Maybe redemption looks like a poem, and maybe hope looks like reading it every single day.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

“So are you going to write anything with a happy ending this semester?”

It was the second day of Poetry 386. The professor was walking around the room passing out sheets of paper, talking to some students, and he had turned in his chair to look at me, a smug smile on his face.

We had met in Creative Writing 101 the first semester of my sophomore year. When the teacher had told us to pair up to read each other’s work, we turned to each other. He read about all of my broken things, and I read all about his adventures as a boy living in Europe. He was my reading partner all the way through my second semester junior year. And he was ready to read something hopeful.

So I wrote him a poem: “For the British Boy With Blue Eyes Who Thinks I Only Know How To Write About Grey Things.”

I don’t think he ever read it. But it was the first poem I turned in that semester, and I sure was proud of myself.

But I remember that he was late the third day of class. He came in while the professor was talking and slipped into his seat beside me. After he stripped his coat off, he tapped my shoulder with a piece of folded up paper.

“This is for you,” he said, handing me the paper. It had my name on it.

I opened it up and red the title: “Roses.”

My jaw dropped open, and I swung my head to gawk at him, my cheeks red.

You read my blog?!” 

He laughed, “I hate to say that I’m actually not an avid reader of it, but I remember everyone on twitter freaking out about this poem you wrote about a Beast and Beauty. I thought it was very good. Just read it!”

[In case you forget the original version of the poem, here it is:

“Petals”

I fell in love with
a man
with no heart–
a beast,
backwards:
trapped in his human form.
I gawked,
“Enchanted!”
while he smiled,
“Cursed.”

At eighteen,
I gave him my heart:
my slow march down the aisle,
my first child,
the celebration of my first promotion,
the purchase of my first house,
the pillow next to me at night,
my “over the hill” party,
the old rocking chair next to mine–
all just red rose petals that fell
while I sang to the chorus of
“Something There That Wasn’t There Before,”
and he led the choir.

But he had no heart
to swoon over the tune.
So at nineteen,
he took mine,
ate it whole;
broke his curse,
and then I could see him:
the beast,
heartless,
pretending to be a man. ]

“Petals” is brutal but honest; “Roses” is honest and beautiful.

“Roses”

I fell in love with
a girl
with the biggest heart-
an angel, 
lost:
trapped on earth.
I gawked, 
“Enchanted!”
she smiled, 
“Deliberating.”

At twenty-one, 
I stole her heart;
marched her down the aisle,
swooned over our first child,
celebrated her first promotion,
found us a home together,
fluffed her pillow next to mine at night,
threw her every party I could afford,
just for her to end up in the old rocking chair next to mine–
it was worth every red rose I ever bought her
and while I sang to the chorus of
“Love is Support, Love is Sacrifice,”
she never listened. 

But she had never given me her whole heart,
I knew I never deserved it.
So at nineteen, 
she gave me what she needed to,
put on the show I wanted to see;
cast a spell on me, 
and let me love her;
“the angel,”
lost on earth, 
pretending to be a girl.

That day I sat through the longest Poetry 386 class of my life.

Who was the poem about?

Why had he rewritten mine? Did he not like the original?

Why did he feel the need to give it to me?

When class was over, we walked down the stairs together.

“Was everything you wrote true?” I had asked him.

“No, no,” he explained. “I just want you to know that not everyone is bad.”

Today, the poem is taped to my mirror frame. To this day, I read through it before I leave my house every morning.

I don’t think he knows how much it means to me. Because you see, the story I wrote came from a place of heart ache and brokenness and bitterness. And although it may have been true– although it may have felt good to write it and get the words out of my heart– he saw more than just the words. He saw past my sad endings. And he re-made it.

He took something that was broken, and he turned it into a reminder: not everyone is bad. Not everyone is going to betray you or break your heart or leave. People are beautiful and worth it. 

He dressed the world up in hope. 

And so now I’m sharing this hope he gave me with you.

Let me tell you, being hopeful and not being swallowed up in disappointment is still not always my go-to reaction. Sometimes bitterness is easier than understanding, but it’s always the more paralyzing, the more exhausting.

And maybe you’ve got friends who blow you off; maybe you drive into town and see someone who used to sleep at your house every weekend, and now you don’t even speak to each other in public; maybe you met new people and thought, “This– this is going to work,” only to sit alone on a Saturday night asking God what exactly it is He’s trying to teach you about the art of losing people; maybe you are negative and snappy because you are just so tired– tired of being wrong.

Still. There’s hope.

And maybe it looks like reading a poem every day to remind yourself.

But there is hope.

Not all people are bad. And they are worth it. Always.

Secrets, pt. 1

I’ve got secrets that look like wandering hands in a crowded room (full of friends) and not being able to fight him off.

I’ve got secrets that look like games of hide and seek gone wrong in the woods when bigger arms held me still and used me like a puppet.

I’ve got secrets that look like curiosity experiments I tried to say no to only to be ignored and then finally told “I haven’t liked you this whole time.”

I’ve got secrets that look like boys walking me down an aisle to pray with me at an alter because they sat at computer screens late at night and then only ever just wanted to sit in a basement and kiss me.

I’ve got secrets that look like kicking and pushing after being pinned down the second I was gotten alone and then having to hold his hand why he prayed and asked God to forgive him and help him.

I’ve got secrets that look like kisses and kisses and kisses in an unlit room because I was kissable but not dateable.

And then I’m 20 years old and a preacher man asks me and 12 other college students where we got our ideas about love and sex from.
“Church boys who watched too much porn,” I thought, but sat silent.
Because we don’t talk about those kind of things.
Besides, who wants to be the girl who shines a light on all the things she was robbed of when one of the boys who stole from her is sitting at another table across the room talking about his fiancé and the ministry school he was just accepted at?

Now boys kiss girls but won’t speak to them in the church hallways.
Now girls jump over lines their 12 year old hearts set up as boundaries so that the don’t get called “boring.”
And no one says anything because we are conditioned to believe that this is normal.
But it’s not normal.

And I didn’t realize how much these secrets shaped my life and affected my relationships until I was confused when a boy didn’t kiss me on the first date. Or the second. Or the third.

Because our bodies are for sharing and are hearts can be given to a doctor we pay hourly to talk to us. Right? And pushing someone too far is just a “personal temptation someone struggles with,” and forgiveness is just so easy to ask for every Sunday.

I don’t want to get used to being kissed and never spoken to.
I don’t want to hear one more girl say “He said I was boring and left when I said no.”

You are more than your body.
You are more than someone’s guilt, someone’s secret, someone’s sin that keeps them slipping up.

Yeah, I’ve got secrets.

And I don’t want to sit on a silent normalcy society has accepted anymore.

Where’d I learn about love and sex from?
Church boys.

And Jesus is still reconditioning me.

Drop the Mic.

It was a college town. It looks like four white walls of an attic and a boy singing about what it could look like when broken things finally make sense.

“Just wait, just wait!” He said, his right foot pressing on a black petal. His teeth bit down on a black guitar pick while his fingers strummed a tune that hurt and sounded hopeful.

And there it is: I’m a sucker for boys with tattoos who smoke cigarettes and sing about why they can’t stop.

He likes to build things and take personality tests and talks about all the things he wants for his future daughter. And Jesus. He talks about Jesus and all the ink marks on his body that are lessons learned; he wants to grow a ministry that reaches out much farther than just the back doors of a church building.

It was a college town, and it looks like the grey interior of a jeep and his hand in mine, while Canton looks like trying to figure out what happened in the hour and a half drive made between the goodnight kisses that wouldn’t stop and the silence that showed up the next morning. It was the city I barely knew and the boy I knew even less about.

But I did know him.

Hadn’t I seen parts of him in the high school kids who had walked into the coffee shop all those nights when I was seventeen when a friend of mine had started leading a Bible study at the town hall across the street? Their chacos strapped on tight and their Bibles and notebooks pulled close against their chests as they ordered black coffee.

Hadn’t I seen parts of him in the prom queen who had gone to Costa Rica for a year to serve the Lord and the community?

Hadn’t I even seen the concept of him in the kids who had been picked on in high school yet now found acceptance during their college years thanks to hipsterdom? They had always been quirky and creative and different, and now everyone is trying to be just that.

Spirituality has become a culture.

We have taken this pure and beautiful idea of a God coming down to blamelessly die a most horrific death for those who condemned Him only to arise out of that death to give those same people power and new life— we have turned this idea into a means of merely getting us ahead in our social lives.

Where I come from, the coolest kid isn’t the football star or the baseball pitcher or the cheerleading captain or even the cute guy with the fast car; the coolest kid is the one who loves Jesus the loudest. We are told to be in the world, not of it; to love the people in it, but not look like those we love. Instead, we’ve ended up just trying to one up each other. Christianity has become a trend just as much as Sperry shoes were, and we are all trying to be the one who wears it best.

And we look good.

I’ve met boys who stand on a stage, raise their hands, sing at the top of their lungs to Jesus, and make girls fall in love with them just so that they can tell them they “don’t really know what they want.” I’ve met girls who lead Bible studies and make boys fall in love with their hearts that bleed for mission just to cheat on their boyfriends and not tell anyone about it. And if we’re really going to drop the mic on this new idea that Jesus is our way to fame, then I won’t deny that I know how to play this game well, too. I, too, have been the Bible verse tweeter with monsters in her closet, and let me tell you: it is a hard game to play. 

So now my girl friends date boys who don’t love Jesus. They stretch their values and brag on these men that won’t lead them down the aisle to Christ but yet will claim them and cook dinner for them; they go to church without the man who knows nothing about loving them like Christ loves the church yet step up to the plate and lets them know that they are wanted; they settle for “He’s a good guy” in place of “He loves the Lord and loves me” because for some reason it has become easy to love the Lord and hard to love each other.

We think that since the Bible does not tell us “Thou shall not play games with girls,” it isn’t a sin. We are convicted when we drink, experiment with drugs, have premarital sex, lie– but where is the conviction in how we handle each others’ hearts in relationships? In the midst of trying to look like we mean it, we see how much we do not look like Jesus. 

So let’s take a step down from our stages and away from the mic; let’s fly back from the foreign countries and get off Twitter; let’s reach a little deeper into this lifestyle we use to feel loved and start loving others more than ourselves; let’s be more than hand-raisers and singers and preachers and bible study leaders; let’s be used by Him and stop using Him.

Loving Jesus isn’t supposed to make you look cool; loving Jesus is supposed to make you an outcast.