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...