Guest post by Theresa Harvard Johnson
When I was about 15-years-old, I penned, “Theresa the Invisible.”
I am an invisible girl, sitting in an invisible chair;
People walk by me, never noticing that I am there.
They can’t hear my invisible screams as I rise or see me my invisible stand;
and when I reach for an embrace, they slip through my invisible hands.
Can someone tell me what’s wrong with me?
Why are these people just passing by?
Does my invisible tears upset them,
when they hear my silent cry?
I am tortured in my existence,
I’d be better off if I wasn’t here at all.
Because I know that if I was chopped down as a tree,
no one would hear or see my invisible fall.
In my youth and most of my adulthood, I struggled to express any heart-felt emotion outside of an intense, unquenchable rage (a rage which nearly destroyed me). I later discovered that whatever I couldn’t speak, I could somehow write.
Most of my early writings painted pictures of the intense depth of emotion buried inside me from a lifetime of severe abuse and neglect.
One day as I sat in my ninth grade art class my favorite teacher, Sherry Jamison, sat down beside me. Her hand upon mine she asked, “Theresa, are you okay?”
The emptiness of my eyes met her question with raw honesty. “I don’t know Ms. J but can I read you this poem I wrote?” That was how I answered my friends. Let me share this poem. Why don’t you read this story I wrote. Beyond my trusted notebook, I rarely shared my heart. I was too afraid, too ashamed.
It was a huge step, reading that poem to Ms. Jamison.. a real leap of faith to trust her. As a result, she became a powerful exhorter in my life—someone who “could see” me. The seeds planted during that time hold strong roots in who I am today.
That poem marked the beginning of a deep mentoring relationship—in art and in life. I realize now that Ms. Jamison learned a lot about the real me that school year. She was the first adult to hear or read my private poetry and short stories (some of which revealed the effects of the physical, sexual, and emotional abuse that shaped my mind and numbed my emotions.
She was the first person to say to me, “Theresa, you have a brilliant mind and unlimited potential. You need to know that you can have a good life.”
I’d never considered my life would be any different than that of the people around me. But she encouraged me otherwise. She put her hand firmly on my shoulder and looked me squarely in the eyes. “Theresa, look at me.” I lifted my head from such a deep, deep place of shame. “Look at me!” she said. “None of this is your fault. You didn’t do anything wrong. What is wrong is what has been done to you.”
Overwhelming emotions coursed through me. In that moment, I wasn’t thinking about what had happened in the past or even where I would go from this point. I simply thought, “I’m not invisible anymore.” People could see me. I was so happy that someone cared. I had a mentor, who over the months to follow, walked with me as I transitioned from my home, the abuse I was facing daily, and my inauguration into the foster care system.
Somebody cared. I had value.
There are times in the midst of our healing process we “question” where Jesus was in the midst of suffering. Why He didn’t stop the pain? Even though I was a believer, I spent years not fully trusting God, or believing that the fullness of His love extended to me.
So when things went haywire, I defaulted to my repeat questions. “Jesus, Why didn’t you save me? Why didn’t you intervene?
Maybe you’ve been there?
I walked this valley more than once in my faith journey. While situations might have differed, the root was the same. A core part of me believed God had abandoned me all those years ago. Therefore, anytime something major happened in my life, my soul (by default)) reverted to those painful times.
But one night, in this place of questioning the Lord, I received an answer. While I didn’t know what the Lord was going to do, I knew it was a time in which this question, these “whys?” would be buried forever. As I laid my head back in my office chair, I quietly, yet uncontrollably wept, repented, expressed gratitude and pleaded for a breakthrough—all at the same time.
After some time passed and I’d calmed down, I heard this in my Spirit: “Theresa, I was with you in every violation, struggle and place of pain. I eagerly read your journal entries, poems and short stories as you wrote them. I listened to force and gentleness at the end of your pen.. I laughed with you in the midst of your joy, and wept with you in the midst of sorrow. I grieved with you at the center of all that was lost and stolen. Beloved, nothing concerning you has been hidden from me! I was with you when you didn’t know my name; and stood patiently, waiting to come into your heart. When you realized you needed me and granted me entrance into your heart, I embraced you without hesitation. You have always been mine. I am holding you, even now, in my arms and releasing wholeness into every incomplete place in your soul. Receive it. Today, I have your trust.”
The tears fell. Not of sorrow, but of release, peace and joy. These were tears of healing, closure, peace, understanding…rest in my Father.
From that moment, I was able to see where Jesus served as my advocate through my pen all those years ago. I was able to see him through Ms. Jamison’s hand and all those like her. I was able to see and receive the grace in which His love has consumed me. I came to know this truth from pursuing His presence: 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 CJB, “Three times I begged the Lord to take this thing away from me; but he told me, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is brought to perfection in weakness.”
Theresa is a scribe, mentor and a passionate poet. She especially enjoys setting aside quiet time to write and hangout in the company of writers. She is the founder of Voices of Christ Literary Ministries International where she often, with a team of creative artists, poets and spoken word artists facilitates healing to the broken.
13 thoughts on “Grace in Healing”
Thank you so much, Theresa, for sharing this heart-wrenching journey where God provided a supportive mentor to take you under her wing and help you thrive. While you had grown up believing you were invisible, the Lord worked behind the scenes to orchestrate the right people to come into your life to make a profound difference. Praise God for your healing, closure, and having Jesus as your advocate!
Dana, thank you for your comment! I am reminded that when your heart is hurting, it’s hard to imagine that the pain will one day go away. For years, it seemed impossible to me. I hope that this quick glimpse into my journey gives those who may read this renewed HOPE in their process and PATIENCE in their progress.
Theresa!! Wow!!! What a message you have!! This brought back to my memory the days I felt like an imposter in everything I did because of the sense of not being a real person. I, too, was sexually abused by my Dad and it left me feeling like I wasn’t real for many years…Loved what Jesus said to you….this is a message for so many…At lease one in every two women have been abused at some point in their lives….Blessings
What a beautiful heart you have. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Dixie! I so appreciate your openness. That feeling of being invisible or not being a real person can be debilitating and unbelievably destructive. It led me down a path of deep depression, suicidal tendencies and multiple attempts. It is so important that we live our lives in a way that speaks boldly into our “significance” — individually and collectively. The encouragement we receive from one another can breath life into those dark places. That’s why I love this blog and the encouragement that can be found here. Blessings to you!
Praise God for sending Ms. Jamison to you, and for sending you to so many others who will be so richly blessed by your heart, your story, your faith, your words.
Thank you so much Beth for you encouragement!
Thank you so much for sharing your poem and your story. I think for any of us who were abused as children the feelings of being invisible are so real. I suffered abuse at the hands of a step-father and it ruined my high school years in so many ways. You were blessed to have Mrs. Jamison and that she saw the real you. Beautiful!
Thank you so much Cindy for sharing, and I agree…. so many of us feel/felt invisible during those times. I also suffered abuse at the hands of family and other men in my life. There are no words to describe the freedom I now have, and the freedom I SO WANT OTHERS to experience! Your comment is a blessing to me.
Theresa, You are an amazing writer and I am so blessed to call you my friend. You’ve come so far in just the past two years. I’ll always remember our time together in KC. God is going to continue to bless you and use you to impact the world with your writings and testimony! I love you girl and I’m so proud of you! You truly are an inspiration.
Leigh Ann, you’re making me cry. (Our code word: WALMART!! LOL) I love you dearly my friend (sister)… and I will never, ever forget the time we spent together in Kansas City. Thank you for always being so willing to be there for me… and be a part of this journey. YOU inspire ME!
Powerful story Theresa!
Thank you for taking time to pen it for us to read. I praise God that someone saw through you for HIM.
You are a blessing.
Thank you Karen so much for your encouragement. Blessings to you!