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: Rest

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Ten years.

A decade.

Sometimes it feels like eternity. Sometimes it feels like a few months. There are ups and downs, twists and turns. Marriage. It’s nothing like I thought it would be. Not better. Not worse. Different. In all the right ways.

Marriage is work. Marriage is mystery. Marriage is laughter and tears and empty bank accounts and cold nights made warm by the presence of another. Marriage is lighting candles because that will make your husband feel good when he comes home from work. Marriage is sitting, wrapped up in a blanket, fighting nausea while your husband brushes your hair.

Marriage is a holy thing.

Chris, I’m glad to walking this weird, wonky, wonderful road with you.

Go.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are My ways higher than your ways
    and My thoughts than your thoughts.”

– Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV)

I am arrested by these words recorded by the prophet.

This portion of the Isaianic corpus concludes with a divine invitation. It is an invitation of grace, to receive lifegiving water free of charge. It recalls Yahweh’s earlier provision of manna and water in the desert and foreshadows the One who said, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (Jn 7:37).

Vv. 6-7 are a final appeal to the exiles to seek Yahweh and return to him. Vv. 8-9 remind the people that their deliverance is beyond human comprehension. God’s word has promised it. It will not return void. We recall the opening verses of this portion of the book of Isaiah, “The word of our God stands forever” (40:8).

The prophet concludes this section by announcing and celebrating the departure from exile. Again, this act of deliverance will cause all creation to join in the celebration, and restored Israel will stand as an everlasting sign to all the nations that Yahweh is faithful to His covenant. – Asbury Bible Commentary (under the “study this” tab)

“Yahweh is faithful to His covenant.”

In the middle of the swirling, soupy clouds that so often block our vision, He clears a path. A space. He bids us come and sit with Him.

And there is rest.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Jan Schulz

Five Minute Friday: Want

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

Wrapped in the golden haze of this early summer evening, I stare out the small square of window that remains unblocked by the air conditioning unit and the closed blinds. Faded roses, in desperate need of pruning, grab my attention. If it’s possible to feel like a spent blossom looks, then I do. Long week.

Knowing that my area is sliding into the tortuously warm sunny season deepens the weariness. Tonight, thankfully, the temperature is bearable. Even pleasant.

Kate asks us what we: want.

Go.

Tomorrow is another day, Scarlett says.

Another doctor’s visit.

This life of chronic illness is one of slow, uphill climb toward a peak always hidden. Some days I face the trek with brave, squared shoulders and a smile on my face. Other days, I sit, back pressed against the immovable ledge, feet dangling into nothingness. There is no end in sight and the idea of continuing grates on the soul.

I want an end.

My thoughts are not bleak. I’m not hopeless. What I am is tired. Tired of the pain in my side, of seeing the doctor, of not sleeping well, of being tired. Tomorrow’s visit is about a prescription. Next month is the needle and the vials. In the not-distant future are the biopsy and the MRI.

I’m sure what I need is to have a good cry, the kind that sends me crashing into the oblivion of dreamless sleep. Things will look better in the morning. I want them to look better now, but if there is one thing I have learned, it’s that joy is the grit that gets you through the not-better moments. It keeps you looking into the hope of the guaranteed future in the presence of the Lord.

These mountain pauses, I don’t think my Savior condemns me for them. I think He sits next to me, in the space of grace, understanding that my spirit longs to fly but my body is made of cement. He points out things to me, things in the valley below that only He and I know about. It is our history together. Deceptively beautiful meadows filled with gorgeous, poisonous blooms. Sticky, dark swamps. Crossroads.

The rock pokes my back. Dirt feels rough beneath my hands. Sweat slides down my neck. I will not sit here long, for it is not comfortable. Difficult as the journey is, it is preferable to remaining still. I know He will offer me His hand and pull me onward soon. Where would I be, if not for the Lord? Yes, if not for the Lord. Isn’t that the tagline of our lives?

Some days I feel as if there is no end, but my theology preaches otherwise.

I want the otherwise.

More than that, more than wanting an end, what I am learning, slowly, to want the very most is God. Give me God. I am no saint. I whine. I complain. I sometimes swear. But if I have to spend the rest of my life attempting to surmount the Everest of sickness but the taxing ascent, the climb that will take everything I have, means knowing and loving Him better, if it means the true and sweet intimacy of relationship with the Master, then tired as I get, cranky as I can be, give me the thin air and the taunt muscles and the inability to look back for fear of falling. If in the mysteriousness of Divine will and fallen universe this obstacle is what is required to keep me close to His side, then so be it.

Lord Jesus, on days like today when I cannot take another step, please give me more of You. When I tremble in fear of the unknown, strengthen my trust in You. When I weep in the pain and the sorrow, comfort me. Most of all, Lord of All, please allow me, as You did Moses, to know and see You. I do not want to be anywhere You aren’t.

Stop.

I find particular comfort in this psalm set to music right now.

May you be encouraged.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Cosmic Timetraveler