Tuesday, April 20, 2010

22 Years (and 1 Year)

When we were kids, once a year, we celebrated what our parents referred to as our "special birthday".  Essentially, they kept track of the day that we committed our lives to Christ, and honored that day once a year, reminding us of that moment.

It was 22 years ago today for me.  I was four.  To be honest, I think what I remember most is kneeling on the ugly, dark brown shag carpet that marked our living room in those days, next to the scratchy couch I'd been sitting on only moments before.  I know my mom was near me.  I've been told that there was a change in personality, that I'd wake joyfully in the coming days.

But I was four, and a lot of life has come between that moment and now.

A lot of questions.  A lot of recommitments.

And yet, every year April 20th arrives, and I can't help but think, "It's been such and such a number of years since I met Jesus."

Because in spite of all the years of questions.  The mental illness.  The depression and anxiety.  The bitterness.  The resentments and desire to wander.  The years of really challenging, faith-shaking moments.  In spite of all those things, Jesus just never left.  I didn't always see or sense him as I journeyed, but looking back I see him clearly.  And he just never left.  Even in the moments I wanted Him too, begged Him too.  He just never left.  22 years ago today I invited Him to spend my life with me, and yes, I was four, and couldn't grasp the full ramifications of that invitation, couldn't know the many things to come, but He began to walk so closely with me, and He's never left.  And 22 years of that is sort of worth remembering, I think.


One year ago today I'd just returned from a trip east to spend a few days with a very dear friend.  I'd been in very dark places for the year or so preceding that trip, and she knew it, and told me to come anyway.  I don't think I'll ever forget the conversations and moments we shared that weekend. 

I returned with a renewed committment to somehow find life again.  To ruthlessly, viciously choose life and joy instead of their alternatives.  I returned with her words, quoting Deuteronomy and God, ringing in my ears, "I have set before you death and life, blessings and curses, now choose life..."

One year ago today I ate three meals for the first time in years.  I started the process of combatting what was essentially an eating disorder that I'd developed as I walked through some dark and intense stresses emotionally, relationally and professionally.  My world had fallen apart and I'd stopped eating because I felt ill all the time.  I'd lost nearly 25 pounds after months of nausea from the stress, and I rarely ate more than 1 meal and a few snacks a day.  And during that season, I'd often felt, too, the call to fast.  From chocolate for weeks at a time.  From all food for a day or two here and there.  Between fasting and nausea, food wasn't exactly a high priority.

Tonight, at supper, I'll celebrated 365 days of eating three times a day.  Of taking vitamins and supplements that I believe have drastically helped balance out my body and begin restoring the reserves that the preceding years of intense stress had so depleted.

This has been a year's journey with Jesus too.  Of praying without the physical reminders of fasting that I'd sometimes come to rely on.  Of trusting him to heal and restore my exhausted and depleted body.  Of hoping and believing for the redemption of the many, many broken things that surrounded me.  Of conciously choosing, in different ways, life and joy.  Of counting progress day by day.  Marking meals with stickers in a little calendar in my purse.  Celebrating when I hit 10 days and 30 days and 90 days.

When I was out East a year ago, my friend gave me a calendar full of quotations from female saints.  I chuckled as I returned home and opened it.  I remember distinctly reading the quote that appears for yesterday, partly because of it's deep relevance to my journey at the time, and partly because it was the words of St. Clare of Assisi, a favorite saint of mine, one whose medal I wear most days on a little silver chain around my neck as a reminder of some deep moments with God.  I smiled again as I glanced at the calendar this morning.  I haven't yet turned today, but the quote seems somehow appropriate to round out this celebration of 22 years and 1 year, somehow appropriate as I look forward at the coming year, and desire to continue to choose life and joy.  Clare writes, "Melancholy is the poison of devotion.  When one is in tribulation, it is necessary to be more happy and more joyful because one is nearer to God."


ally said...

Oh Lisa, this is so beautiful. Our struggles seem so similar at times, you've become such an inspiration to me. Shalom.

Lisa said...

I'm glad you can relate. shalom to you as well. :)

Shen said...

How lucky you were to have God in your life at such an early age. My own journey has been different, as God was not allowed in our house, when I was growing up. I have had to find my own way to a relationship with God, and as I've grown in my own spirituality I am amazed at the strength that is there.

Like you, I've lived through depression and many other mental health issues. It was when a counselor taught me how to establish a connection with what she calls my "resources" that I really began to grow and change. My resources are my inner adults - my protector, my nurturer and my sprititual core self. The first two weren't too hard to find, but the third was a mystery to me.
I honestly wasn't sure I had a self, much less a soul or spirit.

I now believe God is with us all, if we know where to look.