“The thing about being stuck in the darkness, is that it’s not until your standing in the light that you can see that the shadows don’t have as much power as they once did. Crawl if you have to…”
Christmas, a great time for Christians to be reminded that God stepped into flesh to make himself known, and eventually for us to find rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. While this is true, many believers struggle at this time of the year. Past and present pain is intensified and for some, the bitterness they have carried for a long time somehow becomes heavier.
A week ago my wife found who she thought was my birth mother on Facebook, and after looking at her profile photo for 15 minutes I decided to write to her. I had only met her once briefly when I was pretty young so I was a little nervous. If this was her what would I say, and how would she react to a son who she gave up nearly 40 years earlier getting in touch with her. Anyway long story short it was her! Naturally at first she was in shock and when the dust settled she pushed me away. “Forget you ever found me on Facebook, I am your past”.
I was adopted when I was about 12 months old and was lucky enough to have grown up in a pretty awesome family. Even though I was provided for and loved I was far from stable. From an early age I remember being really frustrated, something was missing, and as I entered adulthood I found myself on a destructive path of bitterness. It raised it’s ugly head in many areas of my life, from addiction to the raging storms in my internal world. I know I’m not the only one who has or still is experiencing this kind of chaos. If you are carrying bitterness then you know how much damage this is causing you and others in your life.
My reaction to all of this came as a bit of a surprise to me. Not only did I anticipate that she may not welcome any kind of dialogue, but in the thick of it I held on to the thought that we all have a story, there is sometimes ugly stuff included and I don’t know this woman let alone what’s happened in her life. And I was ok with her request not to send any more messages. I also told her I had forgiven her. After becoming a Christian I was able to name a lot of things that were attached to the pain I was carrying, I sought out lots of professional help and continuously went to Jesus with all the pain that I had stored up. Seasons came and went but there was always a part of me wondering if I had really let go of that original rejection, and could Jesus really heal that part of my life that had caused me so much grief?
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. – Jesus Christ
Jesus promises to give us rest when we come to him and that we can learn from him. It’s easy to tell those who are struggling, this piece of scripture, but how do we actually experience the rest he is offering, and what can we actually learn from him in the end. Upon reflection of all the convesations i have had with my birth mother over the last week, I have realised a couple of things. All that time in the darkness asking Jesus to make sense of what was going on he was there. Even when I was crawling and pleading for relief he was doing something that I could not see. And it wasn’t until I confidently forgave my birth mother and felt no anger or bitterness towards her, that I knew that I had been given complete rest. I also learnt something from Jesus, to forgive others who may not understand what they have done.
I am certain Jesus didn’t have in mind a once off visit when he said those words we see in the book of Matthew. For those of you desperate for rest from pain caused by others, and are feeling like giving up because of the weight, there is hope! So continue to come to him, even when you don’t feel like it, come as you are, even if it means crawling. It may take a day or longer to experience the fruit of his grace, but we can be sure that Jesus never stops loving us, and have confidence that the work that he is doing deep in our hearts and souls is ongoing. Even when we cannot see it.
Peace to you
Since the death of Robin williams I have been involved in many conversations about depression and suicide. I myself suffered from this monster for a number of years and the depression did lead to thoughts of taking my own life. But I am still here. Being a follower of Jesus Christ and living with this illness is controversial to some and to others it’s something very real.
I am a big believer in the supernatural when it comes to the Christian journey, the benefits of being part of a family where your father just happens to be the creator of the universe, but all to often when it comes to the subject of illness, especially mental health, it’s ignored or forgotten, that because of the fall, our brokenness and the bodies we live in, well we are not immune to all pain. Amen to having the mind of Christ and to being a new creation but then there’s the issue of our humanness
Everyone’s journey is different, but I believe if your part of the body of Christ, then are are certainly things that one can do to not just simply survive during depression, but actually live as well. So what I’m about to say is not the only way but after years of struggling and working out how to seperate myself from depression while finding my place in the kingdom, I think it’s important for all Christians, especially those who are suffering, to hold on to certain things.
Isolation is a killer, when the shit hits the fan many people will isolate themselves and doing this is asking for trouble. I don’t think Christians are meant to be alone so when we make a choice to cut ourselves off from friends,family or church it creates an opportunity for the father of lies to move in an ransack our spiritual and mental lives. Self examination is less likely to take place and hopelessness moves in
Christian or not hope is a very powerful thing. I’m sure we have all met people who either say they have lost hope or they don’t bother hoping anymore. But when we are the ones that forget what hope looks like, well it can feel like your the walking dead. It’s important and awesome to have hope in the grace of God and our new life in Christ, but that stuff is even more powerful when we can see how that is connected to our human lives, vocation and using our gifts to contribute to the world.
I spent years suffering and choosing to suffer alone but after I became a Christian I was introduced to community, allowing others to speak Into my life and learnt that I must participate in the process of sanctification. These things changed my life and I received much healing from past chaos, depression and patterns that were doing me no good. I’m in no way perfect and of course we all have our bad days but I would say
that making a choice to no longer isolate ourselves, holding on to hope and putting ourselves in a space where other Christians can encourage us, challenge us and walk beside us is a powerful weapon to counter attacking depression.
God never works in any particular order when it comes to this stuff, and he is always working in our lives, but sometimes we need to starve the things in out lives that that want to kill us-Depression, and instead feed the things that that will transform and save us-Hope, Community and life giving Choices.
If your reading this and you are suffering from depression then I want to encourage you. It’s worth holding on, you will benefit from making yourself vulnerable by allowing good people into your life and your contribution to the world and the body of Christ is needed. God knew you before you were conceived and knows you now and your life is worth living.
I havent blogged since January this year and its been a real challenge to take the time to reflect and put into words anything that I thought was worth writing about. Well this week I had the opportunity to do something that i have been wanting to do for about twelve months, something that I knew would not only be eye-opening but would potentially change my life. I spent two hours at the Melbourne Immigration Transit accommodation centre, otherwise known as a Detention centre for Asylum seekers.
For readers not in Australia, the issue of asylum seekers arriving on our doorstep, especially those who have made the choice to travel by boat has been an on going politcial storm for awhile now. My intention is to not make this blog entry all about how much i hate what the Australian Government is doing/not doing and point the finger in anger at all the human rights violations taking place as there is enough of that already.(I might leave that for another entry but for now my Little rant is over;-))
I said earlier that i have been keen to visit asylum seekers in detention for quite some time. I am in my second year at university doing a degree in International Community Developement and during this time i have been working out what i want kind of work/vocation i would like to be involved in when i finished my study. Outside of uni i have had t to expectnumerous encounters with people who had fled their countries because of conflict, arrived here by boat and spent time in detention. Every time i would walk away really impacted by their stories.
On the way to the detention centre i was really anxious, i realised that no amount of preperation could actually prepare me for what i was walking into. Yes it sounds dramatic in a way, but the people who i had met out in the community who had unfortunatley been locked up both here in australa and abroad spoke of a deep deprerssion and the struggle coming to terms with their freedom, especially with the rest of the their family on the other side of the globe or the memories of oppression always at the front of their minds. How much more intense would it be on the inside?
Well it was intense and extreemly confronting but it didnt take long before i was reminded of a couple of things. 1. The visit was never about me and 2.They are not boat people(many refer to them as that) I have my freedom and all the privilidges that come with it…and i take it for granted as well. I can leave my house whenever i want and have visitors at any time. I know where my family is(well most of the time) but im certainly not worried for their saftey and even though there was a time in my life when i was displaced..well i think you get the picture.
What an honour it was to meet these men!. All of them had been through hell(&some more than others still are)to get to Australia and now live day to day having no idea what the future holds for them. Missing their wives and kids or knowing that family memebers are missing and are not in a postion to do anything but wait. Yes their stories are sad but the i saw a spark in many of their eyes that said something very different. STRENGTH. I may be able to visit them regularly and give them encouragement and hope(and thats exactly what they need) but i have no doubt in my mind that spending time with them will mean no more standing on the sidelines.
Have you ever been to a detention centre or refugee camp, met any asylum seekers or been one yourself? If so i would love to read about your perspective. Feel free to leave a comment and thanks for reading
I was in the city today and finally got to actually see someone holding a Free Hugs sign, and of course i went over and gave a hug to the 3 huggers who were not afraid to give them out to total strangers. Talk about a open crowd!
A friend and i decided to hang around for a while as we wanted to watch the reactions of people passing by. I thought it was both refreshing and sad to watch. Im probably not the only one who cannot remember the names of these charecters but im pretty sure that all those people who stopped and embraced them will remember the hug.
It was refreshing because they were so enthusiastic about what they were doing. It was like they created a bubble in the busyness where people could just stop and relax for a moment. You could see on the faces of those that took up the offer that they needed a break and a hug and it was obvious they walked away different. But i was also shocked at the small amount of people who refused to stop for a hug and others who hesitated for ages before they finally recieved their free gift.
As i watched i wanted to know just how powerful one sign could be, because from where i was standing it looked like a magnet(and after 10 minutes of trying to talk myself out of it) i approached the huggers and asked if i could have a go. I was sooo nervous but soon people from all directions were were wanting their free hug. It was a pretty cool experiance.
There is no deep MSG here, but im pretty sure that all of us need to slow down at times and pay attention to the people and things around us. We often blame life and say its to busy and before you know it, even hugs become alien to us.
Oh yeah, and If you havent held a Free hugs sign in a busy place before then find the opportunity to do it. The sign really is powerful, you will put smiles on peoples faces and it gives you a lot to think about.
The weeks fly past pretty fast and when I get a chance i like to think about the stuff that got my attention.
So i thought why not Blog about it. So every sunday im going to post Looking Back. Your welcome to come and have a read and i would love for you to leave a comment, either about what i have written or whats caught your eye this week.
- I have come to accept this week that its cool that not everyone will agree with me. In fact it forces me to think more about my attitudes and values.
- Communication is not just a word, its also something i need to invest my time and energy in. Just because so many things can get lost in translation it doesnt mean that i should give up altogether
- The more I think i know about christianity, the more i know i need to learn. This journey is a life time process but i often forget that and want to know everything NOW.
- Some people talk so loud on trains that its hard not to listen in on convesations. And you can find out some pretty interesting stuff about the people you catch public transport with. Entertaining as well
- Everybody has a story to tell. I love asking people at bus stops how their day has been but it never stops there. Amazing lives are being lived all around us and sometimes its good to slow down and find out who it is your sharing space with
- I have 2 books on the go at the moment and im really enjoying them both. But i have many more to read and i am often tempted to start new ones even if i havent finished one yet. But my mission is to stick with the 2 and work my way down to one a month
So as i look back i realise that I have not wasted too much time;-) and now im looking forward to a new week.