Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Darkness

I had been suffering horrendous anxiety and depression for months and months... maybe longer... I was suffering more than anyone knew, even though I was "leaking," no one really knew how dark my thoughts were, how much the sadness made it hard to even get out of the bed in the morning.
I didn't feel far from God, I knew He was still with me, watching over me, even calling out to me, but it wasn't enough to pull me out of my darkness.  I was functioning, but inside I felt like I was dying...
Everything was hard, and I felt completely isolated and alone even when I was surrounded by people-- even people who loved me.  They couldn't see or understand that I was suffering.
For as long as I can remember, there's been a fighter inside of me. Injustice doesn't upset me, it enrages me and when people around me were (are) being treated unjustly, I would rail against it, stand up and fight.
I am loyal, and I am a defender.  The fight in me made me look tough, maybe even mean sometimes, and I think it made people think I was strong. And maybe in some ways I was, but it didn't mean I didn't hurt when others came against me or treated me unjustly.  But it was rare for someone to stand up and defend me the way I stood up for others.
Looking back now I think they just thought I could handle it, but the personal attacks and maligning of my character was so long lasting and intense, it really beat me down.  Added to a season of unprecedented stress and uncertainty, I just sank deeper and deeper into the pit.
I knew God was with me, reaching out to me even, but I didn't have the wherewithal to reach back.  I couldn't read the word, my prayer life was stagnant, not a bit of worship or connection would rise up and church just became a place I didn't want to be-- twice bitten, completely shied.
For a little while in the fall we attended a church that was like a spiritual lemonade stand for me. Friendly and refreshing, I was able to take a drink and feel briefly refreshed, but it didn't satisfy the thirst, and I knew it wasn't home.  Eventually it wasn't enough to even get out of bed for anymore.  So I didn't.
I think my husband could sense a struggle, but not one to push he just gave me space, not realizing I felt like I was dying right before his eyes.
In addition to my emotional and spiritual pain, my physical body was suffering.  It's all interlinked.  I am someone who eats her emotions and I was self-medicating with sugar and carbs. That was a slippery slope because the more I ate the worse I felt.  Some days I felt so dark that even personal hygiene was too much trouble.  I got to the place that I started thinking about coping with my pain in ways that were completely contrary to my very personality.  But it wasn't even until one of those moments that I realized how much trouble I was in.  It was a terrifying a-ha moment on a Saturday night.
The next morning was Sunday July 21st. I woke up to the sounds of Neal getting ready for the day.  I asked him where he was he going and he told me he was going to make a second visit to a church I had actually recommended and he had previously visited while I was out of town the week before.  "Wanna go with me?" he asked.
Somehow, somewhere, some tiny bit of strength rose up and I said that I would.  I got out of bed, got ready, and we went to church just the two of us. It was too hard to get the kids to go when I'd been setting such a bad example for so long.
For the last few weeks in the darkness before that morning, it felt like the Lord had been trying even harder to get my attention.  I felt like He kept saying the same thing... after months of being given "begged for confirmations" of His presence and provision in my muck, He seemed to have quieted. He was whispering only one thing in those previous few weeks... "Just worship Me."
JUST... I understood the connotation of that word... It wasn't supposed to be about anything He was... or wasn't... DOING, it needed to be just about Who He IS... But I had forgotten how... and had perhaps even lost my "want to." Then one night that week before, I heard Him speak to my spirit just one word, "Exalt."
So I went to church that Sunday morning.  I sat in the back. And I cried privately through worship... not because I was having some big, wonderful spiritual experience, but because I felt like I was in a good church, I knew God's presence was there and all I could think was how much I didn't want to be in a position to let more people into my life.  I didn't want to be open, relational or vulnerable-- and as the tears filled my eyes, I told God so.
Then the Pastor spoke.  He taught from Nehemiah about the importance of celebrating-- giving honor to God.  He said other things too... deeply personal and direct things... things about hurt, betrayal, feeling lost and defeated... He talked about hurts... MY hurts... he even talked about where they'd come from.  Things he couldn't have known, but I KNEW HE knew. 
HIM... the God of the universe was speaking through the pastor that morning, and whoever else he ministered to, he ministered to me... because HE was ministering to me.
I left church that morning feeling just a tiny bit lighter.  There was a chink in the darkness... just a little bit of light seeped in. It was warm, and I hadn't felt that warmth in a long time.  I wanted more if it. So the next morning when I woke up, I got up just enough strength to push back the Monday morning cloud just far enough to roll over and grab my Bible and my journal.  I wanted, for the first time in a long time, to pull myself out of the mud.

To be continued...


Saturday, April 6, 2019

Abby Johnson's "Unplanned"

After hemming and hawing for the last couple weeks, I decided about 3 days ago to go ahead and go see the movie "Unplanned." It's the story of a woman named Abby Johnson who was the youngest person ever named (at least up to that point) as a director of a Planned Parenthood clinic and how her personal experiences there rocked her world and led to her becoming a very loud and very credible pro-life advocate.

A week ago my husband offered to go see the movie with me.  He said he just wanted to spend time with me and thought perhaps it was a movie I might want to see.  That seems like sort of an likely deduction because (1) I am a huge proponent of supporting Christian made movies with Christian values, and (2) the subject of abortion is something very dear to my heart based on my own experiences.  He was actually a little surprised, I think, when I told him I wasn't all that interested.  We went to dinner instead. 

I didn't really care to see the movie because, in all honesty, back when her story first broke and Abby Johnson first came on the scene of the pro-life "movement" (I hate that term) we had a pretty negative interaction via social media and she didn't like my questions or comments, and her response was to block me.  It ticked me off, and I didn't think it was a very good sign that she could not handle questions from someone who mostly agreed with her.  But in all honesty, I remember it just enough to have a bad taste that lingers in my mouth, not enough to remember exactly what was said.  Maybe I was being a bitch, but honestly I think she was a little too zealous for me, and for me in the area of abortion, everyone requires a LOT of grace. Watching her story and knowing more than what was told in the movie, I can understand her being guarded and intense.

Back to this week, after my hubby brought it up, it kind of stayed with me that perhaps I should consider seeing the movie.  No arrogance intended, but a lot of people in my little world consider me the person they would talk to about the subject of abortion.  I'm vocal, I'm knowledgeable, I'm brave, and I'm compassionate on the subject, and as in most areas, I'm pretty much direct and no BS.  So I thought to myself perhaps I should see the movie so I could speak to it if it came up. 

I decided to invite my daughter along.  She's pro-life; she even had conversations recently at school about it.  It was an interesting exchange with a liberal acquaintance who was actually listening.  My thought on that is that the new laws passing like in New York that now have legalized abortion up to full term are actually rattling some cages, and causing people to question where they actually stand on the issue.  How's that for an unexpected backlash to the pro-abortion agenda (I have no issue with that term at all.)

I just felt in my spirit that my daughter should go along.  I can't even speak to why other than that it was a sense in my spirit, so I asked her, and we agreed to get up early this morning and go see the early bird showing at 9 am.  I had heard that the movie was graphic.  My daughter watches war movies with passion and has no great issue with horror films (though she may watch those between her fingers crossing and covering her eyes.) So my concern for traumatizing her was pretty limited. I felt confident she could handle it. 

The movie is well made.  It doesn't have that substandard, "made on a budget feel" that a lot of Christian movies have.  the acting was solid, there were no side characters that seemed like they had never acted before, it wasn't trite, not a single Christian cliche was uttered. (I swear, I really do like and support Christian movies!)

Some of it was really hard to watch.  Unlike the rest of my family, war movies and horror flicks are not my thing.  I only go when dragged, Though with a lot of war movies, I end up glad I saw them, but I never want to see them again.  My husband on the other hand could watch Saving Private Ryan over and over again-- that one I won't watch even once.  Platoon from the 80s with Charlie Sheen, still haunts me-- glad I saw it, never want to see it again.  Traumatic.

As I watched Unplanned, there were parts where I had to look away.  Blood, gore, realistic portrayals of abortion are there for certain. I don't like gore, but I didn't find it traumatic personally. What I mean by that is that my looking away didn't really have anything to do with having had an abortion myself.  I would look away from the graphic parts, and I would see my daughter covering her eyes and hunkering down a bit.  I got choked up a few times, and I heard her cry too.  I didn't think a lot about that, she is a crier after all. 

What I noticed through the movie as I watched was how familiar it seemed.  From my own experience, I remember angry and violent "pro-life" protesters. I remember the kindness of the escorts. There was a scene where patients were being handed crackers, and I remember thinking, "Oh, they gave us cookies and orange juice."  When the people of authority in the movie did questionable things, I sort of shrugged it off because it was all familiar to me. A lot of it reminded me of things I wrote in my own novel on the subject of abortion.

As the movie ended and Matthew West's song Unplanned began to play over the credits, I decided that I was glad I had seen it, and I was glad I had brought my daughter along.  As we walked out of the theater into the bright sunlight she was sort of quiet.  When we got into the car to drive to the store and then breakfast, the dark cloud over her in the car was evident and strong.  I tried to talk to her, and my typically chatty, talk to me about anything kid was uncharacteristically quiet and stormy. 

She asked me a a few questions-- "Does it really hurt?" Yes, I told her it did.  Then she asked me questions about things I can't answer, because by the grace of God when my parents pressured me into having my abortion 30 years ago I was asleep for the procedure, so unlike many of the women I have ministered to in the last 25 years who are still haunted by those sounds, it was not part of my experience.  I sometimes wonder if that isn't part of why God was able to do such a complete healing in me in a relatively quick amount of time.  My heart hurts for the women who cannot say the same.

The movie hit my daughter very hard.  "I know what abortion is, and I have always been against it, but I didn't KNOW," she said.  She was offended-- not by the movie, but by the truth behind it.  She had a lot of how and why questions that she couldn't settle, and really couldn't even express, nor did she really want to talk about them.  I think she was shocked by a lot of what she saw and learned.

That was the basic difference for us, I think, for me it was all familiar information.  However tragic, violent or vile, it was nothing new to me.  For her, a girl who has grown up in a generation where abortion has constantly been touted as a good thing, an empowering thing, a pro-woman thing... despite her willing rejection of all of that, she still really had no idea what abortion actually was until today.

I am so incredibly glad I took her to see it.  I told my husband I wanted him to see it.  And I texted my 18-year-old son and told him I thought he should see it too, and even take his girlfriend--though I had no idea what her stand on abortion is.  He told me she is pro-life.  I think she should see it anyway.

That's the thing, I told someone just a few days ago, that this movie wasn't really made for the pro-life person to have to see.  If they were already pro-life and not comfortable with anything explicit or gory, then it was probably ok that they not see it. And if someone said to me that they couldn't see it for that reason, I still wouldn't judge, but I absolutely would challenge them to power through and try, because I think it is important.

The pro-life "movement days of the early 90's when there were protests and prayer vigils, 40 day fasts, sit-ins and "life chains" have passed.  In all honesty, I think a lot of "pro-life" people nowadays are in one of two camps-- the still angry legalistic and adamant sect who cannot have a compassionate conversation OR the "I would never have an abortion and I think it's wrong but I would never push my beliefs on anyone else" perspective.  That second group has grown in the last several years out of silence and lack of direction.  People who used to pray, and go to prayer vigils, maybe even stand on a street corner on the Roe v Wade anniversary or march in a March for Life or pray outside a clinic-- they have just sort of lost their passion, and it has softened their conviction... OUR conviction.

I think everyone should see this movie.  I think people who support abortion "in theory", or are against it "in theory" should see this movie and help them find some clarity about why they believe what they believe.  I think people who truly believe abortion is wrong and that life is inherently valuable and begins at conception should see this movie so that maybe that will stoke some smoldering fire in their hearts and bring back the flame of conviction, because all over our cities, babies are dying by abortion every day.  I think those most passionate feminist pro-abortion (beyond choice) advocate should see this movie, because if she (or he) is that certain about how they feel, they shouldn't be afraid to look right into the face of it.

The only ones who I would give a pass to are women who have had abortions themselves and still struggle from the sin and pain of it.  I am NOT saying I don't think they should see it, but I am saying I understand why they wouldn't want to.  But I would also say to them, don't stay there.  Jesus loves you and there is a wealth of healing and forgiveness for you that God wants you to experience and know fully.  There is a better way, and I'm not saying it's in this movie, but I am saying that it can be such a completed work that this movie doesn't have to be something that terrifies you. 

I know this was a lot more than a review, but these are my thoughts walking away from that theater today.  I am really glad I saw the movie, and I hope more people will see it, and it will have a great and powerful impact to help protect the unborn.  Like I said when I wrote my novels, if even one baby is saved, then the movie has served the greatest of purposes.