Hope Does Not Let Us Down

My dear friends, it has been five long months since my last post, and I was not in a good place then. To be honest, I still have days when I’m not in a good place. The difference now, though, is that instead of just flat out not being in a good place, now I only have days where I’m not.

I talked to my counselor about what was going on, and she strongly recommended I speak to a psychiatrist to consider going on medication. As I mentioned before, that did not initially sit well with me. There’s all the stigma about being on meds, and I was afraid of being zombified. But I trust my counselor – I’ve been seeing her for five years, after all. If she truly thought I needed medication, maybe she was right. So I went to see the psychiatrist and told her about my issues and about my medication fears as well. Ultimately, she ended up putting me on a low dosage of an antidepressant.

Within days I felt better.

Life seemed more manageable; I no longer felt I was drowning in the ocean of life.

I’ve been on this medication for five months now, and I’m so glad I did. I still go to counseling and I’m still trying to work through my issues, but the medication makes it so I can continue to function like a human being while I do so. The meds didn’t flatten me – I can still write, I can still draw, I still have my creative spark.

I had to make some adjustments in other areas of my life, too. I dropped out of one of my three courses (of course, it had to be the one class I actually enjoyed… but it was my only elective). I stopped trying to push myself as hard, became more aware of my limits. I gave myself permission to not have to care about every single thing in the world (I mean, there are only so many things one person is capable of caring about, and that’s okay).

And I spent more time with my family. I went to my brother’s house almost every weekend for several months. I chilled with them. I went to garage sales with them. I held the baby. I played games with them. And somewhere in there God restored my soul.

I have had to remind myself daily that I am more than a conqueror, that hope does not let us down, and that He Himself is my peace. I have cried through hours of “It Is Well” and “Dead Come to Life” and “My Lighthouse.” And I have survived.

And I’m stronger now than I was before.

Friends, no matter the valley you’re walking through, no matter how hard life tries to defeat you, know that you. will. make. it. through. Hold onto the flicker of hope, chase after the light. And if you need to get help, get help. There is no shame in getting help. Did you hear me? There is no shame in getting help.

Five Minute Friday: Fly

The weights of life love nothing more than to crush me into the ground.  If they had their way, I would be nothing more than powder sprinkled on the ground or scattered by the wind.  The weights of life are cruel; not just cruel, though, but crafty as well. So crafty as to make me forget that I was born with wings.

Sadly, it seems as if there are only rare time I remember my wings. Like when I’m playing piano. When the music flows from my fingers and my eyes are closed and my ears hear nothing in the world except the imperfectly perfect melody filling the air around me – then I can fly. When my nieces look at me with adoration in their eyes and tell me they love me and want to be just like me when they grow up – then I can fly.  When the words of Scripture break free from their ink and paper shackles and come to life before me, reminding me of just exactly who God is and how deep and wide and long His love is for me – then I can fly.  When the words I set to paper come easily and breathe life into images and scenes that previously existed only in my head – then I can fly.

The truth is, I always have the ability to fly, to be who God destined me to be. It’s just hard to remember because of those silly weights.  Maybe that’s why the author of Hebrews urges us to “lay aside every weight … and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus” (Hebrews 12:1-2, KJV).  He understood that weights attach themselves to us and keep us from our God-potential, and he also knew that turning to and focusing on Jesus is the only way to truly keep the weights from winning their vicious battle.

What keeps you from flying? Look to Jesus and know that He is more than able to lift any weight that has settled upon you.

5-minute-friday-1

Psalm 23

Jesus watches over me: I have everything I need.
He takes me to a restful place,
he leads me along safe paths,
he renews my spirit.
His reputation ensures
he will never lead me astray.
Even though I walk
through a fog of depression,
I will fear no evil,
because Jesus is with me;
his instruments comfort me.
He will make sure I’m taken care of,
even when enemies surround me.
He gives me so many blessings,
I can’t contain them all.
I know His love and mercy
will be with me my whole life,
and I will live with Him forever.

This is a paraphrase of a Psalm that has been on my heart and mind a lot lately. Depression may have struck me once again, but that does not change the fact that God still walks alongside me, taking care of me and protecting me.  He will stay with me, depressed or not.

This assurance allows me to hope even amidst forces trying to bind me up and crush me down. Hope is strongest when times are darkest, for it is then that hope is most desperately needed.  When times are high and life is good, hope is unnecessary; why do you need to hope for life to be better when life is already great? But when times are tough and life is rough, hope is what gets you through to another day and another and another.

Hold onto hope, for when you have nothing left to hold onto, hope will still be there.

Anti-Internet Day

September 9 is and always shall be Anti-Internet Day for me.  No, I’m not an Internet-hater, and no, I don’t think the Internet is inherently evil.  Obviously I love the internet, or else I would be writing this on paper instead of in a blog.  Anti-Internet Day is about freedom from addiction.

For the last two years of high school I lived a double life.  By day I lived a relatively normal life, doing school work, going to church, and competing in extracurricular activities.  But by night I lived a completely differently online in XXX role playing games.  Online I got to be all the vile things I was too scared to be in the regular world. (I’ll spare you the details of all that; what’s the point in rolling around in muck in order to talk about how nice it is to be clean?) I liked my double life and was fully prepared to continue living it forever.  I knew all the church stuff and believed most of it; I had, after all, been raised in a pastor’s home.  But I had managed to justify my hypocritical existence, telling myself things like, “It’s not real,” “It’s just a bit of fun,” and “The Bible wasn’t talking about this because this is the Internet and the Bible doesn’t apply here.”  I built up this shell of lies and justification around me so much that I was deaf to reason and sense.

Five years ago today I encountered God in a way I never had before.  I don’t remember what specifically happened, and I don’t remember what was said or who said it.  But I know that the effect was that of God striking my shell with a sledgehammer and shattering it into a million billion pieces.  Suddenly I could hear Truth and could see myself for what I was: A liar wrapped in chains of addiction and perversion.  The Truth showed me that what I did online was in fact real, for  Jesus said that “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).  If the thought-life counts the same as action-life in God’s eyes, then everything I did in that “game” was just as real as if I had done it with another person. The Truth showed me that while what I did seemed like it was just a bit of fun, “there is a way that seems right to a person, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12).  While I don’t think my online actions were necessarily going to result in my physical death, they certainly killed me spiritually – and without me even realizing it.  The Truth showed me that while the Bible doesn’t talk specifically about the Internet, it is not silent on the matter, for “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12; emphasis added).  My thoughts were as far from righteous as is possible to be.

Knowing this Truth allowed me to be set free.  I am free to live without fear of being discovered. I am free to live without exhaustion from living two lives.  I am free to speak truth to others without being hypocritical.  I am free to live life without bondage.  I am free to worship God without condemnation.  I am free to live my life to the fullest.

I’d like to say that I was so radically changed that day five years ago that I never struggled with my online identity again. I’d like to say I never stumbled or did stupid things again. But that would be a lie, and part of the New Me is not lying to myself or to others. Of course I have struggled and of course I have stumbled; I am an imperfect person living in a fallen world. The differences is that I don’t live in that place of addiction any longer.  When I fall, I don’t stay down in the mud.  I remember what that life was like and I never want to go back.

Hopeful Realism

People who know me from only interacting with Work Me think I’m an optimist. Others have accused me of being a pessimist, others a cynic, and still others a realist.

None of those sit right with me, though. None of those fully encompass the way the world reveals itself to me.  I see the potential for future disaster, but I don’t believe catastrophe is unavoidable. I see how those with power abuse those without, but I realize not all the powerful are cut from the same cloth. I see kindness in people, but I know that people are naturally bent to darkness instead of light.  I see the state of the world around me, but I have hope that life can improve.

That’s what hopeful realism is all about: Recognizing that all is not well with life, but retaining a deep seated belief that the what comes next can be better than what went before.

Hopeful realism is not merely the naïve dreaming of a girl yet to experience life, but is rather the result of a life transformed by faith. Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Is that not the essence of hopeful realism? I am confident that when time runs out, the One who created time will still hold us in His hand.  I am assured that even if I must suffer hardships, “he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (Matthew 24:13).

The God Who Is

Sometimes I look at people who call themselves Christians and cannot help but think, “I want nothing to do with their ‘God.'”

I am proud to say that I was raised in a Christian household and that I am a follower of Jesus Christ, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I love God. But sometimes people’s actions make me doubt whether we serve the same God. Vicious, malicious, abusing people do horrible, hurtful things, and then turn around and talk about how great God is and how wonderful life is serving Him.  Their lifestyles make their ‘God’ seem fake.  My reaction to that is, “I want nothing to do with the God of that person.”

Then I look at other Christians and cannot help but want to know their God. People who live good lives, who go out of their way not to hurt others, who have a simple intimacy with God. These people live out their faith on a daily basis with no faking or pretense.  They know God, and it is evident in everything they do.  How can I not want to follow the God of people like this?

I recently sat down and had a long talk with God about this dichotomy.  How can people who claim to follow the same God have such different expressions of Him? Surely the God of the first group cannot be the same as the God of the second?

I went on like this for a long time, not letting God get a word in edgewise. When I finally shut up long enough, I heard His quiet voice whisper to me: “Must I be the ‘God of this’ or the ‘God of that’? The pagans have their god of wind and god of love and god of war. But me? I AM. What else do you need Me to be? What else is there? I AM. I AM God, but My children reflect me with different levels of perfection.  When you look at some, you see a clear picture of who I am, but when you look at others you still see much of the world obscuring My image. I am still cleaning My children, making them into a better reflection of Me.”

Instead of following the “God of this person” or the “God of that person,” I now simply choose to follow “I AM”: the God who is big enough to handle even my own poor reflection of Him.