I imagine for some people, it’s either to feel something, or because the physical pain doesn’t hurt as much as the pain they hold inside. Thanks for bringing this out in the open.
My guess, Margaret, is that you sit beside people who cut, in church, from time to time. It is far more prevalent than we could imagine! There is such shame associated with it that many struggle and suffer in silence. You are right on both counts, though, that people cut to feel something–anything at all–or they cut because the inner pain is more than they can bear, and they need an outlet. There may be other reasons, I don’t know, but for sure these are two that I hear. Be blessed!
Abigail, as so many besides her, understand that the organized church isn’t concerned with her pain. …But this pain is actually her reality, her battle, her place of victory – not the church regulations! Oh! If only we were more adept at offering a safe place for her to face her battle. If only we would be examples of grace. If only we would “write love on her arms”!
Sometimes the church wants to help… sometimes the church turns a blind eye… sometimes the church judges… But only when we extend the love and grace of Jesus, do we become effective. Only then can we ‘write love on her arms’… Thank you for your note. Be blessed!
My heart goes out to Abigail..I can relate to being a cutter..but there is hope, a way out..i started at 13- it ended when I was 24..i’m 4 years free..HE is able!!
Thank you for that testimony, Mea! I have great confidence in what God will do in Abigail’s life, and the lives of others I work with. Your testimony encourages me in that confidence!Be blessed!