Tonight, for the first time, Abby is taking me with her, holding on to me tightly. We’ve been together for over a year. She relies on me and I do not bend. We cross a spacious courtyard; to our right the all-glass cathedral glimmers in the twilight. Abby’s told me how she visited there one Sunday morning. The organ and choir lifted her up but the crowded sanctuary seemed to leave no breathing space for her. She prefers smaller congregations. Like the one we’re going to now.
We ascend a flight of cement steps and enter what Abby calls the Tower of Hope. Above us the carillon peals down the day, into the last segment of an evening hour. A meeting room is our destination. No surprises here. Abby’s told me all about it. An arbor of safety, recovery, and restoration—the support group Abby’s attended for several months.
Chairs are arranged in a circle with about twenty women of every size, shape, age and color sitting in them. They call themselves SOMASA, Survivors of Molestation and Sexual Abuse, and have taken the words of Joel chapter two as their own, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…and you will praise the name of the Lord your God, who has worked wonders for you; never again will my people be shamed.”
Elsie, the group’s facilitator and a certified counselor, welcomes them. After a short prayer she invites them to share where they are in their lives.
Abby’s turn comes. She sets me on her lap.
“This,” she says caressing me, “is My Soul Garden Book.”
She opens me up, “This three-ring binder contains the best description of who I am. I function optimally in a structured environment so I’ve divided it into two color-coded sections. The first section is blue; the second is yellow.
“The blue section is where I write out my feelings of depression, sadness, anger, grief, shame. I write about the pain of being betrayed by someone I loved, and still love. It’s here that I divulge the deepest distresses of my heart, ultimately directing them to God.
“Yellow to me is the Light of God and His Word. In this section I record thoughts and concepts that speak to me of love, joy, peace, grace, forgiveness, mercy and redemption. They’re like torches illuminating my mind’s dark corners and helping to turn the blue into offerings of praise and worship.”
Abby flips my leaves back and forth.
“I need both parts, both colors, because when combined they make green. Green is the color of growth. Without both rain and sunshine plants don’t grow healthy. In my life, the blue and yellow mixed up together, along with a generous measure of…fertilizer, which tends to be brown and messes up my metaphor,” she pauses as a grin pushes its way across her face, “or maybe it doesn’t! Whatever, it’s bringing growth to me. That’s why I chose a binder sage green in color.”
Another goofy grin, “I’m hoping that means I’ll be wise as well, if you’ll excuse my pun.”
She stands me up to show off my covers. “I’ve also put butterfly stickers on the outside to remind me that God is bringing beauty into this growing garden of my life.”
Abby looks around, “I see butterflies in this group. Our struggles to overcome, to escape the cocoons of addiction, co-dependence, depression—all that stuff—are a thing of beauty to me. I’m grateful to you all for helping me see that and for letting me speak into your lives too.”
Murmurs of appreciation chime in from all sides.
”What a cool idea.”
“I’m happy you’re here too.”
“I think I’m gonna try that. That okay with you, Abby?”
Abby nods, laughs, “Sure, it’s not like I have a patent on it.”
Elsie leans forward, chuckling, “A sense of humor and laughter are proof of Joel chapter two. And writing is a powerful tool for healing. I’m so glad you have that, Abby. Never stop using it. Your words might even help someone else in cultivating their garden someday.”
Her glance sweeps the circle, “I do encourage everyone to try it. And don’t worry about spelling or grammar because it isn’t for a grade, you know. Write to understand your own souls better.”
Abby jots a few words on a page in my yellow section. What an honor to be a soul gardening tool helping to restore what the locusts had eaten.
(Scripture reference: NIV)
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