I decided to commit my life to following Christ five years ago.
To set the scene that led up to that decision, I was confused, depressed, and angry and couldn’t FOR THE LIFE OF ME figure out why. This is just the way I am, I would sometimes tell people when asked about my troubled state of mind. Most of the time, I shut everyone out so I could deal with my hurt on my own. Or NOT deal with it, I guess you could say.
I was fourteen years old and had been self-harming for several years. Maybe it was due to family problems, a result of perfectionism, or just experimentation… whatever it was, it was destructive. A good friend of mine reached a point where she couldn’t watch me do this to myself any longer. The night I resolved to quit self-harming and pursue a relationship with God was the night she communicated to me that it was getting too hard to be my friend (I really do thank her for that, and we are still friends to this day). The question she asked that I will forever carry with me was, Why can’t you just choose to be happy?
I didn’t have an answer. And at that point I knew that if I was ever going to be happy or escape this numb zombie-like state of being, there would have to be a higher power intervening in my life. I just couldn’t fix myself.
So I turned to God (and Jesus, because I am a Christian and believe that Jesus is the only way to be rescued). And I’ve been loving and following Him ever since.
But the depression that had led me to Him has been trying to tear me away ever since.
I wish I could tell you that I’m not at all like my fourteen-year-old self. I wish I could testify that God has healed me of all my depression and anxiety and desire to harm myself.
But He hasn’t. Not yet, at least.
It’s been five years and I still am an emotional mess. I still have frequent thoughts of self-harm. I still am hurting people by my withdrawal and unexplained sadness. I still am wondering how I’m going to make it through the day and if I should just curl up in a ball and pray for something to come along to kill me.
And I still don’t have answers. I can’t explain where all of this is coming from. I can’t pinpoint some horrid childhood experience that has made me this way. I’m still just as confused and lost.
Truthfully, I get angry at God for letting me be this way.
If you’re so powerful and can do anything, why won’t you heal me? Do you even WANT me healed? Or am I just a pawn in this world that’s supposed to deal with whatever comes to make sure you get the glory? Are you supposed to be glorified in this? Because if so, then I don’t want to glorify you. I don’t want to serve you. If you won’t free me from this, then why do I even bother?
I love God. I love Him so much.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard sometimes. It’s hard to follow Him. Cookie-cutter Christianity might tell you that it’s not hard to follow Jesus if you’re truly desiring to worship Him and surrender to Him. To that, I reply with, “Well, call me selfish, then… because this is the hardest thing in the world.” But don’t think it’s not also the most fulfilling. It is.
I just want you to know the truth. I’m not some phenomenal writer and amazing person who goes and selflessly spends her summer with refugees because she’s such a great follower of Jesus. I’m not the optimist I used to be labeled as in high school. I’m not even the realist/almost-cynic I get labeled as now in college.
I’m just a girl who’s fighting to know what it means to love God while not knowing how to love herself.
I’m not doing the best job at fighting, but I’m working on it and I think that’s worth something.
Of course there are days (many of them, actually) where I tear myself down for still struggling with this depression and these awful thoughts.
If I believe in God so much, why am I not praying more against this? If I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, why am I not standing in faith and rebuking these lies and attacks? If I am hurting so much, why am I not seeking counseling or medication? If I’m so depressed, then why do I still find ways to smile and have friends and do fun things?
But there’s a little part of me that also pats myself on the back. Good job, Jessie! You hate your life but you still carve out time each morning to talk to Jesus. You want to self-harm, but you haven’t in FIVE YEARS. You feel so much and sometimes it makes you numb, but at least you don’t make yourself not feel anything. You still let yourself love and be loved– not perfectly, but you’re making progress.
There’s much victory to be celebrated in my story. I don’t feel victorious all the time, but I know that God has done some really amazing things in my life. He’s gotten the glory, whether I wanted Him to or not. He’s doing the healing, and I’m letting Him.
I’ve been afraid of losing credibility or being rejected for having these thoughts and struggles, but in all actuality, they make me so RELEVANT. I’m not fixed, and that’s okay. No one is. I’m just one step closer to being free. Five years closer, to be more exact.
By not admitting to these things and not letting you see the real me, I’m just putting shackles around my wrists again. The shackles that God did away with when He put His Son on a cross.
Christianity didn’t fix me; Christ just frees me.
Frees me from having to pretend my life is together. Frees me from the shame that has kept me silent for far too long.
I want to be brave in this very moment and show people they can be brave, too.
So here I am, sticking out my trembling hand to whoever you are, hoping you’ll take it.