Unspoken dreams

A year and a half ago, I made a bold decision to quit my job and enroll in vet tech school. I was going to work in a zoo.

Until recently, I never told anyone why I would make such a drastic career move.

I gave plenty of explanations. I needed to follow my dreams. Animals were my passion. Nonprofit work was too draining.

But I never told anyone what kept me up at night. The church. That beautiful bride of Christ. I prayed over her, wrestled over her. I prayed for pastors and churches I had never been to and gave to ministries I had never volunteered with. The church had been this burden on my heart since I was eight years old. I used to dream of what the church could be, this unified body of believers all worshipping together.

I dreamt of the day I could work in full-time ministry, where I could use my gifts to bring the body closer to reconciliation with God and man.

Satan had fun with that dream. I encountered sexual abuse in the church, unfit pastors, slanderous leaders and favoritism. From church to church, I ran into sick, hurting congregations. I became suspicious and fearful. Was the problem me? Did I just have a radar for unhealthy churches?

And then there was me. I was rarely allowed to volunteer in the church. At any given point, the church reminded me that I was not qualified.

First, it was that I couldn’t drive (at the time). Then, I was too young. Too feisty. I asked too many questions. I was a woman. It got darker. I had endured abuse. I hadn’t gone to enough counseling (I had been attending counseling for ten years by the time I was told this).

But every time I was permitted to do what I felt God was calling me to do, I knew they were wrong. I walked alongside young girls who struggled with the very things I had battled. I sat with girls who came to me because of the very circumstances that the church had always pushed back on.

They wanted to hear there was life past self-harm, past abuse, past shame. They wanted to believe that they could one day look in mirror and not hate their reflection.

Because of the circumstances God had allowed to happen in my life, I could do what someone without my baggage could never do.

But the church didn’t want me. Ministries turned me away. So I chased the safer dream because I was tired of crying.

Somehow, God brought me back. He brought me back to the dreams I ran away from. This time, I fret even more. This time, I’m not just the disabled girl with an abusive past. God has thrown schizophrenia into the mix. I feel even more unqualified than I did before. My dreams have me more humbled than they ever did before, because only God can take this mess and make it true. I often feel immobile to do anything.

God only allows that which will glorify Him the most to happen in our lives. It’s oddly comforting.

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Reconciliation from the girl who always says sorry

About a year ago, I started to feel like it was time to start praying about peace and reconciliation with my family.

I’ve been estranged from members of my family for the last three years because of the embittered relationship I had with my stepdad.

It was around August that I started to experience that feeling that the season of estrangement would come to an end. I didn’t invite the idea or try to interfere. I figured God would place the desire in my heart when the time was right.

***

It was the pastors who got me frustrated over this idea of reconciliation. During the months leading up to my mental health diagnosis, I did some pretty terrible things. Things that got me excommunicated from a church.

I didn’t understand. More honestly, I couldn’t understand. There’s few things worse than being trapped inside your own brain.

But God is faithful, no matter what. I began to research what justice is, what justice does. Primary justice, the act of living in right relationships with others, or tsedaqah, captivated me.

How differently would a person burdened by this idea of justice live?

***

March was a particularly rough month as I found myself sitting across the father who left me as a little girl, hearing his explanation and apology. I’m still not entirely sure how we ended up there, in that bowling alley.

I said I forgave him and I meant it.

It was the first time I saw what justice could look like. Justice looks a lot like compassion and forgiveness, not condemnation and punishment. It’s not easy or convenient. I wasn’t great at it.

The pastors’ refusal to seek this kind of justice irked me.

***

To whom much is given, that much more will be asked of him.

Every speaker I have ever heard teach on this topic has talked about how this means how much we are blessed is directly correlated to how much God will ask us to give.

But the most generous people I know are often the poorest.

I think every speaker is wrong.

The more suffering I am given to endure, the more grace God expects of me.

The pastors’ denial of grace towards me begins to make more sense. You can’t give what you know so little of.

***

I’m staring at the wreckage of the last year of my life. And while I’m driven to despair, my heart is turned towards grace. Grace for my stepfather. Grace for my mother. Because they both have their own mental health illnesses.

It doesn’t make anything said or done okay. Grace doesn’t excuse behavior. It just says that there is something more significant than being right.

Reconciliation is an act of God. It is how He demonstrates His love for us on the cross.

People will know us by the love we demonstrate.

We should always be reconciling with one another. Not silent or bitter. The striving to live in right relationships with others should be of more significance than being right.

I think back to the pastors. I know you can’t give what you’ve never experienced. I also know God is bigger than pride or shame.

This year of suffering is directly correlated to the amount of grace I will have to extend.

He will make things right.

He always has.

Doppelgangers

I’ve been binge-watching How I Met Your Mother for the last week or so and what I find so fascinating about the show is this idea of doppelgangers.

A doppelganger is someone who looks like someone else. A twin of sorts that is not biologically-related to the person they look like.

In the show, the main character says that we all eventually become doppelgangers of who we used to be. People that look like us but aren’t our old selves.

I was staring at myself in the mirror the other day with this eerie feeling that I was staring at a doppelganger of myself.

I’m not who I used to be.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any given amount of time, you know this year’s been rough. You can’t come out of a mental health crisis not changed.

I’ve been bent and broken, twisted and undone in ways I never imagined. I was recently asked to detail the whole ordeal for a major publication and while what I wrote was probably one of the most heartfelt things I’ve ever written, it left me in a puddle of sobbing goo.

This is what life does to us. It bends and breaks us, twists and undoes us until we come out as doppelgangers of who we were before.

I’m a bit more serious than I was. A little bit less self-involved. I serve differently, talk differently. I’ve become more reserved. I pull back a little more.

This week a year ago, I was starting my life over. I spent the days before crying over how much I was going to miss my home, my church, my friends. I cried over a guy that wouldn’t pursue me. A guy I still wish would make a move. I cried because leaving meant he never would.

I didn’t know how bad it was going to get. I didn’t know my life was going to head the direction it did. I just knew I was doing what God had asked of me. It was all I could do.

A year later, I’m healthy for the first time in years. My heart rests in ways it never has. The dust has settled.

I’m not who I used to be.

Neither are you.