These events occurred in Winter 2012-2013
I stood there watching my friend put my clothes on hangers. I had no energy, but attempted to “help.” I looked at her for any sign that there was still hope for me. She wouldn’t look me in the eyes when she said, “You’re a good Christian, BUT…” And then she spewed out a list of things I needed to do better. I replied sobbing, “I am NOT a good Christian. I am NOT a good steward of what the Lord has given me, and I have hurt so many people. I have to get my act together.” I don’t remember her response. I just remember retreating into my closet trying to hide the tears—a sign of weakness in her eyes.
I really should have been in a mental hospital. I had spent several months battling panic attacks, sleepless nights, loss of appetite, loss of concentration, and no energy. Our apartment was a disaster. I lost over 30 pounds in less than three months. I was sure I was going to lose my job. I couldn’t keep up with the bills. I spent hours on the phone with friends and family in hopes they could help me out of despair that was invading my life. I was amazed I was still alive. I would have several panic attacks a day. I had tried several different anti-depressants with scary side effects. I wanted to die. I was convinced I had already ruined the lives of all the people who loved me, and the enemy further convinced me that I would keep doing more of the same. I read the bible and the verses that reminded me of how much I had failed as a Christian, as a human, seemed to scream at me in the loudest decibel.
Friends encouraged me to continue going to church and bible study. I didn’t know how to express that church was part of the problem. I tried, but they didn’t get it. They told me that I shouldn’t isolate…I needed to be around my church “family”. My church family, it seemed, was full of shiny, happy people who I perceived were looking at me like I was insane. I felt like Mary Magdalene running through the streets begging for help. One lady, who I didn’t know from Adam, was commandeered to pray with me. She was kind at first, but I heard more commands from her than comfort and prayer. At one point she scolded me for not trusting God. When she walked away, I felt heavier and more hopeless.
The sermons that I was hearing increased my panic attacks. I heard a lot about what I had to do – have BBQ’s for my non-believing neighbors, do mission work, help in children’s ministry, etc. I heard a few little tidbits about Jesus. It seemed like a new list was presented to me every week and I couldn’t even tackle the lists presented to me months before. I felt like a defective Christian and human being. I could barely get out of bed (even if I couldn’t sleep) in the state I was in…I couldn’t keep up with any checklist. I ended up at the first aid station a few times, unable to catch my breath.
There were a few women in our church, thank the Lord, who had been through the dark night of the soul. They took me aside and listened…really listened. I have written about some of those people in previous blog posts. They also prayed without trying to “fix”. They may have made a few treatment suggestions, but they didn’t scold or hand me more “to-dos”. One of those women was instrumental in starting the single mom support group I had been a part of for many years. I reached out to her because her pastor husband (a different pastor than the one mentioned above) had spoken about her depression years earlier in one of his sermons (with her permission, I’m sure). He spoke about how she finally stopped telling her church family she was “fine”. She told them the truth – she was depressed and needed prayer.
During bible study in our single mom group one night, I pulled her aside and asked her if she would pray with me. She has never been one to deny a request for prayer. We walked outside to a sitting area. She told me she had heard I was struggling and had been praying for me and my daughter. She told me to explain what was going on. She let me talk (for a long time) and she listened intently. She didn’t try to explain away my depression. She didn’t tell me that I didn’t have enough faith and that I wasn’t praying enough or trusting in the Lord enough. She didn’t tell me I had failed in my Christian walk. She didn’t try to “fix” my situation, even if I wanted to be fixed. She reminded me of Jesus and His love for me – she told me He loved me before I was born and that His love had nothing to with my works. She said something about God turning my ashes into beauty. She held my hands and carried me into the arms of the Shepherd with prayer. When I left her side, I was sure I had just spent time with Jesus…and a tiny glimmer of hope opened up in my soul.
One of my favorite quotes is “Never take the advice of someone who has not had your kind of trouble.” by Sidney J Harris. My friend had seen my kind of trouble, and what she did was greater than any advice in the world. She loved me right where I was, and allowed Jesus to speak through her.
Those months are still blurry and events are out of order in my mind. I have journal pages filled with prayers and pleas for God’s help, but on many of those pages I didn’t put dates. I’m amazed I was even able to write anything at that time. I don’t remember if it was before my friend prayed with me or after that I discovered I had a Vitamin D deficiency. I also went through Sozo, inner healing prayer through Rapha God Ministries, around this time too. All I know is that shortly thereafter, with the help of treatment and many tools the Lord provided for me, I started feeling healthier. I was getting sleep again, I was eating, the panic attacks died down, and I was hopeful. For the first time in a long time, I believed I was loved – unconditionally.
If you know me, you also know about a ministry that has made a tremendous impact on my understanding of God’s law and gospel, and has helped me to embrace the Good News in a way I was never capable of before. The ministry is called Liberate. I started listening to Tullian’s sermons every day while I worked and with each sermon, felt like I could breathe easier than I had in well over 30 years. The blog posts and other resources Liberate provides further opened up the gate of the performance cage I had been living in for years. I started walking out of that cage into freedom.
Those scriptures and voices that had previously condemned me no longer had that power because I understood the truth – the Christian life is not about me. Those scriptures were perfectly placed there to remind me of my need for something that I could never achieve on my own…and now I believe the voices were perfectly placed in my life at that time too. It has always been about Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. He went to the cross for me – a broken, weary traveler in this broken world. He will never leave my side.