Posts Tagged ‘Life’

Freedom

Fear can be a powerful force. It can still a heart full of passion and steal the joy from that which we have learned to love. Fear can change our dreams and alter the plans that have been laid out in front of us. It doesn’t always have to freeze us in place to be effective, it just has to make us slow down. Or step aside. Or run in another direction.

In my community group, Eliakim, we talk a lot about freedom and what it means to live in the presence of God as Lord, Savior, and King. We celebrate our victories together and are learning to fight for one another, through accountability, truth, and love.

For us, as followers of Christ, freedom is a gift that was purchased for us through the sacrifice on the cross all those years ago. And because of this freedom, fear has no place in our lives.

Something I’ve learned from spending time alongside the guys and girls in my community group is that freedom is part of what it means to live as a follower of Christ. A Christian. God wants to reign in our lives. In every detail of it. If we are to call ourselves Christians, we must be willing to submit our every thought and action before our Father as Lord. We must be willing to honor him with every word and action, because our lives are a reflection of who He is.

But, we are still given a choice. Do we choose to listen to what our Lord wants for us, or do we choose our own path? A lot of people get hung up on this choice. Simply put, no matter what choice we make, be it one way, the other, or some sort of compromise, God is already there to embrace us in love. Before we can even begin to think about repentance, our Savior has embraced us as His children because when He sacrificed Himself on the cross all those years ago, He paid the debt for all of our sins and shortcomings. The sins that we have committed and those we have yet to commit.

And because He has embraced us in His love and forgiveness, He has given us the strength, through His Spirit, to be in a relationship with Him. He has given us the ability to come to Him as our King and lay everything before Him. And he has given us the strength to face the challenges before us, so that the next time we hear Him wanting to be Lord in our lives, we are able to listen and act on His guidance.

This cycle of deepening relationship with our Father has been life changing for me over the past several months. And yet, there is a part of me that is still held back by fear.

I haven’t written anything in months. Every time I do, I freeze.

Every night that I’m at work, I sit (or stand) at my computer, typing in information to calls as I listen to the panicked voices of callers who are seeking assistance. I read calls about the worst moments of peoples lives. People who are my neighbors, my community.

And every time I sit down to write, I hear those calls. I see those words on the screen. It is that fear that has held back my hands and my heart from writing.

I started writing this post almost two months ago, and I feel like these words have not gotten easier to write. My hands still shake with nervousness as I tap away at the keys, trying not to distract myself from my own thoughts.

In the past, I found myself growing closer to God through writing. The act of processing my thoughts through words gave me the courage to share a part of who I am with the world.

Fear has been holding me back from part of my relationship with God, my Lord, Savior, and King. And it is time for that to change.

Advertisements

Taboo

I’m about to write something that is difficult for me to put into words. It is difficult for us as a society to talk about. It is something that we too often want to push beneath the rug because we feel that it is to painful to talk about. I am about to talk about depression, suicide, and that new show that came on Netflix that everyone is talking about (13 Reasons Why).

DISCLAIMER: Trigger Warnings going off here.
Let me preface this before anyone continues reading. If you struggle with depression and/or thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. This is not something we can take lightly.

If you need help, do not be afraid to seek it out. There are many resources out there for you, including people who are willing to sit and listen to you (including, but not limited to, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)).

It seems like every day we get rocked by the news of another promising life cut short by violence and bloodshed, but the sting is so much more potent when we discover that the person lost the battle against themselves. Suicide brings a pain of regret because those who are left behind will forever ask themselves if there was something that they missed. Something they could have done to prevent this tragedy.

We cry because looking back, we can see the signs that led up to this point. And the more we ask and seek the answers to why, more is revealed. More evidence that, if we had only known … and we find ourselves taking on the burden of death. If feels as though we were the ones that, through our words and actions (or the lack of them), killed them.

Here’s the thing: We, as human beings, are good at hiding things. As someone who has struggled with depression in the past, I know how easily it is to hide behind the mask of a smile, a laugh and have people not see. It hasn’t been until recently that I began to be open with myself enough to start talking about the struggle I faced all those years ago. I talk about it in terms that I understand, my darkness within, because it makes it easier for me.

For years I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to discuss how I felt or how close to the edge I had gotten. I didn’t want to share it because it scarred me. But here’s the hope that I share now: while that darkness never fully left me, by talking about it, it has become easier to carry within me.

This is something that is important for everyone, no matter if you have been in the shadow of depression or not. If someone comes to you, it isn’t your job to fix the problem. It isn’t your job to burn away the darkness. What your job is, in that moment, is to listen. To be still and be present with them. If someone shares, through words or actions, then it is your place to journey with them. To let them know that you will help shoulder the burden of the darkness that they face. That you will be there for them as a refuge of light.

I started talking about my personal struggles because I knew I could not shoulder it alone. Even after all these years, there are moments when I feel overwhelmed by doubts and fears and it feels as though the night is physically reaching out to drag me down.

Reaching out to talk does not make me weak. Asking for help does not make me stupid. Having thoughts of self harm does not make me a coward.

A couple weeks ago Netflix released a new series based off a book by the same name, 13 Reasons Why. It is a powerful and painful story that follows the main character who receives recordings from a friend and classmate who had committed suicide. As he listens to the tapes, he begins to hear the reasons why she took her own life.

I watched the entire season in the course of one weekend. It was painful to watch at times. But not because of the darkness that I hold within, but because years ago, I found myself in the position of asking if it was something I did or didn’t do that led a classmate to attempt to take his own life.

Recently, the show has caught a lot of criticism because of the graphic details that it portrays. It covers topics about shaming, jumping to conclusions about people, bullying, turning a blind eye, depression, teenager drug use and drinking, rape, and, yes, suicide. I’ve heard it say that it glorifies death. That it doesn’t give people hope. That it doesn’t provide the resources necessary for people who are standing on that edge. That it pushes people.

But it’s a story for the survivors, not for those who are in darkness.

LISTEN: If you have thoughts of self harm or suicide, DO NOT watch this show. If you have been traumatized by your past and still struggle finding the light of each day, you may want to skip this show. Or watch it with someone who is willing to have an open conversation with you. Even if you have never struggled with depression, with bullying, with rape you may find this show difficult to watch.

Let me say it again: the show is not for those who are struggling with depression, with darkness. The show is for the rest of us. Those who may not realize how our lives intersect with another’s. How a little comment can break someones spirit. How an action can seem innocent, but destroys the confidence of friendship. How much damage our words can cause, even when we speak it as a joke.

The show is about how everything we experience can pile onto our souls and drag us down into darkness.

I’ve always believed that if I was strong enough, I could survive on my own. But I know now how dangerous that way of thinking is. It wasn’t myself that rescued me from my darkness, it was the love of those who were willing to listen. It was the strength of others who encouraged me to talk. To talk about anything. To write when speaking was too difficult. It was the people who stood up when I was unable to on my own. It is all the individuals who have poured out their love.

Depression is something that our society tells us to keep hidden. If you can smile, they tell you, then you can get through it all. Laugh. Get out more. Be active. Put the darkness into a box and lock it away. The world tells us to lie and say that everything is okay. But sometimes pretending is not enough.

Sometimes talking about it is not enough. Sometimes, no matter how many people pour out their love into our lives, it is not enough. Sometimes, despite the smiles, laughing, and activities, it isn’t enough.

There is a stigma about mental illness, about depression, that causes us to do more harm to ourselves by trying to hide it. Depression is more complicated than an emotion. It is a chemical imbalance. It is an illness that can be treated.

If you struggle, there is nothing wrong with seeking help. Just know that you aren’t alone.

The Flame and the Burn

Passion is a flame that guides us.  That lights our way, our path through life.  It is beautiful.  But it is also extremely dangerous if you are not careful.

So many people think they can control fire.  Can control their passion. But the beautiful reality is that it is a dangerous entity in its own right. It consumes everything in its path.  If we are not careful, it will consume us as well.

Have you ever looked at an area that has experienced a fire?  Structures are shells of what they used to be, if they are still standing at all.  Woodland areas are scorched.  Trees are burned.  Ash covers the ground.  Even after prescribed burns, low intensity fires, you can see the devastation that is left behind.  Now look at the wildfires out west.  Want to stand in front of one of them?

Thought not.

Our passions can be just as devastating.  You won’t notice it in the moment as you chase after the flames. But recently I started looking back and seeing the wake of subtle, yet powerful, destruction in my life once I let my passion get out of control.

It isn’t only bridges that have been burned, but people that were once close to me.  I pushed them away while chasing after a passion.  And recently, I’ve come to realize that I may have gotten too close.  Oh, it hurts sometimes.

And we live on with the scars. A reminder of the joy and the pain.

And as the years pass, the scars fade. Look at the landscapes where fires burned years ago.  If you look closely, you can still see it. The effects of the flames. Trees remain blackened. Logs litter the ground and snags reach up wishing for days long past.

But new growth has leapt forth from the scorched earth. Our lives are just the same.  Sometimes we need the flames to burn away the thorns and vines and weeds so that wildflowers bloom once again.