I made a comment the other night to a couple of friends that if one could lose his or her salvation, “hypothetically,” then this semester would be that time for me… I think it is finally time to process that now that this semester is over.
And forgive me for using this space to not only process, but essentially as a public diary.
This semester was one that greeted me with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Essentially, I was given some pills and sent off to college to try to figure out how to live life with and manage this mental illness on my own.
I felt alone and confused and most of all, broken. It was as if I began to see myself as this human being who was created, but then a flaw was found… a major flaw, so I needed to be thrown away or sent back. Because there was no warranty on this human. And there’s no manual for troubleshooting in order to make some vain attempt at resolution.
I found myself defined by this disorder. I even had a friend say at one point, “I think you were better off before you were diagnosed,” and perhaps this is true.
I fell into a cycle of self-loathing followed by a deep depression. I gave up on my calling to go to the nations as a missionary or to ever be involved in ministry at all.
The diagnosis wrecked me and affected the majority of my semester, as I tried to accept the diagnosis (since I have been on a seesaw of denial for months) and learn to not allow it to define me. I saw everything through a lens of “bipolar disorder.”
I began counseling about a month ago, which has helped me remove that bipolar lens. It is a beautiful thing to say that I’m back in the place of stability. However, with stability comes the ability to reflect on this semester and assess where I am.
As I drove home tonight, I talked with God about this semester. I confessed that my heart has been very far from him and had become hardened towards him–all of it beginning at the onset of the process of my diagnosis. I recognized that I had become the daughter version of the prodigal son story.
And yes, I know if you’re reading this and have spent any time at all in the Church or around anyone preaching, you’ve heard the prodigal son story told…and yes, you are probably annoyed with hearing it so frequently, and are most likely beginning to just skim this post because you’re like, “I don’t have time to hear another person’s prodigal son story.”
That’s okay. I feel you. I have been where you are.
But tonight, that story resonated so well with me.
I realized that I have thought that I am the best thing in the world. I have been told that I am great at loving people and wise and empathetic and compassionate and smart and a great encourager and great at teaching/sharing the gospel and blah blah blah… and I basically looked my Father in the face and said, “I don’t need you anymore. I have all these gifts and talents and abilities, and I can be my own god.” I took my inheritance and walked out on my Father.
I have squandered it all on my lustful desires. I have fallen into a pit of brokenness and sin and lies. Now, I have nothing. I’ve tried it all and I’m not satisfied. I’m empty.
I realized that I have been struggling a lot with answering tough questions about big sin habits I’ve been wrestling with for most of my life… and I feel like until I figure those things out, there’s no reason to really attempt to live a holy or disciplined life. I feel extremely gross and ashamed of who I have become. So why not just continue allowing minor sins to creep in? Why not partake in whatever seems to be enjoyable, even if it’s fleeting? How can I approach a holy, perfect, and spotless God as disgusting as I am right now?
I’ve heard all my life, “You don’t have to clean yourself up before going to God. Go to him and let him clean you up.” But that is literally the biggest load of shit when you find yourself in that situation, when you feel like the grossest person ever and are too ashamed to even consider thinking existentially. It’s hard to go back to the Father when you struggle with habitual sin patterns that aren’t going to go away after one prayer. It’s so easy to tell someone to “let God clean you up” when you feel worthy of being loved. It’s not easy to live out when you feel as if you’re in a prison of self-inflicted filth, shame, and hatred.
This is where I recognize I am the prodigal daughter. I’ve gone out and squandered away the kindness that the Lord offered me. I’ve traded intimacy and my dance with my Beloved for lesser lovers of this world. I’ve used my inheritance of gifts and talents for selfish gain to satisfy my flesh. Now, I’m broke. I’m empty. I have nothing. As a last resort, MAYBE I can go home and my Father will allow me to work as a servant in his fields… not because I miss my Father or because I miss home, but because I miss familiarity and security. I don’t want to keep living this way because it doesn’t satisfy.
My inheritance is my alabaster jar, and rather than breaking it at the feet of Jesus, I’ve broken it at the feet of my lustful desires for the things of this world.
I’m going home, but I have nothing to give. I can work really hard and attempt to earn forgiveness from my Father, but he already knows I’m not a very hard worker and I can’t maintain a good work ethic very long without getting bored or tired or distracted. I’ve let him down before.
As I hesitantly walk back home, I have come up with every possible excuse and apology and speech worth giving, but nothing seems fit. I don’t know the character of my Father well enough to know what he thinks about me or how he feels about me leaving or returning or what I should or shouldn’t say. I know a lot about what his hands have given me, but I don’t know his heart for me. I know a lot about him, but I don’t actually know him.
With this realization in mind and still a ways from home, I recognize that maybe this is a really bad idea, so I begin to turn around and make my way back to where I came from… it is then that I see someone running towards me. I can’t make out who it is, but I can recognize excitement in his eyes as he comes hurriedly towards me. It’s my Father. Without giving me a second to apologize, he embraces me. What kind of love is this?
He celebrates my return. He doesn’t ask for his money back. He doesn’t discipline me or rebuke me.
He ran to me for everyone to see…
He throws a party for everyone to see…
He puts a ring upon my finger and a robe upon my back for everyone to see…
…that I am his daughter.
He isn’t ashamed of me, even though I have been ashamed of me.
He isn’t disappointed in me, even though I have been disappointed in me.
He isn’t disgusted by me, even though I have been disgusted by me.
He doesn’t ask me to first repent of all my sins and “start acting right.”
He doesn’t expect me to have changed at all.
He is doesn’t ask me a million questions or expect me to have life figured out.
He just runs to me. In my weak yes, he pursued me further than I pursued him, and he always does.
He meets me where I am and bears my pains and shame and fears and doubts with me. He doesn’t love me after we fix everything. He loves me now.
There’s freedom in not having to have everything figured out.
My intimacy with the Father is forged through transparency and vulnerability regarding what I am struggling with.
It’s a lie that God is going to be tainted by loving me. It’s a lie that my darkness is too dark for him to see. It’s a lie that he won’t understand how I feel or how to fix how I feel. It’s a lie that he is embarrassed by me.
So I’ve come home. It’s real and it’s raw. It’s uncomfortable and it’s awkward. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies and warm fuzzies. Breaking paradigms isn’t ooey-gooey. My parents never were ones who showed me much grace, mercy, or forgiveness, so it isn’t without wrestling to accept the Father’s love displayed in this way. Part of me is still waiting for the verbal or emotional abuse that is to follow… when the showy-ness of this reunion is over… when nobody is watching… when it’s realized that I’m a mistake or not worth loving.
I know that there is going to be a time of putting me into the fire in order to reshape and remold me and my fractured paradigms. I know that the Sculptor has to chip away some imperfections. I know that the sin patterns that have become an integral part of how I see myself have to be removed. Doing these things is going to be a painful process.
However, I just got home. He’s not concerned about that process at the moment. Instead, he chooses to feed me and celebrates my return home. I haven’t eaten, slept, or bathed in days, and he knows this full well.
The days ahead will be painful and uncomfortable as he begins the process of healing me, but tonight, we are feasting, and with a full belly, clean clothes, and wet hair from a warm shower, I will rest as my Daddy tells me how much he loves me before bed.
What kind of love is this…