I am on a mission to write meaningful words with fewer word counts. (Thank you for the reminder, Gary Fultz.)
I respect your time. So I’m telling you in advance, this is a little longer than my last post which was long. Hmm. That’s why I like Haiku. This is not Haiku. (It’s a 5 minute read.) 😊
Over all these years, since I came home to Shepard Avenue, my literal address, and to my Shepherd, my spiritual Address, God has been cleaning up the place.
When I think about my years of struggle with surrender, and then think about the love of God and how He keeps me connected to the Vine, reminding me I can do nothing apart from Him, I find my peace of mind.
But mental health is insidious.
See, there is a history of mental health issues in my family that I had hoped to avoid, but guess what? It’s a part of my wiring. And that’s okay.
Some of us did better than others in this department. But for those of us who struggle with anxiety and depression to varying degrees, among other things, we know there is nothing worse than trying to fix ourselves or being alone in the dark with our anxieties and fears.
We can’t love ourselves well. We can’t re-wire the many fine wires we are made up of that make us into who we are, and who we are becoming. And we certainly can’t self medicate ourselves well. Sometimes we need medication and sometimes we need even more than that.
Sometimes we need a Spiritual re-working from the inside out that only the Spirit is able to re-wire.
Spiritual healing is Supernatural healing.
For too long, I believed that I was inadequate when it came to faith. I was so hard on myself, which can create self focus. I also clung to wanting to prove myself worthy.
I had surrendered to my Savior, so I didn’t understand why the struggle continued with such intensity, and what seemed to be a daily battle of my will against God’s. I wanted His Will. So why was it so hard? It created a terrible sense of unworthiness and confusion within me.
My mind would easily skew comments, overthink situations, turn reactions into judgements, and a misunderstood look into a self condemnation that caused me to withdraw. I am really good at withdrawing.
But now, I can see that I was on a journey. God was doing deep work in me. He was so gentle, pealing back those layers of my life that needed to come off. He was performing a spiritual surgery.
And I think of it this way…
After his heart surgery fifteen years ago, my dad couldn’t breathe. No one could figure out why. It kept getting worse and there was no help to be offered. His surgeon kept saying, “My surgery was a success!” as if to say, my dad was imagining his shortness of breath. As if to imply it was all in his head, or worse, that he was creating the physical sensation himself, that he was over-anxious and just needed to take a pill to relax. He tried that. It didn’t work.
One day after work, I stopped by his condo and from all the way across the room I could see the terror in his eyes. He looked so small and fragile, his skin was ashen, and I thought he was dying. Just as Dad had, I struggled with claustrophobia and the fear of not being able to breathe was palpable.
I called for help, the doctor?, I don’t remember. But somehow, someway, we were able to get him some oxygen which offered some relief.
But not long after that, he was in ER. We were waiting for the results of tests. When the results arrived, they released him. Again, they said nothing was wrong with him.
But he still couldn’t breathe. Dad said, “I’m not leaving this place until you figure this out.” Doctors don’t know everything. He wouldn’t leave.
They finally called in a pulmonologist who discovered that Dad’s right lung had closed, and the left one was on its way. Following the heart surgery, maybe as a reaction to the shock of surgery, his body thought it was protecting itself, membranes had grown over the lung, eventually squeezing it wall to wall, so to speak, and shut it down for service.
That lung surgery was worse than the heart valve surgery. They had to open up his back and very carefully, surgically remove those membranes, one at a time, layer by layer, so oxygen could again flow into the lungs.
Dad never smoked, but he had had asthma all his life, so he was already vulnerable, but following the surgery we were told if he were ever to get pneumonia, it would all be over. “So be careful.”
He was very careful.
Over the next nine years, Dad had pneumonia nine times, and while in the hospital, he was always talking about a Savior who goes to great lengths and heights and widths to reach his beloved children and to offer His love. Some of his roommates were near death. Some would be gone before Dad left the hospital.
I have witnessed this over and over again, that God uses all things for the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. Sure Dad struggled, it wasn’t exactly a picnic, but he couldn’t have been happier during those days.
I’m not saying that God gave Dad pneumonia to save another soul, or that he passes out depression for the same reason, but it did seem Dad was always paired up with a roommate or aides or nurses or even doctors, occasionally, who wanted to hear more about this Jesus.
What I’m saying is, God could use even pneumonia for His glory, and that was a beautiful thing to experience. And likewise, he can use depression.
I remember that story because ever since the day I turned to Christ with a softened heart of repentance, He has been surgically removing the layers of hurt and shame and pain that have stolen my breath—my life—over the years.
And I am saying that God can use our stories of struggle to help another struggling soul.
You see, I thought I had been stubbornly disconnecting myself from the Vine, when all along, God was there, connected and working in the deep places within me. Not until He knew my heart could handle something, could He remove another layer and go deeper.
I know this because I have thirsted and longed and waited for freedom from a “prison in my mind”. Insecurities, anxieties, and a not too lovely sense of low self-esteem, that hang out with depression, had always been a part of my life.
Maybe they’re a part of yours too, or a part of someone you love. So we wait expectantly.
Sometimes God heals us in a coruscate of light. Other times, it’s a slow surgical process, like the surgeon carefully, intentionally, specifically removing each membrane on my father’s lungs.
God does the same with our painful memories that close us off from the Breath of Life, Christ’s Spirit in us. Slowly, God woos and heals the deep places that took so many years to dismantle. We need to be kind to ourselves, and patient.
But God. God knows us, every tendon and molecule and hair on our heads. And He knows exactly what we need at exactly the right time.
I write this today because mental health is not always understood by the mentally healthy. Some of us are born without mental illness. I really don’t think my older brother had a drop of it. But for those of us who are finely wired, it’s another story.
But God. God can heal even this.
Faithfully following day by day, reading the Word, morning by morning, Deep calls to deep. God has been able to go deeper and deeper, doing His miraculous re-wiring Work so that I can be free of the fears that held me back.
But we have to be willing.
The disciples “willingly” let Jesus into the boat. They were so afraid in that storm, their faith was shaken to the core, they thought they were staring death in the face as Christ walked toward them on the water. Can you imagine their relief when He was with them in the boat, when the storm calmed, and they quite smoothly reached the shore?
God is so faithful. Real inner healing awaits.
Jesus does that for us in our inner turbulent storms. When we are ready, he takes us safely to shore. He really does turn mourning into dancing.
I am reminded once again how much we need each other. Oh dear one, don’t isolate, I often have. I have to work at this. And why oh why, self medicate, as I have done (and sometimes still do) when there is deep holy healing available?
I hope you have found these words meaningful. Here are the Scriptures that inspired and gave me courage to write this post: Romans 8:28, John 6: 16-21, Luke 12:7, John 15:5, Psalm 42:7, Psalm 30:11. Maybe take a verse or a Chapter and meditate on it, ♥️
A big thank you to the photographers who share their work on Unsplash (like my friend, author/ photographer Gary Fultz). Feature photo: I call it Slippers-Adam Littman Davis; Additional photos in order of presentation: Leap-Joel Valve, Light-Runo Vander Kraan, Hug-Nathan DeFiesta