Monday, February 13, 2017

The Return of an Old Friend

Author's Note: I wrote this back at the end of August.  My hope is that, if anyone out there is wrestling with depression, PTSD, anxiety, or anything like that, that this would be an encouragement to your soul.  This is my fairly raw processing, so while I firmly believe that the Gospel is our greatest hope against depression, I am not endorsing that solely belief will make the feelings go away, only that they ground our hope in a firm foundation. 

There are so many lies I've believed in my lifetime.  You see all those shows where something catastrophic happens, they rebuild, transform whatever was wrong, and then they are all smiles at the end.  They ride off into the sunset, happily ever after.  That's what I thought would happen for us.  We moved back in nearly 2 weeks ago.  I felt I hand handled this whole thing rather well, the fire that is.  I was sad, sure, but I had faith in Christ.  I had hope.  I was secure.

Now?  I've never been more terrified in my life.

I have my office in my bedroom now.  As I work in it, the scene flashes before me frequently; running into the same room to grab what I could before the fire potentially claimed everything.  The same bedroom that now taunts me with the reminder that I was foolish with my life that day, and could have cost my wife her husband and my children their father.

When I turn on the panini maker, or the oven, or even the keurig for coffee, I wonder if it's going to be okay.  One sizzle, one crackle of oil, or the sound of burning liquid ignites my senses.  "Am I going to do it again?"

I thought campus would be an escape.  What a mistake.  Every person asks, "how was your summer?"  My answer?  About as good as it can be for a guy who lit their kitchen on fire.  No one really knows how to respond to that one.  I know they try.  I really want to be gracious.  Jesus has grace for me.

At the same time, I want to scream.  I want to cry.  I want to punch through a wall, anger running through my veins.  And then the apathy, lack of emotion paralyzing me to the point that every detail feels like a 100 lb weight that I've been asked to move from one end of town to the next.  This all seems new, yet vaguely familiar.

Oh... I remember you.  I remember you, Old Friend.

I remember the first time I met you.  I didn't want to believe you were there, but you were.  I was fundraising full-time, trying to finish so I could get on campus and provide for my soon-to-be wife.  For a season, it felt like I would never get there.  I turned to familiar vices, food being the predominant one, leading to weight gain that only left me with more apathy.  I thought I was just being sinful and foolish.  While both of those were true, I didn't realize you were there with me.

I met you again a couple years later.  I was a punk.  Young in ministry, seeking to prove to everyone I could hack it.  God was gracious to remind me that those efforts were fruitless.  Nothing I did worked.  I didn't want to do anything, didn't want to fail, didn't want anyone to think I was a nobody.  You walked alongside me, trying to scream out to me, to point me to my need.  As I reached out to Jesus, slowly but surely you let go, like a mother who was training her child to slowly gain independence.  I thought the pain you brought was far, far away.

But you came and went.  Moments in time that reminded me that I was in need of Christ.  It was as if you were dropping by for a short visit.  I wish your visit were brief now.

It's the busiest season of our ministry.  We have to get our home ready.  There are tons of decisions to make.  Conflicts to resolve.  And you came in unannounced, like you always do.

Sometimes, Depression, you feel like a horrible friend.  Why would you come now?  Why not in the middle of the summer, when I had time to feel like I can't move?  Why now, when I need to be at my best, when I need to be rested, not sitting in a hospital bed wondering if I'm having a heart attack?  Why now, when I'm supposed to be the example of holiness and Godliness to my students, my family, my church?  And how long will you stay?  I'm begging you to leave.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why have you allowed this awful friend to stay by my side?  Why won't you take this thorn in the flesh!  Why won't you stop my tears from flowing so freely!?  Please, Lord, I'm begging for relief!  Don't you realize that this friend is hurting me?!  Don't you realize what he's doing?

I can't feel safe in my own home, I can't feel safe in crowds, is there anywhere that I can feel safe!?

"My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling." (Psalm 46:1-3)

Maybe not.  But I can rest securely in the arms of Jesus, holding me as everything falls apart around me, and even within me.  If there's anything that I can know about this old friend, it's that he drives me to cling to the one who can carry me through the storm, as painful as it may be.

You drive me to my knees, and you force me to rely on Jesus better than any other.  You force me to keep moving even against my lack of will, and, even more so, you force me to lie down and rest, that I might reflect on the glorious truth that there is nothing about me that God would have chosen, yet did so anyway.  He loves me, and I know because He proved it with His dying breath on the cross.

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior."  
-- Hillsong United "Oceans"