April 3, 2014
GRACE KNOWS I AM SENDING THIS TO YOU. SHE READ IT FIRST.
Dot Swoosh. That’s all a semicolon is. But it’s really important. The comma is like a yield. You slow down a little, think about going forward, and go. The period is like a stop sign. Stop all the way. The semicolon is like the rolling stop at the stop light; slow down almost all the way without stopping and hope the officer doesn’t notice when you go.
April 16 is Semicolon Day. I will be wearing a Sharpie-drawn Semicolon on my wrist in honor of the semicolon people. The self harmers. The dear ones who thought about stopping,
One of my Sistas cried to me one day that she had learned the night before that her teen was cutting herself. I thought about Grace and realized that Grace can be so secretive as well, but I was so relieved because I was certain she wasn’t doing it. I prayed and prayed for my Sista’s family for days. Then out of the blue, I was alerted that Grace was keeping a secret. Long story, but Grace had posted a video online, under an alias, describing her own self harm. As Paul and I watched it, my first thought was that Grace was making it up. I’m embarrassed that I didn’t believe her. I’m gullible enough to believe ridiculous things about people, but I thought Grace was lying. Please understand that hearing Grace describe cutting herself on video was so completely out of character for Grace, that it just didn’t make any sense. Grace handles everything. She gets it all done. Nothing rattles her. It was incongruent with everything I knew about Grace. To assume Grace was making something up and trying to get lots of people to “like” her video and alias made more sense than to believe Grace would hurt herself. But she proved me wrong. She showed us her hips and they were covered with dozens of red, raised scars. I sat slack-jawed when she showed us pictures of blood running down her legs. Speechless staring at her secret stash of weapons. Razor blades. Pins. Broken glass. X-acto knives. Scissors.
I think Grace has planted the worst visions in my mind. My Lauren likes to think that her accident when she was 3 is the worst thing ever survived by anyone. Ever. (She’d be devastated to learn otherwise.) But it was an accident. There often can be a gloss over accidents. “I didn’t mean for it to happen. It just happened.” Doesn’t make the trauma less traumatic or the mourning any less mournful. Maybe in some cases there can be a relief that it wasn’t intentional. But there is a wretched, embarrassing stench over self harm. “I meant to.”
For several months before, Grace had been using a medication for her skin. This med can have the side effect of depression and even self harm. So before she started the med, the doctor talked to us at length about monitoring Grace’s moods and being diligent to notice subtle changes. Every month before getting the Rx filled, the doctor would ask me if I’d noticed anything out of the ordinary. I was purposely looking for changes. Nothing. Paul was a counselor trained to see these things. Nothing. If we hadn’t learned what was going on, would it have gotten worse too quickly? Were we going to find her dead? But that’s what happens sometimes. Do you hear me, Sistas? That’s what happens. Full stop. Dead. Period.
She’s doing better. Sometimes. Sometimes not. She is in counseling and is learning how to talk with us about what she is feeling. But I noticed something yesterday. A word. Carved into her skin. She didn’t mean for me to see it. It’s more than a word. It’s a label. But it doesn’t fit her. Even if it did, though, it should never be carved into her skin. I wondered why would Grace wear a label. But I do the same thing. I gave up guilt for lent. I realized some time ago that I wear guilt like it belongs to me. If you don’t want to wear your guilt, give it to me. It might not fit, but I can cinch it at the waist, or just leave it unbuttoned, or curl up my toes and cram them in. I’ll make it fit. What label are you wearing? Fat. Wasted. Stupid. Finished. Judge. Wrong. Ugly.
So I noticed Grace’s label yesterday at noon, then listened to Anne teach about the names of Jesus last night at church. Labels. We learned about I Am. The Yahweh. The personal name for God. But in John 8:58, Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” That’s a label. After my class, I texted Grace to find out if her class was finished. I told her to come down when she was done. Her response when I asked if she was done…”I am.” Seriously!
What if she had “I Am” carved on her side? Please don’t Grace! But wouldn’t that label fit better? It amazes me that the I Am has already done what we don’t need to do. He redeems Grace’s label carved into her side. “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands,”(Isaiah 49:16 ESV). Scars redeem scars! And the blood running down her tender legs is redeemed as well with Jesus’ own blood-red letter words in Matthew 26:27-28 “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.'” Blood redeems blood.
So on April 16, look for me with a semicolon on my wrist for so many who are struggling. There’s too many of them. And I want them to just keep rolling.