22 Sep an anniversary of honesty
It is my birthday today.
Two years ago today, on my 34th birthday, I did what at the time felt like a very brave thing. I stood up in church and gave a testimony.
(For those not familiar with our charismatic culture – this is a story of what God has done, told in public to give thanks to God, to encourage, to inspire.)
I hadn’t told anyone what I was planning on doing so I could chicken out if I wanted, and I nearly did.
The testimonies I had been brought up on, at least the ones I remember, were of victories. Successes. People who had battled against the odds and God had rescued them or healed them. There was often a dramatic turn around of events, a reversal of fortunes, a tale of unexpected provision. The people giving these testimonies had trusted in God, they had not given up.*
This was not one of those testimonies.
This was the story of how life had been for me for the previous three or four years.
I confessed to depression and anxiety and panic attacks. To not trusting God, to despair. To not coming to church for quite a while. To giving up on prayer and the Bible. It was a testimony of my weakness, my uncertainty, my hopelessness.
Through all this, I told of my gradual understanding of God’s kindness to me. Of the revelation of his grace. Of how i didn’t have to do anything, how I couldn’t do anything, to receive his love and acceptance.
It was not a triumphant story, of how I had battled adversity and found God in the fight.
It was not a story of how through my intercession God had revealed himself to me.
It was not a story of me holding on to God in my anguish.
It was a story of God meeting me in the place where I had given up.
It was a story of God revealing himself to me through creation and other people and beauty, when I didn’t see any point in praying.
It was a story of God holding on to me, when I had long since let go of God.
In the week after telling this story in church, I decided to start to writing this blog. In this collection of posts I have tried to be honest about where I am at, to chronicle my ups and downs. I heard a quote the other day about how for writers there is no failure, only good source material. Sounds about right. I have used my failures and my false starts, my blunders and my confusion, and written it all down.
Through this I have made friends and understood more about who I am.
I have found that every time I think I am alone in feeling a certain way I have received emails and texts of acknowledgement, of recognition. In particular, the first time I wrote about my diagnosis of depression and the first time I wrote about my battles with anxiety and panic attacks, I was overwhelmed by the warmth and kindness of people who read my immature scratchings and shared their stories with me.
I am not alone.
I used to think I had to impress people, that I would only be accepted if I was a certain way. Depending on age and circumstances I thought I had to impress people by being beautiful, or strong, or capable, or organised, or creative, or determined.
Through these last couple of years (which have not been straight forward, or told a tale of a smooth path to recovery) I have found that as I have made myself open and vulnerable, as I have exposed my weakness and my struggle, as I have been (at times painfully) honest, I have found a place of acceptance and belonging.
And I like myself a lot more.
Today seems a good day to look back and see what the last two years have been. I am very thankful for them.
My heart is full of gratitude for every message or encouraging word I have received, for all I have learnt, for the new friends, for the truths mined and the joy found.
Things that were once hidden away, that were kept in the dark shadows are having the light of truth shone on them, and I am grateful to be part of this ongoing conversation.
And I am full of hope for the future.
*I am not knocking the stories of God’s miraculous faithfulness, but I wonder if we need to tell the stories of the in between, the not-resolved, the suffering and the pain, alongside these wonder-tales.
I wonder if we did tell these stories if we might understand each other more.
And maybe we might find hope in the honest telling of things not always turning out how we want, but God still being good.