FROM RETREAT TO REDEMPTION

By Thomas Mark Zuniga:

People used to scare me. Not witches or Satanists or axe murderers.  Just normal everyday people, with no particular affinity for axes.

My massive people-fear started in middle school.  Guys taunted me for my acne. Pointed and laughed inches from my face.  Girls said I didn’t act manly enough. Too quiet, too timid, too different from all the others. Guys and girls alike simply ignored me, like the passersby from The Good Samaritan.

From homeroom to the locker room and every room in between, I retreated. When confronted about my pimples or personality, I bit my lip. I passively slid into the back row, back into my usual removal from teenage society.

483199880_38a659f512_n[1]Retreat, retreat, retreat – that was my daily mantra throughout middle school and high school.

For nineteen years, I lived in a relational bubble. It was excruciating to communicate or socialize with others on any level, let alone on deep, meaningful levels. I would only dare vent the messiest details of my life through the written conduits of my journals.

My shame. Lust. Pornography.

For nineteen years, vulnerability never entered my vocabulary. When I did finally reach a point of open confession, I turned once again to that faithful listening ear of a journal, holding nothing back. I spilled every messy detail along with countless tears.

And yet by the time I penned that last tear-crumpled page, my loneliness still remained – my struggles, my sins still chaining me to my bed while a house and planet full of people knew nothing of my downward plunge.

After nineteen long, isolated years, vulnerability was what I desperately needed.

I grabbed my blackened journal and carried it beyond the confines of a bedroom saturated with lust and loneliness. Heart racing, I stepped downstairs and handed my father my journal. Told both my parents to read my most recent entry because I couldn’t bear verbalizing such unutterable words myself.

Soon after, I cried the weepiest conversation of my life. Spoke broken words with my parents I’d never even said aloud in the presence of myself. That bedroom conversation would forever alter the course of my story. A game-changing conversation inducing a dramatic shift from how my life had always operated.

Retreat, retreat, retreat died, and a chilling new mantra prevailed.

Redemption, redemption, redemption.

In the seven years since that bedroom conversation, I’ve engaged in many subsequent vulnerable episodes: vulnerability at home, vulnerability at coffee shops, vulnerability in church conference rooms and vulnerability in the driver’s seat of my parked car at 2am.

With each cascading conversation of vulnerability, I’ve seen something beautiful.

I’ve seen life.

Life through relationships unmatched by anything pornography ever offered me.  Life the way it was fully meant to be lived – with courage.  Good life, never meant to be lived alone.

My vulnerability was breathed into life in order to breathe life into others.  Vulnerability is terrifying. It still makes me sweaty and nauseous seven years later. And yet with every heart-racing conversation, I’ve seen life: vulnerability crashing the shores of brokenness. Whether in bedrooms, coffee shops, or hotel parking lots in wee hours, when you finally awaken to the terrifying intoxicating waters of vulnerability, everything changes.

You see life. And everything you thought you knew about life becomes no more. Washed away and breathed anew.

Thomas blogs at http://thomasmarkzuniga.com.  Photo credit