Walls Are Dangerous

an excerpt from The Unbecoming – my memoirs

I’ve built all kinds of walls in my life.  High, low, near, or far – I built them.  I could write behind the wall.  I could sing haunting melodies no hear had ever heard. I could lyricize, and dance, and create – all behind the wall.  I called it self-preservation.  In reality, it was a wall of self-separation.  It kept me from being known.  It barred intimacy.  It kept me from exploring.  It was as though I was locked up high in a tower. No one could see me nor hear me.  If I cried out for help, there’d be no one to come to my aid. If I would fall, no one would be there to catch me.  If I hurt, there was no one there to embrace me in the pain.

building by jennifer upton

Building by Jennifer Upton

Walls are dangerous.  They keep out the bad, but they also don’t let in the good.  I grew lonely, afraid, and less imaginative.   The little dreams I’d once had were fading fast.  I saw them close the door behind me never to be seen again – until I began to unravel in my thirties.  Memories began pushing back.  Old songs began to haunt me.  There were whispers – she was calling from a distance.  I didn’t know who “She” was, but her faint voice resound familiarly to me.  But condemning whispers began to call out in the distance, “unworthy, you’ll never be.”  I couldn’t shake them off.  They messed so much with my psyche.  I tried to ignore them by reconstructing what I thought the dream might be, but there was always this nagging sense that it was off.  I threw myself into my work, graduate school, and more professional studies.  I mistakenly believed these things would give me a sense of identity and meaning and purpose.  They didn’t.  I remember a co-worker even asking me, “why are you even here if you don’t like it?” I didn’t have a good answer.  I was in survival mode.  I was just breathing on the earth.  I wasn’t contributing.  In a way, I was dying.

God was still good to me.

In the wee hours of the night in my heart, a cry went out, “please, God don’t leave me here.  Help me.”

Photo Credit: Jennifer Upton

Photo Credit: Jennifer Upton

Instead, I got agitated.  Nothing I studied seemed to fit me.  The more I dove into my education career, the more it seemed to retaliate against me as though to say, “you don’t belong here anymore.”  I believed it, there was some grain of truth I just couldn’t comprehend, but I never stopped to investigate.  I tried everything I could to hold myself together.  I read the bible, books on coaching, books on careers, and even saw a counselor.  I was feeling utterly lost and directionless.

You cannot find meaning and purpose in a self-help book.  You cannot find it by cutting yourself off.  Not even a counselor can show you the way.  None of these things will work if you haven’t settled it with God first.  After all, we’re created in his image.  I was searching for who I was and didn’t even know it.  I wasn’t finding any answers.  I was looking in the wrong place – the wrong source.

When God speaks a thing, He fully intends for it to be.  There was a song He’d sung over my life.  My ears had been deaf for so long I couldn’t recognize His calming melody, but it played on.  He kept singing its refrain.  It swirled around my life.  Every now and again in the ebb and flow of life, it caught me be the arm, turning my gaze, arresting my heart: “You belong, come closer.  I love you, come closer.”  It stayed with me like the strong scent of good men’s cologne, and I was intoxicated by it.  A love song was coming nearer to me – hovering, it wouldn’t let me go.  Captivating harmonies swept under me and rendered me speechless – words of hope, belong, adoption, and freedom.  These were the very words my soul had been dying to hear.

Angel Statue by Jennifer Upton

Angel Statue by Jennifer Upton

God was still good to me. 

I began to unravel.  My defenses weakened. I stopped fighting God.  He wasn’t my enemy anymore.  I couldn’t get away from Him.  He wouldn’t leave me alone.  His pursuit was adamant.  His love was resolute.  I couldn’t escape  Him.  Every where I went, He was there.  He wouldn’t let me go.  Every where I turned, He was there in the shadows whispering, “come closer, I love you. Why do you hide from me? I’m not going to hurt you.”

In the unbecoming I see that I once thought so poorly of my God.  I made Him out to be a cruel monster believing He’d set me up for failure just for kicks.  I believed that I deserved He gave me every ugly wickedness.  I believed nothing good happened in my life because He wanted it that way.  Yes, I believed these lies, and I was a Christ follower.  I was deceived.  My mind and heart had been so twisted by lies.  God who is kind but a jealous God, would not leave me be.  He began my shattering.  Things began breaking all around me.  Where I once went for comfort, I found no satisfaction.  Where I once tried to hide, I found no solace.  Where I once went for rest, I found only disruption and chaos.  Where I was tried to be strong and independent, I found uncertainty and disillusionment.  The hammer fell that day I was told, “your services are no longer required.” I’d wrapped so much of my life into that job and my career overall.  I was trying desperately to be what I thought I should have been.  I wasn’t asking for permission to live.  I was just trying to make my life make sense.  It just wasn’t working.

He Pierces the Darkness

He Pierces the Darkness

There was no where else to turn.  There was no one else to whom I could turn.

God was still good to me.

I was broken.  I was in pieces.  I was muddled.  I was a mess.  I held the chards of my life in my shaking hands-trembling, and tears began to flow.  That day, in October 2012, began the journey of learning who I was made to really be.  Job loss isn’t the end of the world.  It is a beginning, an opportunity, and second chance to live out one’s desires and purpose.

My heart remembers this holy promise of old:

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart.  I wil be found by you, says the LORD(NKJV 1276).


NKJV Study Bible.  Radmacher, gen ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997.


4 thoughts on “Walls Are Dangerous

  1. Marvia, I have goosebumps all up and down, in reading your memoir here. I also want to weep, but I know the price you are paying to choose to let God “undo” you… to be wrecked, to “unbecome”. I have also stood in the rubble of my deconstructed faith, identity, and have watched my strong walls crumbled to pieces in the shaking.

    We have so much to be grateful for! For God is shaking the whole world soon, and we can already feel the tremors. It’s good we are CHOOSING to be shaken, to be changed, to be restored, to be redeemed…. because the shaking comes to all of us at one time or another. To choose it is to embrace it, even when it hurts so much you feel you might die.

    You’ve described my own heart, Marvia – it’s like you’ve peeked into my own soul and wrote the music to sing life into me. I so totally believe God sings over us!!!!! Oh yes, there is joy unspeakable and full of glory, even while standing in the rubble! Oh yes!

    Great writing, Marvia – can’t wait to read your memoir when it’s published!

    • Thank you Susan. I wrote the majority of it during the Camp NaNoWriMo – never thought I’d be able to get it done, but I did. Now comes the toughest part – editing – ZoiKeS! I’ll be like the little engine that could!

      It was hard to write, but I can tell you I had some major revelations in the writing process. It was almost therapeutic! God showed up and spoke in ways I never could have imagined. I’m sure I’ll be writing more, but not sure how or when. I really want to polish the one I just wrote as well as figure out how to get it out there for others to read. Thank you again for reading and encouraging me! So much appreciated!

  2. I remember quite vividly a time in my life where I experienced this unraveling and brokenness. At the time, I could not make sense of it at all, but in hindsight I realized how wonderfully blessed, cared for and nurtured I was through it all. The going through is so hard sometimes. But, it is also so worth it.

    • Carrie,

      The going through is most certainly the hardest part. It’s as though you can’t see the forest for the trees, but if we remain constant, hopeful, and cling to faith we will find how strong we’ve become and how attended to we are in the Shadow of God. Thank you for reading. Have a great day!

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