Tuesday, November 01, 2011

An Ending and a Beginning (6 Years of Healing)

I've spent the last month thinking about what I would write in this space today.

Today I'm celebrating six years of healing.

Six years ago today, November 1st was also a Tuesday, and I had one of the most unusual, and ultimately powerful experiences of my life.  It was a day that changed my faith and in many ways the course of my journey with Jesus.

I've written about it in past years, so I'll just briefly tell the story before moving on to the things my heart has been reflecting on in the months leading up to this anniversary.

For between seven and ten years I had been suffering from severe depression that had slowly and persistently encompassed everything in my life.  My childhood faith was in tatters - the first time I'd talked to God in months had been the previous night, when something broke inside me after a challenging evening with friends, and I'd driven home alone in the dark car and yelled at God, pouring out anger and pain.  I was suffering from severe and intense nightmares, and terrible insomnia.  I was 22 years old, and it had been at least five years since I'd last slept through a night without my rest being interrupted by either wakefulness or many nightmares.  Good Christian and pastor's kid guilt along with a healthy dose of fear kept me alive in those days - too afraid to take my own life, and too aware of what my release from pain would cost those around me.  I went to bed each night begging God to simply let me die in my sleep.  There simply wasn't a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

It was in that space that I crawled out of bed and went to university on November 1, 2005.  I began seeing and hearing unusual images in my head, and was left unsettled.  Since I'd become involved in a church that believed in the active presence of the Holy Spirit, I was aware that these seemed to be spiritual experiences, but they fell firmly in my category of "weird."  I went to the house group I attended that night, and let the friend who was my resource for all things spiritually "weird" know that I'd had an odd day, and needed to talk.  We had our meeting and went upstairs to drink iced tea and eat cookies.  It was part of the routine.  My friend was on his way out the door, standing at the bottom of landing, when he remembered I wanted to talk.  I put him off, telling him it could wait, that he should "call me tomorrow."  He insisted.

I sat on the stairs and he stood on the landing and I began to fill him in.  His reaction was strong, and he asked me to take a walk with him so we could keep talk.  I protested.  It was blizzarding outside, had snowed several inches since we'd arrived earlier in the evening.  He insisted again.  We walked for a long time, talking and praying, and then, when we were too cold and wet to keep walking, sat in his car and kept talking and praying.  I think we ended up talking for close to three hours, late into the night.

He had been patiently waiting and watching for a couple years.  I can't count the number of times he had invited me to come before Jesus with this immense thing that was plaguing me, and I had shut him down.  For whatever reason, that night, after my odd day, I was able to let down my guard, and He led me into the presence of Jesus in new and deep ways.  We never prayed for healing or deliverance that night, at least not in those words, but I walked away healed and set free.  That all encompassing hopelessness and despair has never returned.  That night I slept for six straight hours without waking or having a nightmare.

I think about that day often, and more so this year, when my One Little Word has been "heal".  Jesus met me that night, and healed some broken pieces of my heart.  Some things haven't changed - I still struggle with my mood at times (in fact, this year I've begun taking medication to help with that which has made a significant difference, and I've been seeing a therapist to continue to further that process of healing).  Sleep still isn't my special gift in life, though the overwhelming nightmares remain thankfully rare.  (God, with his crazy sense of humor has replaced the nightmares with sometimes equally vivid, though thankfully far less terrifying, spiritual dreams.)

I guess what my heart reflects on this year is that that moment six years ago was an ending, but it was also a beginning.

It was the ending of an all encompassing darkness that was tangible, spiritual, and had held me, hopeless, in its clutches since I was an early teen.  I believe with all my heart that I will never again face that (though, as more and more time passes, I'm thankful for the lessons I learned in the midst of it.)  That ending is a precious gift, and is one that I celebrate each year on this day, and that I will continue to celebrate.

But it was also the beginning.  It was the beginning of a crazy roller coaster journey of knowing God's Spirit alive and working in me.  It was the beginning of a journey that took me overseas, and brought me home again.  Of a journey marked by both gains and painful losses.  It was the beginning of an incredible process of healing and being made whole - a process that someone recently reminded me is rather like an onion, with layers.  (How did we ever explained layered things before Shrek made that analogy so common?)  This year, in my year of heal, that process has been exaggerated, unexpected, and still beautiful.

I'm here to say simply that I'm thankful - that I'm thankful for the friend who invited me to come before Jesus and be freed by His presence.  And I'm so thankful for the ongoing journey with the Jesus whom I met in new ways that night - for the ongoing work of his redemption and resurrection in my life - that He is making me new.

(I want to invite you to ask questions - this post is long and if I said everything that I would have loved to have shared about that night, or these last six years, I'd never stop writing.  So, email me at the address in my profile, or leave a comment and I'd love to dialogue either privately or in these posts about whatever you're wondering about.)

I want to close with what is probably the passage of Scripture most precious to my heart, because it cries out what I have experienced - a Lord who hears and heals and rescues and sets free.  My Bible sits on a table in my bedroom, available for easy access, and is nearly always open to this passage.

Psalm 116

I love the Lord because he hears my voice
and my prayer for mercy.
Because he bends down to listen,
I will pray as long as I have breath!
Death wrapped its ropes around me;
the terrors of the grave overtook me.
I saw only trouble and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Please, Lord, save me!”
How kind the Lord is! How good he is!
So merciful, this God of ours!
The Lord protects those of childlike faith;
I was facing death, and he saved me.
Let my soul be at rest again,
for the Lord has been good to me.
He has saved me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
And so I walk in the Lord’s presence
as I live here on earth!
I believed in you, so I said,
“I am deeply troubled, Lord.”
In my anxiety I cried out to you,
“These people are all liars!”
What can I offer the Lord
for all he has done for me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and praise the Lord’s name for saving me.
I will keep my promises to the Lord
in the presence of all his people.


kirsten said...

So glad for this day for you!! There's more I want to say, but I fear making a cheap-sounding response to something as profound as what happened to you that day.

Rejoicing with you in the memory of this healing.

+ k

Lisa said...

I'd love to hear the more you want to say sometime :)

Thanks for joining with me in the rejoicing!


Anonymous said...

I'm so so happy for you and with you, Lisa! And I'm really thankful that our God is a God who hears us, sees us and who heals us!
How great is our God!
And "every little thing's gonna be alright..." just came to my mind when I read this.
This verse really spoke to me a few days ago and I thought I share it with you:
Psalm 18, 1 (Msg) "I love you, God - you make me strong."
Celebrate. :-)

Lisa said...

I love that, Johanna! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad for you and all this day symbolizes and the new beginnings it really held for you back six years ago - and for the way you have used it to assess where things are at, in many regards, as the day comes around each year since. I'm proud of you and the steps you've taken toward continued wholeness this year!

And this? "Sleep still isn't my special gift in life..." Love it! :-) (Not the not sleeping - but you know what I mean)

Enjoy your chocolate and ice wine tonight!


Lisa said...

LP/CA - yep, I know what you mean! Thanks for celebrating with me!

tea said...

I'm so glad you share about this day and what Jesus has done for you! It's wonderful!! ♥

Lisa said...

thanks Tea!

christianne said...

I so love this for you.

I remember last year about this same time is when our paths first crossed. You wrote about that healing night on your anniversary last year, and I was swept into your story.

I can hardly believe we've known each other a year!

Even though I have read this story from you before, it was still fresh and beautiful to read again from you now. Tonight, the part that touched me deeply was your friend's presence, this friend who kept inviting you to Jesus over the years in a quiet and gentle way, who invited you to Jesus once again on that night six years ago, and it was just what you needed at just the right time.

Six hours of sleep with no insomnia or nightmares. So beautiful. Such a gift.

I love the life with God you live. I am so glad to know you.


Lisa said...


It is crazy to believe that it's been a year! I'm so glad we've gotten to know each other too!

Interesting that you would notice my friend's presence this time. It is something I've been thinking about, and that he and I have laughed about. For probably two years before this night, he gave me rides home from church or house group once or twice a week, and often listened as I expressed my desperation, anger, and fears. Almost unfailingly, he'd stop at my house, and ask if I wanted to pray. Equally unfailingly, I'd be grouchy or shy or self-conscious, and tell him that he could pray, but I sure wasn't going to. Sometimes he would, with me sitting there, sometimes he'd leave me to my snit, and tease me as I flounced into the house. For whatever reason, that night I was desperate enough to really let him lead me into that new space with Jesus, and I'm so grateful that after his years of patience it was him that was around that night!

Natalie said...

That's a great Psalm and a great post! I loved reading it!


Lisa said...

Thanks Natalie! Hugs - miss you guys!


lois said...

Beautiful. Blessing.

Love God's work, the above words are the words that immediately came to mind as a read your story, your journey. They are also words which apply to you.

Blessings Lisa!

Lisa said...

Thanks Lois!