Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17
The annual midsummer emergence of the “dog-day cicadas” always thrusts me into a moment of remembrance. As a child, I resented their song, boldly heralding the painful transition from flashlight tag and jumping rope to early bedtimes and ducking dangerous dodgeballs. Although I excelled in school academically, my emotional and relational intelligence were light years behind my peers. This led to harassment from classmates, who regularly ridiculed my appearance, my clothing, my crybaby tendencies. By the end of my sixth-grade year, I sat isolated and alone in the rear of the classroom while my classmates enjoyed the company of their friends. I had none. In response, I developed a pretty hard shell around me. “NO ENTRY.”
So often in life, painful events reinforce the faulty self-concept we develop based on how others treat us.
Ten summers following the continual classroom mockery, the cicada song introduced me to a new kind of education … Air Force Basic Training. For three intense and sweltering weeks in the San Antonio desert, I managed to march, clean, and eat completely out of my Training Instructor’s awareness. A cardinal misstep one Monday morning, costing us 5 out of 100 points on our “honor flight competition,” led to an immediate demotion from “invisible airman” to “dirtbag airman.” I was instructed to march six paces behind everyone else because “Your TI doesn’t want you!” How I wished for a hole in the ground to crawl into! My exterior protection grew thicker and more calloused.
In my search to find love and acceptance, I began knocking at the door of my Creator. The truths of God’s Word were brought to life in a community of people who looked beneath my hard exterior to connect with the desperate soul within. Their persistent love enabled me to trust the ultimate Lover of my soul, Jesus. My initial spiritual transformation into a new creation was followed by years of dismantling the self-protective cover which had been necessary for childhood survival but was a hindrance in my relationship with others.
Newly hatched cicadas forsake sunshine and fresh air to spend the majority of their lives underground. They burrow into the earth and are sustained by tree roots. They mature by simply yielding to the process. In the fullness of time they instinctively return to the earth’s surface. The hard exoskeleton, essential for their underground protection, must be shed for the cicada’s maiden flight with its new wings. The cicada leaves this final vestige of the past behind before ascending to a nearby tree to belt out its summer song.
Just as the cicadas’ underground time cannot be rushed, neither can the human transformation process. It is in the places of pain and darkness that we encounter the One who is “near to the brokenhearted.” It is when we acknowledge our brokenness that we can present those shattered pieces to the One who is able to reassemble them. It is in our humility and vulnerability that we are transformed, not in our strength or self-protection. It’s in the community of wounded healers that we first hear that we are beautiful, desirable, worthy, and wanted. It’s when we choose to believe the truths we read that the crusty shell of our past failures, disappointments, and wounds is left to decompose, and our wings shoot out and we begin to sing our sweet redemptive melody.
I’m privileged as a professional therapist to sit daily before the brokenhearted, the downtrodden, the emotionally wounded. What a joy to see them through Jesus’ eyes, to know His heart to heal, to comfort, to encourage. I’m never far from my own broken past as I apply the healing balm of Gilead to their lives. And as I see my clients’ wings begin to emerge and I hear them sing their sweet redemption song, I am reassured that not one moment of my own pain has been wasted. ~ Dana
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Dana Herr joined the Air Force to see the world, and she encountered the Lover of her soul in the process. He led her to Omaha, Nebraska, where she’s embraced the Midwestern lifestyle (and winters!) for 15 years. When she’s not counseling or engaged in ministry, she loves to be active in God’s amazing creation.