Monday, June 10, 2013

and end and a beginning

It's been a long, crazy Monday, and frankly, I'm exhausted and ready to crash. But I feel the Spirit tugging, urging me to share my heart. Maybe there is someone who just needs to hear this piece of my story tonight.

I haven't written in so many months, it's impossible to record every struggle, every victory, every defeat, and every encounter with the living God that have colored my days. But it's been a tough season. I have struggled with a season of depression for the past several months, and there have been some very low moments. Through it, even as I withdrew and grumbled and doubted and wondered, God was there. Steady. Gentle. Constant. And speaking. He has spoken so much truth over my life in this dark season, so much about contentment, humility, strength. About the importance of His word. Of communion. Of hiding myself in Him. So many lessons that I can't wait to pour onto these pages. This is one of those lessons.

The past couple of weeks have been better. So much better. God is, as he always does, leading me out of the wilderness again. I've opened up to some dear friends about my struggles, and found His love reaching back to me with human arms (and wondered why I ever feel the need to retreat when I really need to press in). As I have begun to share these deep places in my soul, a long, quiet battle has come to the forefront. 

I've kept this one a very closely guarded secret. Because there is nothing Godly about a growing addiction to pain pills. It's embarrassing to confess that something that started out as solely a necessity had grown into something a little bit different. It feels like one of those "dirty" sins that a real woman of God would never experience. And it has been easy to justify keeping this secret. I listen to a special report on the news about pain pill addiction in America, and I can honestly say that my "problem" is nothing like what I hear. 

But it has become a problem. These headaches of mine get out of control very quickly, and I end up in bed for two days, or worse, in the hospital. I have three small people completely dependent on me. I have play dates and Bible studies and school events and family dinners. I have a husband who has seen more last-minute date-night cancellations and "not tonight, dear"s than any man should have to see. There is always something that makes taking one little half of one little pill the lesser of two evils. But my body, which has experienced pain in one way or another most every day of my adult life, has become dependent on these little white pills. I find myself running out of them a few days earlier each month. I avoid eye contact with the pharmacist because, dude, I know. I take very little each day, but, I take a little each day. 

So that's where I've been. I hope you don't judge. I hope there is someone who can identify themselves here, in some way, clinging to something that isn't good for them because they are afraid to let go and see what God will do. And if you just can't see yourself here, that's ok. Because ultimately, this is not a story of brokenness. This is a story of redemption.

Two days ago, I went to church for an ordinary service. Now, I love our church, and I think we have some of the most gifted Bible teachers in the world. I am constantly challenged and changed by the teaching I sit under. But on this Sunday, I had a most unexpected encounter with God. An amazing guest speaker was preaching, a man from South Africa with a delightful accent and an incredible gift for exhortation. He taught out of Mark 2, where Jesus heals the paralytic man. He explained to us that when Jesus saw the man, he looked directly into his soul and knew that this man's sickness was the result of sin. Instead of merely healing the man's body, he offered him living water - his forgiveness. And then he healed the man's body, because, why not? 

I've read this passage of scripture dozens of times before, and never has this idea grabbed so hold of my heart. When you get to that low, dark, ugly, sorrowful place - wherever it is that you finally cry out in confession - He responds with forgiveness. Immediately. And then - oh my friends, that you would get this part - then, He forgets it. I've always had this idea that God sort of pretends to "forget" my sin but really, He is keeping it in his back pocket to bring back out the next time I stumble. After all, I hear those accusations so often in my mind. But hear is the Truth of his word - "For I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more (Heb 8:12)." Do you know that really means? It really mean that he will forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more! He does not remember it!

This means, whenever I hear this voice:

Why am I not surprised that you failed again? You've done this a million times.

Don't even bother trying. You'll never live up to my expectations.

I don't want to hear it again.

That is the voice of the Accuser. The enemy of our souls. The one who wants nothing more than to steal the joy of our salvation and destroy our intimacy with God.

This is the voice of the Lover of My Soul, the One who sees my sin, washes it clean, and remembers it no more: 

My child, I am compassionate and merciful.

I am slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.

I will not constantly accuse you, nor remain angry forever.

I will not punish you for all your sins.

I will not deal harshly with you, as you deserve.

My unfailing love toward you is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

I have removed your sins as far as the east is from the west.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
                                                                                                                    (Psalm 103:8-12, Jer 31:3)

In the next few days I will share more about how God is redeeming this part of my story. About the people He has brought alongside to love on me and encourage me as I navigate this season. And all about how I stepped out in obedient, faith to ask for healing one more time - and how I finally heard His "Yes." I can't wait to share some of what God has been teaching me through my fight with depression and anxiety, and the ways I am learning to walk in step with his Spirit even when my feet feel like lead. For now, just remember that He will never love you any more or any less than He does at this moment.

Thanks to @chriswienand for opening the Word for me. Listen to his incredible teaching here: