Friday, March 10

Lessons Learned About Religion Through Depression

Several years ago, I wrote a series of blogs titled, "Lessons Learned through Adultery." We'd been in our new home in North MS for a year. A few people knew what our family was healing from, but not many. I'd come to realize that we were at a crossroad. It was time to decide if we'd continue talking about our marriage/family crisis or move on in silence. I understood that most sane people would have gladly accepted the fresh start! It seemed natural to desire to move on. The problem, though, was that I'd learned too much in the failure. Those lessons were part of my life, and to silence them would mean trying to be a different person.

So, I did what only INsane people do. I wrote about those lessons on this public blog. I shared the story of Scotty's unfaithfulness, our healing journey, and the beautiful lessons we'd learned with anyone willing to read. I remember getting messages of gratitude, but I mostly remember how it made ME feel to write those posts.

Putting my lessons in written form gave me freedom to step into the next phase of life's journey with God. I remember feeling a sense of freedom knowing that I'd completed what He asked me to do.

But, the exciting next step was actually depression. I didn't know to call it that during the process, and I'm glad I didn't. What I experienced from 2014 until the very end of 2015 was a heavy burden that I don't even have the words to describe. It wasn't debilitating. Life still carried on, and I have some beautiful memories from those years. But, nothing was easy, and I felt (all the time) like I was operating under a heavy fog.

It wouldn't lift!

I couldn't get a break.

And, some days, I thought it would suffocate every bit of life from me.

I've been reflecting on that time period for months now trying to figure out HOW God drug me out of it. There isn't any real marker pointing to the place or the time that I felt the fog lift. Suddenly, it was just gone. As I've prayed, journaled, prayed, studied His Word, and prayed some more, I believe I've found the answer. Religion had taken me as far as it could, and it wasn't enough. My soul wanted more.

There's no easy way for this lifetime Southern Baptist girl to say this, so I'm just going to rip the band-aid, say it, and hope you continue reading. I reached the point in my Christian walk that surface level discussion about the Bible, questions with answers everyone already knew, and simple Bible verses weren't enough for me. I needed more! I was hard on myself for that. It felt sinful to be unsatisfied with God.He'd been faithful through a number of trials. I loved Him as much as I could possibly love Him. But, I still felt dry, worn out, and maybe bored with life. The theology that I spoke of God's power, might, grace, and love in the life of the believer wasn't my reality in the everyday moments.

I'm so glad God left me in that place of darkness and despair as long as He did. Because I was spiritually bankrupt in every way that mattered, I had to search for something more. I had to wrestle with Him in my frustration. I had to do things differently than I'd ever done before. I was forced to go on mission to find more of the Jesus the Bible teaches about even if I had to do it differently than I'd been taught to do it. 

Now, this is a bit of a spoiler, but I want to go ahead and share the good news that I did find Him to be all the more I needed. But, in order for Him to become greater, my preferences had to become smaller. The "box" that I'd always used to handle my Christianity was too confining. Simply put, everything about religion failed me in my greatest need, and that was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Religion said there is one path to follow. Freedom showed me there is one PERSON to follow. My path to wholeness and healing looked different than the path of others. I had to follow wherever Jesus led me. I couldn't worry about what others might say about it.

Religion demanded blind obedience. Freedom allowed me to wrestle into a faith that led to submission. The religious world is very vocal about what is right and what is wrong. There was a time in my darkness, though, that I didn't care. I was frustrated with God about circumstances that wouldn't change, and I told Him. I told Him from a position of dependence on Him for clarity. But, I needed Him to know He'd disappointed me. Do you know what surprised me? He didn't mind at all. For two years, we wrestled. He won of course! But, I did too. I won a more honest faith in Him. I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Religion criticized my position. Freedom corrected my unbelief. I won't even go into detail here. Religion always criticizes! Religion throws stones. But, my gentle Savior gently corrected over time. He didn't insist I get on board with His plan immediately. Like a gentleman, He guided me to His answers and His way for me. I certainly needed correction. But, criticism had no place.

Because of fear, religion didn't allow my questions. In freedom's confidence, I was invited into a conversation to deal honestly with my confusion. God is sovereign, and He is so, so powerful. We MUST stop relating to the world in fear. We are so afraid our words, our songs, and our movies are going to lead people astray that we spend every moment of our time trying to poke holes in every message. But, our God can use ANYONE and ANYTHING to draw a person to Himself. He did that with me, but if I shared those methods, a Pharisee would be so quick to critique. Religion stands guard looking for reasons to accuse. And, we can always find exactly what our eyes are set to notice.

The scribes and the Pharisees were watching Him closely, to see if He healed on the Sabbath, in order that they might find reason to accuse Him.
Luke 6:7

Religion said, "Play it safe." Freedom caused me to chase the adventure no matter the cost. And, here's where I land today. The lessons God taught me in a two year time period have changed my life. I was afraid to venture out and ask for more from God, because religion told me to be content. I was afraid to share what I'd learned, because religion was always correcting. I was afraid to think differently from other believers, because I'd always been the one to go with the flow and not cause friction. I can't do it anymore, though. I've got to follow Jesus no matter the cost!

I let go of religion and found freedom. The heaviness has lifted. I can't go back. I won't allow myself to listen to teachers/speakers/pastors that only teach messages of, "No." In my despair, I felt the freedom of God's Spirit tell me to go deeper, ask questions, struggle with the status quo, and to be brave in believing Him for more than is safe.

I've found an adventure that's worth spending a lifetime enjoying. Now, I have to live carefully to protect it. We truly are given the mandate to be on guard against false prophets. Who are they? Where are they? What are they teaching? In Jesus' days, they were the religious. In their zeal to be good Christians, they actually missed Christ. They cared for the mask on the outside and neglected the reality of despair on the inside. Ouch! I've been there before, and I'd like to never live there again.

 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.
Matthew 23: 24-25

No comments: