Seven and a half years ago, I was sitting in a science class with my friends, watching time tick by too slowly as it always did. The teacher was shouting at the class, insulting our intellect and dismissing us as unruly yobs with no future. A few days previously a friend of mine had given me a craft knife to look after. I was so angry at this teacher, that without thinking, I picked up the knife and in my frustration I carved a large star sign into my left arm. Blood ran everywhere …and I felt GOOD. Relieved. Appeased. Justified.
That was the beginning of 7 years of self-injury. As time went on, ‘cutting’ became my secret friend. I could forget all the pain on the inside if I concentrated on causing pain on the outside. I pretended it didn’t matter if people used and abused me, because no-one could hurt me as much as I could hurt myself. And I truly believed that I deserved to be cut. So much so that, if somebody wasn’t hurting me, I didn’t feel that my existence was justified, so I hurt myself to appease my conscience – my guilt at leading a pain-free life.
I was acutely aware of my sinful nature, and of the wages of sin….death. My self-harm was a desperate plea to a God I didn’t know: “I know I deserve to die for my sins. Look at my scars! I acknowledge my sin, but I don’t want to die!” I thought if I hurt myself enough I could justify not paying the full price for my sins. I justified my life by my pain. And if I wasn’t in pain I felt SO ashamed …like everyone knew I was scamming the system …that I didn’t deserve to be alive.
And then I met Jesus. The week that I gave my life to Christ, my newly discovered Daddy made his little girl a promise: to set me free and to heal my scars. But, Lord, where does a little girl begin?? As a young Christian I struggled not to cut …a daily battle….because surely “Christians are joyful”? I felt I was letting down the Church, myself and Jesus if I gave way to temptation, but I knew no other way to cope with my feelings. I had been cutting for YEARS. So many wonderful people has told me that I was “justified by the blood of Jesus”, but I just could not understand what that meant. I NEEDED to see blood leave my body to know that I was cutting out all the sin, the sadness, the anger, the hatred, the frustration. I cried out to God every day to be set free. Even when I went for several months without cutting, the daily torment and temptation was a cruel and constant reminder of the only coping mechanism I knew. However, I stood on God’s promise, and refused to accept the lies that the Devil whispered to me. GOD WOULD SET ME FREE!!!
Then I began reading the Book of God by Walter Wangerin: the story of the bible told in novel form. Late one night I reached the part of the crucifixion. My love for Jesus had grown so strong, and the book was written with such tenderness that I had begun to feel as though I had walked right there with Jesus and his disciples. So when it came to the crucifixion of Jesus – MY Jesus – my heart was wrenched apart. The pain, humiliation and suffering he went through was described so powerfully. It wasn’t sensationalised, it wasn’t glamorously gruesome …it was just really, really REAL. I could hardly bear to read on. MY JESUS! How could this happen to my Jesus? I was wracked with sobbing, reading through tears about the most horrendous suffering of the most wonderful, precious person that had ever lived. “WHY?” I cried out to God. “WHY?” “How could You let this happen? To your Son?!” And the Lord spoke two, gentle words to me. Two words changed my life. “ONLY ONCE.” My Jesus shed His blood in my place.
Suddenly I understood. Every reason for cutting myself that I had held on to, was every reason that Jesus bled and died. I WAS justified, by the blood of a pure and perfect sacrifice. No wonder I had never felt satisfied. No cut was ever deep enough or ever bled enough. I had to keep coming back, like the priests of the Old Testament, to offer a sacrifice that would never be sufficient to atone for my sin. Which is why Jesus came. To offer the perfect sacrifice. To stand in my place, and suffer my shame, and die for my sin. So that I might clothe myself in righteousness, and never bleed again. And now? I understand that the grace of God covers me. The love of God surrounds me. The righteousness of God clothes me. The blood of Jesus justifies me. That God is so great, so gracious, so amazing, that he is satisfied to look upon His Son, and forgive His daughter.