The Once Hopeless and Now Grateful Onion Peeler

I was raised in a rural community, and our house was on what used to be a long dirt road. It was paved with asphalt when I was a teenager, and our neighbor’s son must have thought it belonged only to him. Young and sometimes very foolish, Frankie would speed down that paved road on late Saturday nights like a crazy person, and there was no way he would have been able to safely stop for anything in his view. As we ran for our lives down that newly paved road in the dead of night, oddly enough that’s what was on my mind. Not the fury of rage that was chasing us, not the abuse we’d spent the entire night trying to fend off and would spend the early morning trying to conceal. My concern was to motivate my mother and sisters to push through exhaustion, to keep running so we’d be nowhere on the road if Frankie came through. That’s how anesthetized I had become to our weekend traumas.

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I don’t sleep well at night. I sleep like a baby during daytime hours, but nights, forget about it. Growing up, my nights were often filled with terror…unspeakable terror, and I was never not aware of it. My constant state of being was a cross between nervousness, nausea, and numbness. No one outside the walls of our home suspected a thing. My siblings and I were always impeccably dressed, and very well behaved. We were bred to be keepers of the secret—to keep our mouths closed about family business. We were quite good at it.

I didn’t know that I had a right to speak about my pain or to hope that I would be free from it. The heaviness was crushing me, and my soul, oh my soul was tired. But I couldn’t give it a name. I was too young to be tired, my grandmother would say, and I was too old to cry. When I did cry, no one tended to my tears, and I truly had no expectation that they would.

I heard someone say that they couldn’t face another day in the shape they were in. I didn’t have a day to spare. I was the epitome of weary, wounded, and sad. I sought the face of Jesus at a point where I couldn’t face one more minute of life as I had known it. When I gave my life to him totally and completely, the light came on, and I knew in that moment I was changed. Many people have made that statement, but I don’t believe one can do so as  veraciously as someone that understands the depth of how ravaging fear can be on the human soul.

Jesus Christ said in Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT), “28 Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” I learned this passage in Sunday School. For years, it cascaded about my shoulders like a warm shawl, but I didn’t wrap myself in it. That took some time.

Jesus said come, rest, then take. This was not an instantaneous process, and most of us are far too impatient to see the beauty of it unfold. I came and rested. It was glorious. Then came the work.

Like an onion, I had layers; most of us do. The first is peeled lovingly by our blessed Lord, and there are tears of joy. We experience his freedom, but then we realize that there is so much more. There are more layers to peel, and deeper wounds to heal.

All these years later, I’m still peeling back layers, and still crying tears of joy and sometimes sorrow as I do, but I realize that this surrendering work in Christ is vital to life. Our precious Savior does not force his way into our hearts. Peeling away the layers of hurt and pain is part of our life’s work. Through it we learn how deep Jesus will go to heal us.

I’m very aware of how the abuse I suffered has affected me. It’s given me survival skills that no longer serve me well, but often hinder me. It’s given me an almost obsessive need for peace, and it has also allowed me a front row view of my own life as I’ve transformed from hopeless to grateful. What I received from God through the Lord Jesus Christ was a drenching that completely deluged my pitifulness. The memory of it so impacts me today that I find joy in being an onion peeler. The deeper I go into my wounded self, the deeper I feel his unyielding, unconditional love. ■

Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

“The Once Hopeless and Now Grateful Onion Peeler” written for Copyright ©2020. All rights reserved. All done to the glory of God through Jesus Christ, our Lord!

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