A year ago on my birthday, I finally got the tattoo that I had spent years thinking of. I wanted it to be a symbol of life, but I really wanted it to be more than that. So I asked for a phoenix. I’ll be honest, my first encounter with the mythological bird was in fact while reading the Harry Potter series as a child. The concept intrigued me.
It is said that only one phoenix can exist at a time, and when nearing the time of death the bird erupts into flames and is consumed by the fire. Then, from the ashes, the phoenix is reborn.
It’s been 14 years since I was diagnosed with leukemia. I spent the next five fighting through chemo, relapse, life threatening complications and a couple of close brushes with death. All of that while also navigating the wonderful world of adolescence! At night I would lay staring up at the ceiling, thinking too much. My mind unleashed was a powerful weapon against me. I was convinced that my life was coming to an end.
And in some ways, it did. My life as I imagined it ended abruptly.
I came out on the other side of those five years a new person, having grown into a young woman, a fierce warrior and a humble follower and servant of Christ.
The struggle of course didn’t end there. I spent the next several years fighting against my own thoughts. I agonized over time lost. I obsessed over moving forward. I wept over the imperfections I saw in the mirror. I convinced myself that I was unlovable and that was why I was still alone. I questioned my purpose. I questioned my worth. I pulled the curtains, locked the doors and built walls that kept me from feeling anything at all.
I had again come to the end of me. It was a slow burn, and I was painstakingly aware of every second of torment. And then something beautiful happened. Someone climbed my wall, knocked down my door, scooped up my ashes and forced me to feel something, anything other than the flames. It wasn’t the end after all.
Daily I find myself wrestling. Sometimes it’s against my thoughts toward myself when I look in the mirror. Sometimes it’s with the empty feeling that comes from not having a child. Sometimes it’s because I am ready for David and I to move on, but I’m scared that this is all there is for us.
Sometimes I wrestle because it’s something to do other than wait. And I’m so tired of waiting.
I am coming to an end again. I’m nearly there. Nearly to where I say goodbye to all that I’ve known and all that I’ve held on to.
My life has erupted into flames several times, and each time I’ve felt that it must be the end of me. But I’ve seen what God can do. Isaiah 61: 3 says that God will “…bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…”
When I’ve thought that my life was over, when I have been consumed by the fire in my life, God has taken my ashes and reformed me, giving me new life.The phoenix on my shoulder will always be a reminder that even when I feel as though my world is on fire, a new me can always be reborn from the remnants.