Can I share something super raw and super vulnerable?
I don't normally feel safe doing that.
Too often in my life, when I will FINALLY decide to share a deeper level of my heart with someone, we get interrupted, get distracted, and I shut down. I crawl back in my turtle shell, alone in darkness. I wonder if that is why I write....I'll never know if you get distracted or if you will be too busy to sit and hear the treasure of my heart.
Here goes nothing....for a long time now, I have felt heaviness. Sad. I spend time with Jesus, and I know He shows up. I feel Him, but it's like there's a leak in my bucket and it's just getting bigger.
My personality really is sunshine. I WANT to be happy. I want to laugh. I want to be fun and funny. So when depression and darkness creep in, I don't want to stay there. I want to pull out of it and feel good again. Normally, that alone is motivating enough, so that I work through whatever it is, I pray, I journal, I talk it out with Brad (my therapist, thank you Jesus). But this heaviness has been different.
It started long before Corona, so while I didn't understand the root, I was sure it's wasn't the isolation from that. I had already started to withdraw. I was fine if I was around other people, but I stopped being the one to initiate it. And nobody noticed. So I could only assume that nobody really cared. I was more invested in every relationship in my life than they were. The downward spiral went deeper and deeper. (hold that thought--I shared it for a reason)
THEN other things hit--my parents' wreck, my dad's brain surgery, Brad's dad's lung transplant, the possibility of shelter in place in Zambia, coming home to the Corona apocalypse, then the slow reality of this new norm settled in. People are so easily offended and apparently fight about everything now. Everybody is angry about everything, so unless it's a hill you're willing to research to death and die on, you just keep your head down and don't even talk about basically anything that is current events. Every single conversation feels like fire--even if you all agree.
I withdrew. The enemy likes it best when we are alone and vulnerable. I imagine his eyes brighten with nasty pleasure, narrowing in on his target, his lips curling up in an uncontrollable glee to see someone who's forehead glows with the seal of the Holy Spirit in a moment of weakness. gotcha.
This week, a couple things lead me to break-thru, and I want to share them with you. First, I had a friend who chose me. She looked at me and called me on it. "How are you REALLY doing?" Like water bursting through the release of a dam, I just let all the heavy, private, confusing, chaotic feelings I have been struggling with flow out. AND SHE LISTENED. She never once glanced at her phone. She never once allowed a kid to interrupt. She would throw up a finger and they knew to respect it. She picked me. She listened and she asked questions. She wasn't in a hurry and we dug some stuff out. I didn't leave with full victory, but I left with some new insights I needed to work through with the Lord.
When I finally opened up, she made me really trace back my darkness--"when did it start, Amanda? Really think about it." She looked at me with knowing eyes. Figuring it out before I even finished calculating. Because she knows me. She knows my life. It started almost the same time as I set the wheels in motion to take the big dream God had planted in my heart to write a book. Our story. To share the treasures I had collected with Him. My attack had begun almost immediately. It's been over a year now and I am absolutely worn out from it.
Thank you Jesus, for trusting me with treasures that that are so amazing that the enemy fights hard to steal them. Thank you for telling us ahead of time to prepare for battle and thank you that You are the my commander leading me to victory.
The second thing that happened was that Brad took action. He made the decision that adding quarantine school to my plate alone was absolutely not healthy, so he told me what day he would work from home and I had to leave. Go somewhere, anywhere that I could be still, write, listen to where the Lord was leading me with Artistic Therapy.
The third thing was a teaching I received in a new small group we have joined. Ironically it came from a young man who we have taught before in our young adult and college ministry. He is all grown-up-ish now and he spoke powerfully on the lies we believe. I KNOW this concept. I know the enemy works this way, but somehow he snuck in and I was still completely under water, drowning. It's effective. Satan is good at what he does...and I was isolated, vulnerable, tired, but walking--well, more like limping in obedience. Ideal prey.
I began speaking (out loud) rejection of the feelings that I knew were not from God. Hopelessness. NOPE. In the name of Jesus I rebuke that. Depression. NOPE. In the name of Jesus, I reject that. Pointless, worthless, all my work is for nothing, I'm too much, and never enough....on and on, when a thought or darkness came, I told it no, and in the name of Jesus--which is the name all spiritual beings must submit to, I started cleaning house. It was a mess.
At the end of small group, he asked us to be brave, close our eyes and speak out loud the enemy lies we have believed. Slowly, across the room, people shared words and phrases that had tormented them. With each one, I felt myself nodding. Yup. Same. Oh yeah, I hear that one too. Me too. over and over. Each lie was one I either had believed or was currently believing. EACH ONE. The thing that left each person crippled, in bondage, defeated, believing the worst of the worst about themselves wasn't even unique. Do we all believe the same lies and not even know it because admitting it sounds like setting ourselves on fire??
I was shocked. I'm not sure why. On the way home, Brad said something that was so powerful I want to share it with you all. "Words of condemnation are vague, general, and broad. Words of love are specific, they are intimate, because love KNOWS you in the depths".
The lies of the enemy are only believable when we allow the general temptations of the human heart to seep into the crevices of our insecurities. Read that sentence again.
That deep, shameful thing we believe about ourselves is the same shameful thing half the room has believed, too. We just add specifics that fit our reality. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. His uses weapons. It doesn't take an individualized, specific weapon to hurt each specific enemy. Weapons are more specified to the user, not the target.
Jesus, however came so that we may have life, more abundantly. He came to sacrifice Himself to pay for the sin that the enemy wants us to embrace or to feel chained to. He came to make a way for us to have a relationship with Him again. His language is specific because His comes from a desire to equip, encourage, correct, guide, teach. The heart behind His words is specific to me. To our relationship, to the vision He has for us to walk out together. The same is available to you.
Here is my final advice, learned from our former pastor, Keith. The enemy can only offer the temptation to a believer. We have to decide to agree with him or reject it. We can make agreements with the enemy, and that belief becomes stronger and stronger. Remember my downward spiral? Agreement. I will link his sermon so you can really learn from his wisdom on this topic.
Today, I am free. I am aware of the battle I am in, I am aware that at least one purpose is to slow down or stop me from writing a book that I believe God will use to send people on an amazing treasure hunt with Him. I am aware that there are a couple of paintings I MUST paint and I MUST write about because they are visions the Holy Spirit gave me. I'm speaking all of this now to you for accountability.
Scripture describes the life of a believer as war, battles, enemy attacks. If we aren't mindful of that and living with that mentality, we will not have victory. Thankfully, Jesus arms us with the truth of His word. Memorize scriptures that say who you are in Christ and speak that back when the attacks come. Here is the thing I think we miss, Jesus died to give us VICTORY! Not to survive, but to thrive! We are more than conquerors. It's time we lived like that! That is the hill I die on.
In small group, after we shared the lies the enemy speaks to us, he asked people to share truth from scripture that disputed each of the lies. The power of life and death is in the tongue. (Proverbs 18:21) Speak truth. It is power. It is our weapon. "If you continue in my word, you are truly My disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free" John 8:32.