Community. Stories. Fears. Dreams. Hopes. Struggles. Victories. These are the sentiments that the non-profit organization To Write Love on Her Arms is known for. The organization, which celebrates its sixth birthday today, started simply because of a wounded and wayward girl who no rehabilitation center would accept because she was too much of a risk, and the small group of friends who took her in for five days to keep her safe and remind her that she was beautiful. The shirts were simply a means to fund Renee Yohe’s rehabilitation, however, when Jon Foreman of Switchfoot wore the shirt on stage during the tour following the release of The Beautiful Letdown, a movement was started.
I am reminded today of the people who Jesus spent his time with: the broken, the naked, the lowly, the sick, the vulnerable. People who society hated. It can be easy to miss ourselves in that crowd, but friends, I’m not sure we will ever truly understand the meaning of grace until we realize that the ground is level at the foot of the cross. There are no administrators or drop-outs, it’s just us. And us is what To Write Love on Her Arms stands for.
Depression and addiction are things that society doesn’t like to talk about, because those things aren’t pretty. When I began struggling with depression in the year leading up to my parents’ separation (almost eight years ago, now,) my thoughts on the subject were so misguided that I didn’t think I was allowed to feel that kind of hurt. As a Christian, I thought, shouldn’t I just be joyful all the time? Surely no one would understand whatever this was, be it chemical, environmental, psychological. I struggled in silence for years. We in the church are so concerned with covering up our brokenness, making sure that the outside looks good, and abiding by the law. That is what I bought into, and it led me to feelings of guilt and shame.
Many of our classmates feel this kind of guilt and shame as the result of their depression or addictions, as can be seen through the Breaking Free campaign. There are people struggling with things like pornography, eating disorders, self-injury, abandonment, and a plethora of other heavy issues. We let them eat away at our souls, and shame us into believing that God cannot use someone who struggles with whatever battle we’re fighting. My question to you all is how can we let this continue? How dare we let this opportunity for grace and mercy slip away because we are too proud to get down in each other’s dirt? Jesus got down in the dirt. We’ve heard it in chapel over and over, its likely that we will never again be in the presence of this many believers. And as believers, we are not called to be known by how well we cover up our scars and quiet the battles raging inside us. The Word says that we will be known by our love.
Guilt and shame come from a version of the gospel that ended at the cross, when Jesus said it was finished. The veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom to signify that we now had unadulterated access to the Father. Friends, do not give into the lies that Satan and the old school law loving church goers would have you believe.
To Write Love on Her Arms is about a song. Your song. My song. Revelation says that we have overcome by the blood of Christ, and the power of our testimony. It is a movement for those who refuse to be silenced any longer. There is freedom in telling your story. There is strength in transparency and grace that is bigger than shame in a community that is willing to be vulnerable. There is strength in knowing that you are not defined by what you’ve done. You are defined by the price that was paid for you.
Here’s to breaking down the walls.
Without love, we are nothing.
Happy Birthday, To Write Love on Her Arms.