I’ve never written anything quite like this, so I’m nervous to share this on my blog today…but here I go. Today marks the two-year anniversary of my Kindred Spirit’s death inside an abusive marriage and Christian community that had turned into a cult. I’ve been grieving My Kindred Spirit’s death–and my own pain when it comes to men–for two years. I also recently traveled to Thailand with a media team to help document sexual exploitation. There, I was confronted with the darkest kinds of injustice. Yet during my time in Thailand, God spoke very deeply to me about love, grief, justice. My grief, social justice, and my own struggle with love and healing, all connected in Thailand in really beautiful, profound ways.
Last week, I woke up at 2am and had this inspiration to write a creative interpretation of the dialogue that happened between God and me while I was in Thailand. This is a creative representation of my times of prayer/conversation with God during the trip. But it truly does represent the healing and conclusions I came to while on the trip…
A Dialogue on Love, Grief, Justice
God: Well, hello there!
Me: You’re actually here. I can feel You again, I can feel Your Spirit so deeply. I was beginning to think that You’d gotten tired of me and moved on.
God: I’m here. I’m always here, even when you don’t feel me. I want you to know that this trip to Thailand is a gift because I love you. This trip is a gift.
Me: I know, I’m so completely excited about this trip. Oh Lord, I’m so glad I got to come. But why–why do you love me? All I did this year was be mad at You. All I did was question and wrestle. I felt so dark. I felt like I was going to lose my faith. I yelled and cried and grieved. God, this year was hard. I’m just realizing how hard a year it’s been now that I’m completely removed from it. I feel so stuck. I feel so tired. I feel so meaningless. And I miss my Kindred Spirit, and I’m so angry at what happened. I will always, always love her, Lord. Why does love keep on going and going even after death? Why is there so much pain in my heart? All love is just pain, in the end. That’s all I’ve known of love. It’s been almost ten years since the pain of loving those who reject it started. No wonder my heart seems so dead.
God: You’ve been through a hard journey. All these years, I’ve seen everything, Teryn. I collected your tears in a bottle. I was walking right there. I never left you. My love doesn’t leave, even in the darkest of places. Nothing you felt or said or did scared me away. I see you. I see your heart. And I want you to know that your heart is something I love so deeply.
You are an artist/
and your heart is your masterpiece/
and I’ll keep it safe…
Darkness will be rewritten into a work of fiction.
[Sleeping at Last, “I’ll Keep You Safe”]
That’s from one of your favorite songs, isn’t it? Cling to the truth in this song. I’ve kept your heart safe all these years, and I’ll continue to hold it. Your darkness is being rewritten, Teryn. And this trip is part of the Story.
Me: My heart is cold and hard, Lord. It’s been so cold, ever since Becca died (even before that). I’ve stopped loving. I’ve stopped letting people in. I have so many walls up I don’t even know what to do with myself anymore. I don’t even know how to open up my heart. But I want to love, Lord. I want to feel again. I feel so desperately, well—just so desperate.
God: Teryn, this trip is about your heart. You will learn to love, to feel, to open up your heart again. But it’s going to be hard. And you’re going to need to be in constant communication with My Spirit. So listen, listen, listen. And pray, pray, pray.
Me: I used to love praying, God. It was something that spilled over into everything I did. I miss it. I miss You! I miss the relationship we used to have. So I’m praying, praying, praying. I’m listening, listening, listening…
And my heart is already stirring, Lord. I’m feeling something deep and beautiful in the ashes of all the pain… God, my heart is beginning to revive again. All these people—all their stories! My heart is full of the pain I see here in Thailand. I see all the dysfunction, all the sexism, all the horrible stories of exploitation. But despite all odds. these people I’m meeting are all growing, thriving, healing. They are looking forward. They have a future and a hope. It’s so beautiful. Everyone I’ve met is so beautiful! I can’t even fathom it. People are amazing.
God: People are amazing. This is the joy of the Spirit you feel—this deep joy and love I have for people. I see every single person. I see the heartache, the pain, and I see the healing journey they’re on. People are beautiful. I find such a great joy in walking them through the brokenness, the pain, the healing.
Me: But there’s also the other side of people, too, Lord. I see the abuse, the violence, and injustice. It makes me sick to my stomach. Why can people be horrible to other people? Why do some choose to oppress others? Why can men be so hateful?
Lord, I’m starting to feel triggered by everything. I feel all the pain of men surfacing in my heart. I keep thinking of Becca. Why did her husband feel the need to abuse her? Why was I so attracted to abuse? Why do I have such a hard time with unhealthy patterns in my own life? Everything is getting triggered right now. So many memories. I’m feeling a little overwhelmed. Please give me strength, strength to see the light in the darkness…
God: See these girls at Home of New Beginnings? You understand the struggle they face. The struggle to find worth, to find value, to accept love once the whole concept of love & men has been crushed. Once a woman is treated a certain way, it’s so hard to ever find value ever again. Once she’s on a path toward abuse, it’s so hard to turn it around.
Me: Oh Lord, I know those feelings. How deeply I understand the fight to rid myself of self-destructive, abusive tendencies. These women I’m meeting are so beautiful. I hope they find their worth. I hope they can find healing. I hope they know how loved they are!
But Lord, I’m feeling I’m sick again. All my stupid health problems! I’m so tired in every way. I need to rest. I feel like such a failure. Why did I even come on this trip? I’m weak and stupid and incompetent. I just fail, fail, fail again and again… And I’m broken. I’m just so, so broken. I wish I was anyone but me. I wish I was someone so completely different than who I am. I wish I was—
God: Stop there for a minute. Didn’t you just see how much I love people? Didn’t I just give you a glimpse of My heart?
Me: Yes, and it’s so amazingly beautiful.
God: You’re a person, too.
Me: But I don’t count.
God: Why don’t you count?
Me: Because I’ve never counted. I’ve always been the one rejected, the one people laughed at and excluded. Not until I met Becca and our group of friends in high school. She showed me love. But Lord, that was the last time I felt loved for being completely me. And then, almost ten years ago, the deep heartbreak happened. And then pain after pain after pain. I’ve never had a healthy love story. I’m so broken. I’ve made so many mistakes over the last ten years. Think about all the mistakes I’ve made… I’m so messed up. Sometimes, I just hate myself.
God: Stop it. These words are hurting you, and these words are hurting Me. Don’t you see the pain you’re causing—the damage you do to yourself when you say things like that? You are loved. I love you. I’ve been trying to tell you that over and over throughout these ten years. Why will you not listen?
Me: Because I’m not worthy of love. I don’t deserve love. I don’t deserve to be treated well. I’m messed up.
God: You are worthy of love. You are my child. You’ve got to accept love in your life. Life is about giving and receiving love. Love is all that matters in the end. No knowledge, no acts of faith, no eloquence… NOTHING matters without love.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
[1 Corinthians 13:1-3]
Me: I know all this, God. It’s just—love is so painful, God. I used to love. I used to love so freely and deeply. I just loved people. But there was so much pain that came with it. All the hurt and betrayal. All the rejection, both in relationships and friendship. And then, like the nail in the coffin, my Kindred Spirit I loved so deeply died. She was driven to death in an abusive Christian community that had turned into a cult. I trusted her husband so much. How does one ever recover from such betrayal? I just loved and loved and loved…and all that came of it is pain.
So I’ve just stopped loving. It’s safer to not love. It’s safer to not let people in.
God: You always had a huge heart, Teryn. It’s something I truly love about you. It’s full of a genuine, sincere, self-sacrificial love for others. You poured everything in you into being there for others. You’re a giver. You gave, gave, gave. But you used to find your worth in giving. You wanted so badly to please people, to make them love you back. That can be dangerous. Also, you’ve never been good at receiving love. And that’s such a huge part of love, too. Giving and receiving. You’ve never been very good at discerning who you should pour your heart into—who will love you back and invest equally in relationship. Because so many will take. So many use sincere love to their advantage. That’s where abusers come from. They use love, trust, loyalty—all those good and beautiful things—to their advantage.
Everyone is broken. But it’s what you do with the brokenness that matters. You see, every single human makes a choice in life. They choose the path of light—to heal and use their pain to spur them on to love, service, justice, meaning. Or they choose the path of darkness—the path of violence, cynicism, hatred, manipulation, abuse. The darkness is there because people choose to live in the darkness. They are consumed by their own pain. They hate the light because they can’t face themselves honestly. So they desire power, money, sex, worship…whatever it is—to fix the aching holes in their hearts.
Me: As I’ve walked the red-light districts, I can see that, God. There is so much emptiness, so much deadness, in people’s eyes. You can see their emptiness. You can see their pain—both the prostitutes, the johns, everyone. Their eyes are so empty. It reminds me of the quote by Oswald Chambers:
“There is only one Being Who can satisfy the last aching abyss of the human heart, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.”
God: Everyone is born with an aching abyss in his or her heart. What one chooses to do to fill that aching abyss is what determines the quality of that life: Whether they will mistreat and misuse others, or whether they will find meaning and fulfillment and love others.
And you have to learn to discern between those who are on the journey towards love and healing, and those who are on the journey towards hatred and self-destruction. So far, you’ve stumbled upon the ones who have the aching abyss and hurt others in their attempt to quench the pain. You have to be attracted to those who are using the ache they feel to love others, fight for justice. You have to find the ones that are aching for Beauty in this world.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.
You’ve learned those lessons the hard way, over the past few years. You’ve learned that you must let Me fill that aching abyss in your heart. Your love must spring from the Source of Love—Me. You must let your worth come solely from Me. Only then can you have the wisdom and discernment to pour out your great, big heart to others. You must accept love in your own life, because then you will truly realize your own value. Just like these ladyboys and women in Thailand—they’re on the same journey. You must heal, grow, thrive by accepting that I love you, by letting others truly love you, by seeing what True Love looks like when practiced in community.
Me: I have so far to go. All I see in me is my brokenness. That’s all I see, Lord, when I look at myself.
God: You’re still such a perfectionist, after all these years! You still struggle with grace. You still struggle with self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. You’ve forgiven so many people recently—people who truly wounded you. Why don’t you extend the same forgiveness to yourself? Forgive yourself. Extend grace to yourself.
I don’t see the mistakes you’ve made. I see your heart. I see the love—the sincere, genuine love you have deep down inside. I see the way you fight for people. I see your loyalty. I see your creativity. I see all the feeling and passion you have inside you. These things make me overjoyed. You being you is absolutely amazing to watch. I love seeing humans living out who I created them to be. I love seeing all the lovely, amazing ways humans flourish when they embrace themselves. After all, I created each one of you to reflect something unique and beautiful.
For You created my inmost being;
You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
How precious to me are Your thoughts,God!
How vast is the sum of them!
[Psalm 139:13-14, 17]
Accept My love. Embrace it. You are you for a reason. You have walked through specific pains and struggles for a reason, and I will redeem all your suffering. I will make good out of your life.
We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.
Me: I’m trying, Lord. I’m trying. Some of this is just because I feel so much sadness, Lord. Not many people my age have seen the kind of pain I’ve seen. Not everyone has struggled with abusive mentalities. Not everyone has had a Kindred Spirit who was allegedly murdered in a cult. Sometimes, I feel so different than normal society. So alone. I feel like I’m wrestling with things no one else my age is wrestling with.
God: That makes you understand broken, hurting people on a level not many do. Look at all these people you’ve met in Thailand—the ladyboys at Dton Naam and the women at Beginnings. They’ve been through so much pain! When you’ve gone through so much suffering, it does make you feel like you could never be part of the “normal” world again. That’s why community and love are so important. That’s why these organizations that come and walk alongside broken people are so vital. Because wounded people will never fully heal unless they have a community of love walking the healing journey with them. The same goes for you.
Me: But I don’t want to need people, Lord. I don’t want to let them in. Becca was in community (the cult). It destroyed her. I don’t want to be in community if it costs me my freedom. I’d rather be alone forever, Lord. I’d rather be single. I’d rather just be alone.
God: Part of accepting My love is accepting love from others. Part of loving Me is loving others. The way you handle relationships is the link to how you handle Me. You can’t love Me without loving people. You can’t accept My love without accepting other’s love. It’s all so connected. I’ve made it this way for a reason. Relationship is part of the trinity. Relationship, fellowship, community—that’s the very essence of Love. Let Me in. And let people in.
Me: Becca hadn’t truly accepted love in her life. She hadn’t ever realized the deep worth and beauty she had. She was a giver, too. She put her identity in giving everything away to others. We were so similar. And she was destroyed through abuse. And somehow, I’m struggling towards healing. I just—I just can’t understand why, Lord. Why is she gone and I’m still here? Why do some victims get rescued during their time on earth, and some don’t? I’ve walked the red-light districts. I see the pain. I’ve heard the stories—both of triumph and loss. For every person saved from sexual exploitation, there are so many others still in slavery. For every person saved, there are those NOT saved.
Why do some die, and some live?
Why am I alive, and my Kindred Spirit isn’t?
Why are the former prostitutes I met here in Thailand—why are they safe now, and others aren’t?
Why is justice so seemingly random?
God: That isn’t a question I can answer fully and completely on this earth. I’m sorry that there are more questions than answers. Whys are often never answered on this side of eternity. Human justice is so fleeting because humans so often live in the darkness. They choose a life of oppression, money, power. They choose to inflict pain on others.
I see all the pain. I walk through the darkness. You feel my heart. You feel the pain in m My heart over sexual exploitation, over Becca, over pain and injustice—that’s My heart, too. I see all. I know all. And I’m working, always working to expose injustice wherever I find it. I’m working to raise more and more people to join the cause of fighting for the weak, the hurting, the oppressed. If only they would truly listen to Me, to My Spirit. Humans are part of this Story—they are, in fact, the only solution. Humans blame Me for evil when they could be actively fighting against it. But do many fight? Unfortunately, no. Many of them are too afraid to truly think, to truly feel, to truly engage with this world. Humans must choose Beauty over pain, light over darkness. You all have a part to play in this.
That’s true Christianity. That’s true love—that despite all odds, you will go and fight for what’s right, for the least of these, for the broken and outcasts. Jesus walked this earth for that reason. He loved. He emptied Himself sacrificially of all glory, He came to love among you. He fought for truth, love, healing. He fought to bring about the Story of redemption. He suffered. Oh, We know the meaning of suffering. We know all the pain the world can inflict. But We suffered out of love. Part of truly loving will always bring an amount of pain—but it’s worth it. Love is the most powerful force on this planet. Love is what changes the world.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
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 likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
He humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
[Philippians 2: 3-8]
Me: I’ve seen Jesus here—reflected in all of the people I’ve met in Thailand. I see Jesus as He walks among the least of these, among the social outcasts, among the broken, fighting for the oppressed. It is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve seen LOVE in its purest form.
It’s all about love, isn’t it? The whole thing—all of life is about love. It’s about giving and receiving love. It’s about finding the joy, hope, love—despite suffering and questions and pain. It’s about making the choice to fight the darkness of others who succumb to their own pain and brokenness. It’s about loving who I am—who You created me to be—and loving You, loving myself, loving others. It’s about using all of who I am, fully alive, to fight for healing for others. My healing is connected to loving, healing others.
“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousnesswill go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and He will say: Here am I.”
God, You made me to LOVE and to be LOVED. You made me to be fully alive, to fight injustice wherever I see it, to find the Beauty despite all odds. And when I deny that, I live a half-hearted, stone-cold, joyless existence.
To love is worth it. To be loved is worth it.
God: You’re catching onto the only answer about life you’ll get this side of heaven. Life is about love.
God is love.
[1 John 4:8]
Me: I think my heart is opening. It’s brimming. I see everyone, and I want to love them. I want to fight for them. Oh Lord, people are indeed beautiful. And it’s painful to feel all of this, and it’s painful to walk the path of healing…
But Becca would want it, Lord. I’ve sensed her joy, as I’ve walked among the hurting and used my writing to fight against injustice. I’ve felt her joy as I’ve been with a band of adventurers (we would’ve called them that) and helped heal others. That was her heart, Lord. It was always her deepest wish to go on adventures, live a meaningful life, fight for others. It was always her desire to love. I’ve felt so close to her here, Lord. It’s strange, but I feel as if she’ll always be part of me. I love her so much. She taught me so much. To love her and have her friendship was worth it, because of the seeds she placed in my heart.
Yes, love is painful. Love always ends in loss. But the pain I feel is worth the price of love. Becca would want me to live in love, as she demonstrated so beautifully in her life. She’d want me to give and accept love—to be wise and discerning, but to LOVE.
Teach me how to love, Lord.
God: I told you this trip was a gift.
You’re blooming, and I can see it. You’re becoming more you than you’ve ever been. A you that loves with all the wisdom and discernment that pain brings. A you that will fight for justice and stand up for others. A you that sees the beauty in the smallest of things. A you that will someday find a man who will see the world as you do, and who will embrace all the beauty you have to give. A you that will live a life of adventure, passion, creativity, justice. A life of Beauty.
I’m re-writing the Story of your heart, Teryn. It’s been painful—and it will be painful, because the healing process is painful. You still have a journey to walk. But it’s going to be such a beautiful Story of redemption. It’s going to be so much better than anything you would’ve written on your own.
All because I love you.
Me: I love You, too, Lord. I love You, I really do, and all my life will be spent in pursuit of You, Your love, Your will for my life. All of my life is caught up in Your love. Oh Lord, thank You for Your love. Thank You for everything—all the suffering and pain, all the beauty and joy. Thank You for walking with me these last ten years through all my brokenness, my questions, my darkness…and leading me towards a future with hope.
I will forget the past. I will find freedom.
I will look forward.
I choose to love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
[1 Corinthians 13:4-8]
You taught me the courage of stars before you left.
How light carries on endlessly, even after death.
With shortness of breath, you explained the infinite.
How rare and beautiful it is to even exist.
~”Saturn” by Sleeping at Last
This post is dedicated to my Kindred Spirit.