When You Ask to Know God Better

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When my counselor, “Jane,” looked at me and said she thought that God was giving me a gift in the midst of all of the pain I was experiencing I thought, Hmmm…this lady might be a little bats!   But she seemed so sincere that I figured I would hear her out anyway.

As we talked, she ferreted out the memory of a prayer that I had prayed several years back; one in which I asked to know God better.  She looked at me and said, “This is it.  This is your chance.  He’s taking you up on that prayer.”

Now I had a decision to make.

Was I interested in knowing God better anymore?  Because, at this point, I had pretty much decided that he couldn’t possibly be good, with everything that I’d seen and everything that was happening in my own life.  And if he wasn’t good, then I didn’t want anything to do with him…

But something about the idea that God was giving me a chance to know him better was appealing.  I couldn’t escape the urge to find out what he was trying to show me.

During this initial evaluation with Jane, she took me to a new doctor, one that took some time to talk with me and really listened to what I had to say.  I came away from that appointment with a different diagnosis than the one I received in Bangkok.  Anxiety and PTSD.  I thought PTSD was for combat veterans and people who had endured extreme violence–and I didn’t have any physical scars or visible injuries.  What I didn’t realize was that my environment had been warring with my mind and emotions and, so far, I had been on the losing end.

Jane also encouraged me to read.  So I started reading…a lot.  Disappointment with God, The Ragamuffin Gospel, to name a few of the best ones.  As I read, and found some rest from the mental assault that had been taking place in India, my mind began to make room for something besides mere survival, and I was finally willing to reopen the communication lines between me and God…

 

The Gift

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Honesty.  Sometimes, you have to admit, it’s overrated, (and sometimes you just don’t want to be honest, like today, I’m cringing as I write this because I don’t know how people will respond!) but as I was battling anxiety, depression, and feelings of abandonment, I was more honest with God than I had ever been before.  I’d heard my whole life that I needed to pour out my soul to God, tell him anything and everything, but I didn’t think anyone actually meant that.  I mean, are you really supposed to tell God that you feel like you’ve been duped by placing your trust in him?  I felt like a kid who asked for a bike for Christmas and got a package of underwear instead–just underwear (seriously?).  But I was at the bottom of the proverbial barrel, and pretending like everything was good, and I was fine, was not working anymore.  So I let God know (often) that I felt like the Titanic, and I thought he might be the iceberg that had delivered the fatal blow, or at the very least, failed to rescue me. In other words, I thought he was really blowing it.

But somewhere in the back of my mind, I think I knew I didn’t have the whole story; and when I met “Jane,” my counselor, some pieces of that story began to fall into place.  During one of our very first conversations after she listened to my story, we were sitting in Jane’s SUV in front of a strip mall in Chiang Mai, and she looked at me and said, “You’ve been given a gift.  Now you just have to figure out how to unwrap it.”  It was the last thing I expected to hear, and really, I thought she might be a little crazy.  But I was willing to listen to how she thought all of this might actually end up being a gift.

 

It’s Not Safe

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India July  2008 RB Putna 017

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When we began traveling around the country raising support to go on the mission field, we were asked several variations of what would you do if something bad happens to your children while you’re in India?  I think I cheerfully responded, “There’s no safer place to be than in the center of God’s will.”  I retract that statement.  It betrayed my naive worldview which was being rocked to its very core, because in the middle of my storm of anxiety and depression I was anything but safe–emotionally or spiritually.

Ultimately (meaning heaven) there is no safer place to be, but in this life, even when we’re doing exactly what God has asked us to, He doesn’t promise us safety.  If that were true there would have never been, and will never be any more, martyrs.  But he does promise us his presence when we walk through hard times, and often it’s in those hard times that we experience a fullness and sweetness in our relationship with Jesus that defies description.  I wasn’t there yet, but God hadn’t given up on me either.  And in just a few days I was going to meet “Jane” (not her real name), my wonderful counselor, whom God would use to speak to me in a profound way.

 

The Diagnosis

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While awaiting our flight out to Thailand we stayed with some dear friends, and my husband and I did something that God used to begin our long road to healing: we opened up and talked about what was happening.  Once again, we weren’t sure what the response would be, but our friends were so loving, compassionate, and kind, allowing us to vent and cry as needed.  As we talked, our wonderful friend “Sandy” suggested that, when we got to Thailand, we look up a counselor that one of her friends had highly recommended.  Sandy tracked down her phone number and we made a plan to get in touch with her when we arrived in Bangkok.

One of the first things I did, at my husband’s prodding, when our feet touched Thai soil was make an appointment with a psychiatrist at Bumrungrad hospital.  I walked into his office, answered a short series of questions, and left with a diagnosis of depression and a prescription to match.  In a fog of disbelief, with tears welling up in my eyes, I made my way to the closest bathroom, locked myself in a stall, and cried, silent body-shaking sobs.  My anger and hurt were growing by the day, and the official diagnosis left me feeling like I was no longer myself, but someone I didn’t even recognize, and I resented (a lot) having to take medication just to feel “normal” again…

(to be continued)