The Better Reminder
Last week I chose to share a little bit about my wrestle with depression over the years. If you didn’t get the chance, feel free to check out the last post called “A Reminder.” My story includes anxiety, depression, self-harm, and a confused girl whose outside world didn’t match her internal one. I felt a strong urge to write about the “face” of depression and loving people in the midst of it because so often people who we know to be joy-filled or “happy” are the ones who suffer and don’t know how to express themselves when suddenly their disposition doesn’t match their usual self. This dissonance is important and still not talked about enough. However, I want to now address the also important fact that there is hope even when it feels like there is no light at the end of the tunnel, even when you feel ten feet under, and even when you feel like you are suffocating with no way to get air.
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In the midst of my depression (and honestly for a long while after) I was angry with God and desperate to be reminded I was loved and known.
One night during my junior year of high school, I was gifted a book called “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers. I read it in one day, staying up reading until three in the morning.
The book is based on a book in the Bible called Hosea. In Francine’s sort of Victorian-era version there is a prostitution victim named Angel. Angel has grown up with a completely shattered background. Since she was born she was unwanted and abused, raped as a child, and sold into sex slavery, among other terrible horrors. A man named Michael Hosea feels the Lord tell him to marry Angel, and he does so, but practically against her will. Over and over again Angel runs away from Michael because she can’t fathom a man that who would love her after all of the terrors she had done and been put through. . Over and over again Michael runs after her. In the end—spoiler alert—the Lord speaks to Angel, calling her Beloved to get her attention, renames her Sarah, and she eventually makes her way back to Michael on her own.
The entire time I read the book I just kept getting pissed off at Angel. I wanted to keep telling her, “No! Seriously, just stay there! He loves you!” At around 3 a.m. I finished this book, closed it, and laid up looking at my ceiling. Suddenly, I began to weep like I’ve never wept before or since. I cried for hours, staying up until nearly five. The Lord spoke to me in those moments after finishing the book, “Seriously, just stay there, sweet girl! I love you!”
It finally occurred to me I was Angel. I had been running from the Lord because I could not fathom that Yahweh, the Great I Am, the King of Kings, and the Prince of Peace would want anything to do with some broken misfit like me. I’d been running from any kind of love that sought me out because I didn’t know what love “felt” like anymore; my emotions were strangled and suffocated by chemical imbalances and medications and anxieties. But love isn’t an emotion, love is a covenant. Love is a promise that sticks around when it doesn’t feel like it.
I had many people in that season I thought I “loved” that didn’t really love me at all. But I also had people that loved me, and I mean really, truly loved me, even when I was doing my best to shove them out in the midst of my confusion and darkness. I had a friend checking my wrist every morning between classes. I had a YoungLife leader writing notes about my future she told me I would be around for. I had a mom waking up in the middle of the night just to come in and make sure I was still there, alive. I had a dad stabilizing my breathing every time I blacked out with hyperventilation and anxiety attacks. Maybe you don’t have amazing people like that, or didn’t have that. Maybe you’ve never had issues with mental illness. But I have to tell you friends, that we have a God whose very nature is true love (1 John 4:8). We have a God that will chase after us each and every time we run away. We have a God who will carry us when we are tired (Matthew 11:28-30), pray for us when we have no words (Romans 8:26), and fight for us when we are beaten down (Romans 8:31).
I must tell you I did not have some grand healing after reading this book. Depression and anxiety were not instantly lifted off my shoulders because I had another level of revelation with God. Our God is capable of that, but it isn’t my story.
Nope, no instant healing on this one. But it dawned on me that God didn’t dump depression on me because I had screwed up along the way or sinned so badly I deserved it. God wasn’t simply watching on the sidelines while I tried to sort it out; He wasn’t waiting at the finish line for me to beat depression and then resume a relationship with me when I was “better.” I finally realized that, as broken and fouled up as I was, I could stop running from the One who would love me in the midst of it. In fact, I finally realized that I could stop running from all the people who would love me in the midst of it. I had an understanding for the first time that God will always call me Beloved in the midst of my brokenness.
So today, if no one has told you yet, you are called Beloved in the midst of your brokenness. And today, if no one has told you yet, there is a whole host in Heaven fighting for you. And today, if no one has told you yet, there is a world waiting to see what you bring to it tomorrow.
Please Note: Being the Beloved of God turns ugly pasts, hurts, and wounds into beautiful works of art. My wrist, which was once marked by scars of self-harm, is now painted with the word “Beloved” as a permanent reminder that my identity is determined by a relentless, covenant love.