Today was the culmination of an exceedingly hard season. Actually, “today” started last night, during a meltdown of epic proportions – and it had nothing to do with children.
It was all me. My husband and I are planning to go on a cruise in six months, to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary and his 45th birthday. It’s a big deal – the last time we had a non-working, actual vacation together was our honeymoon, which lasted about four days. This upcoming vacation is a difficult one to plan: excursions in San Juan, St. Maarten and Labadee, Haiti are nearly impossible to come by when one is paraplegic.
I’ve never shied away from being transparent in this blog. And this is one of the harder posts to write. Blogging and being real in the sometimes-hard faith of Jesus Christ can open up cans of worms – or blessings. Being transparent here means this: Greg, my dear husband, is doing fairly well at being paralyzed, all things accounted for. Yes, he has tremendous pain. But he’s managing it. He’s managing the emotions stemming from the attempted armed robbery in which he was shot.
I’m not managing it.
As the spouse that is usually the one fighting chronic pain and illness, and now as the spouse who is still fighting chronic pain and illness while watching her beloved wince in pain or battle uphill in a wheelchair, I have to be honest: if I could have taken that bullet instead of him, I would have. It’s harder to watch a loved one in pain than to be the loved one in pain.
This past year and a half has been a slow avalanche of growing sadness and grief for me. The avalanche has turned into a pit of depression. A pit in which I find myself constantly sinking deeper and deeper into despair.
This pit of depression feels like I’m overwhelmed with grief: sadness for my husband and for our family. Frustration that we are not able to swim in crystal waters or walk hand-in-hand on the beach. Sadness that we can’t dance in the ship’s jazz clubs. As much as the ship wants to tout being disabled-friendly, 32” doorways into staterooms do not make a ship fully accessible.
This season of dealing with new paraplegia has affected us in every way imaginable, and as much as he has dealt with it, it’s difficult, friends. As someone with the Love Language of touch, it kills me that we cannot hug without nerves shooting off and excruciating pain making physical contact nearly impossible. We can’t hold hands in a parking lot because he’s rolling his chair along.
The shooting did not take my husband’s life and for that I am incredibly grateful to God. The shooting did, however, take so much that we’re still figuring those things out. Showering, preparing for bed, getting dressed to go to work, going to church – things we all take for granted are major accomplishments in our house. As proud as I am of him for handing it all with dignity and grace, I fight back tears and resentment – and having to intentionally make the effort to forgive the shooters.
All this, coupled with my autistic son moving back from the group home because of mistreatment – and dealing with him being an 11-year-old developmental boy in a 22-year-old man’s body – and the behavioral issues we’ve had from our 19 year old son that stemmed from the shooting – plus the recent dyslexia diagnosis of our six year old daughter… it’s all so much…
My faith life has suffered greatly. It pains me to write that, knowing that this blog is supposed to be encouraging.
But as I write that, I have realized that my own personal faith has become an idol to me. Transparency, my friends. If you have been (or are) where I’m at right now, you’ll understand. It’s so hard to open the Bible and pray when you have no idea what to say or where to start reading and studying. My faith has nothing to do with this – it’s all about God’s grace. He is bigger than my faith.
Back to today. I couldn’t stop crying. Weeping – which I usually dislike that word, much like some dislike the word moist. But weeping I did, tears staining my shirt and the feeling of despair – the thought that nothing is worth it – coursing through my mind.
I drove to a nearby mountain in my county and looked up at it, never getting out of my car. I felt drawn to it. Yes, I felt like hiking up to the top… but the Lord…
But the Lord said, “What are you doing here, Terrie?”
“Abba,” I cried out. “I’m under attack, I don’t know what’s wrong, I feel overwhelmed and slipping and…”
He said, gently but firmly… “I’m not done with you. I have plans for you. Go.”
As I wound my way in the car down the mountain roads, the teacher on the Christian radio mentioned something about 1 Kings 19. In this chapter, powerhouse prophet Elijah gets overwhelmed and frustrated, scared out of his mind and he, too, runs for it. Runs to a stick-like tree in the desert and sits under it. 1 Kings 19:4b states that Elijah “prayed that he might die. ‘I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. ‘Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.’”
Oh Lord in heaven, how many times have I prayed out loud, “I have had enough, Lord!” I’ve had enough with paraplegia; I’ve had enough with autism; I’ve had enough with 19-year-olds doing selfies of themselves in my car. I've had enough with the sitcom that has become my family life. I’ve had enough with my own emotions that I can’t get a handle on and can’t explain.
But look what happens in 1 Kings 19:5-9. “The angel of the Lord” appeared to Elijah and told him to get up and eat something. In Scripture, “the angel of the Lord” is always a reference to Christ of the Trinity. In Elijah’s fragile state, Jesus was telling him that he needs to take care of himself physically first. Elijah had to fill his cup before he could empty it in ministry to others.
Have mercy, that will preach, won’t it?
I had to go back and read that cup sentence three times before I could write more. Lord, fill my cup, I pray.
But look, friends – look what our God does. He provides Elijah baked bread and a jar of water (Bread of Life, anyone? Living Water?). Verse seven says, “The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.’”
Listen, we can’t do this journey in our own power. God knows this – He doesn’t expect us to do this in our own power. Zechariah 4:6 states, “…‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.” It’s not in our own power we can overcome depression, but by the Lord.
You know, every time Jesus healed someone in the New Testament who was lying on a mat, Jesus said to “get up.” We cannot conquer depression in the name of Jesus laying down, beaten and downtrodden by what life throws at us. This is as much preaching to the blogger as it is teaching to you. Once we have the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we need to get up and get at it – go after what God has planned for us.
Let’s look more at this incredible passage from 1 Kings. Strengthened by food and water, Elijah travels 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb where he enters a cave, just to hear God say to him in verse nine: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Goosebumps. “But the Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” [Genesis 3:9]….God knew exactly where Adam was, and He knew why Elijah was in the cave. He was wanting both of them to own up to themselves and to the Almighty where they were mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. It was gut-check time. Just like my parking-lot Jesus moment at the base of Crowder’s Mountain.
Let’s look at the passage from 1 Kings 19:10-14. “[Elijah] replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’
“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
“Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’
“He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The Lord God, with His Power and Presence, is bigger than depression and being overwhelmed with emotions. He is bigger than the fears we have and our puny faith. He is bigger than the gods we make and even the testimonies we keep for ourselves. Every testimony with which He blesses us is for two purposes only: for His Glory, and to share His Gospel.
Over the last three months I’ve not written anything for Near Your Altar. Haven’t felt like it – been wallowing around on my mat too much, asking Jesus for help. All the time He’s been saying, “I’ll heal you; get up.”
Get up, He’s been telling me. Fulfill the calling I’ve given you. Write. What did God say to Elijah in the first part of verse 15? “The Lord said to him, ‘”Go back the way you came.’”
Get up. Go down the mountain. Go back to the ministry that you’ve been called. Love on your family. Serve others in Jesus’ name. Do what He has called you to do.
Depression is a lonely place that can easily be nursed until it’s past depression and into the pit of despair. I’ve been there – today. Yet, God showed Elijah, who was the most renown prophet in all of the Old Testament His power in the wind, rocks and earthquakes, God also shows His gentleness in holding us during times of sadness and tragedy, just like in the whisper in the mouth of the cave.
If we allow depression to get the better of us, we allow satan a foothold to steal the joy of our salvation. Order him, out loud, in the name of Jesus Christ the Son of the Living God, to leave you alone. We have the power in Christ to do that – if we partake of the Bread of Life and Living Water that is only found in Jesus.
Pray, friends, for each other. Pray for strength in Jesus’ name.
Love in Christ,
© 2017 Terrie McKee
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