I was seriously depressed for a day and a half.
Before you roll your eyes, start laughing, and make fun, hear me out. I’d never felt depression, nor could I relate to it, so this was an eye-opening, profound learning experience. Brief as it was, it made a lifelong impression.
Some years back I was working through an extremely difficult situation. I was challenged by God to change the way I regarded my ex-husband. I was often quite critical of him and never viewed him through Christ-filled eyes of love, mercy, or grace. I’m not proud of this, but it’s the ugly truth. I could rationalize and say his actions earned my harsh judgment and I was justified, but even if true, his behavior shouldn’t have dictated how I, as a Christian, behaved. Ephesians 4:32 tells us to be kind and compassionate to one another; forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. This verse doesn’t tell us to be kind IF the recipient deserves it or has earned our respect. Nope, God just directs us in how we are called to act with no qualifiers attached.
When the marriage ended years prior, the relationship did not.
Back and forth we’d go in an unhealthy and hurtful cycle. After our last “break up,” my sister Deborah suggested one last ditch effort to repair the relationship. (We both ignored the fact that I had been divorced forever at this point!) Her argument was that I’d spent over a dozen years getting it wrong and, if I was throwing in the towel for good anyway, what harm could it do to try a completely different approach? She proposed that I wipe the slate clean, be as nonjudgmental as my human self would allow, let my guard down, and just enjoy being with him. No stress or obligation, and no holding on to old hurts or preconceived notions. While I wasn’t optimistic about this new approach (and for me, this surely would be new!), it was intriguing. Not a very sincere motive, but since my ex readily agreed, I decided to give it a try.
While I was half-hearted in my initial response, I committed to putting forth a 110% effort and can honestly say that’s precisely what I did. I prayed that God would remove the scales from my eyes and allow me to view my ex-husband through Christ’s eyes. I prayed to be delivered from my critical and judgmental nature, and I petitioned God for a work of healing and restoration. I prayed for us to have fun, to be filled with peace, and to experience a fresh start.
And inside of a month I had it, legitimately had it all.
It was the craziest situation but I knew it was straight from God because only he could have worked such a miracle. I still had reservations, but things were going exceptionally well. I was letting loose, enjoying myself, and basking in his attention and the renewed hope. He seemed to be doing exactly the same.
And Then It All Crumbled…
Shortly after that first month, my ex-husband changed radically. He became increasingly vocal about his unresolved bitterness toward me. He grew more distant and guarded, less attentive and affectionate. His fuse was shorter, in fact shorter than anything I’d experienced from him even when our marriage was failing.
Confusion doesn’t adequately begin to describe how I felt.
Our relationship had appeared to be going incredibly well, and the change in direction was abrupt and frightening. I was in a position completely foreign to me; I was vulnerable. I had shared with him what God had been teaching me since we started “dating” again. I apologized for things I’d never owned before and made promises I’d never been willing to commit to. I showed him an unprecedented grace and forgiveness. Now this? I felt sucker-punched, helpless, and painfully exposed.
Still, I didn’t sway. This time I wasn’t quitting.
I took the verbal lashings and emotional abuse. Was this my penance for my previous behavior? When things got worse, I hung on even tighter. One night, in particular, was horrific. I was berated for almost two hours, reprimanded for every offense I’d ever committed against him, some of which I didn’t even remember. The messages my head was sending me became increasingly convoluted and I prayed for God to tell me what to do. I hadn’t hurt this much before, even while going through the divorce. I had finally let my guard down enough to allow God’s vision and love to impact how I saw another, and it was proving to be one of the most dreadful experiences of my life. And I had willingly signed up for this? Ugh!
I found out my ex had lied about many things; his heart grew cold and he seemed unreachable. The decision I should’ve made seemed like a no-brainer, but that’s precisely the problem with depression—you can’t see clearly.
I was sinking.
I went to work but couldn’t concentrate, and each day after work became a cry fest. I couldn’t take it anymore. One day I left work early and just crumpled on my couch. My body felt like it weighed 1,000 pounds and my heart felt bruised, literally. My shoulders slumped and I couldn’t even move my arms. They felt like lead weights hanging off my body. I wanted to stay holed up in my four walls forever and left alone to my misery. I wanted the world to go away. This behavior was so out of character for me and I was embarrassed for anyone to know how weak and helpless I’d become. I was numb with grief and overcome with pain. I called in to work the next day. The thought of mustering the strength to shower and get dressed was more than I could bear. The bathroom was at the end of a long, gloomy hallway that would narrow as I walked. I didn’t have the energy to consider starting the journey. I was exhausted.
I was the president of the stoic “Never Say Die” club and even in my state, even I knew enough to be worried.
Oddly enough, however, I realized I wasn’t crying over me ex or even the relationship.
Huh? I know! That was a surprise to me too! You see, as much as he hurt my feelings and bruised my pride, that wasn’t the worst part. I learned lessons I so desperately needed, administered directly from the hand of God, and now that I was a star student (or so I thought!), it seemed God was teasing me and not allowing me the chance to utilize them. It was maddening to finally feel like I was ‘getting it’ and then have the door of opportunity with which to utilize my new skills shut so abruptly.
I wanted to show God what I could do, darn it, and I’d convinced myself this was my chance! Ahhhh, clearly still more lessons to learn!
God’s Plan Revealed
Stacy, my best friend whom I had drugged along on every step of this wild ride, pleaded that I speak to my pastor. After some coaxing, I agreed. I’d been debating whether I should be obedient and endure the punishment from my ex so I could receive some glorious payoff for my restitution efforts, or if I was being shown it was time to move on from the guilt and pain I’d come to wear as a badge of pity. If only I had a crystal ball. Can you relate? It was uncharted water for this headstrong, independent woman to be riddled with so much confusion. But God had a plan, and He delivered me.
While I was getting ready for the appointment with my pastor, the Holy Spirit clearly and simply said, “Sherry, God doesn’t speak in riddles.” Those six words set me free and changed my life forever.
The Holy Spirit is our crystal ball, and we must open our ears and heart to hear him.
I knew in that instant that God wasn’t trying to cloud my thoughts with confusing messages, tempt me with open doors that were a gateway to harm, or inflict pain as a payback. He didn’t want me mistreated, abused, and miserable. God wouldn’t have made it this hard to be happy. He doesn’t speak in riddles, and he wanted me to move on. It was time. He taught me what I needed and then slammed that door shut in a mighty way. God is so faithful.
When I met with the pastor, he reaffirmed what I’d been told by the Holy Spirit that morning, even before I shared with him the word I’d received. He said that God used someone I loved very much to get to my heart and expose my shortcomings, but this was to be for good, not for suffering. He suggested I put down the bag of guilt I’d slung over my shoulder for years and break free from the past. God had broken me down and it was time to rebuild. His counsel made so much sense and left me filled with peace and hope. I knew God had something wondrous in mind for me.
After I left the pastor’s office, I was able to thank God for loving me enough to spend so much time on me. That was a first. Never before had I thanked him for a lesson that was jam-packed with so much agony. Through my suffering, God shared with me a bigger picture.
I never called my ex again, nor looked back. Each morning when I woke and chose to walk in God’s light, I was a step closer to where He wanted me to be. It was an incredible experience that instilled a faith I will appreciate forever. Just four months later, when Lindon prayed before dinner on our first date, I knew he was the man God intended for me. He was to be blessed with all I’d learned and all I had to give. I knew this with more certainty than anything I’d ever known before and I’ve thanked God every day since for his wisdom, persistence, and overwhelming love.
The Joy in Decluttering Depression
The day and a half spent on the couch was terrifying. I caught a mere glimpse of life- altering depression. Truth be told, I was probably depressed for many weeks leading up to that, but those few moments etched a lifetime of learning into my heart.
My journey had delivered generous doses of stress, anxiety, worry, agony, and pain; I don’t think there was a negative emotion I didn’t experience. Those feelings were so completely crushing and so totally overpowering, they destroyed any prospect for normalcy outside of my narrow focus. I was utterly self-consumed, rendering me of no use to anyone, including God. I loved God with my whole heart, but the emotional stress I was under robbed me of any opportunity to put my love into action for His Kingdom.
Doesn’t that defeat the entire purpose of why we are here to begin with? “But be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you” (1 Sam. 12:24). We are asked to have our whole heart and mind available for his service, and decluttering them is a step closer to that end.