My foolish God.

As often as I try to be open about my struggle (and I use that word because it is a struggle, every single day) with depression and anxiety, I have to say that it’s so hard to come out with it. There’s never really a point where you’re ready to tell the world that your emotional life is messy, that you don’t have control over it sometimes, and that you have woken up every morning for weeks in a row and just cried because there was another day to live through.

That’s not something that ever gets easy to say. And if it does get easy to say, that’s because you’re forgetting how hard it was.

Because I know that I’m far from alone in this, though, I want to speak up. I want people who don’t have depression to have an idea of what it’s like and to know that if you’ve never experienced it, you will not understand, ever. And I want people who do have depression and have experienced it to know that there is no good reason to feel ashamed (I say “no good reason” because obviously, there are plenty of reasons that we feel ashamed. They are real, but depression is not shameful). You are not alone.

In the road to healing, I’ve read a lot of articles written by people with depression, and I’ve noticed this divide between Christians and non-Christians who write. I feel torn sometimes, because sometimes I just want to write like Hyperbole and a Half. She’s so honest, and I can relate to all of the things she says. She’s so blunt, too. Sometimes, I want to say that I feel like ______ (insert word there that Christians don’t use), too because depression feels like an emotional curse word.

Then I read things like “Anxiety and depression can also, ironically, be a conduit of hope—an opportunity for the foolishness of God to be displayed in our lives.” from The Gospel Coalition and see that God has a place in all of this. He’s not just a part of my pain; he’s CENTRAL to it. He’s the one who never departs and makes meaning out of it.

I love that phrase, the “foolishness of God.” Because it really is pretty foolish to shower grace and mercy and love and blessings on some person who is going to fail you and disappoint you at least half the time and only listen to you when they feel like it and not obey because they think they know better (stupid people).

How foolish my God is, to love me.

How foolish He has been during the past year. How foolish He is to see my depression and try to tell me that something meaningful will come out of so much pain and so much deadness. God is silly.

It’s foolish to think that someone who can’t bear the thought of getting out of bed in the morning or cries while eating breakfast for no reason or has to deliberately remember how emotional interaction with other human beings works because of the horrible emptiness in her heart or who can’t possibly have anything genuine left at the end of the day to offer her roommate could be someone God wants to reach out to. That’s messy. That’s ugly. That’s icky. That’s not “holy.”

But that’s where we find Jesus. He works in messy. He comes into pain. He says, “Not only do I still love you and want you to be a part of my Kingdom, I want to use you. Like this. And when you start feeling a bit better, it’s going to be even more meaningful. You’re going to have a story, and I’m going to help you tell it.”

How foolish.

How wonderful.

My foolish, wonderful, gracious God wants to use my story of not being able to do my homework because I needed to just cry for a few hours and do something with it. He wants to not just use my story but me, the one who did the crying and hurting and……


I guess we did that, too. We are doing that.

My foolish God.

My foolish, amazing God.

He is the reason that it’s worth it to tell my story and be open about my struggle. He gives meaning to the mess and passion where there was only pain.

Where I am.

Consider my absence from the blogosphere for the past couple days a commercial break. Aaaaand, we’re back.

Where are you today? I’ll tell you where I am. I’m in my closet, my office closet. I’m sitting in my pajamas, cross-legged on my desk chair (the one that’s at an awkward height, so I can’t cross my legs under my desk) with bedhead. To my left, there’s an empty coffee cup, a Belvita wrapper, and a shoebox with a slowly dwindling number of cookies in it. On my right, I’ve got a stack of books and papers and notebooks and folders topped with my notes from the sermon at church yesterday.

There are bobby pins and bracelets and headphones and envelopes and papers with varying levels of importance and a bottle of face lotion and an empty CTA card and a lip balm and a jar that used to hold quarters for laundry but is empty now.

That’s where I am. Not getting out of my pajamas and sitting in the organized mess. Well, it’s not really organized. It’s less of a mess and more of a task. I need to go through all this stuff and figure out why it’s here and where it needs to go and if I need to do anything about the fact that it exists.

I know I’m not the only one who sits in this kind of messy task. I also know that Jesus meets me in the middle of the mess. In the middle. He doesn’t ask me to leave to meet Him. He comes to me, even before I ask Him to come.

Because I need Him. And He knows it.

When someone is the strength of your heart and your shield and salvation, it’s a good thing that they don’t wait on the sidelines for an invitation or a good time to interrupt the chaos. It’s a good thing that they will jump right into the mess.

Right into the lack of normal attire and the excess of paper and to-dos. Right into the confusion about priorities and disorganization and feelings.

He meets me where I am.

Messy Thursday

I’ve been a faithful magazine subscriber over my almost 19 years of life.  (*pauses time to reflect on turning 19 in 10 days*) I used to devour the Highlights for Kids magazines when I was younger.  As I got older, the subscription changed to American Girl magazine.  Then, when I joined the U.S. Figure Skating Association as a skater, it came with a subscription to Skating magazine.  The main purpose for those magazines was to get the scoop on how my favorite skaters had done in their recent competitions.  I cut out all the pictures of Michelle Kwan, Kimmie Meissner, Evan Lysacek, Tanith Belbin, Sasha Cohen, and their contemporaries to put on my notebooks and folders in middle school.

Then, for a short tint, I got Entertainment Weekly as part of the My Coke Rewards program.  At the same time, my piano teacher had gotten my sister and me a subscription to Smithsonian for a Christmas present one year and had kept renewing it for us.  Needless to say, Entertainment Weekly didn’t last long compared to Smithsonian.  Half of the articles in there went over my head, but what I understood was some of the most interesting reading I’ve done.

My magazine subscription history isn’t really the point of this post though. I was just thinking this morning about how much I love quizzes.  No, not academic quizzes.  I don’t mind those too much, but I’m talking about the ones with the titles like “Which Disney Princess Are You?” or “What Type of Friend Are You?” or “How Do You Cope With Stress?”

And I think I know why I love them so much.  Even if they’re wrong, they offer answers in as little time as I take to tally up my score.  And they seem like legitimate answers because I did answer a whole bunch of questions and add up all of my points and figure out which of the possibilities I fit.  They’re a no-stress, no-overanalyzing way to learn about yourself and maybe discover how you should be.  I mean, if I’ve been living like Cinderella is my Disney princess, but it’s really Belle, then my whole world is going to look different.

I love instant answers.  I would love instant food, too, if it actually had real ingredients in it.  But unfortunately, most instant food is full of nastiness.  I guess I don’t mind instant oatmeal, though.

Instant is nice.  It’s rarely messy, and it’s quick.

But there’s a place for messy.  It’s probably not necessary for me to mull over if I’m Belle or Cinderella for too long, but messy has a place. Just like I sometimes need to have muffins and papers about study abroad and a cup of coffee and textbooks and a calculator all over my desk in order to figure out what I should write my philosophy paper about.  Messy is good sometimes.

Just a thought for Thursday.

Not in me, in you.

I lose things all the time.  Partly because my typical place to put things is on my floor.  And when you put everything on the floor, not only can you not walk around well (there’s this thing called a bed in the way too), but you lose things.  Or step on them and break them.  Or they just get swirled in with the rest of the mess.

I’m getting better at not putting things on my floor, because that’s not where they belong.  They get lost, because I’ve put them in the wrong place.

I do the same thing with my trust and my questions.  I ask myself the questions that I have no ability to answer.  I put my trust in my own abilities, thinking that I will be able to work everything out and put all the pieces together.  I entrust important things to my incapable self and important things to my  cluttered, undiscerning floor.

I find peace when I’m confused.  I find hope when I’m let down – not in me, in You.

Switchfoot gets it. The place where confusion and hope is found is not in me.  Nope, things get more confused and more unrestful there.  In You, Jesus.  That’s where the peace and hope is.  And maybe there still aren’t all the answers, but there’s peace in the confusion.  Peace to just be confused.  Hope that I won’t always be down.

That’s what I’m resting in today.  Not answers, not in having all my ducks in a row.  Not in being all that I want to be, but knowing that there’s hope.  For me, for the circumstances around me, for the world at large.

Pearl, being closed, and getting found.

For those  of you who were holding your breath awaiting my choice of name for my phone, the wait is over. After much input and deliberation, her name is (drumroll please)…… Pearl!
For those of you who weren’t really that interested in what I decided to name my phone, here is this post’s dedication:
To: BJ, a faithful subscriber, truck enthusiast, and friend. Here’s to you.
BJ was a leader on a couple of trips I’ve been on in the past few years, always trips with too many students and too few chaperones. One of my favorite memories from Panama last year occurred right at lights out in our hot, sticky girls’ dorm, when one of the many female students called out to Miss BJ to ask a question right as she was turning the lights out on what was surely a 15 hour day of ministry for all of us. Her hilarious reply was, “Miss B is closed for the evening. ”
(Just so you know, she answered the need after that lil joke.)
After reminiscing about that moment a bit with her this weekend, I started thinking about being closed.

Now, what does that mean? I no longer possess the energy to fulfill any request you may make of me with any competence.
That seems like a good enough reason to be closed. I think I say “no, I’m closed” for lots of reasons. (I don’t usually use that phrase, but I’m saving it for a perfect time in the future.) I say no because I am busy, because I’d rather spend my time doing other things, because I don’t particularly care for the requester, because I think it would be harmful to say “yes”, to keep myself from getting into awkward/dangerous/unwise/otherwise negative situations.

I wonder how many of my reasons are valid.
That may be a question I answer later on.

I went to church today in Chicago at James MacDonald’s church, Harvest Bible Chapel. I spent the sermon pondering several of the themes of his message while he spoke and thought about how well they could fit together in a blog post… Then I remembered where I was and why I was there and started paying attention to what he was saying again.
He was speaking about what motivated Paul to do all the church planting and service and preaching and to endure all the persecution and suffering that he did. One of the main ones comes out of II Corinthians 5:17, “for the love of Christ compels us…”
The love of Christ. Paul’s love for Christ? No. That doesn’t get you anywhere when you’re telling burned out and feel like you just wanna be closed. Jesus’ incredible, unfailing, redeeming, compassionate love. That is what sent Paul to plant churches, to endure beatings, to share all that he had. Then MacDonald went on to talk about why Paul was so amazed by God’s love. Because-as Paul puts it- he, “the worst of sinners” was redeemed and sanctified. Jesus called him while he was persecuting and killing Christians. He found Paul in that horrible place of unrepentant sin and brought him into a full life of service to Himself.
That got me thinking…
Where did Jesus find me?
Where was I when Jesus captured my heart and made me want to live for him?

It’s a question I’m still trying to answer because I feel like I’ve always had Jesus in my life, whether in my rearview mirror as someone I’m aware of but not concerned with, or someone who is in the driver’s seat of my car.  Actually, those aren’t the only two positions I put Jesus in. Sometimes He’s like the cars who follow me for more than three turns, so I get paranoid that they’re following me with malicious intent, and I try to shake them. (that actually is my criteria for determining stalker behavior, three turns…) but I know Jesus isn’t a stalker, sometimes just a presence that makes me uncomfortable since my life isn’t in order.

It’s like when I tell people they can’t look in my room when they come over.  We’ll just stay in the kitchen… it’s too messy in my actual dwelling.

So, where was I? I don’t have the kind of testimony where one moment changed my life forever. It’s more like I’m the seashore, and Jesus is the waves crashing down on me. He keeps coming back and pouring newness on and into me, a process that refines me and pulls me closer to Him. Just like the sand is made smoother and is drawn towards the ocean. I’ve always been a little rough, not always beautiful like those white sand beaches, but the rescue come sin the form of renewal and refinement.

Here’s where I was: I was with me, myself, and I, under the impression that I was all that mattered. I was living under the delusion that God doesn’t get any more personal or real than just knowing about Him.

If you ask me this question in twenty years, I’m sure my answer will include something about the fact that at 18 I still didn’t know everything about how to be a follower of Christ – but I was learning.  Then, if you ask me twenty years beyond that, I’ll say the same thing of my 38-year-old self.

I’ll still be getting washed.  Still be getting refined. Praise the Lord that He’s not finished with me yet.