Spiritual Cultures at War

I think about death a lot.

Sorry if the “morbidity” is weird, but it’s true. Every day, something I read or hear or observe reminds me of death…  Every. Day.

…and I’m excited about it.

That’s not sarcasm, although I often use it. Really, I’m looking forward to the day I die.

But I haven’t always felt this way.

My whole life, I’ve heard Christians make statements like, “This world isn’t my home,”  and “death has lost its sting!” or “God’s children don’t grieve death like the world does!”  But I suspected they were only repeating what they’re supposed to say.

(Some of them probably were.)

It wasn’t until recently I even realized how much I didn’t agree with most of those quaint, comforting slogans.  As it turned out, I was “deathly” afraid of being out-of-control…of confronting the unknown. I struggled with lots of questions almost subconsciously.

When will death happen? Will I suffer? Do Heaven and Hell exist? How do I KNOW?

Then, unexpectedly, postpartum depression brought all these undiscovered fears to the surface violently.

I was exhausted–physically and emotionally–which left me vulnerable to all the junk I hadn’t even known I was suppressing. Theoretically, I knew the “right” answers. (“Jesus conquered death!” “It isn’t the end–just the beginning!” etc.)

But, when your rebellious hormones and weak body wreak havoc on your brain, the core of your self emerges.  What broke out of me was fear–raw and merciless. 

EVERYTHING was scary. The way my heart raced and my lungs burned during back-to-back panic attacks. Suddenly I was aware of just how many things can go wrong with the human body, and how fragile life is.

I couldn’t make even basic decisions, like, “Maybe I should try taking these anti-depressants the doctor prescribed.”

All day and night, I’d worry about things like, “What if the medicine makes it worse?” “What if I never can fall asleep sleep again, and nobody knows why?” “What if I’m going crazy?” “What if living feels this terrible for the rest of my life?” AND “What if all this panic actually causes my heart to stop, which makes that terrible, unpredictable end of my life TODAY?”

The experience was a living Hell. Without hesitation, I’ll say the few weeks immediately after the births of both my children were the worst of my entire life.

But that’s not the end of the story…I wasn’t completely alone in the darkness of my own sleep-deprived mind. Another voice fought on my side.

This is an excerpt from a note I wrote in the middle of a particularly bad week struggling with depression and anxiety.  I titled it The Thorn in My Mind:

“This burden is too much. It’s a thorn in my flesh, and I just want it gone! Day after day of the same fight. Just when I talk myself into moving forward, I get distracted by my own scary thoughts again!”

“It’s not about feeling better. Ignore the emotion and trust God as you go about your work. Do your duty, in faith, and the investment will not return void.”                  

*I get busy for a little while*

“You screw-up! You worthless failure! You’ve lost your temper again. You can’t even control your own mood…” 

“Yes, we’ve already agreed I’m not feeling well. But I’m NOT worthless. What’s the point in dwelling on what’s out of my hands? I’m not going to give weight to unhealthy thoughts anymore.”

“Collin is sooooo fussy. And Cami won’t listen to a thing I say.”

“Well, then it’s no wonder there’s stress. Keep on marching, Little Soldier! Chin up. God will give you the strength and the wisdom to carry out the assignment you’ve been given.”

“Ugh. What if I have to fight like this for the rest of my life?!”

“That’s not for you to know or worry about! Sufficient for the day is its own trouble, remember? You’re dealing with the Enemy, throwing mud on your windshield. Wipe it off with Scripture and prayer. Then drive on.” 

“I can’t drive on! Obviously! My negative thoughts keep interrupting, out of the blue. Like right now, for example!…And now people are going to think I’m crazy–referring to the different ‘voices’ in my head. As if that’s normal?!”

“Now you’re just worrying about the wrong audience. Look up–look up! You can’t trust your emotions right now, so shut ’em down. Your children need you; get busy tending to their needs as you wait on the Lord.”

And that’s when I learned how to recognize the Voice of Truth, and expose the Father of Lies. Through this horrible, painful, months-long battle within my own head, the old, unsure, yellow-bellied me became a casualty.

I DIED. 

But, as a result, the re-birthed me doesn’t fear death.

Now I know, for certain, the Eternal Creator of the universe lives in my heart (mind? spirit?).  He heard me and talks to me!  I know that God himself came near and rescued me from the hungry pit of despair.

He rescued me.

This isn’t my usual style or topic or tone, but what I’m saying here deeply matters to the theme of my blog.

Don’t you see?

There’s a spiritual war going on all the time, around all of us.  And you must be familiar with each culture to know how to fight…

On one side reigns chaos…relentless worry…and accusation.  In the ranks of the army of darkness there exists no rest. There’s no comfort. Their marching rhythm beats, “It’s. Too. Much. It’s. Too. Much. It’s. Too. Much” And they’re right.  Life is waaaaaay more fragile and unpredictable and cruel than you can handle.

The fear would paralyze…except…

On the other side there’s unlimited power and unlimited love on the front line. He’s ready to fill your canteen and reload your weapon, and best of all, He already owns the victory.

This Love spoke to me personally, when I was surrounded, and he’s available to speak to you, too.  Are you struggling with temptation and anger and unbeatable fear?  I understand, if you’re pawing blindly through No Man’s Land–with no idea what to do next or who to ask.

But I know Who. And now I finally get it–what those batty church-people mean when they say, “Death has lost it’s sting.”

Truly, I’m not afraid anymore.

I should make the disclaimer: my life isn’t free of sadness, anger, and uncertainty now, just because I see the spiritual war more clearly. I’m still fighting, and war sucks.  My point is not to suggest you can use God as some Cosmic Anti-Depressant, to take away your symptoms if you strike the right dosage.

Pain doesn’t disappear.

But I’m fighting a totally different way now that I know I’m following the Winner.

—-

It’s hard surrendering your life to God, and letting Him call the shots. In fact, following Jesus is the second hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Yet it’s no harder than flailing around the battlefield confused and second-guessing, believing you’re alone and crazy and hopeless.  Dying for Christ is 1,000 times better than fearing death forever. 

Would you remain in the ranks of chaos and darkness, if you knew how to switch allegiance to the other side? Wouldn’t you like to say with me, and with confidence, “I’m not afraid”?

I think about death all the time, but it no longer terrifies me.  I’m ready to “go home,” even despite the many unknowns.  I finally understand how people like this family can bury their 5-year-old and not let it crush them…  I understand preferring not to suffer but having authentic courage to march into it.

Ultimately, death won’t win this one…

—-

What do you think about death?

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3 thoughts on “Spiritual Cultures at War

  1. Tammy

    Lovely, Amanda. I’m so “sorry” that you’ve had to go thru ppd, but there is much growth and wisdom on the other side. Your words ring like David’s in the Psalms.

    Like

    Reply
  2. Pingback: On Feelings and Faith… and a Mother’s Courage to Love when it Hurts | Cultures at War

  3. Pingback: Dear New Mom | Cultures at War

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