Saturday, December 8, 2018

May all who seek you rejoice and be glad!

I was reading Psalm 40 tonight.

It started when a random verse popped into my head...

"I waited patiently for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit. Out of the mud and mire. He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand."

As the words played in my head I was reminded of a time when I cried out to God and said, "LORD! I'm waiting for you. Please do this for me. Lift me out of my slimy pit and give me a firm place to stand."

You see, I really could NOT lift myself out of my pit. It was slimy, and I was weak. I knew it would take a God clear things up. I didn't have control of my mental illness, or the circumstances, or the people in my life, but I knew that God was big enough, great enough, and strong enough that HE could muddle through the mess with me and make things clear again, so I prayed for His faithfulness to be evident in my life.

So, tonight, when that verse was pulled from nowhere and plopped into my head, I could recite it to myself without looking it up, but I couldn't remember where it was from in the Bible. I googled and I found it... and then I read the rest of the chapter.

Back then, I didn't read the rest of the chapter. I stopped reading after, "Gave me a firm place to stand" and started crying out to God, "Give me a firm place to stand!" But now I was in a different head space and I was curious, "What exactly did David say after that verse?" Did God just give him a firm place to stand and that was it? Certainly not. There had to be more.

So I continued to read.

"He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God." (I liked that. I wanted that)

What would a new song look/sound like? Such an optimistic thought! I loved that. I wrote it down in my journal.

"I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart." (So pure. And good. And right. And, yes, I can honestly say this, so I wrote it in my journal.)

"Do not withhold your mercy from me Lord; may your love and faithfulness always protect me."

How did I miss THAT verse before? This was a verse I needed back then too!  Why did I stop reading...

"Lord, do not withhold your mercy. Protect me, God, with your love and your faithfulness to me." This will be my new prayer, I thought...

But as I kept reading I realized something really important! "Be pleased to save me, Lord; come quickly, Lord, to help me."

"May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for saving help always say, "The Lord is great!"

Woah...

Here's the thing: Those who seek the Lord - for His saving grace - should never be turned to shame. What a heap of rocks we throw on someone when they cry out for grace and instead are given shame!

Those who come to God, asking for forgiveness, seeking His mercy with sincere hearts, should not in that moment be reminded of His wrath and walk away in shame, clothed in guilt. I mean, if there is stuff to deal with, deal with it... but bring it back to grace... and don't wrap it all up with shame.

Ugh... My heart breaks just thinking of it!

No. This is not God.

Of course, someone in that place would say to themselves, "I'm in a slimy pit!"

Those who come to the Lord for His saving grace, they should only always rejoice and be glad because they have experienced the freedom of His grace and then...

then, they can say with sincere hearts, "The Lord is GREAT!"

No one ever hangs their head in shame and says, "The Lord is great!" 

Please, please, please, Christians, do not be the reason another believer hangs their head in shame when instead you can be the reason they rejoice and say, "The Lord is great!"

Psalm 40:16...

But may all who seek you
    rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
    “The Lord is great!”

Lord, may I never be the kind of person who is heaping extra doses of shame onto those who are already weak with consuming guilt. May they never come away from me discouraged saying, "I'm in such a slimy pit and I can never get out". 

Such a tragedy. And so, so, so far from who YOU ARE!

Instead, Lord, help me to be the kind of Christian who readily offers the kind of grace that lifts spirits and gives others a reason to say, "The Lord is GREAT!" 

That they can come away with hope - that is a gift worth giving! Help me to see others through the lens of your love and grace so it will genuinely flow out of me when the time comes and it matters most. 
 
Amen. 

Do you want to get the verse stuck in your head too? ... Here you go... 



Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Transparency.

I grew up in a family that was overly transparent. Pride was not even a word in our vocabulary. We were real. Really real. People knew what we were dealing with while we were dealing with it.

As I matured, I learned the art of leaving things out that could be off-putting and turn people away.

Unfortunately, it was emotional hurt that brought me to this point. The vulnerable, brutally honest approach to life and relationships did not serve me well. Being misunderstood felt isolating, so burying my head in the sand seemed like the better option.

The problem is I lost my voice somewhere in it all. Somewhere along the way I decided people didn't want (and certainly didn't need) to know my deeper, more complicated, thoughts and feelings. If being vulnerable can lead to judgment and close behind it comes insecurity and isolation, then I didn't want anything to do with it.

If no one can come in then no one can hurt me.

But this is not truly who I want to be. It's just kind of who I became, by default.

While shutting down and stuffing things down may be safe, it also has a way to making a person feel lonely, isolated, sad, and discouraged.

For a long time now I thought my breakthrough would come when I was bold enough to talk about my mental illness from a place of strength - that I could somehow encourage others who have bipolar once I had proven that I deserved to be in that place of influence.

But that is a lot of pressure and the truth is, no one is asking me to do that for them.

There was something else I associated with a breakthrough though. Something I didn't want to give voice to, because even more important to me than protecting myself, was the need to protect others who I loved dearly, but who had hurt me, perhaps without meaning to.

I thought healing and redemption would be directly tied to relationships taking an unexpected turn and magically becoming what I always hoped they would be. That one day, after my continued faithfulness to live in humility before the Lord, that those who I perceived to misunderstand me, and who didn't actively rally around me when I needed it, would one day just come around. I put my hope in this ideal scenario I created. I believed that restored relationships would bring the peace and wholeness I longed for. So this became my hope and my prayer.

I stepped away from the "be comforted" message of this blog because I was not being comforted myself and creating content under the name of "be comforted" started to feel strained and unnatural. "Who am I to comfort others when I am broken and sad?" I would ask myself.

I turned inward.

I thought that once I was comforted again, and everything was restored to its rightful place, that then I could write again, giving God all the glory for the way He put all of the pieces together so nicely.

The problem, though, is that I never actually arrived. Not in the way I imagined I would, at least. And somewhere in the waiting (that took so much longer than I wanted) I became tired, and lazy in my efforts. I sort of gave up. Prayers weren't being answered so I just stopped praying them. The Bible wasn't bringing encouragement anymore so I just stopped reading it.

I was coasting though life, with a little less passion, and with a sting on my heart that sort of scarred and never healed properly. I would shift back and forth between numbing the pain and crying over it... but as time went on I found that numbing the pain became easier and easier and the tears didn't surface as readily as they used to.

My self-talk changed... Buckle up, Alisha. You can do this! Smile. Don't draw attention to yourself. Let others shine. Stay humble. It's not about you. Don't make it about you. Rise above it. One day at a time...

Some days it felt exhausting.

I don't write from a place of great healing today. I write from a place of sadness. And I know now to call it depression. But not in a way of "Hey, I struggle with depression and here is what you can do that worked so well for me." Because I know it doesn't always work like that.

The waves will come. And next week I will probably feel great, counting my blessings... but not today. Today I just have to get through today and let that be enough. Today I am reminded of why I am sad. I can push it down or I can call it what it is.

I am not going to share this on social media and bring a bunch of attention to it. I am just going to let it sit here. This is my first step after a long time of silence on the blog to publicly speak out of honesty and vulnerability. Because while being transparent may be one of my greatest weaknesses, it also happens to be one of my greatest strengths.