“In faith as in war and everything else, comfort is the one thing you cannot get by looking for it. If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will get neither comfort nor truth- only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin with and, in the end, despair.”—C.S. Lewis
This is what I’m going into psychology for.. reconciliation of the human soul :).
Several years ago, I worked with a client named Alice. At first glance, there was nothing remarkable about her, but I was to learn otherwise. She came to my office dressed in formless polyester pants and shapeless sweatshirts, perhaps as a way to conceal her heavy frame. Her hair was clean but cut short and unstyled, and the scattered lines and wrinkles on her face were untouched by makeup. What Alice did convey was a deep sense of sadness. It showed in her slow walk, in the slight bend in her shoulders, and most of all in her eyes. They had the look of a puppy that had been mistreated, fearful of what might come next but still hopeful that something better might come along. It was hard for Alice to tell her story. Her face reddened, she directed her gaze downward, her words seemed to get caught in her throat, and she frequently apologized for her difficulty in speaking with me. At times, though, she offered a small joke that lifted the deep melancholy that had settled in the room. During these moments her eyes would sparkle and her sad face would break into a delightful almost child-like smile.
Alice had experienced emotional pain for most of her 45 years. Overweight as a child, she had been mercilessly teased and taunted by her father until he abandoned the family when she was an adolescent. Convinced of her own unattractiveness, Alice had avoided romantic entanglements. In late adolescence, Alice developed symptoms of bipolar disorder and over the next decades suffered from a terrible roller-coaster of emotional upheavals. Medications had helped her achieve a modest level of emotional stability, but she was still subject to unpredictable and powerful shifts in moods that occasionally resulted in hospitalization.
In spite of her illness, Alice had succeeded in creating a meaningful life for herself, one that centered around other people. She was devoted to the care of her elderly mother. She was a loyal volunteer at both the local hospice and the school for the blind. She was a good friend to several people with serious mental illness and spent many hours helping them through their own emotional crises. In our sessions, Alice showed a genuine interest in how things were going in my life. And yet Alice was unable to derive any satisfaction from the knowledge that she was an exceptionally caring and compassionate person. She described herself in the same language her father had used: “big and stupid.” Her contemptuous view of herself was deep-seated. Through our conversations, Alice learned more about the root causes of her self-contempt, but her insights led to minimal change. My other efforts to buoy her self-image were just as unsuccessful. Over many months, I watched Alice go through the full spectrum of her moods: exuberance tinged with the unsettling recognition of where it was leading her, depression that seemed to wash over her like huge waves plunging her into the sea of despair, and total exhaustion that followed her emotional whirlwinds. Yet time and again, she emerged from these cycles intact, picking up pieces of her life that she had created. reconnecting with the people she loved and cared for. How, I wondered, did this remarkable woman manage to sustain herself through her periods of emotional upheaval when she was so weighed down by the added burden of her self-contempt? What could I do to make her life more bearable?
A pivotal moment in therapy occurred when Alice was in the midst of another deeply depressive period. She had been withdrawing from social contact for a few weeks and was thinking more and more about suicide. In this session, Alice was wracked with pain, sobbing so hard it was difficult for me to follow her. I was about to suggest her need for hospitalization when Alice spoke in a kind of language that was unusual for her. “When will my suffering end?,” she cried. The question had a spiritual, almost biblical, sound to me, like a lamentation. Now I was struck by the spiritual tone of her question. I responded in kind with a question of my own: “I’ve often wondered, Alice, how in the midst of your terrible suffering, you are able to find some consolation?” She didn’t seem surprised by the question. Instead, she paused for a long moment and then told me a story.
“When I was first hospitalized, they put me in restraints and threw me in a seclusion room. I was 16 at the time and I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. I was so frightened. I was so scared. I thought I was going to die. And then, lying on my bed, I felt something warm in the center of my chest. And the feeling spread through the rest of my body.”
“How did that feeling affect you?”
“It calmed me down. I felt comforted.”
“Did that feeling speak to you in some way?”
”Yes. I knew that God was speaking to me, He was with me, telling me that He would always be with me no matter how badly I felt. I would be okay.”
Alice and I sat quietly in the room. From a corner of my mind, I noticed that her sobbing had stopped.
”Alice, have you felt this presence at other times in your life?”
”Oh, yes.” She said immediately. “I feel it sometimes when I’m with other people who are going through hard times. And sometimes,” she paused, “I feel it with you.” She hesitated for a longer period of time, looked down at her feet, and softly asked, “Do you feel it too?”
Every therapist knows that there are some special moments in psychotherapy. I experience them as “scared moments” when immediate realities fade into the background, when time seems to stand still, when it feels as if something larger than life is happening. In these moments, I believe, a meeting of souls is taking place. This was one of those times.
So I answered Alice, "Yes, I do."
Alice sat quietly and seemed to be at peace with herself— quite a dramatic change from the intense pain she was feeling just minutes earlier. After a while, I said, “I’d like to talk with you some more about this presence in your life. Would that be alright with you?” Alice agreed.
In the following months, Alice and I spoke often about her sense of spiritual connection. It had been, for much of her life, the source of her resilience and strength. We explored ways she could draw more fully on this powerful resource as she went through her emotional ups and down. And we discussed the implications of her spirituality for overcoming her own unmerciful sense of herself. There was no miracle cure. Alice would continue to struggle with her illness and with her own sense of inadequacy. However, armed with a more fully realized spirituality, Alice was far better equipped to face her challenges. She became more aware of herself, more confident in her own capabilities, and more hopeful about her future. In the process, her mood swings lost much of their ferocious intensity and her visits to the hospital became rare.
As she was leaving the room that day, I asked Alice whether she had ever mentioned her sense of spiritual presence to the other mental health professionals who had worked with her over the years.
Alice gave me a quizzical look as if the answer was only too obvious.
”Why would I do that? They already think I’m crazy.”
“We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible tells us that God did not originally make the world to have disease, hunger, and death in it. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus’ miracles are not just a challenge to our minds, but a promise to our hearts, that the world we all want is coming.”—Tim Keller
" Oh friends, I don’t know what to say… Updating has seemed a task daunting and impossible as our girl lay in her bed at Cottage intermittently crying out in pain, sleeping, and dreamily remarking about the shadows of the birds on the wall.
January 13th marked one month in the hospital. She received two weeks of chemo within a couple of days of going in with abdominal pain and finding two new tumors. She came home for three nights after that and went back in with severe dehydration. The chemo had a much more radical effect on her showing how fragile she really is. We are awaiting her guts to heal and her body to retain nourishment. Needless to say we are devastated. We had hoped our journey across the world would have cured our baby but it is not so.
We are discussing a few options with our doctor, none of which we can make a decision on until we peek inside Daisy’s belly again to see how it responded. Until then we wait and pray and hope. And as our hearts are ripped out and our very insides sear with pain, the principles of life haven’t changed. Parenthood, no, being human, is still an opportunity to love. Every time I rub Daisy’s swollen feet, cool her burning once again bald head, every time I listen to her speak tiny words in the dark of the night or wash more soiled bedclothes, my opportunity remains. To love. This month is not a month I expected, not a month I wish upon any mama… Yet my opportunities to love her abound, and it’s my pleasure to serve her in all the deep pain. I don’t know what the future brings. Yesterday we were able to leave the hospital and continue her care at home, but we need a miracle, more than ever before. While we yet remain, we choose to enjoy our girl because she is incredibly enjoyable.
Please pray for us as we make agonizing decisions never intended for parents to make. Pray for a miracle. Pray for relief of our girl’s physical pain. And pray for stamina for the rest of us to go forward in strength and courage.
Daisy is as courageous as ever, full of grace and maturity as she voices her needs without ever whining or being rude. She once again is saving her downy hair for the birds by our house, hoping as they have spring babies they can enjoy her softness.
One last thought, as a parent and as a human being; opportunities to love surround us. When we take those opportunities time seems to stop, and in that timelessness is where memories are made and beauty is beheld. We will never regret rising to the occasion. I believe it has something to do with the fact that God is love and we are made in His image. Suffering isn’t what we are made for, but it can be fruitful in ways we could never imagine.
We love because He first loved us.
I appreciate the ways so many of you have loved and served us through the shadows, prayer, dinner, financial help for treatments, letters, teddy bears. You have helped ease our suffering in many ways.
“Life is pain. It’s part of the human experience, and if you scratch the surface of anyone’s story you will find it. No one is exempt. We must face our fears, believing that we will be carried through and held up by the One who made us. Do I only focus on what hurts and is hard and what is being withheld, or will I thank Him for what is good and right and given freely? I must not believe God is my cosmic vending machine, spitting out only what I’ve inserted a crisp dollar for, but instead trusting God with where He takes us, not just with our desired outcome. If I believe God is good and sovereign over my life as well as Daisy’s, circumstances need not dictate our general emotional state, need not cause us to roll into a ball and hide under the covers for longer than necessary. God is my refuge and my strength. Yes, I’ve been singing this song for months, years; and this week I needed a fresh reminder.”—Kate Merrick
Last RSF service today until winter. Can’t believe how heartbroken I feel- must be separation anxiety. Aughhhh. I can do this.
When I first started attending Reality services, I was so focused on me: my spirituality, my walk with God, my growth in Christ. For the first time this summer, I really experienced a sense of community. I’ve always found community in my fellowship- friends, brothers and sisters that I’ve grown up with, in Christ. But never have I found community amongst strangers- brothers that I only know by face, sisters that I’ve had but brief encounters and conversations with. But we’re so, so connected. I feel as if I know the hands and souls of each and every member that makes up the church.
Theological, missional, and relational.
I’m going to miss RSF- Tarik and Dave; Johnathan, Christian, and the set-up team- Abby, Kate. The worship. I’m going to miss walking with, and discovering Christ with my home.
Tear. But what a message, and what a task to end with: to be theological, God-centered first and foremost in all that we are. To be missional, to live for Christ, and not simply for the experience of Christ. The discovery that our greatest need is reconciliation with God, and to know that he has given us the ministry of reconciliation itself (John 20:21-23). And to be relational- aware, concerned, and involved in what He is doing in the world around us; to have relations with a community striving to discover the direction in which the Sovereign Redeemer is moving, and together pursue to move in that direction (Johnathan Edwards).
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died;and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore youon Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. — 2 Corinthians 5
Aren’t people suppose to come in and out of your life for a purpose?
Some relationships are like cancers. At first, you’re completely unaware of the disease even taking hold of you. So it festers and spreads and wedges itself deep into your core. And by the time you realize its presence, it’s far too late. Already a part of you. Sharing cells and blood vessels and whatever other sustenance; a complete eradication would be agonizing. And maybe even impossible.
Amputations always seemed scarier to me- but then, once you’ve amputated that limb, the healing process begins, doesn’t it?
But cancers come back. Daisy Merrick is 8 years old and her cancer has returned for the third time.
Why can’t it just leave us alone?
And the eradication process itself. The surgery, the therapy. Pain, pain, pain. Is there no end in sight? How can you kill something that’s become a part of you, without dying a little yourself? And at some point how are you even able to differentiate? Is it the cancer that is dying, or am I? Does it even matter?
Let’s say you ‘beat’ cancer. A bit worn and more than a little weary, you stumble towards the road to recovery- piecing back the broken parts, salvaging that broken shell, filling up that emptiness, trying to make yourself whole again. But then, who’s to say it won’t return? And what will stop it when it does?
Sometimes forgiveness feels more like a burden than a blessing. Aren’t some bridges just better burnt? Why leave an open door for a cancerous relationship?
The lies cut so deep, and the betrayal harrowing.
But I’d still forgive you in a second.
Somebody remind me of your crimes. Somebody harden my heart. Somebody recount the wrongs and pour that fuel and light that match for me. Bridges are hard to burn. Cancers even harder to kill.
I think God and I are fighting. I hope it ends soon. The silence is killing me.
Although it may be entirely my fault. I think I’m mad at God. Going to Pepperdine, as much of a blessing as it is, gives me an inferiority complex.
I remember this sermon Britt Mericks gave a couple months ago on the idea of the “good” and the “bad” Christian. He had said that because our value and worth lies within Christ’s goodness, there really is no discernment.
True as that may be, I still feel as though I am surrounded by the holiest of the holiest- Christians that can talk, and literally talk to God, and more importantly, hear God whenever they please. And to be completely honest, I’m jealous. Jealous as hell.
I recently joined this small group full of the most amazing people. They’re truly inspirational. The purest hearts and the strongest faiths- and what’s even more amazing, they posess this ceaseless, childlike.. WONDER for the Father. They have amazing (I think I overuse this world) gifts- gifts of prayer, prophesy, tongues, and even healing. Gifts that I was always skeptical of- but gifts that I certainly I always wanted to have. I witness these gifts upon my first visit- it was astounding. Those with the gift of tongue brought an intimacy, a holy poetic cadence to the worship.. Those with the gifts of prophecy and prayer, appeared like vessels of Christ resonating His love and goodness and power. God was everywhere- as mad at Him as I was, I couldn’t escape Him.
After the worship I pulled aside the leader, KC, and told her of my troubles- you see, we’re told over and over that God doesn’t really work based off of a reward system. But why are they blessed with these gifts, and I’m not? Why can’t I speak to God and be able to hear Him the way that they do? To have the power to just.. pray or speak out in tongues and then instantly have the Holy Spirit answer, or not even answer, but just to immediately be able to feel His presence.. how amazing would that be? How come they can have that type of relationship with God, but I can’t? Am I not a good enough Christian? Should I work harder, try harder, pray harder?
KC prayed for me. And the way she prayed… well, haha, that made me jealous too. She started praying.. then abruptly stopped, look at me, and said, “I’m sorry, can you wait a second? I just need to talk to God really quick and consult Him on how to pray for you.” She then bows her head, closes her eyes, and muttered half in tongues, half in English, smiling the whole time. She finishes the prayer.
That’s what I want- to be that intimate with our Father. I feel like I’m struggling and struggling and maybe I’m not fighting hard enough. Maybe my intentions are too selfish- I want these gifts, first and foremost, for my own spiritual welfare; the desire to use these gifts to benefit His Kingdom comes a close second.
There’s that Bible verse. Something about asking then receiving, seek and He will answer. Maybe I’m asking wrong. Or just can’t see clearly.
Though I cannot wait to be back in SF, Malibu; with Miguel, my family, my friends, my dog;
I’m going to miss Leonardo’s lectures. Struggling with Italian. Mangiare la cena. the cobblestones. the villa, the people. living out of a suitcase. the art, the history. my little Italian brother Pietro. Medici’s gelato. Cafe Liberta. relating my life to Henry James.
But I think I’ve done Italy right-
Siena, San Gimingianino, Fiesole, Pompei, island of Ischia, Sicily, Palermo, Valley of the Temples, Monreale, Cefalu, Norman Palace, Taormina, Mt. Etna, Rome, Venice, and my favorite, Paris.
Plus I’m going home with the best personal souvenir :).
not only does it make basic everyday tasks and needs a convenience, it’s also simplify human relationships.
you know how they say you can’t erase your past, and that you have to grow, learn, and deal with it? bullshit. I’ve just deleted quite a few ‘friends’, and intend on removing that part of my past from both my cyber and physical world.
select, unfriend, finito!
you might call this method unhealthy or cowardly, but I say, who are you to judge? I’m a psychology major and I know what’s right for my mental, spiritual, and relational health. (or it may slightly resemble denial, but we’ll see how that played out)
We’re currently discussing Henry James’ Portrait of A Lady in my lit class. Doesn’t it suck when the book you’re analyzing in class holds too many similarities to your own life? Well, Mr. Henry James. I don’t think I agree with you. Who in the right mind would choose to suffer? I’ll take my supposed ignorant bliss any day, thank you. And you know what else? I may be a naive, sexless, and somewhat amoral American girl, but you sir, are a masochistic expatriate, and it’s pretty clear who came out with the shorter end of the stick. You maliciously tore apart the lifestyles of these ‘oblivious’ Americans, claiming we’re all stuck in some senseless limbo with no self or sense of identity or culture, well ain’t that the pot calling the kettle black? You’re an expatriate for cryin’ out loud! Just because you couldn’t identify with your countrymen and left for Italy in search of your soul, only to be terribly disappointed, doesn’t mean all the rest of us are in denial. Leave us alone and quit lamenting- additionally, it is your brother who’s the psychological expert, so give it a friggin rest.
"And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love." Romans 5:5
I think this has definitely been one of my most trying summers.
my household had become a spiritual battlefield for me- I constantly felt like my faith, my sanity, my composure was being tested time and time again.
I had worked so much that my family had thought me heartless and indifferent to the situation at home, when in reality I was working myself to death to deal with the shock. and so, i often came home to verbal abuse and many threats and attacks.
when he did pass away, I think I cried more out of guilt and shame than feelings of loss- i could’ve done more, i should’ve said something, i might’ve saved his soul. i don’t really know how to mourn.
my confidence waned- was I a terrible daughter/person/Christian? and Lord, I prayed so, so, hard what more could I have done? At my core I knew that in His eyes I am loved and valued- but all the attacks- why is it that they only see me as selfish, useless, and a burden? you can let it slide only so many times before it starts to stick.
all summer I’ve looked forward to Italy- it was my hope, my horizon, that light at the end of this tunnel. lo and behold, liver disease. intensive treatment? leave of absence? byebye italy?
I didn’t write this with the intention of lamenting. I think I wrote it out of love. I love you more than I can say or explain, and I think deep down I really want to thank you. And I’ve just now realized exactly how MUCH you love me.
My entire prayer this summer has been for your presence- and Jesus, thank you for walking with me, and never letting go of my hand; I remember when Dave had said that it is through our sufferings that we can truly experience/see the Father’s love. That pain is a blessing in itself because it reminds us of our inherent need for the Father, and it teaches us to cry out to Him.
I’ll admit that I’ve broken down several times this summer. I crumbled, deterioated, fell apart at the seams- and though for a second my foolish self tried to cling on desperately to myself, to the largest broken piece of myself that I can find; God thank you for shattering that very last piece of rubbish and reminding me of my core- You.
How is it that through all these trials, I can still find peace and feel joy? Thank You, thank You, thank You for saving me.
Fantastic Sunday. You know, God never ceases to amaze me. It’s astounding how every week He hits me with a dead-on sermon (you know, when the pastor seems to be speaking directly TO you, or ABOUT you?), and leaves me with a new lesson.
Pastor Dave had recently said something about the dangers of us “young Christians with minds and horizons too big”- I had been confused at first, but now realize just what he means. I get so ambitious and aggressive about my life, my future. I forget to let go of the reigns and let Him seize control. I focus so much on taking care of myself, doing things for myself, being and becoming independent, that I often forget that He created us to be dependent creatures. This week I was vocalizing to both my friends and family just WHY going to Reality SF every Sunday is so important to me. How missing just one Sunday is pratically unbearable. How I had wished that there was a service EVERY day, and that I didn’t have to suffer through an entire 7 days for the next one. I had started to feel slightly ashamed- weak, vulnerable, dependent, etc. Why am I so in need of church?
Today I realized that I’ve phrased and viewed that question completely wrong. It’s not, “Why am I so weak that I constantly crave church?” Well it’s not church I so desperately crave and need, it’s GOD. So why am I ashamed? I am weak, and vulnerable, and dependent on Him. I need Him every day, every hour, every minute, because He is my core. Every Sunday He gives me a new plate. One pure, and clean of all the sin and hate and pain that I’ve accumulated over the week.
In short, there is no shame. I am weak, vulnerable, dirty, and dependent, but who cares? He’s more than enough to cover all of that :).
You are the perfect Teacher and Father (while I’m forever the stubborn student and prodigal daughter). You understand the type of love I need. Thank you for all the wake up calls and slaps in the face.
In the famous words of Roooooo, “You’re amazing, you’re amazing!”
Every slap is like comfirmation of Your presence in my life. Thanks for letting me know that I’m not alone.
Oh, and here Tumblr, some of my fave verses:
"Joy is not merely a feeling, it is the deep down confidence that God is in control of everything for the believer’s good and His own glory, and thus all is well no matter what the circumstances." … And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love. Romans 5:5
this entire year has been about change- now don’t get me wrong, I’ve had a hell of a time (in the good sense) with my first year of college, but i’m so tired of adjusting, changing, adapting, transitioning- some things were never meant to change.
I’m tired of getting over it. I’m tired of readjusting. I’m tired of sugarcoating. I’m tired of losing, losing, losing. And honestly I’m soooo tired of your bull-friggin’-shit.
you’re gonna catch a cold, from the ice inside your soul-
I know our time together has been short, but nonetheless I’ve fallen madly, madly in love with you. Please don’t leave me! The very idea of spending an entire summer without you, depresses me. We don’t need this break! Our relationship has been completely healthy and happy.
PS: Will you please reconsider? I’ll change, I promise.