Monday, September 8, 2008

Little Victories

How does a person emerging from depression convey the magnitude of life events? Especially little victories. Someone who has never been incapacitated with anxiety and agoraphobia could never understand how big it is for a person like me to go to church, move to a new home, or go out to a movie. How can you explain to someone just how much effort you had to put into something as simple as no longer being in trouble for attendance at work? A normal person would walk into my new home and see boxes everywhere. What they wouldn't see is the fact that the couch and bed are assembled, the dining room furniture is arranged, the entertainment center and desk are put together, and the place is cluttered but livable. How do you explain to someone just how exhausted you feel after a full day of "taking every thought captive"?

Here's the answer: you can't. Might as well explain the difference between a major or minor chord to a deaf person or the color, blue, to a blind person. There is no way to make someone understand. But the thing I need to understand is that this is actually a gift from God. Why do I place people in my audience? Why should I care if someone thinks I'm just a flake. This is merely another way for God to break me of my People Pleasing tendencies.

The way to destruction is not a freefall drop as much as it is a little slip here and there that grows into bigger slips, stumbles, trips, and then the final plummet. In the same way, the road to redemption comes not from a single leap. It comes from taking a small step forward. It comes from deciding to NOT stand up on the Slip 'n' Slide. It comes from not quitting because you have stumbled. The slips are noticed by God, but so are the little victories. And when we stumble forward even though we don't have an audience cheering us on; when we push through the times we don't feel like pushing; when we make the decision to still seek righteousness, recovery & redemption even though we are experiencing the emotions of depression, doubt & despair...I believe these are the times when God celebrates with us the most. Sure, the world may be silent or even condemning, but God is rejoicing and that is enough.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Fears

Spiders; People; Snakes; Getting Dirty; Corrective Action; Moose; Crowded Stores Full of Breakable Baubles; Bugs; Slime; Rejection; Failure; Zombies; Activities Happening Behind Me; The IRS; Drunks; Parties; The Numbers 13 & 666; Being Brought to Tears in Public; Being Abandoned; My Gramma...But She's Dead, So She Doesn't Scare Me As Much Any More; Clowns; Running Out of Gas On a Lonely Stretch of Highway; Being Lost As the Light of the Day is Diminishing Behind the Horizon; Pretty Girls; The Screaming During Lights Out in the Psych Ward; Getting Hit in the Back of the Head; Driving in the High Country in Arizona When a Snowstorm Hits; Crucifixes (We Nailed Jesus to the Cross Once...Please Don't Put Him Back Up There); Shopping; Asking for Directions; Trigonometry; Being Buried Alive; Being Jammed in a Crowd So Tightly That I Can't Move; Making Conversation on the Phone; Leaving Voice Mail Messages; Being Misunderstood; Going to Prison for a Crime I Didn't Commit; Foreign Cultures; Hot Topic; Realizing My Speech in Front of an Audience Is a Dud & Trying to Think of How the Heck to End It & Get Off the Stage; Falling; Burning.  But Number One on the List Has to Be Phone Calls in the Middle of the Night

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Brave New World

It's time to begin.  It's time to get off the fence.  On March 14th, 1970, I was born; on October 19th, 1993, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior; on April 16th, 2007, I had a nervous breakdown; and on March 2nd, 2008, I was healed.  After 25 (38) years of depression and demonic oppression, I was delivered from my disorder.  At that point, I finally understood in my heart and believed in my heart that it's not about me.  It's about God.  God is faithful.  God is eternal and unchanging.  His promises are for me just as much as they are for everyone else including all the people I have ministered to over the years.  He loves me.  I love Him.  NOTHING else matters.  EVERYTHING I do and I am stems from my relationship with God.  I have been grafted into the vine.  I have life eternal.  Nothing can separate me from the Love of God.

The expectations and emotions and affirmations of people...all people whether they be righteous or unrighteous...are irrelevant.  With this past year, expectations of me are low or nonexistent.  I will expect this as a blessing as that means there are now so many less obstacles and chains to overcome....

The other huge expectation from the world is of fitting in.  I give up my right to fit in and be normal.  I give up my right to be understood.  I give up my right to be liked.  And linked so heavily into this is my expectation of myself.  I give up my right to be a homeowner.  I give up my right for financial security.  I give up my right to have the neatest, latest toys.  I give up my right to be a father.  And that is so hard.  Lord, You know the desire of my heart, and You see the ache of not being a parent and not providing that joy to Sara.  I hand this over to You.  You are my God, and You are enough.

I AM Healed

Yep...that's right...I'm healed. "Healed of what?" you might ask. Healed of my approval addiction. Healed of my people pleasing. Healed of my histrionics disorder.

My journey with the Lord has been an interesting one. I grew up with the Jehovah's Witnesses. At age 11, I moved from Minnesota to Arizona and began my descent into depression. I left the Jehovah's Witnesses my senior year of high school. At 22, I married my best friend, and we moved to Colorado. I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior when I was 23. I went for a solo backpacking trip when I was 28 with the full intention of taking my life up in the mountains. Instead, I had a mountaintop encounter with God who told me that I DID in fact take my life up into the mountains and that it no longer belonged to me. It belonged to Him. I entered youth ministry when I was 29 and had some unbelievable experiences. God used me, imperfect as I was to share with others that He loves and forgives them. I saw lives transformed. Then when I was 33, He told me to go. Specifically He said to me:

Then the Lord said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you." - Genesis 31:3

Yeah, that's pretty specific, and it's the main reason I now go by Jake instead of Jamie. Sara and I moved, and we lived happily ever after. Except we didn't. Nope. In fact, I sank deeper and deeper into depression until finally, on April 16th, 2007, I had a nervous breakdown.

For any of you romanticizing the notion of having a nervous breakdown, let me pop your bubbles of illusion. It is painful...not just to you but to all the ones you love. It leaves a wake of destruction and broken relationships. However, you get an interesting perspective of the world from your knees. This time of brokenness taught me that as much as I had talked about God's love and forgiveness, I never truly believed it applied to me. This would cause me to seek approval and affirmation from the people around me. It wore them out, and it never came close to filling the hole inside of me. That's because the job of God is a big one, and the only one equipped to fill that role is...well...God.

So through a lot of therapy, a lot of prayer, and a healthy dose of drugs, I finally came to the point where I made the decision that, yes, I did in fact want to be healed leading to more therapy and more prayer. And this time instead of trying the "fake it 'til you feel it" method, I started to proclaim the truth until I believed it. The truth that God is enough. The truth that I am a child of Christ. The truth that God is faithful to complete the good work that He began in me. The truth that I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Funny how for so many years I had preached these very things to so many people and yet never accepted in my heart that it was true for me.

Finally, on March 2nd, 2008, I prayed with a couple of overseers for deliverance from my demons of depression and histrionics, and anxiety, and just all that junk. The prayer session lasted a long time, and at the end I felt as though I had just finished a 12 hour day of moving lumber. I was also healed. Since then, I have had no panic attacks, no more obsessive thoughts of suicide, and no more obsessive fantasies of my funeral.

Now, just because I was healed didn't mean that the battle was over. It was more like having a cast removed and beginning the process of physical therapy. I have over 25 years of bad habits and adaptations to overcome. I need to learn new ways of thinking and reacting to the world around me. I need to be comfortable with the idea that God is my source of strength, not anyone else.

A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?" - John 5:5,6

On March 2nd, 2008, at the age of 38, my answer was, "Yes," and His answer was, "So be it."