It’s been a week of shocking news. I mean the real news.
Every day right now, I am shocked again to the very core of me.
Not in my own life (although sometimes in my own life).
But globally. And this week globally.
In a way that impacts us personally. In a way that impacts me prayerfully.
Sometimes I think our world is slowly (or not so slowly) tearing itself apart.
And it leaves us with questions.
Christians and non-Christians. God-believers and God-deniers.
There are some things that cannot not leave us with questions.
Death. War. Suicide. Conflict. Depression. Murder. Hatred.
These are the words cause a lingering raft of unanswered ponderings. And even bigger than our questions, they are also the words that often leave us with gaping wounds. They leave us with holes on the inside. They leave us with fractured hearts and shattered lives and minds that scream, ‘Why?’ at a sometimes-seemingly-invisible-God-of-the-sky…
Because if we’re honest, (and I believe we should be) although we can know-that-we-know-that-we-know that God is closer that our next breath and more intimate than our own thoughts, sometimes it feels like He’s gloriously missing from the proceedings.
When life falls apart and when the world crumbles and when humanity seems to be on a quest for slowly killing itself, it can be hard to remember the that we’re built on the stronger-stuff-of-Solid-Ground.
I want to write an honest post. An honest post in response to some of the conversations and dialogue that I’ve been having over the last week. And honesty, as it most often does, means rawness and realness and uncomfortableness, because it means talking about the things of which we are often most afraid.
I’m 29 years old.
I’ve believed in and walked in relationship with Jesus for longer than I can remember.
I always have and still do love Him with all I am and could ever be.
I know Him as rescuer and healer and redeemer and I’ve never for one moment doubted that.
Depression like a smog you can’t see through and a fire you can’t escape and a smoke that fills your lungs and sucks the very life and breathe from them. Depression that is as crippling in it’s reality as the situation (or lack of situation) that caused it in the first-place.
Because let’s be really clear, depression is no respecter of persons, and no respecter of context. For me it emerged environmentally out of an abusive relationship that I saw no way out of. The intense, indescribable feeling of entrapment that sapped the literal life and energy and everything from me. For others in lingers in countless-other-secret-shames and private battles. For yet others it’s a disease as destructive as a cancer that eats away from the inside-out.
Depression is real.
Even when you believe in a God who is healer.
And it’s so incredibly hard to get your head around that sometimes.
As Ann Voscamp wisely wrote this week when responding to what the church should know about mental health, ‘You don’t kill yourself because death’s appealing, but because life’s agonising…’
Ain’t that the truth.
For me, depression set in within the first year of a 5 year marriage. It had a cause. A direct cause. And I knew it. But I was too scared and ashamed and proud to admit it. It was shocking to me because it was so far removed from the happy, easy-going reality that had always been my life. My natural optimism and fierce hopefulness. I believed I couldn’t leave and I made pretty much every mistake under the sun in trying to cope and failing miserably.
And as the days leaked into weeks which leaked into months which leaked into years, the cloud of darkness that emerged from my home and invaded every other aspect of my life manifested in so many obvious, but yet easily-hidden ways.
I lost weight. Drastically. I was too scared to sleep. I was exhausted. My hair began to fall out. My skin turned pastel-grey. And as the clothes began to hang from my body, I plastered a smile on my face and went to church and pretended that everything was okay. I plastered the foundation on my face to cover the colour. I stopped going to the hairdressers.
Because sometimes the safe places just aren’t as safe as they should be.
I didn’t want to die. But if I’m being really honest, on more than one occasion it genuinely seemed too agonising to live.
You can only live in fear for so long before you begin to doubt the Perfect Love that drives it away.
My ending doesn’t end there. I sometimes remember that darkness and think about how it so easily could have done, but it didn’t.
God did rescue me. From the words spoken over me, and the actions done to me. From the self hatred. From the locked-in-the-bathroom-begging-He-would-take-my-life-me. But the process of that rescue was one of harrowing-heartbreaking-undoing. Of daily sitting at my piano, Bible open before Him, singing the lamenting songs of genuine questions and realising He was big enough to hold it all together even when I couldn’t see clearly.
I have these scars and this story and this history that is the rawness of experience and the realness of life. I’ve cried the cries of Job and Lamentations each day as the song of my heart and meant every-single-hopeless-word.
And after 5 years of daily torment, the 26 year old slow-learning-slow-listening-me finally realised what Holy Spirit had been saying all along…
That when Jesus said He came for the sick and not the healthy, He also meant me.
When the church isn’t for the suffering, then the Church isn’t for Christ…The Jesus I know never preached some Health Prosperity Gospel, some pseudo-good news that if you just pray well, sing well, worship well, live well and deposit all that into some Divine ATM — you get to take home a mind and body that are well. That’s not how the complex beauty of life unfolds. The real Jesus turns to our questions of why, why this sickness, who is to blame — and he says it like a caress to the aching,“You’re asking the wrong question. You’re looking for someone to blame. There is no such cause-effect here.” (John 9:3 MSG)… “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him” (John 9:5 NLT)…The dark is about bravely being a canvas for light — about courageously letting your dark be a canvas for sparks of God glory, a backdrop for ambers of mercy in the midst of your fire. (Ann Voscamp)
There’s beauty in our brokenness.
Because there’s healing in Him.
I know it. I’ve lived it. He really did turn my darkness into light. He set me free physically, emotionally and spiritually and has enabled me to live out that freedom. But still, bravely displaying your story for the world to see can be a frightening risk.
So in answer to some of the questions and conversations this week, I want to be real. Because you praise from a different place when you know Him as healer. When you believe His words are true. When you know there is no shame in the journey. In the process. In the undoing. When we stop being strong all the time, and start being so beautifully-weak-in-His-strength.
Can I say that again to those people who really need to hear it… There is no shame in the journey.
We’re in this together.
I wrote this last year and I’m going to finish with these words. Because they’re still the same Truth. And He’s still the same God.
When I was 18, which is 10 (or 11) pretty long years ago now, I remember our senior pastor doing a teaching series that will forever remain seared into my mind.
This one phrase I will always remember.
‘When you look into the eyes of an anointed person, you see brokenness’.
I remember being 18. Hearing those words. Contemplating them.
I really wanted to work for God, and be used by God more, and see His power overflow in my life. I really longed for an anointing.
But brokenness? Not so much.
I remember going forwards for prayer at that service because something had gripped me… But I still didn’t really get it. Not really. I didn’t want to go through any trial. Not real trial. I didn’t want to go through any pain. Not real pain. And I wanted to be used by God… But changed by God? Broken by God? Moulded by God? That didn’t sound so pretty.
But I still remember that sermon. A seared into my mind phrase. And I have remembered it many times since.
Because I still long to be used by God, and I love those moments where He allows me to pray for somebody, or share testimony, or when I am privileged to see Holy Spirit bring healing or freedom or salvation or hope…
But this last decade… I’ve been learning a lot about brokenness.
And what it means when God breaks you. And what it means when others break you. And what it means when my own choices break me. But learning and learning and growing and growing in the realness of it all. In the mess of it all. In the humanity of it all.
Because of this one key truth.
Brokenness is precious in the sight of God.
It really, truly is.
It’s a necessary requirement.
Like Joseph. Before he could change a nation, he had to learn the lessons of humility in the face of prison-condemning accusation. Because then we learn how to handle the dreams of God with care.
Like Moses. Before he could lead the people, he had to learn the lessons of brokenness in the wilderness. Because the mountain of God is in the wilderness.
Like David. Before he could become King he had to be the neglected shepherd-boy-son. Because we learn how to praise when we cling to God in the loneliness. Like, like, like… every single person who carried an anointing of Yahweh in Bible.
I think brokenness brings about heart changes. It brings about sorrow. It brings about repentance. The desire to not repeat the mistakes of the past and to turn away from things that hinder.
And a broken and contrite heart, He will never despise.
I think in brokenness we acknowledge our need for God and complete inability to do it by ourselves. We acknowledge that we are like the marred clay that Jeremiah saw, which needs to be totally remoulded by the potter.
Now, I don’t really enjoy being broken. It hurts. It’s painful. It means I cry tears. It means I often pray that God will zoom in and save the day immediately like some superhero-Jesus, instead on waiting on Him in patient faith and trusting Him in the process. Of brokenness.
I’m so glad I trust a God who brings His anointing through our brokenness.
What grace is that?
My great weakness is transformed by His strength.
My great ugliness is changed by His beauty.
My great failure is redeemed by His grace.
Because that way, He gets all the glory.
And I learn that there’s beauty in the brokenness. And that where I see only ashes in the dust, He sees the high-tall-faith-buildings of the ages crowded with jasper and sardius stone.
Because I might be a mess. But I am also a jewel of the Most High God.
The redemption of God is so much more beautiful than we could ask or imagine. Holy Spirit is stunning. His joy is so radiant. Let’s walk out this journey in realness together.