Mental Illness, Spiritual

High Anxiety – Affliction, not sin

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“Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ” – C.S. Lewis

By: Jana Greene

Oh, C.S. Lewis. How I would love to go back (or forward) in time and pick you brain. Your thoughts so messy, yet austere. I just want to smoke a pipe (vanilla tobacco, please) beside a lit fireplace at a table for two – the kind of table that’s too small to eat a meal on, but too big to be a nightstand. And I want to say, “THANK YOU!” Thank you, that you did not regard anxiety as SIN (which seems to be, unfortunately, a consideration of the modern church proper.)

Dear readers, if you don’t already know, I suffer from anxiety, depression, ADD and OCD, and it’s been a life long issue.

I think I was born anxious.

When I was a five-year old frozen in fear just walking into the kindergarten class, I wasn’t sinning.

When I display compulsive behaviors, I have no evil intent. (Oh, and being diagnosed OCD was SUCH a shock – not because I knew it was true, but because I thought I hid it from the world so WELL.)

When my heart will simply not beating 125 beats per minute, it’s not a demon makin’ it tick.

When I cannot focus on one thing for 10 seconds, God is not disappointed in me.

When my brain confuses being chased by a T-Rex with emailing a resume, it’s not sin – it’s out of my control – fight or flight.

Anxiety is what led to my alcoholism. It took the edge off, eventually it took me past the edge.

I thought it was a wonderful thing because all of my mom friends drank wine – I just drank mine out of a Big Gulp cup. With a lid. And a straw. I do not suggest this method of anxiety quelling, it’s highly non-sustainable. I didn’t know when to stop, and that’s why I don’t do that anymore. Haven’t for 15 years, hallelujah!

But I still contend with depression/anxiety/ADD/OCD. I just do it sober now. And it can be very difficult. I really don’t care who knows it because it is what it is and I try to write authentically.

What does anxiety feel like to me?

It feels involuntary. SO involuntary.

It feels like asking Jesus to take the wheel, but being sure the steering fluid is low.

It feels like you are the only kid in class who forgot to get her permission slip signed, and now you can’t go to the museum.

My body reacts to a crowded aisle in Walmart as if I were a wolf willing to chew my own leg off to escape the trap. (For some reason, Walmart just does me in.)

It feels like I am too awkward to inhabit a planet with normal people who don’t have panic attacks on the regular. Plus, I forget what to do with my face a lot.

It feels like a stutter in your soul.

It feels like abandonment. Remember a time when someone walked away from you for good? That feeling. The first five minutes after it occurred to you that the person was never coming back. Now replay those 5 minutes in an endless loop.

It feels like I’m sorry for being this way!

It feels overwhelming. Worry, doubt, pray. Or is it pray, doubt, worry? See? I just can’t get it straight.

It feels like DOOM. Not just regular doom, but DOOOOOOOOOOM.

It’s being certain nobody likes you, because you are, well, weird.

I have been prayed over, prayed for, where two or more are gathered or two dozen are gathered. I have felt like a sub-par Christian because my healing didn’t ‘stick’ – and that’s a really crappy feeling, ya’ll. It is pouring gasoline on a fire.

So now, I’m anxiety-ridden AND my faith is too puny to do any good?

Nobody judges the diabetic whose insulin will not bow at the feet of the cross, but people will drown you in holy water trying to get depression to go. (By the way, I do believe depression can be a spirit, but I also believe early childhood trauma, genetics, or just plain chemistry can rile up a good baseline anxiety.)

I really fail to see how mental illness is any different.

I would rather not battle mental illness, but if I must, I will try to consider it from your point of view, Mr. Lewis (‘May I call you C.S.?”)

My Abba circuited my brain just as He pleased, and did so for a reason. There were environmental events that tightened the screws. He allowed things to shape me, just as He is shaping YOU. I believe that all of it – the janky humanity in us – I believe Jesus walks with us and in us, and that’s what His heart really longs for. It isn’t the ‘alphabet soup’ disorder that defines me, it’s that I’m His.

So sometimes I freak out, and its scary because I don’t even totally understand it, but always, always I feel God’s presence, even when I can’t calm down. My anxiety doesn’t scare Him away.

He is less concerned in having a vast army of perfect people – a master race of Christians who pray away anxiety, and never say a potty word. Followers who have gotten it ‘all together.’

I believe He loves all His misfits right where they are.

How much more passionate might we be with the mentally ill if we considered their affliction as sharing in the Passion of the Christ?

Kind of flips things up, no?

Our share of the passion.

Thanks, C.S., for the reminder.

God bless us, every one.

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Spiritual, Spirituality

A God Most Intimate

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Part 5 of The Seismic Seven Series

By: Jana Greene

“I don’t believe in God. I know God! Once you know someone, believing is no longer a concern.” — Wm. Paul Young (Eve: A Novel)

I once wrote a blog post about the disservice atheists do to children in persuading them that there is no God. Sure enough, I received a comment from a fellow blogger and devout atheist (if you can be such a thing) chastising me for perpetuating a myth.

To read the article, click here:   Little Humans, Big Faith

“I’ve lost nothing if I’ve base my life on love. Not a single thing,” I asserted in the piece. To which he countered: “So you would consider basing your life around a lie a good use of your time?”

“Kids are the most questioning people on the planet and God wants us to come to him as little children. I think He definitely gets it. I think He knows that we are curious and that’s okay,” I wrote.

“Sounds extremely spooky but not a very reliable method of forming beliefs,” said he.

Oh, dude. You have no idea how supernatural it really is. My faith is the most reliable thing in my life, far more so than my emotions or book-sense.

Believing in God is risky business. But even that is not enough for me. I crave the intimacy of KNOWING God.

One of the most powerful talking points at The Open Table Conference was about intimacy with the Father. I just eat that up. I’m not content to walk beside Jesus anymore – I want the union whereby He is in my spirit and I am in His. The kind of relationship you simply cannot figure out with the brain, and really don’t need to.

“Some things in life you just aren’t going to be able to think your way through—so you might as well save yourself the stress by simply trusting your way through them.” – Steve McVey (The Grace Walk Devotional)

There’s that “trusting” thing again. Pesky trusting, there is no shortcut to it.

“The Christian God is interested in relationship with us, and not just relationship, but union, and not just union, but such a union that everything He is and has—all glory and fullness, all joy and beauty and unbridled life—is to be shared with us and to become as much ours as it is His. The plan from the beginning, in the Christian vision, is that God would give Himself to us, and nothing less, so that we could be filled to overflowing with the divine life.” — C. Baxter Kruger (Jesus and the Undoing of Adam)

The conversation between my atheist friend and I continued in a few more comment exchanges. He asked me if I thought we had disembodied minds, and I prayed a bit before I answered:

Can I prove that to you? No, I know it in my heart of hearts. Do I need to prove it to you? No. Because you cannot prove something that is true in the Spirit to a mind that is closed off to the possibility of there even BEING a spirit. It’s like proving to you that I am having thoughts about chocolate by showing you my big toe. Yes, my mind and body are related and intertwined, but not exactly the same thing. Different parts of me.

I’ve seen supernatural things, and have not found them lacking in evidence or reality at all! Spooky? Sometimes. Glorious and ethereal? Oh, yes. (I’m a natural-born skeptic, too, believe it or not.)

Can you prove that love exists? Can you bottle it, break down its chemical make-up (yes, I know you can manufacture serotonin, etc. That’s not what I’m talking about.) No. But you can see the manifestations of it all over the place. Ditto evil. Manifested everywhere.
It’s enough to make your brain hurt. If you try to process it only with your brain.  The spirit of a person is not their disembodied mind at all.

“Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning.” – C.S. Lewis.

The crazy thing about faith is that it will respect your wishes. If you wish to hold God at bay by choosing not to take the risk of knowing, you will never know. If you wish to know the Father in the most intimate parts of your spirit, He will meet you there.

Don’t take my word for it that God wants the closest relationship with you possible. Don’t even take these learned Theologians’ words for it. During the entire workshop, we participants were encouraged not only to think for ourselves, but “Ask Jesus if it’s true.”

Ask Him yourself. Approach the throne – He welcomes your curiosity. He honors your seeking of the truth. If you don’t seek, you will not find out it’s true.

“The challenge to have more faith about a specific outcome is often nothing more than a religious promotion for positive thinking.” — Steve McVey (Beyond an Angry God)

It’s easy to call it a myth or a fairy tale, or an exercise in positive thinking. Its easy if you’ve never tasted the truth. But OH! When you know the glory and fullness, all joy and beauty and unbridled life – there’s no going back.

And yes, I consider basing my life around The Truth a very good use of my time.

Spiritual

Great Faith and the Bigger Picture

By:  Jana Greene

“And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ.  My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along.  Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!” –  Saint Paul, Ephesians 3:9-10

I am inspired by The Greats.  Saint Paul was definitely a great man.

As was  C.S. Lewis, the Oxford-educated Novelist who penned The Chronicles of Narnia, among other works.  He himself had been a staunch atheist before his conversion to Christianity, explaining that in his youth, he had been “very angry with God for not existing”.   I have read everything I can get my hands on by Mr. Lewis and have an appreciation for his amazing mind.  Still, I would love to sit down and have a cup Irish tea with him, and pick his brain.

I’ve a feeling that his musings might be “over my head”.

There are so many things I don’t understand.  What is God doing about the things that seem to make no sense?  What about the good and lovely human beings who suffer with cancer or mental illness or addiction and whose lives are claimed by those things?  The ones who fight as hard as they are able and trust in God’s strategy in spite of the predicted outcome?

Those people – they are The Greats as well.

Yesterday, the world lost such a great man.   He was a dear friend to my husband and I – an amazing husband to his wife of forty-eight years, and an incredible father to his daughters.  He was a gentle giant, a man who trusted that God was working behind the scenes.  He suffered intermittently with cancer for twenty-two years, and although he doesn’t walk with us on earth anymore, the cancer did not win.

My friend – The Great – is in paradise now, whole in his brand-new glorified body.  The cancer is dead.

I was blessed to be able to talk to This Great about his struggles.  Frankly and plainly, he  talked about dying sometimes, but more often he talked about living.  He was a living example of the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ; about the life he was honored to live – however long that might be.  He made plain the word of God with his faith.  He would never want his passing to be considered tragic.  He would want others to look at the bigger picture.  How many lives did he impact with twenty-two years of unrelenting faith and love for other people?

Am I angry at God for existing, but not stopping the disease that claimed my friend’s earthly life?

Perhaps a little, if I’m honest.  But God looks after The Greats, he looks after all of us.  Even in issues that seem to be over our heads.  The things that make no sense make no sense because we aren’t privy to the back-story, the Master strategy.  That’s just simple faith.  Simple, life-giving faith.

C.S. Lewis also said:  “Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave with regret?  There are better things ahead than any we should leave behind!”

That, I can understand.

Today, Heaven rejoices that my friend – The Great – suffers no more.   I like to think he might be sitting down to a cup of Irish tea with Mr. Lewis, considering things that remain over our earthly heads.

With the Father whose plan is perfect, there among the angels.