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Ten years ago a woman from my church prayed with me. As she prayed an image came into her head. A heart full of holes. Those holes caused such pain. They were permanent holes. They would not simply close up. In her mind the holes were not stitched, they were filled. Jesus slowly filled them with himself. Each hole was filled with bright, shimmering, golden liquid.

Two years ago a woman from my church prayed with me. As she prayed an image came into her head. A heart wrapped, entwined, trapped in barbed wire, piercing more holes. Jesus slowly cut through the barbed wire.

I was very distressed when these women prayed with me. One was young, one was older. One was from a large, charismatic church in central London. One was from a medium sized, subdued church in suburbia. Both saw the state of my heart. In each image the heart was left filled completely, healthier and more beautiful than it had ever been before. It was free.

The therapist I saw a couple of years ago was really into images. The images we hold of ourselves are so important. So a person who suffers from extreme shyness may have an image of themselves blushing inside their head, and this image can paralyse them. I had images of myself in my head. One of a girl curled up under a table. Curled tight into a ball. Hiding. Pleading with the world to leave her alone.

Another image of myself that I held in my head for so many years was of a skinny, ugly, weird looking girl. People pointed at her when she walked into a room. They laughed at her. She found a seat as quickly as possible and tried to pretend she was invisible.

That is a hard image to get out of my head. I always think people are laughing at me. That skinny, ugly, weird looking girl was sometimes stuck to a wall, but sometimes she behaved differently. I don’t have an image for her because I don’t remember her. I have been told about her. She sounded more fun. I cultivated an image I don’t even remember. Larger than life. Who cares if you’re ugly, right? If you can make people laugh?

So for years I have tried to form a new image for myself. I want to be someone else, please let me be someone else. Maybe I can be warm and caring, like my mum. Maybe I can be calm and collected, like my step-mum. Maybe I can be the life and soul, like my dad. Maybe I can be the bookworm of my childhood? Which one though?

And slowly my heart became filled with more holes. Every time someone pointed at me a new hole was formed. Every time someone laughed at me a new hole was formed. Eventually that heart had very little holding it together. So its owner did something very stupid. She lost herself completely. She desperately tried to cling to something. To someone. To someone she didn’t even know. To someone who was not trustworthy at all. And now she has a new image in her head.

This image is of a woman lying on her back. She stares at the ceiling. She waits for it to finish. She doesn’t cry. She doesn’t wince. She just waits. And afterwards she cleans herself up. But forever she remains lying on her back. Nothing can erase this image.

And through it all? A heart full of holes, wrapped tighter and tighter in barbed wire. One day the woman meets someone who loves her so much. This love does not erase the images. The woman is still a skinny, ugly, weird looking girl. She is still lying on her back waiting for everything to stop. But she loves someone now. And she slowly opens into someone else. She is loved and she loves in return. The image now is of a woman smiling.

But she can’t erase the ugly girl who tried to be invisible. She can’t erase the woman lying on her back staring at the ceiling. She can’t erase the woman cleaning herself up. She loves more people. And she loses them all. She hurts so much. That ugly girl gets bigger. The loss, the hurt, the grief threatens to overwhelm her. The woman loses herself completely all over again. She fights and panics. But really, she just lies on her back and waits for it all to finish.

The woman is now looking back and realising that the holes are being filled with bright, shimmering, golden liquid. The barbed wire has been cut. She knows this because she is making new friends. And she loves it. She laughs a lot. She’s scared a lot but she isn’t running away. She isn’t lying on her back waiting for it all to be over. She can’t erase those awful, awful images of herself. Perhaps she never will. But the real images, the images she never made for herself, but the images that other people saw. They grow.

Now it’s time to move. It’s time to love. That heart is being filled with bright, shimmering, golden liquid for a reason. That heart is being filled with Jesus for a reason. That reason is to love. It is time to stop being afraid. It’s time to love new friends. People who have been hurt in so many different ways. It’s time to love them and be loved by them. It’s time to enjoy them.

It’s also time to be brave. More brave than just making new friends. But to try to love an old friend. A friend who hurt me so badly. A friend who reinforced the image of the skinny, ugly, weird looking girl. Who reinforced the image of the woman who just lies on her back waiting for it all to be over. It’s time to love that friend again. The love has never gone, but it has been hiding. It has been crying, grieving, licking its wounds. It’s time to love again, even though I may never be loved in return.

It’s time. Jesus is filling my heart with himself. His love. That love is not meant to be kept to myself, locked in a box, protected in case of further hurt. It has to go and love others and try to cut through the barbed wire around their hearts, to fill the holes in their hearts.