Thursday, April 2, 2009

When I wasn't the same...

I tell the story often enough that one would think I could explain how I got from the dark cave of depression to pounding the road towards a life given, not earned and full of joy.

Seven years ago, I lived in a studio apartment that had one window. I was a newlywed with bruises and an inanimate best friend. I spent my days in a fog of thoughtless stupor consulting my best friend for distraction... Beat the Geeks, Different Strokes, Days of our Lives.... I was the front runner for wasting time and avoiding life. I wanted to die. I thought about it a lot. I cried a lot. I couldn't figure out why I existed, why God had made me... an average girl with crippling fatigue and endless pain. Why even after trying to do all the right things I had ended up in the dark cave of directionless depression. I had expected rewards, accolades, success for making all the right choices. I kept replaying it over in my head... My advisor, a christian man at a christian school telling me I didn't belong there... that I wasn't fit to serve God in a full time ministry. At that point in my life, God was a distant entity. He mainly observed with His arms folded sternly across His chest. He was not a smiling radiant hope. He was not a beacon in the storm... no, there was no greater storm in my life than the God that I saw. Serious. Strict. Glaring. A virtual hurricane of disapproval. So I approached Him cowering, ashamed, hating myself, beating myself, a sick pride of masochism deep in my heart.

I noted all my failures. I saw no success. I was beat. Defeated by my own imperfections, kicked down by the world, missing all the marks. I fell short of everyone's approval and I finally sat down.

These were dark days. I didn't want to numb any of my pain with drugs or alcohol. I wanted to feel the punishment I felt I deserved. I believed I deserved every bit of emotional and physically agony I was given. But this time, I hoped that it led to death. I felt worthless, a mistake at best, an ultimate failure with no potential worth investing in.

It's no mistake however, how much I needed to reach that point. I absolutely needed to throw out what everyone thought of me. I stripped it down to me. I suddenly wasn't trying to please anyone anymore. Not my parents, not teachers, not friends, and not God. I still desperately wanted approval, but I was growing ever more angry that people were so harsh and unforgiving with me. Doing nothing was exactly what I needed to do, to prove a point to others and mainly myself. I was tired. I couldn't play that game anymore. Not physically. Not emotionally.

Deep down, I knew God loved me. I spent most of my life denying the how's of that fact. I never believed He actually loved me in my entirety. I couldn't believe that and simaltaneously maintain a groveling position that I had grown accustomed to. I was taught that gratitude was the motiviation for good behavior. But I was not taught the thing I was to be the most grateful for. I was grateful for the external blessings of my life... food, house, family, safety, education.. etc. I never knew how much He loved ME, personally and completely.

Stripped of the world's expectations, I had to consult the One who made me. Why? I asked over and over... sometimes through tears, sometimes in quiet musings, sometimes in frustration and anger. Why did you make ME? I knew He had a purpose in all things... This was the first time I had to confront the truth that He had a purpose in me... little old me.

So I began a slow quiet journey pondering this thought: what does God think of me? While part of me was comfortable with the angry stern Super God, there was another part of me that just wanted a Daddy. I just wanted Him to hold me and reassure me... that I was ok, that things were ok, that things would get better. And He did. There was no great vision or epiphany... What happened next did change my life forever, however.

My great grandmother died. No shocker, she was old and senile. But it brought family together. A few weeks later, my dad was diagnosed with colon cancer. A month later, my grandpa (my dad's stepfather) was diagnosed with skin cancer. Two months later, my sister was informed she had breast cancer.

How did this affect my internal process? Depression is a dark and lonely place filled with mirrors. Strangely enough, the barrage of family illness acted as a crane to lift me out of my dark hole of self-reflection. I had no choice but to focus on the present issues of others. I sat with my dad in his hospital room. My whole world tilted... I did lose my dad in a sense because of his cancer and how it changed his life choices. I did lose my grandfather when the cancer took his life a year and a half later. And I gained a sister when her cancer brought her closer to God and changed her heart.

I crawled through 21 years of my life, never knowing that God was beside me not just above me. I stopped and sat down and cried, not knowing that God was holding me. I gradually started looking around me and at myself. Then... I looked up! Praise God.. there He was! And He was smiling and His arms were wide open. He took my hand and for the first time ever, I was walking. My head up I felt the sunshine, I saw the beauty of His world. And He brought me to a mirror... I was hesitant. I did not want to see what a wretch I was. His love was amazing as long as I didn't have to think about how unworthy I was. But He lifted my chin and said, "Look, please... just look." So I did. And I saw a little girl standing with her Daddy. I saw how lovingly He looked at me. I saw that I wasn't dirty or ugly, I was beautiful! ...And behind the mirror was a bloody and beaten Jesus... holding the mirror was a cross. And I saw for the first time what I should be grateful for. Sadness and joy converged into a flood of tears. I fell at His feet. "...thank you... thank you..." it was all I could do or say. Knowing I could not even began to pay Him back for all of this, I said what I believe was what He wanted to hear all along, "I am yours. Let me live for you in your world. Show me the way, Father." We embraced, He stroked my hair, pulled me away to look at me in the eyes, "Daughter, I am always with you. I will be with you every step of the way. Don't ever forget that, ok?"

.... So when the darkness of the world seeps into my heart, I remember what He told me what He still tells me everyday. The sun rises because He is still there. He is still here. And I have His words, His promises to bring me back to a sunny day in front of the mirror of Christ. I have His love to warm me from the coldness of others. I have the hope He gave me to keep me on track. He is with me... every step of the way... my Daddy.

peace and love,