the pains of humility.

Note: The past two days have been a study in humility. In choking down my pride and in accepting correction.

Valentine’s Day. The last Valentine’s I had I was in a relationship and I received a plethora of jewelry from my now ex-boyfriend. It was not expensive – but it was a thoughtful gift. He had made sure that each piece would fit my personality. Two months later it was over.

This Valentine’s Day I was emotionally raw. I had tried to share my feelings with a close friend. I was hoping for some comfort. And, like the true extrovert I am, I was hoping for some company. Only to learn that my friend had been invited to another Valentine’s event by a mutual acquaintance – one I was not invited to. It was hard not to feel somewhat betrayed. Logically I know my friend had nothing to do with my not being included. She has no say over who attends this event. She did not even plan it. It was not the lack of invitation that I felt hurt over. I could not explain why I was feeling so hurt until it hit me. I was hoping for some expression of sorrow – and of comfort. I wanted so badly to hear “I’m sorry you weren’t invited, I would have liked for you to be there.” Even if it was not up to her. But my friend is an introvert. And to an introvert, silences are most comforting when one does not know what to say. To an extrovert however, silences are understood as a lack of care or feeling. So here I am, struggling to be logical while my heart and emotions pester me to continue to be hurt. But, I had made another discovery as I sat alone on my unmade, stripped down bed. I discovered that at times, I can be a spoiled, indulgent, entitled child. I am someone who expects every day to go perfectly. And when a day somehow veers out of my control or goes awry I swell up in (what I believe to be) righteous fury or I wallow in despair. Certainly I am not the first woman who has had to spend a Valentine’s alone. Certainly this does not mean that I am not well-loved. My friend has spent the last four Sundays with me, patiently being a quiet comfort while I cry and rage at God. She sends me encouraging texts every morning and night. She invites me in even though I know I often invade her precious time and space. I know our friendship has forced her out of her comfort zone and yet she plods through, putting my needs above her own on many occasions. If that is not an assurance of love I do not know what is. I must remember that a painting is the sum of it’s brush strokes – and not simply as good as it’s last one. A book is formed by all of it’s chapters – not merely a paragraph at the end. Humility Lesson #1.

Then today, my dearest friend in the world – the person I consider as a sister of my heart and soul – informed me that a mutual friend of ours had sought her out for a project. This friend of ours had introduced her to a person she would be working with. That person (as our mutual friend well knows) is someone who has hurt me considerably. She has hurt me so badly that we have not spoken in years. And here she was, daring to communicate with a member of my family. I again felt the sting of betrayal. This time directed to the friend who had acted as a bridge between who I consider most precious to me and who I would rather forget exists. Why did she not inform me? Was this the only project she could offer my friend? Again, I had to swallow my pride. This is a wonderful opportunity for my friend. I think the hurt stems from being kept in the dark – not being consulted or forewarned. But then again why do I feel entitled to being forewarned? No one owes me any explanations. Though I still admit to feeling a lack of care in the handling of the situation that pokes at my insecure heart, I can also admit that this is not about me. This is about my wonderfully talented friend – and another friend who saw fit to provide her with an opportunity. Humility Lesson #2.

I also need to admit I felt a certain sting that my dear friend was still willing to work with this person. That she did not immediately say “well now I will never work with her because she hurt you!”. Even as I logically told her (and myself) that she would be remiss to pass up this opportunity. I am a flawed emotional human being. And I badly wanted to hear some assurance that she was hurt on my behalf. But why should it always be about me? Can I not simply revel in the fact that someone who has supported me and loved me through my darkest hours is getting a wonderful opportunity to shine? Oh, it is not fun to be an adult and learn that you have the capacity to be as petty and immature as a child. Humility Lesson #3.

It is so hard for me to accept that my feelings might be out of place. Because, I have had a lifetime of learning to marshal my feelings – always trying to be perfect and proper and above all else, logical. Because of this, I resent any suggestion that my feelings might be pointing me to believing untruths. I have an insatiable need to be in control of my feelings and I do not like when my emotions get the better of me. I do not like that I feel hurt. I keep telling myself I do not have the right.

But perhaps – having the right to feel hurt – is not at all the same as being right because of your hurt. In other words, they can be mutually exclusive. I am hurt – and that is not wrong. But it does not mean that I am correct in my assumptions that I have been wronged. Perhaps I can acknowledge the feelings, then move on without attempting to control the world around me or have it suffer for (in my eyes) failing me.

Learning humility is a tricky business.

this discontent.

In 2 days it will be my birthday. I will be 1 year older. In the space of a year so much has changed. Early in the year I went on a grand adventure hoping to find myself. Instead a door closed. I went back home feeling like I needed to stop wishing and hoping and dreaming. Soon after I went home I met someone. Unexpectedly I found myself in the middle of a long-distance dating relationship. The word “dating” is an important qualifier. We are not together-together. But we are getting to know each other exclusively and tentatively seeing if this is worth calling a “relationship”. So surprise surprise. I find myself wishing and hoping. And trying to keep the dreaming to a minimum. These are all important milestones in my life. But they are not everything. I find myself wishing and hoping and dreaming of something more. Something bigger than myself and bigger than my dreams. Something to fill the God-shaped hole in my heart.

I spent the day unshowered, reading a book about a dark fairytale (aren’t they all dark though?) and feeling depressed and alone and unloved. I knew it was not true. but I also knew something was wrong. I had not talked to God today. I had not talked to God, really talked to Him in a while. Well that’s not true. I talked to him about my life, about my feelings, my relationships…but I had not talked to him about myself. The deepest part of my heart that longs for something only He can give. I don’t think it is love – because I am certain I am loved. I think it has to do with purpose. About who He says I am and what I should do with this life should I be lucky enough to get another year to live it.

I feel as I have always felt – that I am not doing what He planned for my life. That I am still having days where I am unshowered, reading books till the late hours of the night, eating McDonald’s and leaving the paper bag and wrappers on the floor. A mess of a human being. When will I ever get it right? When will my life look like what I imagine it should be? A crusader who comes home after a long day of being Jesus to people, loving the unlovable, helping the weak and downtrodden. I don’t have a family of my own, I don’t have anyone to take care of. Can’t I use the time I do have to bless the less fortunate? To offer them my care and time and attention? I don’t know why it is so hard to do. Is my heart so closed off?

I feel like a fraud. Like a failure of a person, like a failure of a Christ-follower. I still worry about bills even as I purchase items for my upcoming holiday trip. I still question God’s grace and goodness even as I realize that I am getting to go on an all-expenses paid trip holiday trip around the world with someone I am coming to care for deeply. I can still see all that is lacking in my life even as I can see all the undeserved, unmerited blessings I am receiving.

What is wrong with me? I know what my friends would say. They would tell me that I am amazing, kind-hearted, and caring. I know what the man in my life would say. That if I want to do something to change my life I CAN. I know what my family would say. That I am an overthinker who is perpetually discontent.

I do not know what God would say. So on my birthday – this is my wish. To hear his voice. For Him to turn my head to the direction I should go and forcefully say – “Here. Do this. Be this. I will show you how. Chase after it with all that is in you. This is what I am choosing for you.”

Is that too much to ask?

quote-William-Lyon-Phelps-god-speaks-to-me-not-through-the-206545.png

this is what I’ve learned.

the great big north american adventure is over.

It’s been a wonderful trip. I went there thinking this was going to be mainly about the counseling program and as a consolation prize I’d get to see my friends…well that’s not exactly how things turned out.

The gift and the blessing was getting to see my friends. Meeting new people. Being blown away and overwhelmed by how generous and kind people are. I literally spent $350 CAD during my entire month-long trip (excluding the airfare of course). Everything else was provided for – food, beds, couches, hotels.  I stayed with people I didn’t know. I was toured around by friends of friends. It was amazing. It was something I badly needed – to be reminded of the goodness in people.

A bigger blessing was having the freedom to strip away everything people have told me about myself in the past couple of years and just feel free to be myself. No judgments. No unwelcome opinions. No one speaking into my life telling me what is and isn’t wrong with me. I learned so much about who I am as a person and I learned to stop trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I will always be one of those people that straddles cultures, that is forever in the camp of the outsiders and people who are labeled “not easy to understand”. That’s OK.

Some lessons I learned on this trip:

  1. People that are truly helpful will just help you. I met so many people that were willing to house me, feed me, tour me around. And yes, some were old and dear friends, but some were strangers – friends of friends that had heard that a girl from another country needed a place to stay and someone to host her. It was amazing to hear people say “What do you need? Let’s make it happen.” instead of just “I’ll pray for you.”
  2. Sometimes, the problem isn’t me. During the course of this trip I felt free to just be myself. I would say something about how shitty I felt or how angry or hurt I was…and instead of hearing “well, maybe it’s you” I heard “that’s such a horrible thing to go through”. Or “that doesn’t seem fair”.  Maybe it’s a cultural thing but back home it always feels like people are uncomfortable with “negative” emotions. If you are feeling angry or hurt or let down then you should find a way to deal with it quickly and move on. Never blame the other person. Never hold anyone accountable but yourself. It was so refreshing to be in an environment that seemed to accept the good, the bad, and the ugly. All in all it was great to have my feelings validated.
  3. Standards of beauty are different across the world. Where I live, people freely toss around opinions like “you got fat” or “you look tired” or “your eye bags are so dark!” (because you decided to forego makeup that day). While I was in North America not once did someone tell me to go put on more makeup. I lived in sneakers and leggings for a month and never felt more beautiful and accepted – even when I noticed that I had gained 8 lbs.

The biggest thing that I learned on this trip is to be myself. And to have the courage to fight for that authentic self – that beautifully broken, messy self. So that’s who I’m going to be from now on.

The Middle - Jimmy Eat World

The Middle – Jimmy Eat World

It has taken me 2 and a half months to actually write this down. This trip was so meaningful that it literally took all that time to process and organize my thoughts.

adventure time.

The last 2 months since my last entry had me feeling like I was on an emotional road trip. I’ve made quite a few pit stops so far – loneliness, depression, family drama, discontent with my job, getting my hopes up, keeping my hopes down, losing faith, clinging to God, steeping myself in my vices, begging forgiveness, choosing my friends, letting go of relationships, learning to stand up for myself…needless to say it’s been a crazy couple of months. Today though there is some clarity. I feel like I am still driving to “destination unknown”…but the fog is lifting.

In a couple of weeks I will be flying to Canada to take up a counseling certification. I had toyed with the idea of pursuing this last January but was resigned to giving up on it because of a lack of finances. Well, 3 weeks ago I woke up to several Skype messages and a missed call from my counselor. She excitedly shared that she had contacted some of her former counselees and a couple had decided to sponsor my tuition and residential fees. Then another week later I got a partial travel grant from the counseling alumni association. I applied for my Canadian visa immediately and despite not having every document they asked for, was granted a visa in a week and a half. A girl I had gone to high school with (she was a year above me) saw my “I’m coming to Canada” post on fb and offered me a place to stay. Some of my Stateside friends also began offering places to stay if I came to visit. Two of my best friends from the States offered to drive/fly to wherever I was for a weekend so we could all hang out. On top of that, my boss agreed to give me one month off to complete the course as well as have some time off to take a vacation.

God has really been aligning and arranging things so that I get to do this. I am beyond grateful and beyond blown away. Everytime I try to express how I feel I just choke. There are no words.

I have realized though that if you are doing something that is in service to others and in accordance with His will, He will really throw open doors and windows and move on your behalf. Because moving on your behalf also means moving on His behalf. Very often I ask for selfish things. Things that I don’t really need and that don’t benefit anyone but myself. And like a good parent, sometimes He gives me those things for the pure joy and pleasure of putting a smile on my face. But also very often, He withholds what He thinks does not serve a better purpose. That verse on God “granting the desires of your heart”? I get it. He will grant me my heart’s desires if my heart is aligned with His.

I’ll be leaving in a couple of weeks and I’m starting to freak out a little bit. This is primarily a learning trip. I will be learning things that will enable me to help others. That will enforce a call on me to serve. All of a sudden I’m feeling stifled. I will have the responsibility of using what I learned to help other people and not just keep it for myself as a “useful skill to have”. Now, I will be obligated to do something with this knowledge. I find it funny how I can talk about serving others all day long but when it comes to actually recognizing a responsibility to do so…I balk. I want to say “this isn’t my responsibility…this is just a choice I make because I’m a good Christian.” I wanted to be able to serve God – now that I am handed the opportunity on a silver platter I suddenly feel like buckling under the weight of it. Perhaps it is because I have been so used to living for myself or for my family or for my friends. But never for God. Never for the world at large as a person embodying Christ’s love. But how exciting and overwhelming to know that in a couple of weeks God will be shaking me, breaking me, and renewing me. I will be a person more capable of helping others. I pray that He would not only give me the skills to do so, but the heart to do so as well.

I have a lot of fears…but it helps to see how God has orchestrated things so absolutely perfectly. In some ways, it gives me faith that I’m meant to go on this trip and explore what God wants me to do. Perhaps God has some clarity waiting for me when I get there. Or perhaps He’ll lead me to more questions. All I know for sure is He will “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.”

Scared. Overwhelmed. Excited. Ready.

take me deeper

ps

If you pray…then please pray for me. Some things I am still praying for:

  1. Funding – I still need a lot of $$$ for my plane ticket
  2. Apartment – I need to find someone who can rent my apartment for April
  3. Lodging – I need to find someone who can host me in DC for April 1-7.

of milestones and men.

2014 was a year of EPIC realizations. As I recall everything that happened over that year it feels like a veil has been lifted. In hindsight I see the fingerprints of God over all the good and bad experiences I went through. I see how God has been hemming me in to a place of surrender, to a place of brokenness, and a place of submission. So today I wanted to take some time to write down exactly how my life has changed and list the milestones I had in 2014.

The year started with me being fed a different view of Christianity. I read a book by Mike Erre titled “The Jesus of Suburbia”. It rocked me to my core. I realized that I had missed the whole point of Christ – of his movement. It wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about being a better person, or the 5 steps to being happy as a single, or how to be a better employee. I was ministering to the healthy and completely ignoring the sick. I was treating my fellow image-bearers as “less than”. It was mortifying to be faced with the ugliness in my heart. And it was also humbling and freeing to accept it and allow God to change me.

I started to explore this “radical” view of Christianity more. I was started reading books about Christians who had given up everything for the sake of the gospel. For the sake of being able to serve God and His kingdom by loving the “least of these”. I grew dissatisfied with the church I was attending. I looked around and saw the focus on small groups and ministering to other Christians override the mandate to reach a poor and broken world. I grew angry when I heard fellow Christians talk about isolating and separating themselves from less than desirable people – y’know, those people who curse, smoke, drink, have sex, lie, cheat, and steal. I grew frustrated when I heard my guy friends talk about women’s bodies and whether or not they “looked good” standing next to each other. I hurt for women when I heard men say that because they were “damaged” in some way, they would not be considered as prospective life partners. I grew confused when I realized that no one wanted to rock the boat. People didn’t want to confront or convict. Rebuke was nonexistent. It was all mildness and meekness and no change. I looked around me and thought…is this Christ? Is this Christianity?

I grew angry with myself. Because I am that person. Who will choose to ignore the less than desirable human in favor of the one that readily receives my love. I am that person who will judge another based on appearance or past circumstances. I am that person who will not speak up in favor of keeping the peace. I am that person who will try to sugarcoat a friend’s sin so I don’t run the risk of losing them. Plank, meet splinter.

I moved to a new church. I heard a lot of things that made me uncomfortable. I learned about being passionate but being compassionate. I learned that I was not too much because I felt strongly about certain things. I learned I could be mad at God. I learned I could have different convictions and not worry about being condemned or secretly judged. I am learning to do all those things for others.

I started to become dissatisfied with my job. Prestige, power, travel opportunities, a huge paycheck…I had it all. And it left me hollow and empty. It did not satisfy. It did not ease the ache of emptiness in my heart. I started to take personality tests. I learned that I was an ESFJ – a caregiver. As an ESFJ I am a people person. I derive great joy and satisfaction from being able to help and serve others. I am also extremely organized and love to create order. This was a shock to me – I knew that my job did not fit my design as a person.  I started contemplating other options. Perhaps I could go back to school and start a new degree. Perhaps I could study to become a counselor or psychologist. I applied to several schools in other countries. I received acceptance letters from most of them but have yet to hear back regarding financial aid.

I felt compelled to get my 2nd tattoo. I realized I was in the throes of major life realignment and needed something to remind me to be brave. I thought about it for a month and got a line from an encouraging worship song tattooed on my back. I felt God was clearly speaking to me that He was going to be taking me “deeper than my feet could ever wander”.

I began to feel overwhelmed with everything God was revealing to me. I felt like my life and everything I had known was spinning out of control. I fell into a deep depression (which I am still struggling with today). For the first time in 5 years, since my last bout with depression, I contemplated suicide. I trusted only a few close friends with this knowledge. My oldest friend was a rock of support for me. I saw Jesus over and over again in her. I also trusted other close friends. Some really came through for me. Others let me down. They seemed to give up on me and stopped investing their time in me, all the while promising to pray for me. I opened myself up to new people. Unexpectedly they were there for me. I learned a thing or two about making new relationships, deepening friendships, pruning relationships, letting go of friendships, and forgiving people. 

I opened up to my parents about my depression. I told them of my fear of losing control over my life. Of the idols I had put in my life to replace God. How my identity was so rooted in my career, my position, my apartment, my paycheck. I was so tired of feeling fearful and striving for control all the time. I wanted to give everything up so I wouldn’t be afraid of losing everything anymore. I worried I would not make sense to them. My parents gave me their full support. My mom told me that if I had to spend everything to find myself and be happy, then I should do it. I knew it was a miracle.

An opportunity to become certified as a counselor came up. I felt a strong pull on my heart to pursue it. I didn’t have the money. My counselor committed to praying with me for financial aid. She also is trying her best to help me obtain a work/study agreement with the program director. While I was thinking about this opportunity I also started to wrestle with the idea of leaving my job permanently, taking a hiatus to take the counseling program and then work and serve at churches and charities/nonprofit organizations for a couple of months. Again, the issue of finances reared its ugly head. God began opening doors. My friend and her husband offered to pay for a pair of tickets. They offered me a place to stay. Another friend offered me another place to stay for a time.

I took a trip out of the country to get my head straight. I was able to remove myself from worry and anxiety for a couple of days and just enjoy myself. On this trip I even managed to develop a deeper relationship with my brother and see my sister in another, more positive light. I met with a dear friend who encouraged me saying “I know this is going to hurt, but I’ve never seen you so close to where you should be before.”

Slowly but surely God was opening doors. And I grew more terrified. I wrestled with God in the mornings while I would sip milk tea, eat a chocolate bar, and do my devotions. He kept bringing me verse after verse on the importance of losing my life for the things that mattered, how important it was to be humble and vulnerable before Him, to give Him control, to not worry about the obstacles in my path. I kept insisting for a grander and bigger sign. One day I felt a peace and a confirmation that I had to do it. I had to leave my job, trim down my life, and seek Him. I had to pursue a different dream – one that is in no way fleshed out but requires inordinate levels of faith and trust in Him.

For now, this is where my story ends. Me standing on the edge of something bigger and greater and unimaginable. Petrified that I am doing something incredibly foolish and irresponsible. Terrified of being homeless, hungry, and most of all…useless. Trying to push back the doubts and trust God.

January 2015.

Honeycomb

everything beautiful and terrifying.

I read an article today called “10 things that will happen when you start pursuing your dreams”. The aforementioned 10 things are:

  1. You are going to be scared sh*tless, more than once.
  2. There are times you’re going to be uncertain.
  3. You’re going to get way out of your comfort zone.
  4. Doubt will inevitably creep in.
  5. You’re going to piss some people off.
  6. You’re going to learn what you’re made of.
  7. You will get comfortable asking others for help.
  8. There will come a day when you’ll want to stop taking risks and settle for something with more security.
  9. You will feel vulnerable.
  10. There will be a day when you’re as happy as a kid who just discovered their first jump house, all smiles and laughter.

I’ve only begun taking steps to chasing my dreams and I’m there already. In the throes of being scared shitless, feeling uncertain, out of my comfort zone, doubtful, and wanting security. I know I’m going to piss people off along the way when I give up everything they value and pursue something I value. To sum it up, I am terrified.

Some days the fear buries itself so deep in my body I can’t sleep. I lay awake watching hours of TV so I am distracted from the fact that my life is not where I want it to be. I am not what I wanted to be. So I stay up till 2 am until I doze off, wake up the next morning, go to work, and chip away at my soul by going through the rat race that has become my routine. Pushing the fear back with activity and a constant buzz of company. I can’t stand to be alone and it’s more than my natural ESFJ tendencies. I am terrified that in the silence my emotions will overwhelm me. I have forgotten what it means to grieve well. To cry out my hurts and pains to God and then let them go. I have forgotten to be disappointed but not depressed. Everything I feel is too huge, too monstrous for my body to contain. It is like a force is building inside me, an anger and helplessness that is trying to claw it’s way out, no match for the poor prison that is my thin skin.

All this because I am afraid. Other people are afraid and don’t have to deal with feeling like they want to crawl out of their skin. But I’m not most people. I have tried to control my life for decades. I can remember being an impulsive, passionate child. A bit of a force of nature. But as the product of my parents’ wild emotions and ever-changing circumstances I developed a desperate carefulness. The need to always be good, to do what was expected of me, because it meant that despite everything going wrong in my world, there was one thing that was solid, and consistent, and stable. I was a rock. Immovable. Only I wasn’t. If I was a rock, I was slowly being chipped at by the force of a waterfall. I was never meant to be this carefully controlled person.

The cracks and chips are starting to show. I have an itch under my skin to change my world, change my life. Do something impulsive and passionate and so very unlike me. To chase a dream and feel every beautifully terrifying emotion along the way. To survive being broken and put back together in pursuit of something more. To let go of everything I’m holding onto and reach for everything I have ever wanted. To feel fulfilled to my core because of all the out-of-control mess I had to wade through to get to a place of clean, pure, peace. The peace that is found in the midst of powerlessness. Peace that surpasses all understanding. And covers a multitude of fears.

fear control change

depression is a black hole that will eat you alive.

I knew going home for 2 weeks would be a bad idea.  After the 4 day vacation I had with my sister last month and the volumes of hurt that I received in those 4 days I knew going home and spending 2 weeks with her would only make things worse.  I thought long and hard about whether to spend Christmas away from my family for the first time in my life.  On Dec 19 I packed my bag and flew home.

By the second day she had accused me of taking advantage of my father’s generosity.  By the 3rd day we had a 3 hour conversation (moderated by my mother) where I had to sit and listen to how awful a person I was.  How selfish, how self-serving, how abusive I was.  How she didn’t have one good memory of me.  It felt like my heart was a big raw gaping wound and she was rubbing salt everywhere.

By that 3rd day I saw myself as UNLOVED. UNWANTED. UNAPPRECIATED. I felt overwhelmed. It was the last straw on a year that was sending me steadily into depression.  I texted a good friend telling her I wanted to die to end the pain.  She texted me back that “things will get better”.  I had called her the day before – she had never called back.  She was going through something as well she said, but that was dealt with and now she could text me.  There were no calls from her.  Just a few texts meant to offer comfort.  I have no doubt she meant what she said.  I have no doubt she’s praying for me.  But by the end of that day I also felt INCONVENIENT. A HASSLE. TOO MUCH.

This is a person who I love and I believe, loves me back.  Who has called me crying and I dropped everything to talk to her, to be with her. She’s been there for me multiple times as well.  She’s held me through tears and walked with me through difficult situations. She’s taken care of me while I was sick and alone. But I have never needed her more than last night. And all I had were her texts.  I texted another friend. She also loves me. She’s also been there for me multiple times. I got a text about how we shouldn’t focus on how people fail us because otherwise we will be on the losing end.  I never felt more alone. I struggle to remember that these are friends that love me. I struggle to remind myself that just because they aren’t giving me what I need does not lessen their love for me. Even if I understand that it doesn’t erase the hurt.

Depression is like a black hole. I have been here before and I’ve tried to kill myself before. And just like those times, when I attempted to reach out to people, instead of getting their comfort or sympathy or presence…I got “it will get better, you’ll see”.  “You need to focus on the blessings you have”.  “Have you prayed lately? Maybe you need more time with God”.  “I also feel that way sometimes”.  I understand this is meant to be comforting. But to a depressed person this is not comforting. Unless you mean you also have tried to kill yourself, no, you haven’t felt that way. Unless you can see the future and see this getting better for me then no, you don’t know that things will get better.

My best friend lives across the world from me. She has 2 kids, a husband who was trying to fly back home for Christmas in the middle of bad weather, and her parents were over at her house. She shut herself in her room and talked to me for half an hour.She said she didn’t know what to say but that she loved me. She said she was hurting for me.  She let me talk and vent.  She didn’t tell me what to do or what not to do.  She wanted my number so she could call and check in on me. I know she’s praying for me but what she did meant more to me than any prayer she could offer up.  She sat with me – disgusting, angry, blasphemous, hurtful me, and listened to me and loved me anyway.

Sometimes I feel like Christians suck at dealing with depression. A non-Christian would not feel the need to say “you need to spend more time with God” or “you can overcome this through Christ”.  Remove for a moment the God factor. How then would you talk to a person with depression? When did Christianity or having a relationship with God become a cure-all? I may never be free of depression. Just because I love Jesus and He loves me does not mean that I will be free of depression.  This may be a burden I carry through my whole life.  I don’t know.  I dare anyone to tell me that they know, without a shadow of a doubt, that my genuine love for God will set me free from everything that plagues me.  I knew a pastor whose good, loving, godly wife died of cancer.  I don’t know anyone who knew Christ more.  So is mental illness different from cancer? Christians seem to think so.  It’s like if I TRY and DO more then I will “beat” depression.

I read an article on what not to say to a Christian struggling with depression.  I’m pasting it here because it was that good. The author talks about what Christians say to people with depression.  Some of the below I pulled from her article, some are my own examples of what Christians say (that they really shouldn’t say) to people with depression:

  • “Don’t curse” while you’re depressed.  I like to equate this to Christians saying “don’t be angry”.  Don’t express your rage, your frustration, your hurt over the situations and people that have contributed to your circumstances.  When you are depressed you are in a deep, dark, and angry place.  You lash out. You want to use the right words to express your rage.  And it can be ugly to people.  But this is how I feel – would it make people feel better to ask how I’m doing and then have me lie?  Sometimes I think so. They don’t really want to know how I’m doing or how I feel. They would be too horrified.
  • “Trust God” or “God is in control” is something they say as well.  I do trust Him – and here I am in the midst of this all-consuming depression.  Where the only way out I see is to end my life to ease my pain.  Now what?  I trusted Him but here I am dealing with this sickness.  Now what?  If He’s in control why do I want to literally go to sleep and never wake up? Did He plan for this to happen? Now what?
  • “You need to focus on how blessed you are”.  My mind is telling me I am UNLOVED, UNWANTED, and BETTER OFF DEAD. And all it will take to shut these feelings down is to shift my focus onto my blessings? Is there a switch I can flip to do that? Because I would love to be able to focus on my blessings. If there was a simple solution to depression don’t you think I would have tried it? I don’t like being depressed. It is not the least bit enjoyable and it is not a ploy for attention or sympathy. It is like living in a personal hell filled with pain and despair and hopelessness.
  • “You need to spend more time with Christians and with God and read your Bible”.  This is assuming that every depressed person has somehow stopped communicating with God.  I have found that I never pray as hard as when I am in pain.  And believe it or not, my reaching out and sharing what I’m going through is me spending more time with Christians.  But more often than not they don’t really want to spend more time with me. They ask how I’m doing but act uncomfortable when I open up to them. They give me cheap comfort in the form of platitudes as if somehow, that means, that they have “done their part”. If by opening myself up to them I will continually face rejection then I’d rather hide and struggle on my own…which never works because clearly I am not in my right mind.
  • “I just can’t be there for you the way you want me to.” Or “You’re just too draining. I can’t help you if you don’t help yourself”.  This I genuinely feel guilt for. I wish I wasn’t going through depression so I wouldn’t inconvenience my friends. I wish I had planned my depression better so that it wouldn’t be over the holidays and would instead be when they have their lives together or when they have free time.  But a part of me screams that life happens. Shit happens. And we can’t plan for it to happen at a better time so friends can be…friends.  Depressed people already feel abandoned. And then you throw in friends that leave. To people with depression it’s like proving what we feel about ourselves is true. That we are unworthy of love. That we are OK to have around during good times but not during bad.  During my first bout with depression I would go to my mother for help. She would often tell me that she had “enough problems of my own. I don’t need to deal with yours”.  I then tried to turn to my small group.  My friend actually yelled at me that I was being “blasphemous” by expressing my anger at God. Another friend told me to try to love my parents more and when I got upset yelled at me that she didn’t know what else she could do to help me.  I tried to kill myself 3 times in a year.  I felt rejected by my family and rejected by the Church.  The Church that was supposed to be Christ’s hands and feet. Is it any wonder that I felt God would reject me as well?

So this is my story. If you are asking how am I – I am currently in the throes of my second bout with depression.  I struggle with the daily choice to get out of bed and continue on. Some days I numb myself to everything but basic actions – wake up, shower, eat, sleep. And some days I manage to laugh at a few funny jokes and enjoy a minute, an hour, a day.  Most of the days I keep the pain at bay but it is a throbbing in my head that lets me know it is there. Some days I so badly want to reach out to friends but I am terrified of hearing that this is my fault, that I should spend more time with God, that I am doing something wrong that is causing this depression to worsen. And this is how I feel. I don’t want to make any friends or people responsible for my actions, choices, or decisions.  But I can’t do it alone. And I need help. For everyone struggling with depression, I wish for them a community of believers that would love unconditionally, listen without judgment, and offer of themselves their time, presence, and resources.

This post is my clumsy attempt to put something out there that will speak to people. If you are depressed then take comfort that you are not alone – there are people that actually understand how you might feel or what you are going through. If you are a friend of someone who is depressed, please take the time to learn how to deal with them. The link to the article I cited is a good start. Don’t try to fix them or offer solutions based on your own opinions. Get feedback from professionals, talk to other people going through depression and get their opinion. Above all, please love them through the good, the bad, and the ugly.