There are a couple reasons why I would put myself out so far as to use my own words in some of my hardest moments to speak to you as I did in the last post. One is that I want to wake up the sleepers – those people who know they are depressed and have known for a long time, decades even, but who have come to accept it as their perpetual state of being.
There is danger in awakening sleepers, I am aware. As I described my depression and pain in the last entry there were probably individuals who still felt disconnected or even a little indignant, as if my 6 years of depression lent any credence to speak to their 40 years of depression. Well let me step on your toes, because I am not trying to claim the prize for the most depressed, disillusioned, cynical person, and I sincerely hope that you don’t covet that prize either.
I can’t count the number of times that someone who is experiencing legitimate physical pain because of common things like knee injuries, neck pain, or viral illnesses, has said to me, “Of course, I know its nothing compared to what you must experience everyday, but…”
I hate that. I don’t want to win the prize for the person in the most pain. If I did I would have advertised it long before now. Pain is pain is pain, and I respectfully turn down anyone’s nomination that I be awarded the “Worse Pain Than Mine” award. I know that human beings have this tendency toward wanting to win the “Worst Competition”, but how often do we sit and down and think about what it ACTUALLY means to win the prize of the most depressed, the most misunderstood, in the worst pain, most irredeemable, etc.?
The only “prize” you might possibly gain through the winning is sitting uncomfortably in the knowledge you will be never understood by anyone, or that you are the most alone person on the planet. This must be the most NON prize ever! Do you truly want to believe that Jesus’ work on the cross accomplished nothing when it comes to you?
So Sleepers, if I step on your toes, I’m sorry, but I don’t want you to sit alone holding this ghost of a trophy. Please listen. I’m not trying to out-compete you. I just know that it is terrible to be where you are.
Another reason that I use my own words rather than relating specific experiences is that some of you (like me), would never identify yourselves as depressed. Just maybe… stuck… or, also like me, disillusioned with the big goals of life. If I relate only through my specific experience you may not see yourself because my specific situation doesn’t look like your specific situation. But my words of being in the thick of it may be VERY familiar to you.
Most of us have devastating moments when we realize we are a complete mess and where we can recognize that if other people saw us like this they would question our mental stability.
I’ve been talking about myself all this time, but I think I’ve been pretty clear from the start that the reason I would talk about myself at all is because I realize that I am learning something here that is applicable to many, many other people, brain tumour or no brain tumour.
The danger here is that when we are left in this state (or like positions) for long enough, we start to develop a perception of identity which revolves around being a depressed, cynical or disillusioned person. Pre brain tumor, I was not a person that struggled with low self esteem or shrunk away from people. But over the past seven years I increasingly found myself sweating in conversation with people. I avoided introductions and conversations because I became so self conscious about my word choice or attempted jokes that it just became awkward. I began to wrap my identity around being a disillusion hopeless person in pain.
The funny thing with identity is that we feel identity should be fought for at any cost. I would fight for my right to be a disillusioned hopeless person because I was “justified” in being that way. And I was justified. I didn’t make up any of the things that happened. They really did happen. But is “justified” really the point if all I gain is the prize that is actually not a prize? Is “justified” the point when I end up fighting for my right to destroy the rest of my life?
I reached a point in this journey where conviction fell on me like the gonging of a bell. All I did was pray that God would pull me out. But through this simple request he showed me things about myself that gave me an opportunity for repentance and for turning away from my way to his way.
The most long lasting effect that I have experienced in my life from the brain tumor, from losing my career, from left sided body pain and from depression, have not been from the events themselves, but from the sinful reactions I had to them and from the sinful messages I took into my own heart and head after they happened.
I have been the victim of a victim mentality of the worst kind. The reason it is the “worst” kind (this right on the heels of the “Worst Competition) is because everything that happened and that I have lived with really did happen – there is no mental construct of the events themselves. And because of that I have been unable to identify the ways in which actual events slowly transitioned away from the sheer events into being a mental recasting of my whole life.
There is not much point in stringing out all the lines of thought that I have been ruled by. Each one led to a various succession of jumbled thoughts and confusing mental pathways, but they all ended up at the same at the same crushing destination.
“There is no point to anything. Why would I want anything. Why would I waste myself on anything. Why would I hope. I’m just empty. God must want me to be empty, so I will embrace my emptiness.”
The events of my life aside, THAT sentence I just wrote has wrecked much more havoc in my life than ANY one event or even the entire sequence of events all added together.
Until I realized the fullness of the destruction that one sentence has meted upon me I couldn’t recognize it for what it was – SIN.
I know we hate that word and I know that most people would rather try to take me off the hook than let that word ring in their heads or suggest that I didn’t have every right in the world to sit around feeling sorry for myself. I’m in pain for heavens’ sake, visited upon me by a medical condition that I never asked for.
If you don’t believe me then look at Jesus’ words when he said that Satan prowls the earth like a lion looking for whom he may destroy. The message I have believed has destroyed far more than anything that has happened to me. And if it has been that destructive, then we need look no farther than the Destroyer to see its source. The reason it is sin, is because I have chosen his destructive words about my life rather than My Creator’s words.
So yes, I DO challenge your status, whoever you are, wherever you are, however deep it goes, however LONG you have struggled with it. Not based on MY great qualifications (or maybe the lack of them in your eyes), but because the redemption and new creation that is being offered to you by Jesus Christ is too big to be turned aside.
Jesus didn’t offer intimate relationship and the Breath of Life to everyone except you. Who are you that you are so exceptional? Yes your story is absolutely exceptional, but don't worship your own pain! Don’t sacrifice the rest of your life on the Great Altar of your cynicism, your depression, your anxiety, your disillusionment, your nothingness. It will never reward you for your service and your sacrifice.
Your road to that place was different, by all means, and yes, very unique. I will never take that away from you. I don’t want to devalue anyone’s experiences. However I DO challenge the messages that you may have taken on in the aftermath of those experiences. Your road out will also be very different and unique and it won’t look like mine. It won’t be immediate. But Jesus will be your guide. There IS a way out and he wants to show you.
I know I sound harsh right now, but its because I’m hoping to shake a few people out of their slumber. It sucks to be shaken awake and I’m sure that many people think that I’m delusional and that I should have gone to therapy or yoga or something else to maintain a better balance. Discount me if you will, but I hope at least one or two people will listen. (I’m not discounting therapy for the record, and I don’t have any disdain for either therapists or for people who go to them.)
I do not know the specific way in which you are misunderstood as the highly specialized individual that you are, but I do know that the most valuable feedback you could get on yourself is from the one who created you and who has seen the whole time what you don’t see or admit yourself.
He is so gentle! I can’t describe the freedom as he slices through one knot at a time. I am so much lighter than I was. I don't have to by tied down by an identity that was never meant to be mine. I don't have to fight for the right to preserve that identity. Jesus has saved me from such a dark place.
Last Christmas I shared my testimony at church. After I was done a song was played that I had never heard before and I was stunned by how applicable the words were.
Take a listen. Tell Your Heart to Beat Again