Buh-Bye False Self

I haven’t been posting much lately, even though I’ve been journaling a lot. Today I just felt like I have to post a little tidbit of what I’m learning or I may explode.

Those of you who have been reading my blog the past few years know that I went through a severe season of suicidal depression about four years ago. This post is a reflection about what I am still learning from that season and how my life is changing as a result of that. 

“Tear off thy masks, the church was not meant to be a masquerade.” Spurgeon

Even though the depression I went through felt like it was never going to end (and I do still have occasional bouts), I now realize it was an accelerated season of the death of my false self. I also am now aware, with my limited understanding, that God was dragging me kicking and screaming out of a system that kept handing me more masks. The real me was dying inside that system and I could no longer pretend that I was cutting it.

Even after the depression, I tried to go back to ‘business as usual” while sharing my depression testimony in the realm of Evangelical Christianity, but the Lord kept tugging at my heart reminding me gently and sometimes not so gently that I didn’t go through that “necessary suffering” for no reason. 

I have been reading the Richard Rohr book Immortal Diamond: The Search for Your True Self, and it has been confirming for me insights that I have gained in these post-depression years. This is my third Rohr book, and by far my favorite. I read this section last night over and over and the tears were flowing…

“Our True Self remains untouched for most of us, because any direct experience of God or explicit union with God was blocked, denied, and largely declared impossible. It always had to be mediated by a Bible, priest, minister, church, or sacrament, and very often the mediators, and the defending of their mediations, became the primary message itself. Most sermons reminded us quickly of our unworthiness before first telling us of our inherent worthiness. Many were then so deep in a black hole of low self-image that they had no way to climb back out. There was no foundation to build on, and all they could see was their weakness and incapacity. We have had no solid or objective foundation on which to build human personhood, and everybody was sent on their own—in total free fall. It did not need to be this way.”

It hit me hard because I realize I had for years placed my life in the hands of other fallible humans and a system that was crushing my soul, rather than resting in the freedom of Christ

I was so close to ending my life four years ago, but God was saving my real life, my true self. 







Accepting Powerlessness

I have been writing a lot about spiritual abuse, legalism, recovery, denial, feelings, etc., so I’ll be posting some original stuff soon hopefully.

This is actually tomorrow’s meditation, but so good I just had to share today.

Accepting Powerlessness

Since I’ve been a child, I’ve been in an antagonistic relationship with an important emotional part of myself: my feelings. I have consistently tried to ignore, repress, or force my feelings away. I have tried to create unnatural feelings or force away feelings that were present.

I’ve denied I was angry, when in fact I was furious. I have told myself there must be something wrong with me for feeling angry, when anger was a reasonable and logical response to the situation.

I have told myself things didn’t hurt, when they hurt very much. I have told myself stories such as “That person didn’t mean to hurt me.” . . . “He or she doesn’t know any better.” . . . “I need to be more understanding.” The problem was that I had already been too understanding of the other person and not understanding and compassionate enough with myself.

It has not just been the large feelings I have been at war with; I have been battling the whole emotional aspect of myself. I have tried to use spiritual energy, mental energy, and even physical exertion to not feel what I need to feel to be healthy and alive.

I didn’t succeed at my attempts to control emotions. Emotional control has been a survival behavior for me. I can thank that behavior for helping me get through many years and situations where I didn’t have any better options. But I have learned a healthier behavior – accepting my feelings.

We are meant to feel. Part of our dysfunction is trying to deny or change that. Part of our recovery means learning to go with the flow of what we’re feeling and what our feelings are trying to tell us.

We are responsible for our behaviors, but we do not have to control our feelings. We can let them happen. We can learn to embrace, enjoy, and experience – feel – the emotional part of ourselves.

Today, I will stop trying to force and control my emotions. Instead, I will give power and freedom to the emotional part of myself.

From The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie ©1990, Hazelden Foundation.

Your Stage Mask

The following is an excerpt from Richard Rohr’s book Falling Upward.

Your stage mask is not bad, evil, or necessarily egocentric; it is just not “true.” It is manufactured and sustained unconsciously by your mind; but it can and will die, as all fictions must die. Persona and shadow are correlative terms.

Your shadow is what you refuse to see about yourself, and what you do not want others to see. The more you have cultivated and protected a chosen persona, the more shadow work you will need to do. Be especially careful therefore of any idealized role or self-image, like that of minister, mother, doctor, nice person, professor, moral believer, or president of this or that. These are huge personas to live up to, and they trap many people in lifelong delusion. The more you are attached to and unaware of such a protected self-image, the more shadow self you will very likely have. Conversely, the more you live out of your shadow self, the less capable you are of recognizing the persona you are trying to protect and project. It is like a double blindness keeping you from seeing—and being—your best and deepest self. As Jesus put it, “If the lamp within you is, in fact, darkness, what darkness there will be” (Matthew 6:23).



Who Knows Best?


I love today’s Language of Letting Go Thought for the Day soooo much, I just had to share it here.

Who Knows Best?

Others do not know what’s best for us.

We do not know what’s best for others.

It is our job to determine what’s best for ourselves.

“I know what you need.” . . . “I know what you should do.” . . . “Now listen, this is what I think you should be working on right now.”

These are audacious statements, beliefs that take us away from how we operate on a spiritual plane of life. Each of us is given the ability to be able to discern and detect our own path, on a daily basis. This is not always easy. We may have to struggle to reach that quiet, still place.

Giving advice, making decisions for others, mapping out their strategy, is not our job. Nor is it their job to direct us. Even if we have a clean contract with someone to help us – such as in a sponsorship relationship – we cannot trust that others always know what is best for us. We are responsible for listening to the information that comes to us. We are responsible for asking for guidance and direction. But it is our responsibility to sift and sort through information, and then listen to ourselves about what is best for us. Nobody can know that but ourselves.

A great gift we can give to others is to be able to trust in them – that they have their own source of guidance and wisdom, that they have the ability to discern what is best for them and the right to find that path by making mistakes and learning.

To trust ourselves to be able to discover – through that same imperfect process of struggle, trial, and error – is a great gift we can give ourselves.

Today, I will remember that we are each given the gift of being able to discover what is best for ourselves. God, help me trust that gift.

-Melody Beattie, The Language of Letting Go



Dear Bible Study Teacher,

I put you on a pedestal.

I wanted to please you at all costs. I wanted you to acknowledge I was spiritually growing at optimal pace, even if I knew you would only be acknowledging a mask. Your opinion of me became more important than God’s.

You said you struggled, but it was hard to believe it was true. You always looked so put together, so stoic, so ready to handle any challenge life threw at you. I thought you had a special Bible study teacher armor that your students could never have…until they reached Bible study teacher status.

I thought you had the tools to fix me – that if I just reached out to you all would be well soon. I hung on your every word.

I scanned your face for traces of praise. When you asked for my help, my ego would soar.

You represented the epitome of holiness for me. I wanted to be like you.

It wasn’t till I suffered great pain and loss that I saw that all the things I once thought were true about you were an illusion.

Though it was painful to let go, to finally see the truth…there is only one savior, and I see it’s not you.

There’s no denying I learned from you, and you helped me in many ways I didn’t deserve. I know what you do is far from easy – teaching God’s word to hurting women in hopes that the Gospel message shines through.

I’m so sorry I put you on a pedestal. That I placed that heavy burden upon you. I finally see that you’re human, and that I’m free to be human too.

Please note: I have been through many Bible studies in my lifetime and I have encountered several online Bible studies as well. If you are a Bible study teacher, please don’t let this post discourage you from what you have been gifted to do. It is not specifically about you. I am just aware of my capacity to be drawn to worship people who seem to have a wisdom about God’s word, and I recognize the danger in that. This could apply to pastors as well. 

Christ alone


Hugging My Cactus


I woke up at 4 am last Friday morning in what has been my default wake-up mode for the past several months – total panic. I was grateful I made it to 4 a.m. though – that means I got, at the least, four hours of sleep.

I lay there for a few moments trying to catch my breath, trying to not let my mind go to all the familiar places that add fuel to my panic. Sometimes all I can muster in the form of prayer is “Jesus, help me.”

I grabbed my phone in hopes of reading something that would calm me down….some good news. I have some scriptures and quotes saved in my Notepad app to read on these all-too frequent mornings.

For some reason, as I was scanning through the titles of the individual notes, the words “One Way Love” entered my mind, so I clicked on the Kindle icon and opened up Tullian Tchividjian’s book, One Way Love: Inexhaustible Grace for an Exhausted World, and landed in Chapter 6 – “The Unexpected Benefits of Hugging A Cactus. I’ve read this chapter several times before and a part of it was even a blog on Tullian’s site at one point, so for a moment I was tempted to scroll through to another chapter. Whether it was laziness or divine intervention, I went ahead and read right where I was.

I want to share the whole chapter, but I’m guessing that would be a big copyright violation, so you might want to get the book. You won’t be disappointed. It’s $1.99 on Kindle today.

The following, as shared in the book, is a part of Robert Downey Jr.’s acceptance speech in which he asked his friend Mel Gibson, who had tanked his reputation in the few years prior to this awards ceremony, to present him with the award:

“Actually, I asked Mel to present this award to me for a reason, because when I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope, and he urged me to find my faith—didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie that was actually developed for him. And he kept a roof over my head, and he kept food on the table. And most importantly, he said that if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoings, and if I embraced that part of my soul that was ugly—“hugging the cactus” he calls it—he said that if I “hugged the cactus” long enough, I’d become a man of some humility and that my life would take on new meaning. And I did, and it worked. All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. It’s reasonable to assume that at the time he didn’t imagine the next guy would be him. Or that someday was tonight. So anyway, on this special occasion …I humbly ask that you join me—unless you are completely without sin (in which case you picked the wrong …industry)—in forgiving my friend his trespasses, offering him the same clean slate you have me, and allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame. He’s hugged the cactus long enough.” [And then they hug]

Hmmm, hug my cactus. I remember reading that before, but this time it really got my mind going. How is that even possible? How can I embrace the ugly part of my soul? Does God think it’s ugly?

I’ve had zero compassion for my ugly side – that part of me that always messes up, that part of me that does everything in her power to screw up my life. All I ever want to do to her is tear her apart, silence her, suffocate her, hide her away, kill her…do anything I can to make sure she never screws up again. But I recognize, she’s not ugly…she’s the filled-with-fear little girl inside of me who is desperate to be fully known, fully loved, with acceptance, understanding and affection.

A peace came over me and tears flooded my eyes as I thought of my little cactus girl. I knew Jesus was there hugging me, filling me up with his love, telling me it was okay to love her, to be compassionate toward her, to see all the mischievousness and screw-ups are her…no, MY ways of crying out for love from a world that won’t ever provide me with the unconditional love I truly crave.

I thought of my daughter. She’s 17 now, almost 18, but I still see her as my little girl. I don’t ever want her to live with the shame and depression I’ve lived with for years. I don’t ever want her to feel the little girl inside her dying. I want her to experience being fully known and loved but I know, as Tullian has said “We are broken people living in a broken world with other broken people.” I’ve already done my fair share of breaking my little girl’s heart. This world has done its fair share of breaking her heart.

So, I’ve been thinking and praying about what it would mean to hug my cactus.

I’ve tried so many self-salvation projects that have only caused me deeper pain and even more chaos in my life. Most of those self-salvation projects tell me to embrace my good and hate my bad. So I end up in these seasons of deep despair where I am convinced there’s so much ugly that I wonder why in the world I hang around. But the thing about those seasons is they bring me to my knees, desperate for a hug from Jesus. I’m so desperate to be loved as I am, not as the more “together” people think I should be, not even as I think I should be.

After years of doing everything but hug that part of me, it’s not easy to stir up that love.

My hope for myself, for my daughter, for all the people I love, is Jesus and what he has accomplished for every single molecule, even the cactus parts, of our souls.

My mind goes there sometimes (a confession)

“Sometimes…the truth is harder than the pain inside.” Erasure

My mind sometimes goes there…to that ugly place where it tells me “if it gets too bad, you know what you can do.” The truth is that it wasn’t just doing this during that excruciatingly dark night of the soul three years ago…it has been going there for years…since I was a teenager, maybe even before that.

You see, sometimes I really screw things up. I go through seasons where it seems I’m getting my shit together – not even close to perfect, but life seems somewhat stable. Then, I go through seasons like the one I’m going through now where it seems I can’t even go one hour without screwing something up, and things just build and build until I feel suffocated and I can’t see the light. When I go through these seasons, my mind goes there. It’s like my mind is at war with my soul. My soul knows that nothing that happens on this earth is worth taking those measures, but my mind just has to keep freaking reminding me…”if it gets too bad, you know (wink wink).”

When the future looks like a road full of endless trouble, my mind goes there. When I fear I won’t be able to take care of myself, much less my daughter, my mind goes there. When rejection feels like death, my mind goes there.

I’ve never come up with a plan or written a letter, but my mind goes there.

Why am I sharing this? Because I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the stigmas those who struggle with mental illness have to face day in and day out, most especially within the church. Because I’m hoping beyond hope that someone out there will say “Me too” and “You’re not crazy” and maybe someone will sit and listen, really really listen, without looking at me like I’m possessed….to my heart, my fears, what I see as dire straits (but in reality are probably things a lot of people go through but are afraid talk about too), and maybe just maybe that would open a door for more of such conversations.

I’ve always hated the word – suicide. It sounds so violent, so final, and it is. I know people who have ended their life and I always wonder…what if they just had one “unblinking” friend who would’ve sat and listened to their worst fears for as long as they needed to release them? What if I could have been that friend?

I find myself wondering if any of my friends battle this monster too. It’s not something that even close friends talk about. There is such a horrible stigma surrounding it, it’s a wonder people get help without having a major breakdown. If I so much as mention sadness or depression with many, not all, of the people in my life, the platitudes, quick fixes, self-help and spiritual warfare strategies start spilling out….or some friends just disappear. Maybe, like a friend on social media said “only Jesus can handle that much honest.” I am in endless conversations with Jesus, but sometimes it helps to have someone “with skin on”, who I don’t have to pay*, sitting across or beside, holding my hand, loving me where I am.

My favorite scripture over the past several months has been 2 Cor 12::9 – “But He said to me ‘My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power my rest on me.”

So, I guess this is me boasting about my weakness.

Deep in my heart, I know the Gospel. I know that no matter how dark, scary and messy this life gets, Jesus is “close to the brokenhearted and he saves those crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18) I know that “a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench…” (Isaiah 42::2-3)

I’m praying that what I know in my heart will go to my head and this battle will end.

I went to a beautiful Catholic funeral this morning and I heard a song I haven’t heard in years…

“Be not afraid, I go before you always….come, follow me, and I will give you rest.” -Bob Dufford

Lord, please help me to not be afraid, no matter what fiery trials may come my way. Thank you for the unblinking friends you send my way.

*I am in therapy and recovery