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

 

 

 

 

The Peace That is Not of This World by Henri Nouwen

Keep your eyes on the prince of peace, the one who doesn’t cling to his divine power; the one who refuses to turn stones into bread, jump from great heights and rule with great power; the one who says, “Blessed are the poor, the gentle, those who mourn, and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; blessed are the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers and those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness” (see Matt. 5:3-11); the one who touches the lame, the crippled, and the blind; the one who speaks words of forgiveness and encouragement; the one who dies alone, rejected and despised. Keep your eyes on him who becomes poor with the poor, weak with the weak, and who is rejected with the rejected. He is the source of all peace.
Where is this peace to be found? The answer is clear. In weakness. First of all, in our own weakness, in those places of our hearts where we feel most broken, most insecure, most in agony, most afraid. Why there? Because there, our familiar ways of controlling our world are being stripped away; there we are called to let go from doing much, thinking much, and relying on our self-sufficiency. Right there where we are weakest the peace which is not of this world is hidden.
In Adam’s name I say to you, “Claim that peace that remains unknown to so many and make it your own. Because with that peace in your heart you will have new eyes to see and new ears to hear and gradually recognize that same peace in places you would have least expected.”
Henri Nouwen, via The Henri Nouwen Society

I’m ALOT worse than you think I am

For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Romans 7:15

I came face to face with the many demons that lurk in my soul 3 years ago. There was no question in my mind that I am bad (and that nothing good lives in me). I came to the realization that many of the “good” things I’ve done were, for the most part, born from evil, selfish motives. I grieved that I was so damn wrong, and that I would never be right.

After months of life in the deepest darkest pit of despairing of myself and wanting to end it all, the light came back into my life. The light came not because I got better, found some new formula to improve myself, or checked all the items off the Christian to-do list.

“The Evangelical industrial complex has done its part to escort the gospel to a pre-Reformation level of darkness. Time to turn on the light.” Zachary James Cole

Light came because He came. Jesus came for broken, messed up, n’er do well Christina.

Tullian Tchividjian says “Until you first realize how bad you really are, you cannot know how good Jesus really is.”

I’m not saying I didn’t know Jesus before or desire a relationship with him, but I was still hanging on to what I’d been told for years, to what was so obviously not working – that if I worked hard enough, dug deep enough, I would tap into some goodness buried deep down inside of me and make things right – live a prosperous, victorious, happy Christian life.

The first step of recovery is: “I realize I am not God. I admit that I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and that my life is unmanageable.”

That’s quite the opposite of what evangelical Christianity taught me. Yes, I did hear about surrending to him, letting go of my agenda, seeking truth in His word…but that message got muddied with self-help theology, a culture of denying or minimizing pain and suffering, and exhausting sin-management techniques.

I confess that I have not moved past Step 1. Every. Single. Day. I have to return to Step 1.

I cannot find within myself any sort of anything to make myself right. I am alot worse than you think I am. I am a lot worse than I think I am. I don’t even have to dig anymore…every day I get new insights into my depraved broken, sinful nature. I still have days where I’m surprised with just how broken. Sometimes I’m surprised I have any friends at all. It’s lonely living with that brokenness, one day hoping people would find out the truth about how messy I am so I can be free, the next day, using every worldly tool available to cover up my sin.

I know I deserve death. Death by firing squad. The worst possible death.

But….

I continue down this road with Jesus, and a few good “non-blinking” friends who are allowing me to be more real than I ever imagined. His light shines into my darkness, and I can live another day knowing he’s not leaving me, no matter what trash he may find in the depths of my soul or what messes I make in my daily life. My sin is no surprise to him.

He came. He lived. He died. He rose. – for me, for you.

“Cheer up; you’re a lot worse off than you think you are, but in Jesus you’re far more loved than you could have ever imagined.” Steve Brown

 

Despite how I feel, He loves me still

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Learning to live honest when you’ve lived most of your life in moralistic dishonesty is hard. Real me always fighting the me I “should be”. Marci Preheim

I confess I’m having one of those “I hate myself” weeks. If you say you don’t have those days/weeks, I’ll wonder if you’re human or will assume the prosperity gospel has you in it’s clutches (if neither of those are the case, I’m sorry for making those assumptions). The days between my birthday and Christmas have historically been hard. Every year I tell myself “this year will be different”, but every year – HARD!

I had a great birthday. I got to see some of my high school best friends – they spoiled me with pina coladas, a good lunch, dating advice (its been over 10 years..as if a date is on the horizon) and tons of laughs. The day after, though, like a ton of bricks, I felt my desperation. No, I didn’t have a hangover from the pina coladas…I have my doubts there was any alcohol in them.

My life is an absolute mess – a mess that I can’t clean up. You might say (because I’ve heard it before) “Well, at least you don’t have it as bad as so and so.” Truth be told, I’m tired of that comparison crap. Life is hard. You don’t live under my skin. You don’t know the thoughts and demons that I deal with on a daily basis…and I don’t know yours. As Tullian Tchividjian said in a sermon “You are not acting super-spiritual and demonstrating some heroic strength by pretending life is not hard.”

Often on these days those ugly thoughts return. I don’t want to kill myself, but I have thoughts that tell me I don’t deserve to be alive, to have breath in my lungs. Usually there are faces associated with those thoughts – faces of people who have hurt me, shut me down, minimized my pain, or rejected me. I know who the real accuser is, and I know those are lies, believe me I know, but that is how I experience the dark days.

But…despite how I feel, He loves me still…

“He knows me. He knows what satisfies my heart. He knows what gives me peace. He knows all my fears, my suppressed financial worries, the haunting sense that I may have missed what I was supposed to do with my life, that I’ve failed Him and DON’T KNOW WHO TO TELL. He knows I don’t believe fully what I claim to believe.” John Lynch

There are a handful of people I feel safe enough to share my brutal truth with. I shared this with a few of them yesterday:

“I’m struggling to believe it (that He loves me)…today. I know He does…but there are just days when it’s nearly impossible to believe.”

If you come from a legalistic, prosperity gospel frame of mind, I’m pretty sure I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re thinking of all the things I need “to-do” to get out of this funk. That was my frame of mind for years. Moralism was my drug of choice for too long and it really screwed me up.

Escaping legalism, seeking freedom and learning to trust in “Christ alone” is hard, but it is worth the pain, the dark days, the confusion, the lost friendships, etc. etc.

My friend Marci shared her family mantra with me yesterday, and I love it – #livehonest. That’s how I want to live, because…

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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

Unpretending (Messy Spirituality Excerpt)

There is no room for pretending in the spiritual life. Unfortunately, in many religious circles, there exists an unwritten rule. Pretend. Act like God is in control when you don’t believe he is. Give the impression everything is okay in your life when it’s not. Pretend you believe when you doubt; hide your imperfections; maintain the image of a perfect marriage with healthy and well-adjusted children when your family is like any other normal dysfunctional family. And whatever you do, don’t admit that you sin.

Practically, pretending is efficient, uncomplicated, and quick. Answering “Fine” to the question “How are you doing?” is much easier and quicker than saying, “Not very well, thank you; my back is bothering me, my teenage children are disappointing me, I’m unhappy with my body, my husband never speaks to me, and I’m wondering if Christianity is true.” Honesty requires a huge investment of time and energy from the person asking the question (who would then wish they’d never asked).

Pretending is the grease of modern nonrelationships. Pretending perpetuates the illusion of relationships by connecting us on the basis of who we aren’t. People who pretend have pretend relationships. But being real is a synonym for messy spirituality, because when we are real, our messiness is there for everyone to see. Some people consider the use of words like messy spirituality rude and audacious. “How dare you suggest that people are messy? What are you proposing? Are you suggesting that sin is okay, that we should condone less than a 100 percent effort to serve God? You are too negative. It’s not helpful to emphasize our flaws.” But the truth is, we are a mess. None of us is who we appear to be. We all have secrets. We all have issues. We all struggle from time to time. No one is perfect. Not one. (I have just paraphrased Romans 3:10.) The essence of messy spirituality is the refusal to pretend, to lie, or to allow others to believe we are something we are not. Unfortunately, people can handle the most difficult issues more easily than they can handle the lack of pretending.

When you and I stop pretending, we expose the pretending of everyone else. The bubble of the perfect Christian life is burst, and we all must face the reality of our brokenness. Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality