Tuesday, 29 May 2018

I don't live there anymore

How's the weather where you are today?

Here in the Canadian prairies, spring is finally winning. The grass is coming back to life and the birds are singing victory.  We've dug out from under our parkas and shaken the dust off our sandals (in a sort of non-biblical found them in the basement way).

This morning, I woke up, stretched and smiled. The sun was streaming in and I could hear my two girls laughing and playing outside my room.  They ran in and pounced, full of giggles and morning news.

Two years ago, I was in the same house with the same kids in the same season, but my heart and mind weren't present. I wasn't really living there.  After the birth of my second daughter, postpartum anxiety and depression had me in a cycle I couldn't break on my own. I wrote about it here. 

I never woke up smiling. I didn't want to wake up at all; I just wanted to sleep for the next week. Hearing my children brought me an overwhelming sense of dread. I felt panic rising in my chest and struggled to breathe as the responsibilities of the day flooded over me. If you'd told me this morning's normal routine would bring me joy, I wouldn't have believed you.

I did everything I was supposed to when I realized I wasn't myself and I couldn't fix it. I asked for help, I saw my doctor and I prayed and prayed. I thank God every day for the support system of my husband, family and friends in that time, but somewhere in the mess, deep down, I started to believe an insidious lie:

This is who I am now. This is where I live now.

Instead of celebrating as I slowly started to surface and the heaviness retreated, I let go of the hope of feeling whole. I settled into the good enough and resigned myself to the fact that this is who I was now. I lost confidence in my own God-given abilities and began to shy away from responsibilities and roles I would have previously wholeheartedly embraced. I started to isolate myself mentally.  

This is where I live now. 

Please, please don't think I'm saying that dealing with an ongoing chemical imbalance mean you aren't whole or that there is a magical release from a physical process outside of your own control. We all have our limps, mentally, physically and spiritually. What I am saying is that my own heart gave in to a lie -- a lie that told me I was "less than" because of what I had experienced and that allowed fear to wrap around my life, causing me hesitation and isolation where I should have known confidence and community.

I tried self improvement but it turns out that despite all the good habits and great processes that simplify and improve the quality of external life, there's no real satisfaction or peace in our own abilities or circumstances.  Creating confidence in myself, whether through accepting my body, getting fit or pouring time into my passions wasn't the answer. Taking time outs and decluttering my kingdom didn't help. The environment, the external factors, the "weather," wasn't the issue.

Facing this lie in my own life hasn't been a process of self-help or self-acceptance but of self placement. No matter where I am in the world or what my situation is today, when I place myself in front of the mirror God's word, I see myself, my TRUE self. I recognize the truth of who I am in Jesus Christ and can identify and dismiss the lies I'm clinging to. Fixing my eyes on Him lets me focus on what will really make me my true self: submitting my life to God. The more I become like Christ, the more I will be truly myself. It's as simple and as difficult as that.

2 Timothy 1:7 is a freeing reminder for me. "For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline." Slowly, as I place my confidence back securely in Him instead of in myself, I can clearly see I've been living in fear and bowing to a lie that doesn't get to own me. When the anxiety takes over, I immediately turn to Christ and His truth, instead of turning inward. Instead of believing that I live there now (in anxiety and depression), I deal with the fact that I find myself there right now instead of where I belong, in joy, in peace and in full security.

I'm not saying I will necessarily ever be completely free or magically healed of depression or anxiety. I still deal with the effects of both in my life and I think that medicine to treat the symptoms of these physiological reactions is an incredible tool.

What I am saying is that anxiety and depression are not my permanent address. I don't live there anymore, even if I visit sometimes. My struggles are real and yours are too but we don't have to live in them without hope. Christ says, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

If you're a daughter of the King, this is true for you too. It means that no matter what trials we face, mental, physical or spiritual, we can hold each another up in His truth. We can hold truth close when one of us forgets or we can't see ahead. It means we can be honest about what we're facing instead of spending our energy pretending to be whole or placing our value in an external fix. It means we can spot the lies we've been believing inadvertently and begin again with new mercies from a place of unchanging truth and immeasurable grace.

Truth proclaims, "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." It reminds us, "Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." 

So whatever your lie is, get it out of the dark corner in your life. Shine His light on it and then fix your eyes back on Him.  Because, beautiful sister, even though we may visit that place again, we don't live there anymore.

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