Thursday, September 29, 2011

Psalm 23:3, He restores my soul. . . for His name's sake.

He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
In the past I had a lot of trouble. I suffered from a major depression and walked through life like the living dead. I wanted to do good, and I know people saw me as always trying to do the right thing, but I was no testament to Jesus even if I wanted to be. We are called to be lights to the world, but I was more darkness than light, and you could barely call me anything at all. I professed Christianity if it came up, but I was a poor example of a 'renewed life'. I lacked joy and I lacked a life even though Christians should be more joyful and alive than anyone else.

I loved people, everyone, but often I would also hate them. They easily got on my nerves, and every little problem they had blasted at me like a fog horn, every little flaw glaring like the neon signs in Vegas. I cared about people, but I looked at many of them and could only think that they were the most aggravating things in the world. I hated myself even more because I didn't cover up my own flaws by looking at others, the two just brought each other into sharp relief. I hated hating people, and I hated hating myself, and this only made me hate me more.

My depression and loneliness became almost a comfort; I didn't know how to exist as 'myself' without them, I didn't know who I was without them. They were who I was, and I was too insecure, lacking the strength to try and conquer them or any of my other bad habits. I began wanting God to just 'fix me',

I knew what was right, what was good, not just in behavior but for how I should think, how Christ would think, and I couldn't do it. I was an insomniac, often laying awake for 2 hours, 3 hours, 4 hours, sometimes even 5 hours before finally waking up exhausted and unwilling to face the new dreary day, unaware of when I actually, finally, fell unconscious. I dreamed big, and I lacked the strength to even attempt making them a reality; on the rare occasions I did, it was usually a weak attempt doomed to failure, on other times I simply didn't know enough to make it work or faced what I am now sure were the attacks of the enemy. I did things which even at the time I despised myself for, knowing they were wrong but lacking the strength or will power to stop.

Whenever I started to get better and had felt a little hope, there was something that would pull me back down.

Depending on the night I could either be praying to God for sleep, crying out to Him that I could just be happy, or just screaming within my mind as tears ran down my face at the very thought of spending another several hours alone in the dark, only to open my eyes in the morning, unready to face another empty day, and eventually come to the next night and repeat the process again and again and again until God finally called me to heaven.

But I'm better now. There was no burst of glorious light that miraculously made me happy, though my current countenance is a miracle none the less. I decided to act on what I had already known for some time; God loves me, but He wouldn't fix my life if I wasn't willing to work towards being fixed, and I couldn't be fixed if I obsessed about how 'un-fixable' I thought I was and about every worry and trouble and stress that came my way.

Miraculously, I stopped worrying; there was still some exercise in self control I had to practice, as negative thinking and stressing were engraved in me from years of less positive practice, but I had a complete change in character that bringing about would have been impossible without God.

I was far from perfect, I still had a lot of problems and I still sinned, but I knew, not just with my brain but also with my heart, that I wouldn't be perfect so long as I was in the flesh, but I got a 'reset'. As I had thought and feared, I didn't know how to not be depressed, but I was ok with that.

I like learning, and even if it was clumsy, I spent some time learning to be alive. I didn't do anything crazy or break my principles. The only thing I did which was mildly bad was stop worrying about my English class, and that I had to do because it was something of the lynch pin of my problems, the most irrational, the most tangible and the most easily dealt with. I failed the class that year and payed for it later, but it wasn't a surprise. It wasn't something I fought against and was crushed by. My grade couldn't get me down because I wasn't failing anything, I just wasn't doing it. Nothing anybody said about my grades could get me down about it because I knew that I wasn't making a 'good' choice, but it was the best choice I knew to make.

I was severely broken, and rather than better I only seemed to be getting worse. A single grade for a single class, graduating requirement or not, was not worth the potential of the rest of my life. I began working at the things I knew I could work at, waking up in the morning; having a better countenance; drinking water; and being alive and interacting with life, even when I wasn't in the mood.

When my summer before my senior year was ending I joined the tennis team so that I would spend some time in the sun and get some exercise. I was one of, if not THE, worst players on the team, and I had the time of my life. I was bad, but I improved, and even if my improvement still left me behind everyone else, I closed that gap the tiniest bit. I don't know if you could say I was satisfied exactly, but I was content with not being great, or even just good. I just played to play and enjoyed it.

I got better at waking up for school; and although I still didn't always want to go to school, it was usually the much more normal not wanting to go that every other teenager in America faces at least once in their lives.

I began making an effort where I felt able without suffering some sort of stress induced breakdown. I began making an effort even when I thought it might be too stressful; sometimes I pleasantly surprised myself by, maybe having some trouble, but still accomplishing what I wanted to accomplish, and if I couldn't handle it yet, I backed off.

I put in more of a real (and mentally healthy) effort, and while I'll be the first to admit that it wasn't always quite as much of an effort as I probably should have made, it was a better effort nonetheless, and I managed to graduate. Barely, but I did.

My dad convinced me to go to the high school summer camp since it would be my last chance to go to one, and he can't begin to know how thankful I am. In the past I hadn't enjoyed myself at church camps and such and just stopped going. Now however I was able to handle people, to enjoy their company and not sit in the corner quivering in fear. I was reminded of God in my process of change, and that even if it wasn't how I had wanted it in when I was younger, God did have His hand in my life producing this change, and that He has a plan for me, even if I couldn't see it or at times even believe it, and that He could use my hardships and troubles in beautiful ways that I couldn't even imagine.

I began being more involved in church and with church people, and it was wonderful.

I went to college and started out by testing the waters, then filled my class load with everything I could manage. More than I could manage it turns out, I had to drop one of my classes eventually, but I enjoyed being busy and having my day filled up with people and work and learning things that I really wanted to learn and the feeling of independence that comes with spending your entire day at college and going everywhere by walking or taking a city bus! Most of the time anyway. ;)

I started reading the Bible on my own. I didn't know what to read, I didn't know how to really dig deep and study, and I didn't know when I would always have the time, but I took it with me and pretty much gave up reading novels on the bus in favor of 'the good book', and during a lot of my free time besides. I started out popcorn style. “God, I don't know what to read today, so I'm going to open to a random page and if you have anything in particular you'd like me to read please go ahead and get me there.”

Later I changed to reading through the book of Daniel, and from their another book, and another book after that.

To come back to the verse for today, Psalm 23:3 is:
He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
I was crushed, and broken, and believed in God but had no joy in Christ. I did nothing more than cling to His existence as a reason to continue step after dreary step through a miserable self pitying life.

But I'm here now. I'm at Potter's Field Ranch. I'm finishing up three months of training; about to visit home for a week before shipping out; and so close to leaving for six months to El Salvador, on a mission trip, to help at an orphanage, with friends that are closer than I ever thought it was possible fore me to have, that I can hardly believe it.

I mean, give God thanks! I believed I was a few months away from physical testing and, if I passed, a contract with the Air Force, and was invited to come to an information meeting for a program called Ignite that involved training and a mission trip! I had already resolved myself to join the Air Force, my parent's were thinking I was joining the Air Force, I had just over a thousand dollars saved up and no way to pay for the costs of a mission trip, and I STILL couldn't resist going to see what the program was about and think wistfully about going on a mission trip before getting sucked into the busy busy 'life of an adult', with the added bonus of basic training and at least a six year contract with the military doing whatever the military has me do, hopefully enjoying it.

I have not only been forgiven, I know I am forgiven and feel forgiven and am able to forgive myself and others.

I am not a finished work, but I am a work that is improving and a work that will be exactly what God wants me to be, when He wants me to be it.

I went from heading alone into a secular world where I would be largely isolated and forced to struggle through the growing of my faith alone (at least in the physical sense), to four months of separation from the world and a time alone with God and my brothers and sisters in Christ, six months in another country working in thanks and faith for God and two months besides interning with my church.

I went from no future to a future that, while I still don't know what I'll be doing, I know will be for God and led by Him. I might be in full time ministry and working at the church or travel to another country as a missionary; I might start a company and witness through honest and Christ like dealings, I might draw Christian comics or animations or I might work as a waiter and live a very humble life ministering wherever God leads.

God has changed me. He has restored my soul and continues to restore me still, day by day when I am down and over all my life to bring me closer to Him.

He leads me to righteousness and a truer life of faith, that I might be a glory to His name.

I was a shame. I whispered His name in fear and was heard, but my light could not be seen. So dim, those that could see it would more likely mock for it's lack of strength rather than desire such a light themselves; but He has brought me close and lit a fire on my soul, pouring His holy oil over me continually that I might burn forever. He has called me to call His name, He has made me a witness to the people in darkness.

Christ has redeemed me for the glory of His name.

Now to Him who is able to keep me from stumbling,
And to present me faultless
Before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,
To God our Savior,
Who alone is wise,
Be glory and majesty,
Dominion and power,
Both now and forever.

1 comment:

  1. I know a pastor who went through the same doubting trials. His name is pastor barry kennard. He has a blog spot which has been so insightful for me. A tremendous story..