A Mill Does Not Turn on Water Past
“Run!” I heard myself screaming. “Run like Joseph ran from Potifer’s wife!” But I couldn’t run. I was frozen. RUN! Why couldn’t I run?
I woke up in a panic. My heart was pounding, I was sweating all over, and my blankets were in a mess all around me. But, I could still feel the cold knife blade pressed against my chin. I could see the knife as it was shoved into the ground just parallel to my eyes. The long blade reflects in the moonlight and the bone handle tied with a leather tassel, never leaves my memory. In my dream I get tired of looking at the knife. The knife that has paralyzed me night after night. Some nights, I use the knife and I wake up expecting to see it in my hand. But when I wake up, there is no knife in my hand. No blood on my fingers. And once again, I didn’t kill him.
That is the dream that I prefer to have. The alternative leaves me anxious and terrified for most of the next day. Because when I have the alternative dream, then it’s not a dream anymore, it’s remembering. It is remembering the day that I wished I used the knife instead of being held hostage by it, unable to move or breathe as he forced himself on me.
It was thirteen years ago that the nightmares began. Thirteen years of secrets, feeling ashamed, and of healing. Thirteen years of learning a very difficult lesson about myself and about God. It is a journey that I do not regret and one that I do not wish upon anyone. However, it is not unique or original. This may have happened to me, but the pain has been suffered by many. Over the course of history and the world, pain has been felt by victims, family members, loved ones and strangers time and time again. My pain is unique to me, as others suffer from their pain. However, pain is pain and healing must take place no matter what pain is felt. Whether the pain is caused from a tragic accident, a natural disasters or someone else inflicting it upon you, all pain needs healed.
The journey to begin healing one’s pain can be very difficult. I have often compared healing to the peeling of an onion. There are many different layers to an onion. When an onion is being peeled, it is easy to notice that there is another layer of onion ready to take the place of the last layer removed. Layer after layer must be dealt with in order to finally reach the core of the onion.
The beginning of peeling the onion begins the same for everyone. It must be a desire to heal. Without the desire to heal, no healing will take place. Imagine placing a piece of duct tape over the check engine light, hoping that it would solve the problem. Nothing would be solved, and it would only be making the matter worse in the long run. Healing isn’t something that can be covered up and ignored with the hope that the problem will be solved; it is something that must happen from within. A broken bone cannot be healed with just a cast; the bone must first be in the right position to heal. Once it is set, then the healing can begin.
The onion will not be peeled very far, if the one peeling it is not willing to remove the next layer. The next layer may stink, and may even make your eyes sting. You may have all of the desire in the world to remove the next layer of onion, but if you are not willing to do whatever it takes to remove it, it will never be removed. To heal, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to heal. This may include reading various books, talking to loved ones, writing down your experiences or perhaps even talking to someone who is more knowledgeable about the path that you are on. With desire and willingness, healing is possible from anything.
When the desire and willingness is there, the healing process takes on a journey exclusive to the individual. Everyone’s journey is different from everyone else’s and yet there are a few steps that may be similar for everyone. Besides desire and willingness, one of these steps is one of the most important. It may be a large step, a small step, or many of both. This step was very difficult for me. It is to realize that the event that took place was an event. It is not you. It was something that happened to you, but it does not make who you are. You are you, no matter what happens to you in your life. You choose who you are in spite of your surroundings and circumstances. This connection was finally made for me when I read Louis L’amour’s book Walking Drum. He explained it in such a way that finally I was able to take this thirteen year step. L’amour said, “A mill does not turn on water past.” In other words, the water and problems of yesterday are not making the mill and today’s choices run today. For years I have heard this principle. However, I would rebel the principle and yell out “You don’t understand! Don’t you see what has happened to me! I will forever be defined by this!” But then, one day I was reading a book and everything changed for me. Everything. My desire and willingness was finally where it needed to be and my page turned on the journey of healing and I was finally ready to read the next chapter in my story. I had taken the next step. One may hear this principle said in many different ways. L’amour, in fact, says it several times in different ways in Walking Drum. (The sail does not move with yesterday’s wind etc.) But it means the same thing. What happens to you or around you in life, does not define who you are. It is an experience that happened to you and you choose who you will become because of that experience.
For instance, imagine yourself to be the letter “A.” As the letter A you may be placed in a various amount of situations. You may find yourself in the word “cat,” and the sound of the A is true and you are definitely recognized as the letter A. You may be placed in the word “want’” and although you sound slightly different than “cat”, you are still noticeable as the letter A. One day you may find yourself in the word “cake,” although you make a different sound, no one mistakes you for anything except the letter A. But, one day, you find yourself in the word “read,” and your identity is in question. You believe you have no phonetic value in the word read, and you are confused, puzzled, and perhaps angry at why any dictionary would want to place you in such a word that does not give you the value that you deserve. And yet, you find yourself in the word “read,” and you are still the letter A. You desire to know why you are included into this word that apparently does not aid in your mission as the letter A, and finally you are willing to do whatever it takes to learn why you are in that word. You learn that you are needed in the word “read” so that the rest of the letters may perform to their best abilities, and you are able to accept that and move on to the next word that you are invited to join. Your circumstances may change throughout life, but your core will always remain. Circumstances cannot change who you are, you are the only person with enough power to change yourself. You may have been raped, however it does not have the power to stop you from accomplishing your dreams. You can still be a loving wife, mother, daughter, sister, or friend. You can still attend college, serve your community, have a family, attend church. The rape will change who you are but you are able to decide how it will.
My journey continues as I continue to peel my onion. Layer after layer is painfully removed to shed the next layer of healing. My desire and willingness come and go as I remember what happened to me was not a dream and it is not defining who I am. The nightmare that plagued me for years has not returned since I turned that page in the Louis L’amour book. I don’t know if it will be found in another layer of healing or if it is gone for good. Healing is a personal path given to us to help us be ready to face the next challenge in our life. When we have the desire and the willingness to learn from the past instead of living in it, we allow the water of today to turn our mill.