Five Years On

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Gentle Reader,

At this hour on a Monday, I’m usually be up to my elbows in Zephaniah.

Not today.

This is a special day.

Five years ago, on a cloudy, cool, early autumn day much like this, I determined that my life had no value. No purpose. Enveloped in a dark, intense pain, unlike anything I had ever felt, I concocted a plan. An exit.

An escape.

Those who contemplate or carry out suicide are not in their right minds. Yes, self-murder is an angry act. In some ways, a selfish act. I get that. What you need to understand is that, in the moment, it doesn’t feel angry and it doesn’t seem selfish. Thoughts get twisted. Emotions get jumbled. To commit suicide is to enact the worst, harshest form of judgment on oneself. People in that pit of blackest dark genuinely believe that the best thing they can do, for everyone, is to cease to exist.

It’s a nightmare of hellish proportions.

There are many things I don’t and will never know, but two things I do, five years on:

  1. Mental illness is as real as physical illness, and just as nobody with a broken bone should be expected to “pray it away,” neither should the depressed, the anxious, the schizophrenic, the borderline. Oh, my, yes, prayer is powerful. But it’s stupid and theologically shallow to believe that therapy is sinful and medication is bad. When a person is too sad to get out of bed, so sad that his whole body hurts, is it reasonable or even compassionate to flip a verse or two at him and then judge him for not having “enough” faith when the problem doesn’t go away? Please. What a load of crap. There’s no deliverance or healing in heaping condemnation on someone, especially when she’s busy throwing stones at herself. 
  2. Satan is real, and he wants to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10). I have been in the midst of evil. I have seen it. I have felt it. Don’t tell me that there is no Enemy. Again, stupid and theologically shallow.

If you’d like to fight me on either of these points, I’m down. Let’s go.

Today I remember. Today I thank God for saving me from myself. Today I sit in the quiet, allowing myself time and space to rest. The war is not over for me. Just over 24 hours ago, I had a panic attack.

But I know in Whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is faithful.

If you find yourself worn out, pressed on to the point of being crushed, just so very done with it all – I understand. Sweet friend, I know you’re exhausted. I know you just want to stop the hurting. Jesus Himself felt the same way, that night in the garden when He sweat drops of blood. He knows your agony.

Fight on. Keep going. Take your pills, pray, see a counselor, do whatever you need to do. Get the help that you deserve. Yes, deserve. Because you have value and purpose. You were placed on this planet, in this context, in this generation, for a reason. Anything else is a lie. You don’t have to listen.

I pray today for you, fellow scarred and bruised and bleeding and small sojourner. I stand with you, little sheep who’s wandered so far and wonders if the Shepherd will ever come. He’s already there. You may not feel Him. You may not see Him. But He’s there. He lifts your head and beckons you to look in His eyes. In them is fire.

In them is all the strength you need to slay the beast.

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Five Minute Friday: Haven

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday: For a writer, rejection is a badge of honor.

Of course rejection stings. It strikes right at the core, right in that tender spot. To read, “your work has merit, but it’s just not quite the right fit for us” is crushing. I felt the blood rush to my face. I immediately began to question just who in the world I think I am, sending book proposals to literary agents.

Then I looked up the word merit.

And found that it means, “the quality of being particularly good or worthy, especially so as to deserve praise or reward.”

I’m choosing to focus on that. My work has value. It may have been rejected. I may come through this process bloody and bruised. At least I’m stepping into the arena. My prayer is that God would give me a spine of steel so that my head will never bow in shame. For rejection comes. It comes to everyone who must write.

I realize, in this feeling of being sucker-punched, that I am a writer. No matter if my name never appears on a spine. No matter if no book of mine ever gets a MARC record. (Sorry, library talk). I am a writer.

Speaking this truth to myself now as a sense of smallness washes over me again and tears blur the screen. Don’t pity me. They are the tears of a fighter.

Kate asks to write about our: haven(s).

Go.

The wind brushes against the rosebushes, moving pink blossoms, green leaves and honey-colored trellises in a waltz whose tune only nature knows. Rhythmically the heavy flowers bob and weave, flashing their bright yellow pistils here and there. In and out, up and down. The trees join in with a joyous rustle.

We never see the wind and yet we know it’s there.

So, too, the Holy Spirit. In the middle of the busy and bluster, He fills me with a knowing. A belonging.A deep and abiding feeling that cannot be categorized. I am stilled in the chaos at the sound of His whisper. I strain, longing to hear more. He speaks life and truth. Never aloud. Never contradictory to the words on the thin pages of my Bible. He tells me that I am safe when the adrenaline rushes. That I am beloved when I wish the floor would open and swallow me whole. That I do not have to lash out in anger. That it will turn out all right.

I cannot stay home all day, every day, much as I often wish I could. And so He is my Haven, my Rock, my Fortress. He pulls me close. If I lean in, I can hear His heart, filled with holiness and love. The beat drums into me the sweetest kind of peace.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Michael Fertig

Five Minute Friday: Expect

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

What outcome are you trying to control?

That question came from the lips of one of the ladies interviewed for the Hope*Writers online conference. (Wish I could remember who). The twelve sessions with authors and editors were worth listening to for that one piercing arrow alone. Anxiety is directly linked to control, or lack thereof. So what is it that you, that I, am trying to control?

Thinking along those lines leads directly to the heart of fear. If we can look full-face at the core with all of its blood and gore, we can begin the process of dismantling it in the grace and truth of Christ. Going beyond the fear into the reason for the fear is an important step in finding freedom from the fear. Deal with the cause, not the symptom.

Maybe I’m slow, but that’s exciting and new to me.

Kate says: expect.

Go.

Every woman struggles with the urge to hide her true self. We feel we are too little and too much all at once. More often than not, the image we project through behavior, clothing, ambition, home decor or a million other little things is just that – an image. Who we hope to be, who want to be, who we think we should be.

It’s our armor.

Our defense.

Because we expect to be hurt. People let us down. Fathers. Friends. The men we should never consider dating but wind up with for far too long. Mothers. Children. Coworkers. Husbands. Ourselves.

We want to be authentic. We want the outer to reflect and celebrate the inner instead of masking it. We want to let the guard down.

It’s hard.

Last weekend I had the privilege of attending my church’s district women’s retreat. The setting was picturesque, the music moving in the richest way, the preaching profound. But what got me, what really got me, was the experience of having my calling as a teacher affirmed in front of a group of mostly strangers. I had opened my mouth and blazed forth with opinions and suggestions regarding the importance of Bible study. I expected to be shut down or at the very least for people to just roll their eyes and move on.

I never expected to be built up.

It broke something deep inside of me.

I’m always apologizing. Always toting around a vague sense of guilt and a strong sense of shame. Always worried that I’ll offend or have offended someone and they’re just waiting to pounce. Always trying to control the environment. Not in a direct, manipulative way. In a, “I don’t want so-and-so to be mad at me way.” Sure, I have what I’ve been told is a very direct (okay, blunt) writing voice, but that doesn’t carry over into my “real life.”

I’m done.

This day, May 19, I’m done.

The pastor at the retreat invited us to hang out with the Samaritan Woman of John 4 all weekend, taking us a little deeper into her story every session. The woman couldn’t just sit there and magically wait for the freedom Jesus offered her to change her life. She had to grab on. She had to take what He was giving. She had to fling herself into the mystery of grace, not knowing what would come next as a result.

She had to expect the good.

I can’t fulfill my calling or experience the abundant life Christ offers if I keep expecting the bad, if I keep shrinking back against the wall. I’m tired of being bound up. I’m tired of avoiding new relationships because old ones have been bad. I’m tired of keeping silent.

I’m tired of expecting the worst at all times. I know bad things are going to happen. I’m not trading in dark glasses for rose-colored ones. Rather I want clear vision, straight-ahead vision, eyes-on-Christ vision. To see the good and expect the good. And when the bad comes, to see it in the light of the Good, Good Father.

Like a flower just beginning to open, full of hope and promise.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Aaron Burden