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Don't be afraid of the big bad medication

There is a particular shame in the Church when one has depression or anxiety. When I was under the weight of a very bad bout, I was afraid to tell anyone. I remember distinctly sitting in a class of women, ready to teach, and struggling with the fact that the pants I was wearing that day had become baggy due the weight I had lost without trying. What did that mean? Was I dying? The anxiety overwhelmed me, and all I could do was pray that I would make it through the lesson. No one in the room knew what was going on inside of me. Even telling some family members was something I did not want to do.

When people know we have anxiety, we get labelled. When my son was married in August, two days before his wedding, I had a very bad gastrointestinal virus. There I was, two days before the wedding, wondering if I was going to end up running out of the church auditorium in the middle of the service to toss my cookies. When I mentioned my illness to someone who knows I struggle with anxiety, her automatic comment was "It's anxiety." She even recommended I go back on my medication.

Yes, I took medication during the worst of my anxiety. That is also something one must be afraid to admit. When people hear that you're taking medication, they may react negatively. There are some who believe that by taking medication, we are denying God's sufficiency; that it is admitting that we don't trust God. Some Christians want to say that all mental illness is false; that it's just our sin. I thank God today that someone suggested I go on medication. It was the difference between cowering in my house, afraid to leave it, and being able to have people in to visit. It meant not being afraid to drive somewhere. It meant my husband didn't have to work at home many mornings because I hated being alone. Praise God that I have been able to wean myself from my medication, but I'm thankful I had it. 

I'm also thankful for voices like Shona Murray's. She, along with her husband, David, has written a book called Refresh. I recently bought it for Kindle, and when I have some downtime from school, I want to read it and review it at Out of the Ordinary. Shona has written an article for the Crossway blog where she talks about what she learned during her struggle with depression and anxiety. I was so grateful to her for sharing that she is not afraid of taking medication. 

We need more women like Shona who will share these things with us. It helps to remove the stigma of this struggle. If we're ashamed, we might not seek help, and that can't be good for us or our families. For many weeks, I denied that I was struggling with anxiety. I was ashamed and embarrassed. When I was able to share those details with someone, it was a huge relief. 

I am thankful for the men and women who will share their experiences.

NOTE: In the original post, I drew a comparison between how people suffering anxiety are treated more harshly than those who may suffer from weight management issues. I received feedback, suggesting that the comment was insensitive, and upon reflection, I agree, so I have removed the comment.


Non nobis domine

One of my favourite movies is Kenneth Branagh's Henry V. There is a scene after the battle of Agincourt where the battered and bruised sing in Latin the first verse of Psalm 115: Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory. In Latin, it is: Non nobis, Domine, non nobis; sed nomine tuo da gloriam. That moment is one of the best scenes from that movie.

Psalm 115 is a favourite of mine. If you're praying through the Psalms, that opening verse is always a good thing to pray. The verses following talk about the danger of idols. The nations ask, "Where is your God?" The Psalmist goes on to describe the idols of the nations. They are material objects; silver and gold. They have mouths, but don't speak, eyes, but can't see; ears, but can't hear; noses, but can't smell. They are basically useless.

We all have our own idols. We know the typical ones: money, beauty, power. We can turn just about anything into an idol. And many of us find out to our detriment that they are useless things in the end. One of the most persistent idols even among Christians is the idol of recognition. We can excuse our efforts of erecting that idol by saying that we just want to minister to people; we just want to share the gospel; we just want to be a good example to other Christians. We're not seeking recognition; we're just serving God, right? Perhaps. There is a difference between those who are recognized for their service, and for those whose service is a means to get recognized. And the latter are easy to spot. 

If I'm irritated when I don't get recognized, or if I have to remind everyone that I'm the one who did this or that, I may be getting close to wanting the glory for myself. If I'm not willing to be regularly unrecognized, what is my true motive? If someone doesn't tell me "That was a good lesson," or "That was a good point," will I become disgruntled? If no one responds to my Tweets, will I simply start saying more and more to increase my chances of being recognized? How does that attitude affect the service I do for God? What is the motive for my service?

It's part of our nature to desire the recognition that is only due to God. For some, it's more of a weakness. But we all could use a little more of an attitude of Psalm 115:1.


The Perfect Wisdom of Our God

A number of months ago, a friend sent me a copy of Hymns of Grace. It really is a lovely hymnal. Here is one of the selections, singing about God the Father:

The perfect wisdom of our God,
Revealed in all the universe:
All things created by his hand,
And held together at his command.
He knows the mystseries of the seas, 
The secrets of the stars are his;
He guides the planets on their way,
And turns the earth thru another day.

The matchless wisdom of his ways
That mark the path of righteousness:
His word a lamp unto my feet,
His Spirit teaching and guiding me.
And oh, the mystery of the cross,
That God should suffer for the lost,
So that the fool might shame the wise
And all the glory might go to Christ.

O grant me wisdom from above,
To pray for peace and cling to love,
And teach me humbly to receive
The sun and rain of your sovereignty.
Each strand of sorrow has a place
within this tapestry of grace;
So through the trials I choose to say,
"Your perfect will in your perfect way."



Because we can't change others

My dear friend Persis has a great post today at Out of the Ordinary this morning. It was just what I needed.

Yesterday was not a good day. It started early in the morning (or is 1:40 am still considered night?) with a dog in a paroxysmal fit of "reverse sneezing," which interrupted my slumber. I never really got entirely back to sleep and I had a lot of homework ahead of me.

And then I read an article that just angered me (which just goes to show that I shouldn't be wasting time on social media when I have homework; shame on me). And I was angered at the number of people on my Facebook feed who were lauding it and sharing it. Stupid Facebook, I thought. I considered blogging about it, but thankfully, I knew I didn't have the time. Then, I went about getting my homework done. A few hours of parsing Greek nouns and reading Eusebius was therapeutic. And I realized that talking about it would not have been helpful.

It is so tempting to think that our well-crafted (or not so well-crafted) words will change the hearts of others. We believe our words will cause others to re-think things and change their minds. Some even think that shaming their opponents will work. It usually doesn't. People don't usually read a blog post and have a complete change of heart. Our belief that it does is what keeps the fires of debate raging. And most of the time, those arguments fall on deaf ears.

As I get older, I see the need to step away. Continuing a debate with the idealistic belief that my input will change someone's mind will ultimately drag me down. I will forget to do what Persis suggested in her post, to "think on these things." How much does my belief that I can change things motivate self-focused writing rather than honest reflection on my own heart and attention to the Word of God? As Persis said in her article, just because people don't engage doesn't mean they don't care. But there is a point when we must face the fact that we will change no one.

I am only 52, but I'm getting too old for that stuff. I am under no illusion that I can change anyone except myself. And even then, I need the Holy Spirit to do that. Of all the things I have learned over the years, the truth that I cannot change others has been the hardest. And really, it should not be such a surprise. It should be fairly self-evident. But it's freeing when you really think about it. I'm not responsible for the hearts of other people. I can give time and attention to do what Persis suggests: to think on the truths of God and let them change me.


Feeling my age

My Greek class has a wide variety of ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds. And for that reason -- among many --  I love it. Greek is offered to both seminary students and college students, and I have a college student sitting right behind me. He's old enough to be my son. He's a nice kid who reminds me a lot of my younger son. 

The woman who sits beside me is closer in age; probably at least ten years younger. We shared a chuckle the other when we took up the homework. One of the translation sentences contained a word that the workbook promised we would know if we said it out loud: Ἀνἀθεμα. It's the word "anathema." The younger students in the class maintained that even after saying it out loud, they did not recognize that word. It was only the older students (and probably some of the more widely read younger ones) who recognized it. There is one benefit of age.

Never more do I feel my age than in the last little while. Physically, I feel it a little, but most of my awareness comes as I interact with people. I listened to a podcast over the weekend that left me bewildered as to the appeal, but I wonder if that was simply a matter of me showing my age.

I don't think I'd want to be younger again. I'm content with where I am now. There are things I have learned and sanctification I've experienced that I would not want to give up. There are things I know now that I would not know apart from getting older.

One of the downsides, though, is that current culture is not always friendly to aging. In my Church History class we have seen repeatedly that back in the ancient church, anything new was immediately suspect. Christianity was seen as a "new" religion, and therefore regarded with hesitancy, not open arms. It is the opposite today. Whoever is the newest must surely be the best. And in some cases, the new is good, and the old is not so good, but that is not always the case. There are times, though, when I do fee doubly disadvantaged: I'm a woman and I'm over 50.

A few years ago, I had some of my writing being edited by a younger person. The editor took note and reminded me on more than one occasion that she was younger than I. It was not something I thought about, but she did. Perhaps she found it odd to be in a position of authority over an older woman. The relationship didn't last long, but in that brief time, I was struck by how much this editor focused on my age. 

My Greek professor is younger than many of us in the class. I don't think he dwells much on that fact. And as students, we are all in the same place: newbies trying to learn Greek. For myself, I am always happy to see someone else succeed. When we get together to share our translation homework answers, I'm silently cheering on whoever is offering the answer.  If the young kid behind me gets the answer right, I'm happy for him. I have personally found on a few occasions these past two years that it is often the young guys who are the most welcoming to the students who are old enough to be their moms. 

I'm never going to be one of those women who tries to look (or sound) younger than I am. I don't intend on wearing clothes my 28 year old daughter would or adopting the popular ways of speaking in order to distract myself or others. I'm thankful for what age has given me.

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