In my mid-teens, I wrote the following poem:
I locked my heart in a tin box
And threw away the key.
I ran from all like the fox,
But someday it will return to me.
Though I lost my tin box in my flight,
It returned to me to my surprise.
But alas, where is the key?
Without it, there is no hope for me.
So I must ask: Who has my key?
Would you please return it to me?
Guess who had the key?
When I look through the poetry I wrote in my teens, the ones not dedicated to Jesus, or not overtly about difficulties at school or home, were all about my imaginary boyfriend—or rather my hoped-for future husband–or crying after my imaginary ex-boyfriend had imaginarily beat me or otherwise broken my heart.
Yep, I was that kind of teenage girl once. This one was straight up a poetic confession about my defense mechanisms, hyper vigilance, on guard, emotionally withdrawn—in short, I was often too busy protecting myself from pain to let anyone in to love me, either. I had a lot of issues with going numb, shutting down, just going through the motions of life, only remembering what I needed to remember to function and survive at the time. It left most of my childhood a huge blank today with few memories retained. I fled into books and story worlds, both those others wrote and stuff I wrote—and I can remember the paracosms I created fairly well with a little effort.
As implied by the second stanza, to my surprise, God managed to reach me, to connect with a locked-up heart, teach me to trust the Lord and let in my Father God’s spirit, and submit to the long, slow, painful healing process. It began with an awareness of the dangers of my state and a desire for healing and freedom.
As a young, emotionally abused teenager, I imagined what I needed for my heart to heal and for me to come out of my shell was the love of the right boy. I also wanted my first serious boyfriend to be the man I married and to marry the one God meant for me to marry. God only gave me the second. When I met my husband, Adam, in college, I was no longer hoping God would send me a mortal man to rescue me as the Church’s Bridegroom was the great love of my life healing, teaching, and spiritually growing me, and helping me connect with others. I still have issues but I’m far better than I used to be.
I’d forgotten all about this poem when, for our anniversary one year, Adam got me a cutesy card with a heart on it and an attached key meant to go on a charm bracelet. The words inside read, “you’ve had mine from the start.”
Nonetheless, my heart seized, though consciously I was more thinking “aw” at the intended meaning that I had the key to Adam’s heart in a romantic way.
Yet a young woman with a heart on fire for Jesus tore that key off the card and placed it on the cross necklace I’ve worn regularly ever since I received it as a gift from Adam back when we were engaged. In fact, I pried apart the loop that connects the cross to the chain (shoelace really) and added the key to the cross charm.
The jewelry that I wear around my neck, personally, has powerful symbolic meaning to me; what I wear over my heart is a testimony to—and a personal reminder—of what is supreme in my heart. God’s even convicted me for having added to the chain an angel charm that I’d dedicated to the children I’ve lost before they ever got to be more than a dream in my heart. (Note: my ‘angel babies’ aren’t literally angels.) God let that go for years; only when I was ready to surrender them to God was I asked to put that one away.
God had previously talked to me about idolizing my husband and dealt with that heart issue without the key charm ever being mentioned. When I got on a roll and went to remove everything I’d hung beside the cross, and saw how I’d even chained the key physically to the cross, I actually felt convicted to leave it and God began showing me what it really was meant to represent.
The answer to the prayer of the young girl I’d been. God owns my heart, so the key to my heart was God’s from the start. God thus had the key, and God had returned it to me as I’d so earnestly prayed. The symbolic one coming to me via my husband is gently humorous as when I wrote that I’d still been foolishly imaging a husband could ever do more than hand me powerful symbols that remind me of inward, unseen realities and be a vessel of God’s grace.
[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]God remembers what we’ve forgotten. He will restore the years the locusts have eaten. (See Joel 2:25-27)[/tweetthis]
I will restore to you the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent among you.
“You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I am the Lord your God and there is none else.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.