There are very few women who haven’t at some point been distraught over the size of their booty—it’s too big, it’s not big enough, it sags, it protrudes! Thanks to some Hollywood rich girls, the big butt is big business. That may or may not be good news to you—frankly, big butt love has come at a time in my life where its relevance is lost on me.
But, that butt isn’t the but I want to talk about.
This beautiful fall weather, with all its amazing color and flavors, comes as a mixed blessing for me. I get to spend more time with my farmer husband, I get to sleep with an opened window that lets cool, crisp air shyly enter my bedroom, I get to resurrect the crock pot and expand my repertoire of soup recipes, I get to light the fireplace, and I get to stop pulling weeds and deadheading flowers.
The down side of autumn for me is that depression comes knocking at my door with a packed bag prepared to stay through the winter. The holidays arrive innocently enough but they trigger painful reminders of losses, reminders that my family is broken and I can’t fix us. With the beauty of the season comes the dread of another hard-fought battle to keep my feet under me and my emotions from amputating my life limbs.
Some might say, “Well, it looks to me like you’re expecting to be miserable.” It probably appears that I’m putting out the welcome mat and saying, c’mon in! All I can say to that is unless you have suffered with the torment of mental illness, you won’t likely understand.
Two years ago, having believed I was God-armed to sail through the winter darkness with victory and healing, I found myself making a very heavy paper airplane out of my bible and sending it on its maiden voyage through my living room. The sound effects are best left to the imagination. In essence, I not-so-politely invited God out of my life. It was one of the worst times I can remember. I wanted to die and dwelled too long in those thoughts.
A couple weeks ago my chronic insomnia intensified. I soon noticed my cognitive function became diminished—I felt fuzzy headed, couldn’t remember words, and had attention deficit issues. My thoughts wouldn’t form easily and frustration set in with regard to my writing goals. I began noticing ugly, disparaging, self-talk. I recognized slightly paranoid thoughts that required far too much time and energy to wrestle to the ground.
The signs were cropping up again. I began fighting like crazy my tendency to become hamster-like; to run back to the cage of isolation—away from my purpose and goals, hide under some fluff or get on that incessant wheel of over-introspection.
Even though I know these symptoms are not in my control, I feel culpable and at fault. It makes me want to hide. I attempt to gut it out without help, medication or support. I don’t want people to judge me, to disqualify me or to inflict more pain with their expectations that I should choose to refuse this illness. Oh her, she’s not reliable!
Sadly, the church is the only place where mental illness can still be viewed as a shameful character defect, a lack of faith or as having roots in demonic influence. I’m not saying these can’t play a role in mental illness, they can just as they can in other areas of our human-experience.
Why am I exposing my underbelly when I know the moment I push the Publish Now button I will screw up my face and cringe for being so darned transparent? My toes will curl and I’ll avert my eyes in the church lobby for fear someone might have read my sacrifice of vulnerability—thank you very much Brené Brown!
Why? Because I want to stare down this monster in my closet face-to-face. And I want to help others do the same.
So, back to not-that-butt.
I hunkered down in my writing womb/war room, clad in my stale pajamas. I opened my bible with a declaration to God and to my husband: I am not budging until I hear from God, until I have some peace, until the urge to kill my blog and isolate from friends is gone.
After I deliberated for an unreasonably long time over which of my many bibles to rest in, I eventually landed in the NLT and Psalm 119. In case you’re wondering, it’s possible to spend all day in Psalm 119 and only get to verse 81. By the way, I also put out a distress call to a friend and received some powerful prayer. (Thank you, Ms. You-Know-Who-You-Are! You were amazing support!)
Verse 81 in the NLT says,
“I am worn out waiting for your rescue….”
I know you hear me, LORD. I am so weary of this battle. I don’t know how to hope for healing anymore. You created me, you made me—don’t leave me to figure this out alone. I looked over at God where I imagined Him in the chair across from me—I do my best praying this way. I spoke the words to him like I would my safest friend. I welcomed my ugly cry and let the tears and mucus flow—they matched the PJs. There was no agenda in my praying, no expected outcome, I just needed to let the questioning words in my soul invite intimacy with Jesus.
The bible is full of big BUTS! This is the but I want to talk about:
“…BUT I have placed my hope in Your word.”
Now there’s a but I have more control over—a choice I can make.
My pastor taught out of Ephesians this week. These words struck a chord: “And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:18-19)
This is my big BUT: Last year I expected a symptom-free winter and was upended when it didn’t play out the way my faith and hard work had intimated. BUT, this year my hope and expectation is to have a greater grasp of His love through whatever comes this winter.
Here’s the BIG FAT LIE: The presence of pain and hardship in our lives equals the absence of Christ’s love. Lie. Lie. Lie.
Knowledge is good. I’d love to know how to fix this–for all of us. I wish the medical community had more knowledge about how to treat this—I wish the Church had more understanding so we could offer compassion and support. BUT, no matter our situation: mental illness, divorce, cancer, bankruptcy, loneliness, transition, loss— having a greater grasp on the expansiveness of the love of Christ surpasses knowledge. His love surpasses our need and tendency to figure it out, to think our way out of it, to structure our own rescue or fabricate our escapes.
The knowledge of Christ’s love was Paul’s prayer for the church, it’s my prayer as well.
My toes are twitching!