I would take a deep breath, sit back and sigh, copy the remains onto a fresh piece of paper, smooth it out and turn it in . . . to someone . . . and wait with confidence for the grade. This would be the only copy; not a draft, but an A-deserving masterpiece. In permanent ink, my finest handwriting, nothing to erase; no need. I would crumple up the old messy draft, toss it away with no further thought, done, rise, walk.
I wish . . . though I don't believe in wishes.
The truth is, "free will" resembles a Sharpie more than a number-two pencil. The use of it leaves permanent marks -- an indelible stain -- and often results in a lot of crumbling-up and tossing and shredding instead of erasing. Out, damned spot. Who wouldn’t prefer the sweet smell of a new pink eraser over the black acrid odor of a inky black marker leaving trails and tracks that reflect the staggering stumbles of the exercise of our careening-off-the-tracks free will. Can't erase? Reach for the White-Out, which will leave a pasty crumbly mess itself, no match for the thick black markings of me being me . . . showing through.
There is no greater longing for the person near-drowning in sexual brokenness – whether homosexuality, adultery, porn addiction, lust – than to be able to go back to that first moment when the pull was just a gentle tug, long before the constant violent repelling into the canyon began. What would you erase?
Okay . . . well, maybe that's a little too much "self."
How about . . .
Self-reliance? Oops . . . there's that "self" thing again.
Maybe it would be better to just gently smudge out a moment in time, here and there. Problem is, some of them are so darkly there that the only way to get them out is to rub all the way through the paper, leaving a hole that speaks as clearly as the original deed itself. I've tried. Accepting the fact that, while we can forgive – we can't erase the deeds of others, we can settle for the hope that we can erase responses to them. You can’t truly erase childhood sexual abuse or father abandonment or mother-smothering, or bullying, or neglect, or rejection, or too-early-exposure to evil. Perhaps then, we can smudge out the starts and stops of our reactions to the dark marks others left within us? Like a long word problem on a math quiz that leaves you stymied and you try this and that . . . erase . . . try again . . . erase. The word problem is still there no matter what you do to the answer. Just keep figuring.
I wish -- though I don't believe in wishes – that I could erase the moment I leaned over to the rolled-down window of a little beige Volkswagen on a foggy campus night in college and accepted a ride out of the cold drizzle. I would have erased the route to his house and the memory of having been there. Where’s the invisible ink when we really need it?
I would erase the first lie I told. No, not some silly little lie about taking a cookie before dinner, but the first lie I told myself: "this doesn't really matter. I'm not hurting anyone anyway." When you fall for that lie and carry it around inside for a while and find that you can fool yourself into believing it, you start trying it out on others to see if they might fall for it too. Pretty soon, it's you, not a lie. Deception only doubles the damage of the action which hides beneath it.
If we cannot erase the lies, then maybe we can erase the pain that grows from them? The weary wondering of what others must have wondered, pondering the inconsistencies that characterized our character as we channeled our inner chaos. The deep sorrow of disappointing others that provides the perfect environment for the growth of self-avoidance. (Oops, there’s that self again.) Like a dreaded homework assignment, we became the word problem for which there are no answers. Figure and erase . . . smudge, smudge, smudge, wearing right through the soul like a flimsy sheet of writing paper. The hole remains.
I would erase the times I tried to deflect the truth of my actions by pointing a finger at someone else, Like the time my son confronted me with knowledge he had that I had sinned sexually and I defended myself by pointing a finger at the way he was confronting me with an anger totally justified by my mis-behavior. I would erase his hurt, disappointment and disgust. No one makes us sin, or lie, or blame . . . or do it all again. . The more we do each, the more weary is our wrist, frantically reducing the eraser to a stub which rips and tears away at the story of our lives.
After owning up to true accusations by erasing deception . . . I would then erase the moments I failed to act on false accusations, letting shame and guilt from true deeds allow false ones to go unanswered. The weight the sexual sinner bears should not make him fair game for the more pure to pile on with speculation, adding layers of thickness and cubits of height to a wall that already seemed impenetrable and beyond climbing. It will help you to learn to tell the truth about yourself if you can also learn to refute others when they lie about you, or, more politely put, make false accusations. Anytime a false accusation stands, truth suffers and when truth suffers, we all do.
I would erase the times I said "I will not fail again." I know the devil smiled at that one, for though he could not have known for sure that I would fail again, my claims of strength must have redoubled his efforts to make it happen. It’s not very wise to stand up tall and double-dog-dare the devil. How he must love the little word "I." How he must rejoice (does the devil rejoice?) at the longer word "again," when it is part of a vow, no matter how intentionally intended. “I will not fall again.” Eraser in hand, I would smudge out the word "I" and try never to write it again with the word "will." God wills. I follow.
The wannabe me . . .
I would erase the haughtiness with which I approached the earliest offers of help and I would scribble in a "yes . . . I need help," and write in clearest cursive, "thank you."
We don’t have an eraser. At least not one that is stronger than the reminders. Most sexually-broken people have pages and pages of permanent words representing our lives, ranging from deception to desperation, from putrid prose to pure poetry, from painful falling to joyful soaring, from self-reviling to self-restoring, from quiet hiding to loud revealing, from darkness and heaviness to light and . . . lightness. All there, like a jumble with words out of place, a sentence for which no blackboard is large enough on which to diagram to anyone's specifications. In that sense, are our lives that different from those around us who struggle with whatever temptation has inflicted them?
Count the "I"s in the lyrics. No wonder we fall so easily to the illusion of life instead of the truth of it. Or at least, I do . . . or did. And when we do, we yearn for the eraser as a quick answer to the question, "Why did I do that?" And we walk around in a stupor, wringing our hands and muttering madly, blaming our actions on our inability to get a grasp on . . . life.
For the things we can't erase . . . there's grace.