The past several months have not been good for me. My depression has zapped me of all energy, motivation and ability, keeping me virtually tied to my chair. When I would try to do things, I would be so exhausted it would take days to recover. Things I used to be able to brush off or take in stride became such monumental stressors I would shut down for days on end. It hasn't helped that my knee has been giving me so much difficulty that I simply cannot walk like I used to and I miss that a lot.
So what has changed? Why do I think two good days are the indication of better things to come? I'm not sure, really. Tom is back in school (he's a school principal). That might be a contributer. I know people have been praying for me. Specifically, there are two wonderful women at church who have been praying this past week. Why this week? Why these two women out of many who pray for me?
A week ago last Friday I did something I shouldn't have done. I knew it was wrong and I did it anyway and kept on doing it. It was as though I was an automaton, unable to stop, but of course I could have. I chose not to. The next day I was numb, as if my emotions had been cauterised by my sin, as if the living part of me had been cut out, leaving me an empty shell. But that wasn't true either because somewhere in that shell was deep remorse.
I deserved to die. Part of me wanted death. That's what would have happened in the Old Testament. It seemed the only escape. "Wait!" a voice spoke inside me. "Jesus died for you." Oh. Yeah. Well, at the very least I should be cast out of my community. "Wait!" the same voice spoke. "Jesus was cast out too." Right. That punishment has been taken away from me as well. But how could God ever forgive me? I remembered the passage I've been memorizing in Matthew 18. Peter asks Jesus how many times he should forgive his brother who has sinned against him. Up to seven times? he asks, as if no one could possibly be expected to forgive more than that.
But Jesus answers, "Not seven times but seventy-seven times."
If God expects us to forgive each other so many times (other gospels and/or translations say "seventy times seven"), will he do less. Foiled again. My punishment taken, forgiveness given, I should have been at peace but I wasn't. My heart did not want to accept what my head knew.
How did I get to this place? There must be something systemically wrong with me, I thought. Why didn't I see it creeping up on me. I'm not sure, but I do know that as my depression worsened, I became more and more unable to do things--even simple things. Reading and writing, two of my loves and passions, were sometimes too difficult. Going to my prayer room was more than I could handle. Even reading my Bible at night seemed like too much. Instead, I found ways to zone out, chiefly playing a simple, harmless game online. Did I allow it to eat up time I could have used more profitably? Had I lulled myself into a spiritual stupor, unable to see myself slipping? Clearly, I haven't been where I thought I was in my walk with God.
I realized I needed to reorder my priorities and time, starting with cutting out the game. What else? I would need to do a lot of thinking and praying on the matter. As horrid and unseemly as some sins and temptations may appear, there can be a blessing in their obvious hideousness: There is only so long a person can pretend or ignore such sin, whereas other sins and temptations can stay hidden more easily. And yet, something was holding me back from a full re-embracing of God. It was as if I was drugged, bound and gagged.
Maybe I needed to confess to someone at church (as opposed to confiding solely to my online friends) and ask for prayer. In confessing, I would strip away any illusion of being someone I'm not and invite them to hold me accountable. I made the necessary phone call. That was hard. I've never before, that I can remember, reached out to someone like that when I've been in need--online, yes, but not in person.
May God bless Catherine. She hadn't had the best day herself and was hibernating at home instead of accompanying her husband to where he was going that night but when I called, she came right over. Immediately. When she arrived I bawled and bawled and bawled. I didn't even let her sit down first. She hugged me tightly.
"If she only knew why I had called her here, she wouldn't be hugging me," I thought. I tried to pull away but she wouldn't let me.
When we sat, she listened with respect. "Your depression and the relentlessness of your inability to function this summer have driven cracks into you making things easier for Satan," she said when I was done. "I'm not making excuses for you, but you mustn't be so hard on yourself. You're doing all the right things--calling for help, confessing to someone and mourning your sin."
"I've had trouble coming before God with this, Catherine."
"Why don't we do that together?" she suggested.
Yes, I would like that.
She prayed a bit and then invited me to talk to God as if she wasn't there. I wasn't expecting that and it was hard to do.
My prayer was halting and interrupted by bouts of sobbing: "God, I don't deserve your mercy. All I deserve is death. But Jesus died for me. Jesus talked about us forgiving each other seventy times seven so I know you do the same for us. But I don't deserve it. Moses tasted the pleasures of sin for a season but chose another way. David said it was better to sit one day at your gates than spend a thousand elsewhere. I really enjoyed what I did last night, God--it gave me a lot of pleasure--but even a thousand days of that kind of pleasure is not worth one day at your gates and you haven't just let me sit at your gates. You've brought me into your very presence. Thank you for your forgiveness, for your love, for who you are."
Before she left I told her that I was scheduled to be on the prayer ministry team in the morning. What should I do?
"You go and you pray, and you pray and you pray for people. You are pure. It is behind you. It is covered by the Blood."
I needed to hear that. I also needed someone who didn't try to condemn me of anything but who, instead, brought me before the throne of God and said, "Talk to him!"