Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Do Not Dwell on the Past

If you read my last post, "Happy" New Year, you will know that I was crazily overwhelmed during the months of December and January, with Christmas preparations, children going berserk, the house catastrophe and subsequent remodel. God is good and He always brings good out of challenging situations. But that doesn't mean I can handle it all. More likely, I handled it incorrectly. In any case, by the end of January, I. Was. Fried. My brain and my emotions were completely overloaded. I felt emotionally drained. Dead. Lifeless. Unable to take one more step.

What do you when you feel like that? I'm telling you, folks, this definitely wasn't a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps type of situation. This was complete and utter brain failure in a way that I've never experienced before.

It took me a few weeks to recover, but when I first hit rock bottom, I cried out to God, begging him to please show me just one thing I could do to move forward, to fight my way back. As I prayed, one phrase from Scripture popped into my head: "Behold, I am doing a new thing." God almost always speaks to me through Scripture. People wonder how to hear God; for me, it's almost always through God's Word.

I looked up the chapter from which that one little sentence was taken, Isaiah 43. I read through the entire thing, carefully, and two things jumped out at me.

First, Do not fear, do not be afraid, (verses  1, 5).  

Okay, easy enough. God wanted me to not be afraid, and to not dwell in the past. The problem was that I'd finally admitting to myself that I was pretty ticked off at God. I mean, think about it: In the past four years, my husband was taken away in a sense. I've struggled painfully with depression and self-pity, and often left our children to fend for themselves or take more responsibility than they should have had to, and subsequently the kids have developed some behavior and emotional issues for which they need a counselor. We filed for bankruptcy, and we literally live paycheck to paycheck, sometimes just barely squeaking by. (For the record, God always, always provides! Did I mention that He always provides?) I lost my job and Al has had short periods of employment. I haven't found a new job yet because, as always, I took the time to get on top of some health issues - fibromyalgia, crippling depression and anxiety, and I got my gall bladder removed right after I was let go. I've also tried to use the time to break into my dream career of being a bestselling author. My first book has sold maybe 150 copies, so hey, it's a start. But this is while many family members and friends have made subtle (or not so subtle) remarks about the fact that I don't have a job yet, and, hey, wouldn't it be fun to work here or there? To top it off, during that period of a few weeks when I truly felt dead inside, a relative sent me a series of messages that all had some truth to them, but the delivery of those messages was extremely harsh. That caused me to spiral a bit into my lifelong struggle with self-condemnation.

Wow, okay, enough whining! My point is to say we've been dealing with a lot, not to throw a pity party. Seriously! Please don't have pity on me. I've had plenty of pity on myself to last a lifetime.

For anyone who says, "But your husband is still alive," I would respond, "Yes, he is and I am very grateful." But imagine this - your spouse or other close family member has suffered a debilitating illness or injury. Then, on top of the physical effects (which are both internal and external), he has altered brain function. It's kind of like my husband's brain had a "factory reset," meaning he still has some memories, although short-term memory is compromised in a big way, and he still has his same corny sense of humor. His emotions have been weakened and his personality is just...different. So, in a way, we've started over from the beginning, trying to figure out his deficits and treating our relationship as if we're each falling in love with a new person, choosing to love a new person because we're both vastly different than we were when we first fell in love.

Okay, rambling again, sorry. Remember, NO PITY! I'm just giving you the whole picture.

So, when God told me not to be afraid, I was challenged. I shot back at him (sarcastic, snotty little me), "Why would I be afraid? Because You've already taken away everything I loved, everything that gave me security?!" Thank God He is merciful because I am a spoiled brat sometimes. I always end up going back to Him and telling Him I'm sorry and asking for more grace to see things through His perspective. The idea has slowly been creeping up on me that my life seems like a heap of ashes right now; everything I planned or expected for my life has been snatched away. But that is okay, because now the rebuilding begins. God's purpose is to re-form me into what He desires and not simply to give back all of my wishes and dreams from before. It's extremely scary when neither my husband nor I have jobs or careers and the future looks really blank, as in completely unknown. He is having us walk step by step, moment by moment, day by day.

Rock bottom isn't such a bad place to be, in reality. I know (at least I pray and hope) that God will create someone better and stronger than who I was before. If I can't rely on what I wanted for my life, I can still rely on God's most perfect plan. (I kind of hope His new vision for me includes losing about 50 lbs. Nothing is impossible with God, right?)

"Do not be afraid; do not fear." Yeah, that makes sense now. Does it mean I have no more fear? Hell no! Does it mean I have to remind myself from moment to believe God and His Word? Absolutely.

On to the second part of God's reminders for me:

18 Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.

19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland

I take this as a challenge to let go of my self-centered expectations for my life. To not cling to the pain of the past four years and allow it to make me bitter and resentful. He is willing to walk through it with me, healing it and helping me to let go.

Challenge accepted: This could be exciting, a new adventure. It will probably be difficult and I'll most likely want to quit and go back to my old self-pity. But God is pretty tenacious. I suspect that He won't let me give up. And He hasn't given up on me yet.

I'll leave you with this song from the late, great Rich Mullins, a man whose music was truly inspired.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely written. Thinking of you. I to suffered from severe anxiety in 1998. It is debilitating. If u are interest Look up Tela Arend Ritter "life solutions" class in lansing. It was the best thing I ever did.