The Adventures of Bipolar Girl

Comfort for the Neurotic in All of Us

The Road Taken: What Forgiveness IS Not

I guess the issue of forgiveness became thing for me when I left the mission field for the second time. That was a year after I’d done my discipleship training class. That part of the adventure had started badly, but had actually ended well… SO well, that a year later, I found myself signing up to be a member of the crew. I was supposed to be their Communications Officer. It was going to be my job to ferret out the stories of what God was doing through the ministry and then write about them. My plan was to commit the next five years of my life to missionary service and I had done so willingly. I gave up everything I had, packed a bag, and caught a flight to Australia where the ship was stationed between outreaches to the South Pacific.

When I went on the mission field, I was full of hope and zeal. When I left the mission field, I was bitter and broken because of two of the leaders on board the ship.  They didn’t think the ship needed a writer. They thought I was taking up a bed that a real crew member could use. They didn’t want me there and made sure that I knew it. The husband told me to my face that I was “too big for my boots” and that he needed to “take me down a few pegs.” The wife went out of her way to needle me and micro-manage everything that I did.  My mental and physical health started to suffer, so I contacted the home office in New Zealand and begged them for help.

From that far away, however, they weren’t in a position to do anything to help me, so I quit. If they wouldn’t help me, I couldn’t stay. I gave up my dream of being a writer for Jesus because of two leaders who hurt me and because of the other leaders who couldn’t help me. Unfortunately, the two leaders on the ship held everybody’s passports and when I asked to leave, they wouldn’t accept my resignation. They wouldn’t let me leave the ship. That only served to make me feel trapped and my mental health began to rapidly unravel. My health got so bad that the ship’s doctor and the Captain had to intervene on my behalf.

I didn’t know how to mentally process the destruction of my dreams. It didn’t help that I left the ship as a pariah with my faith in tatters while they continued to smile and nod for the cameras. Ours was a very public philanthropy… and they had the Colgate smiles. The day I left the ship, I was set ashore in some podunk town on the island of Vanuatu… I was sick and delirious; nearly penniless and all alone; and I couldn’t do much more than lay crying in a bed in some tiny room in a nameless hotel.

Self-Pity had waited for just such an opportune moment to start whispering in my ear:  What had I done to deserve their treatment of me? All I’d wanted to do was serve the Lord. I was finally getting to use all my gifts and talents for God and his glory. I felt like he had designed me for just that purpose. So, how had things blown up so badly??!

If I had continued to listen to Self-Pity, it would have gone badly for me, but things changed in an instant. As I lay in that bed feeling like I was dying… I heard singing. I heard the high-pitched voices of local school children singing en masse from the nearby school. They were singing praise songs to Jesus. I can’t remember if they were singing in English, French or the local dialect. Whatever language they were singing in, though, I knew the song:

This is the day (this is the day)
That the Lord has made (that the Lord has made)
I will rejoice (I will rejoice)
And be glad in it (and be glad in it)
This is the day that the Lord has made.
I will rejoice and be glad in it!
This is the day (this is the day)
That the Lord HAS made!

 

And in that moment, self-pity was defeated by worship of the living God. Hearing that song reminded me that God was still God. He knew exactly where I was and he had seen everything that happened to me. He knew that I’d been badly broken and that my faith was nearly destroyed…and he cared. Yes, I would need to forgive those leaders, but in THAT moment, I needed to be loved and comforted by the God of All Comfort. I needed my Father and he showed up with singing.

That failed missions experience became the backdrop for all future lessons on forgiveness for me because it showed me what forgiveness isn’t. Over the years, I’ve heard a lot of messages in church and read a lot of books about forgiveness because I knew I needed to forgive a lot of people who had hurt me. I sought out forgiveness the way I’d sought out truth (with dogged determination), but when my pain and brokenness persisted, I felt like I had failed…. like I was failing at the Christian walk.

At the time, I didn’t know that I had a mental illness, but even after I was diagnosed… I thought that forgiveness would make the pain and depression go away. Well-meaning Christians would see my depression and my brokenness and would be quick to tell me that my problem was unforgiveness. If I could just find it in me somewhere in my heart to forgive everybody who had hurt me over the years everything would be ok (as if that thought never occurred to me).

For years, I have listened to “well-meaning, but soul crushing” advice from Christians who were quick to diagnose unforgiveness as the cause of all the world’s ills. Don’t get me wrong, forgiveness is central to the Christian faith, but people in their zeal to forgive have lost sight of what true heart, forgiveness really is. I honestly don’t know if I can always say what real forgiveness looks like, but in a tiny hotel room in the middle of the South Pacific, I learned what true forgiveness (from the heart) IS NOT:

I. Forgiveness Is Not Denial

Some people would have you act like the hurt never happened. All you have to do is slap on a mask and act like everything is ok… even if you’re a bleeding mess on the inside. Forgiving people who hurt you isn’t pretending that the hurt didn’t happen or that the bruises don’t still exists. Scriptures says that we are supposed to confront a brother who “sins against you” and that we “should speak the truth in love” to our neighbors and not “let the sun go down” on our anger.

God is not a God of denial.

Saying that somebody hurt me or confronting them about the hurt that they caused isn’t being a bad or unforgiving Christian. It’s being a good communicator who knows how to set healthy boundaries. It’s understanding that real reconciliation can only happen after real forgiveness has been given and received. Stuffing the pain until you’re ready to blow? That’s not only unhealthy, but it’s unscriptural.

For me, this has never been an issue. When people hurt me, I am quick to slap on the “Victim” label. And while there is a place and time for acknowledging and remembering the victims of violence or abuse, God never meant for us to camp there. Self-pity is straight from the pit. It’s idolatrous. It makes you question the goodness of God. It puts you and your pain on the throne. How could a good God let you be hurt like that? Doesn’t he care??

Two words: The cross.

I spent years wearing the Victim label. I couldn’t forget that the pain had happened because it still hurt. I wanted to be healed. I wanted to be vindicated. I wanted them to apologize and then I wanted them to pay. I wanted justice. I wanted the spiritual equivalent of a public flogging.

Clinging too tightly to the “Victim Label” will quickly cause the wounded party to become the Prideful Debtor. The hurt was real and the person may owe you an apology. They may even owe you damages. But if you put yourself and your pain on the throne, then you start to feel entitled… like God owes you something and then you morph into the Unforgiving Debtor. How are you supposed to forgive them? They had hurt you immeasurably. “Nobody knew the trouble you’d seen.” You would forgive them when they settled the debt– when they gave you what they owed you.

Four words: Cannot surpass the cross.

 

II. Forgiveness Is NOT Condoning or Excusing the Offense:

“Laurel, I’m sorry I hurt you.”

“Oh… that’s okay.”

Actually…it’s NOT okay. Any time somebody hurts another person whether it is intentional or not, it is not “ok.” This has never been my issue either. If somebody cares enough to actually apologize to me, the correct response from me is, “I forgive you.”

One year I taught third grade at a private (and very entitled) school. The parents were not happy with the new owners and chose to direct their anger at me since I was present and the out-of-state owners were not. We had what I call the “Back-to-School Night-MARE” where those rock throwing parents hurled all their anger and insults at me. I stood in front in my classroom in front of an angry mob of parents who verbally abused me until I started crying. And it was NOT okay.

I nearly quite that job that night, but I needed that job to live so I stayed. The wounds from that night, however, took years to heal. After that, I was afraid to do my job because I was afraid of the parents… ALL parents…which made teaching elementary school anywhere a nightmare for me. I would not wish what they did to me that night on my worst enemy’s worst enemy. In time, I was able to forgive them even though most of them never apologized. In time, I even came to see that they had a right to be angry with the new owners, but they didn’t have a right to take it out on me. That will never be “ok.”


III. Forgiveness Is Not Avoidance

BINGO!

That’s my issue. While my basic nature is confrontational and I’ve been named “The Canary MOST Likely to Sing”… I tend to run from confrontation in favor of finding the nearest corner to hide in and lick my wounds. Historically, I’ve been afraid to deal with the problem (any problem) especially when it involves people in authority over me. Scripture says that we are supposed to submit to the authorities over us… but I have a tough time believing the blanket interpretations of this.

If we are called to unequivocally submit to all authorities over us, including unjust rulers, then the Israelites shouldn’t have gotten the hell outta’ Egypt. David should have slowed down and let Saul catch him and kill him. Mary and Joseph should have stuck around so that Pharaoh could have killed the baby Jesus. I mean… after all, he’d given a royal decree that all the boy babies should be found and killed. Again, don’t get me wrong, submission is also central to the Christian faith, but I can think of many instances where people have disobeyed those in authority in favor of a higher good.

Consequently, my sketchy understanding of submission puts me in “flight mode” when a leader is the one who hurts me. Then my passive/aggressive Canary-isms kick in and I feel compelled to “Say What I Need to Say” because my mental health is beginning to suffer under their leadership. I end up having imaginary conversations with that person where I tell them how much they hurt me or how things need to change. I write them letters that I will never send because I need to vent. I start to lose sleep because I’m having bad dreams and nightmares. I start to feel tense and emotionally fragile because none of the mentally stable people around me will say anything to right the situation.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It is usually the weak who suffer when the strong don’t act. My mental illness has put me squarely in the “weak camp” for years. I never speak up because I’m trying to be a good person. When my mental health starts to be shaken… I start to sing like a canary because I want them to stop hurting me. I want them to go away. I want God to do something. I want justice! To hell with mercy.

And that’s where the Unforgiving Debtor went. When faced with the choice to forgive the lesser debt of a peer, that guy in the parable forgot that he’d been forgiven a greater debt. The King in that parable turned the guy over to be put in jail and tortured. The guy was turned over to be… torture.

God. Torture.

God?? Torture?!!

Something just doesn’t compute with that equation, but it’s there in scripture if you don’t believe me. A pastor once pointed out that the torture comes to us in our own minds. The people who hurt us? They’ve gone on their oblivious little way with nary a thought about us or what happened. They have been eating, drinking, and making merry not caring (or not knowing) about the hurt and devastation that they have caused.

I have been hurt by a lot of people…and all the while I’ve tossed and turned for years of mental and emotional torture. Years of bad dreams, nightmares, and gnashing of teeth caused by the anger that I let the sun go down on. I was trapped in the prison of my own mind. The air in the Bipolar Bubble was getting really toxic. With each new hurt that happened over the years, I started saying stuff like, “Why does this kind of stuff ALWAYS happen to me?” It became harder and harder for me to forgive new offenses.

Just before I moved back to Maui I had another lesson in forgiveness. I couldn’t forgive my employer at that entitled school in California. She wasn’t an educator, so her rigid and unrealistic policies did not make any sense to any of the teaching staff. They used to call her a Nazi behind her back. The entitled parents would just grumble and complain to us about the owners. All the mentally stable people had ways of coping with the stress she regularly threw into our yards, but Bipolar Girl didn’t and I began to crack under the pressure of her demands. I just became more and more depressed and afraid. She told me that I was the “weakest link in the chain” and made me feel like a total failure as a teacher and as a Christian.

When she came to town just before I left for Hawaii, I didn’t know how I’d face her without wanting to scream at her. I asked God for wisdom and courage to know how to confront her. His answer came the first day of staff meetings. I confronted her in truth without robbing her of her dignity and without dishonoring or disrespecting her. The next day, I was excused from the rest of the meetings. I had already resigned, so those meetings didn’t pertain to me.

I was determined to avoid her at all costs. She would only be in town a few more days. I could coast under the radar and not say anything at all. Or I could have if I hadn’t told God that I was committed to forgiving her in the three days that I had left in her employ. I told God to do whatever it took to teach me about forgiveness and reconciliation.

His answer was the meeting on Monday where I could finally look her in the eye and tell her how her words and actions affected the staff. Being excused on Tuesday was a godsend. I needed a break from her, so I could pray and be still before God. I had another one of those imaginary conversations with her… and then… somewhere along the way I just stopped being mad. I was working in my classroom when she came to see me.

FLIGHT MODE ACTIVATED.

Only thing is… I couldn’t hide.  My classroom only has two doors and she was standing in one of them. I couldn’t very well run out the other. Where would I go? What would be the point? I couldn’t avoid her any longer. God was still God and knew exactly where I was.

So… I looked her in the eye and asked if she had time to meet tomorrow. She was leaving the next day and I couldn’t avoid the issue of forgiving her. Yes, she was in authority over me. Yes, she hurt me. No, I wasn’t denying or condoning it… but in that moment, I wasn’t avoiding it either.

I’m not sure what forgiveness actually looked like between us. I blogged about it, but that post disappeared in cyberspace. I don’t remember what happened. I just know that God brought me to a point where I wanted to forgive her as I had been forgiven. He led me to a point where I had the courage to meet with her. She and I did not become BFFs. I never saw her once I moved to Maui… but I know that when we parted, God gave me closure. Real forgiveness had taken place, because I had submitted my hurt, my pain, my need for justice, and my fear…to Him.

Five words: Lay it at the cross.

 

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The Road Trip Taken (The Preface)

A friend of mine and I (I’m actually her mentor) set off this morning on a spiritual journey. We were going to drive the North Shore of the island to go to Wainapanapa, the black sand beach, but the whole raison d’etre was to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

Our first stop on the journey found us standing on a beach on the Keanae Peninsula, each of us with a fist full of rocks that we flung, with all our might, into the ocean.  And it set the tone for our entire day… and what a day it was!!! Our trek down to Wainapanapa was, in a word: AMAZING.

I… however… am too hot, sweaty, and tired from all the driving to blog about it now. But since this is one part of the adventure that I don’t want to forget, I will write more in the next few days. So I will preface whatever I will eventually write with a poem that I wrote eons ago. It explains the symbolism behind the rock throwing because without that understanding, it just seems like two girls got in a car and drove for hours to throw rocks.

 

Jesus Has Forgiven Me…

 

One day I went to the beach

and ended up throwing stones...

One stone for each person
that I was angry with…

then one stone
for each of their wrongs.

 

With all my strength I threw those stones,

one right after another

with each stone I threw

I cried out my pain;

I sobbed it all out
to my Father.

 

I’d tried to hold it in you see…

the anger and the pain.

I vowed to keep myself aloof

They’d never hurt me again.

 

It seemed like hours I stood there

In truth, it wasn’t long

As I threw the stones

and talked to God, my arm

which had started strong…

began to lose the strength

to hold on to the pain.

 

2,000 years ago-

somewhere near Galilee

some “righteous”… angry men

would stone a woman

for adultery.

 

They looked straight at Jesus

while holding on to stones..

We all know how the story ends,

with the woman and Jesus alone:

no condemnation for her sins.

 

Yet, what of the zealous rock throwers?

By Law they had a right —

But how might their lives been changed that day

if they’d walked by faith not sight?

IF, in your anger you should not sin,

then what were those men to do?

They dropped their stones and walked away

learning nothing new.

 

What if they’d gone down to the beach

on the shores of Galilee?

And threw the stones

and all their anger

straight into the sea?

 

Or… what if

when they were with the Lord,

and he challenged the sinless to throw,

that each, in turn

had confessed their sin

and asked him which way to go…

 

Neither hurled at the woman

nor left on the ground

Not reserved for another

day

 

Had they acknowledge their anger and sins

to the Lord–

He would have shown them
the way…

 

He might have led them to a beach somewhere

on the shores of Galilee…

And gave each man
a pile of stones

and then
said,
“Give them to me.”

Bipolar Girl vs Hepatitis (Part 1)

9/11 was a rough day for me, but not for the reasons you might expect. The work day was good… very educational. Most of my ELL students had no real clue what 9/11 really was so I took it upon myself to educate them. Trying to explain 9/11 to a bunch of students from tiny island nations who were only about 3 or 4 years old at time was an interesting experience.

They perceive the event with no filters or biases. They know nothing about the history of their new country. They experience the tragedy second or third hand unlike most of us. Most people living in the US at that time can remember EXACTLY where they were and what they were doing when it happened. I was getting dressed for work and was watching the news. I immediately went on sensory overload as I watched news report after report showing the planes crashing into the towers.

I retreated into the Bipolar Bubble and stayed there for the better part of 10 years. There are NO terrorist in the Bipolar Bubble. I tuned out all news coverage of the event and stopped watching the news at all. I have no idea of what went on in the world from that moment on because I had to block out all news in order to stay mentally stable.

Fear, however, exists in the Bipolar Bubble. I couldn’t escape it.

Fear has been my constant companion for years. Small fears, large fears… EXTREMELY large fears?? They all crowded into the Bubble with me, often making it difficult to breathe or to see reason. To those who live outside the Bubble, my fears seem funny at best and totally irrational at worse. Some of my fears God has called me to confront and to overcome (like my fear of heights)… but there are other fears that are strongholds that have roots so deeply that I cannot overcome these things on my own. They need prayer.

God has been showing me my need for inner healing for years. But because of my history with deliverance ministries et all, I’ve been less than eager to participate in inner healing ministries now. I’ve been disappointed by some of those healing ministries in the past and traumatized by others. I know I NEED inner healing. I know that it is not healthy to be as phobic as I am. Over much of this year, God has been prompting me to overcome my fears by naming them. Just as a doctor has to diagnose an illness to effectively treat it, God has called me to write  a detailed list and not just lump everything under the catch-all title of, “Fear.”

Last month I posted about my two Fear Lists (short and long versions) around the time we had my “I Believe I Can Fly” party.  I am not the only person weighted down by a mountain of fear.Somewhere, out there, somebody else needed to know that what they were feeling (while not healthy) isn’t totally unusual and that God wanted to set them free too.

A few posts back I blogged, “Bipolar Girl vs. the Active Shooter” about how I had to confront two of my biggest fears. That event actually happened on 9/15. What a way to end a week, right?

The week started with 9/11 where I had to confront an older, long standing fear (Terrorists). Our world changed that day. Fear erupted onto the world stage and made everybody afraid. The world that my students have inherited was birthed out of that fear. But that wasn’t the only fear I had to deal with that day.

I left work in a good mood. At the end of the day I put on my workout gear and drove to the YMCA. I’ve been walking the tread mill and using the stair stepper. I have lost nearly 30lbs. After what should have been an emotionally draining day, I went to the gym and worked out. I felt good. That is... until I got home and checked my email. My doctor emailed me my test results. It wasn’t actually from my doctor, though. It was one of those automated responses that they send. Given all of my health problems over the past few years, I am not a stranger to those automated responses. I go to the website and I pull up the list of whatever recent tests I’ve had and I look at the results. They have all sorts of nifty graphs and charts to show you how your results have changed over time.

When I started the 90 Day Heart Health Challenge I’d had blood work  done to have a baseline. The plan was to do the tests again after I finished the challenge to see if anything had changed. I’d had a physical with my doctor to go over those results and while I was there she’d ordered some other tests. When I went off the lithium, a lot of my unexplained illnesses and symptoms just went away. We now blame all of those problems on long term lithium use. But there were still some problems that were persistent and diet, exercise, and life style changes weren’t making them go away.

My doctor ordered other tests to be done. I thought they were formalities to rule stuff out. I was expecting to see the usual graphs and charts. I was not expecting to open the test results and see one word leap off the page: POSITIVE.

All of the blood rushed from my face.

For a moment it felt like I was completely numb. God picked 9/11 to have me deal with #5 on my “Top 10 List of Fears“??!! For a moment Self-Pity swooped in and grabbed me by the neck. POSITIVE?? I wasn’t expecting anything to come back POSITIVE. Where the hell was my little chart?? Why was there no graph??! #5?? For those of you who missed the Fear List post:

#5: Catastrophic Health Problems (disease, disability, dismemberment/mental and physical)

Fear was waiting for just such an opportunity… but it never happened. I didn’t freak out. I don’t just BELIEVE I can fly… I KNOW I can! I KNEW God had me.

“…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Zip-lining wasn’t just about strapping on a harness and flying. It was a forever reminder that I have finally learned to hope in and wait upon the LORD. Instead of going to my dark, scary place where Fear could whisper in my ear that I was dying and only had months to live… or how UNFAIR God was being after ALL that he’d put me through… I called a friend on the mainland for prayer (I can count the number of times I’ve ever called anybody when I’ve been in crisis for prayer on one hand)…

Only thing is… I wasn’t in crisis. I needed prayer to make sure I didn’t spiral down to that scary place, but rather than dissecting my feelings and having her commiserate with me, I ended the call. I did what I needed to do to help dispel the fear: First, I put a prayer flare on Facebook asking people to pray. I didn’t include details because I realized that I didn’t really have any. I just said that I got some disturbing test results and I needed prayer. And then, I went to work. I am a researcher. Actually, I am a truth seeker. I’m like Luke in the bible, I ferret out the truth, so that I can make informed decisions. At least I do when fear is not controlling the space craft. Fear about my health has always had the power to make me go from Zero to IRRATIONAL faster than you could blink.

I spent upwards four hours on 9/11 scouring the internet for everything I could find and understand about Hepatitis. I didn’t know if it was life threatening or not. I didn’t know what it was. I just knew that the test result had come back POSITIVE.  The doctor had also had me tested for HIV… and I hadn’t  gotten that result back yet. I did not want to get that news from an automated response email. And still…fear never really had a chance to take hold.

As I searched on the internet a calm began to settle over me. Some people would maintain that “ignorance is bliss.” To a certain extent, I agree with that: when I was ignorant about the test results, I was happy. Blissful even. The minute my ignorance was replaced with awareness, my world shifted and that’s where I disagree with the whole “ignorance is bliss” notion.

If, in my ignorance, I’d gone to sleep with just that tiny bit of information: I tested POSITIVE for some disease I didn’t understand… then the enemy of my soul would have had a field day. My stressed out mind would have given birth to wretched nightmares. I would have slept badly. I would have been a nervous wreck the next morning. Fear would have been joined by Self-Pity, Bitterness, Resentment, Wicked Foreboding… and a bunch of other nasties and they would have had a house party in my newly cleaned subconscious mind. There would have been no bliss.

And God in his infinite wisdom KNEW that I didn’t need to talk to my friend beyond the initial prayer. We had a horrible connection, I couldn’t hear a word she said. I know she prayed, but all I heard was “Amen.” I told her that I was ok. Because I was. Now, I needed to talk to God myself and seek out the truth. I needed to research the crap outta Hepatitis until my mind had enough truth to offset the facts. By the time I finished, I was actually praising God. I had enough truth to know that there had to be more to the story. I made an online appointment to talk to my doctor the next day on the phone.

Somewhere in all of that I listened to this song that makes me cry. Every time I listen to it I cry. It’s only 2:19 minutes long, so for 2:19 minutes I allowed myself to cry because I needed to diffuse the emotions as well as squelch the facts with the truth. Then, turned off my computer… got into bed and I prayed.  I went to sleep and slept soundly because I was in the center of God’s hand and I was flying.

Bipolar Girl vs The Active Shooter: Part I

This morning, I was sitting in my usual seat in the Rec Hall (front row, by the door) waiting for the meeting to start. When I saw this big black guy with a large rifle yelling at one of our Security guys and walking towards the Rec, I panicked. I didn’t immediately register what was happening until I heard the first shot. For an instant, I froze. Then, I heard the second shot.

“Shit!”

The word just sort of slipped out…

…just as everybody in the Rec Hall, all the students and all the staff, seemed to jump up in a singular motion and run in a giant stampede for the rear exit door. I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing – a really big guy with a gun was advancing towards the room where I was sitting. Fear like I have never known before took hold of me and I ran.

The crowd by the rear door was so thick, getting out of it wasn’t going to be doable. I followed some of the other students and staff running for the exit door through the workout room. Once I was out that door, I turned left only to find that there was a railing and I couldn’t get out that way. I could still hear shooting and yelling. My adrenaline was pumping, but I wasn’t paralyzed. I was being confronted with two of my worst fears – violent death and an active shooter, and all I could think of was to hide. Survival mode kicked in and I was ready.

I found this hollow in a really large tree in the center of our courtyard and I wedged my body in there and prayed that the shooter would keep going past me. Other people decided to come and hide behind my tree. I am ashamed to say that I told them to go find their own tree. There went my hope that (in a crisis) my backbone might actually assert itself and displace the rather large yellow streak running down my back.

I didn’t have time to fret about those other people for long. The gunman was quickly advancing into the courtyard and was firing at anybody that moved. Everybody was running all over the place. I saw that he was still far away from where I was and was looking the other way… so I ran to the fire exit stairs leading to the second floor. I kept below the railing as I made my way down the hallway. I looked into the doorway to see if it was clear. Punching in the code to my classroom, I turned off the lights and the fan in one motion as I crossed the room and hid under my desk.

Door locked.

Eyes closed.
I was breathing hard.
I wanted to cry, but instead I prayed.
I started to recite my scripture:

Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. And perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything…

And there I sat until they gave the ALL CLEAR.

We had our first ever Active Shooter Drill today at school complete with police officers and the emergency response team (think S.W.A.T). They had rifles and assault weapons and they were firing of A LOT OF BLANKS. Of course, I could have told you that at the very beginning of my post… but I wanted you to feel a tiny bit of what I felt today.

There was a short briefing before they began the drill where they explained everything… they even showed us a video filmed at another school so we would know what it would be like. So I KNEW that it wasn’t real… and still… when that big guy came storming towards me with a weapon raised… it felt real. The fear was real. And that fear… is the kind of fear that will keep you alive.

I actually handled the drill better than I thought I would.

My dad tried to kill me when I was a child. I had to run for my life. My sister’s boyfriend held us at gunpoint when I was a kid. Cops and a police helicopter were called in to save us. To this day, I do not remember the specifics of either event. If other people were not there to corroborate my story… I wouldn’t even believe me. But those things happened to me… as a child. I had to run for my life in fear and I have been running and afraid ever since.

Given the fact that I’m pretty much afraid of EVERYTHING… it shouldn’t surprise anybody that two of the BIG ONES on my List of Fears are: 1). Imminent violent death and 2). Active Shooters. Evidently, God was asking me to confront both of those fears today. PRAISE GOD it was only a drill!

I started crying during the informational video. Columbine started flashing in my head. My own past started knocking on the edges of my subconscious. I needed to cry in that instant because I needed to release some of the stress I was feeling… so I let myself cry. Not a big old noticeable meltdown. I think only the person sitting closest to me actually realized that I wasn’t ok… so I kept taking deep breaths… in through the nose… and making myself relax. I forced myself to stay in the moment. Eventually, I calmed down and felt ready. Then the officers told us to wait in the Rec Hall while they finalized some things. I thought they’d come back and tell us what to do next.

They thought to use the element of surprise.

So even though I KNEW that it was going to happen… I was totally unprepared for the reality of it when it did. Or so I thought. I did NOT have a meltdown. I kept a cool head despite my fear. I evaluated and assessed the situation and made a plan that kept me safe. And that was how the rest of the morning went. They did two more scenarios and with each one, my fear receded…

I would LOVE to say that I was that teacher who threw herself in front of a student to take a bullet for them or that I managed to lead a bunch of other students to safety. But I’d be lying. In my fear, I only thought about my own safety. The first scenario seemed so real. Even though I KNEW the truth, my brain convinced me that I was in danger. My survival instinct kicked in and I ran and I hid.

It was only later when I was at home that I realized how selfish I’d been. I hadn’t even thought about anybody other than myself. As I talked to God about today I started to cry. I was so ashamed. Now, it would be REALLY easy to start harshing on myself about right now… but today’s lesson wasn’t on heroism. It was on facing two of my biggest fears. Three…if you count the stairs.

During the second scenario, I did hide in plain sight with student. I kept her quiet and made her stop trying to see what was going on. And in the third scenario, I kept an entire classroom full of students quiet, calm, and in place until the ALL CLEAR was given. They wanted to leave when the shooting stopped, but we were briefed that during an actual Active Shooter event, people have to sometimes stay in place for hours as police and special response teams work to secure the scene and take out the threat. I might not have been a hero today… but I didn’t die and neither did the kids entrusted to my care.

I also wasn’t that woman in the video that was so paralyzed by fear that she squeezed herself into a corner, too afraid to move, and just wilted in tears. People had to drag her out of the building. I am happy to say that I was not THAT woman today.

During our drill, God reinforced another lesson that he taught me this week. Earlier this week, God had me confront Fear #5 on my list (catastrophic illness)… and I learned that ignorance is NOT bliss. It’s ignorant. Fear breathes and breeds where there is ignorance. Today and earlier this week, God spoke to me about the importance of being prepared by getting the knowledge, information, or training necessary to dispel the fear. Being prepared doesn’t show a lack of faith. It shows wisdom.

Having an escape plan helped dispel my fear. Knowing my enemy also helped dispel my fear. I even had a chance to sit the drill out, but chose not to. I KNEW God was calling me to actively confront this fear and break the stranglehold that it’s had on my entire life. I learned a lot of other stuff today… but I’m still processing. It’s not every day you have people shooting at you.

I am glad we did this today, though. By the third scenario, I was not afraid. I was able to take control of my classroom and keep my students safe. I was the one to run and secure both doors. PRAISE GOD I CAN FINALLY RUN!!!

Today’s drill was eye opening. I know what I need to do for when we have the drill next year. I cannot say that I felt God’s presence with me today… but I knew that he was and I felt safe in him. God forbid this EVER happen in real life… but after today, I am more prepared and less afraid. Actually… I’m still afraid… but not the paralyzing kind. I have that healthy fear… the kind that keeps you and the people you love alive.

So… I pose this question to you: Are you ready? Would you know what to do if there was an active shooter in your workplace or in the theater where you’re having date night??? OR at the mall… or wherever else you go where groups of people assemble??? Would you be the person who, paralyzed by fear, stands there having a meltdown… or would you be able to act? Would you run? Would you hide??

Of course, this all makes me go all end-timey in my thinking. I just read Revelation and I’ve been thinking about what it means to be prepared for the end times.  If Jesus were to come back tomorrow… are you ready? Do you know him??? Do you even want to??? If you don’t know him… why not?? In a way, this is just like what I learned today with the Active Shooter Drill… it’s better to get the facts and be prepared than to be ignorant and suffer for it.

I Will Fear NO Evil: I BELIEVE I CAN FLY!!!

For my birthday we had an, “I Believe I Can Fly” party at Maui Zipline. It hasn’t been a lifelong dream of mine… but as God prompted me to confront certain fears, it became a dream… and then it became a reality. As I tried to think of what to blog, I decided to include the draft of the thank you letter that I sent to my wonderful Maui Zipline Guides: Cole, Emily, and Enrique. They were THE BEST! I highly recommend Maui Zipline. Ask for these guys!!

 

Dear Cole, Emily, and Enrique,

I wanted to say, “THANK YOU” for being a part of my birthday celebration. I know I said it when we were there… but I needed you guys to at least know a little bit about my backstory, so that you would understand just how HUGE last Sunday was for me.

My actual birthday is August 20th. We were supposed to go on that date, but Brett couldn’t make it and it was important to me that all three of those guys be present because they have helped me overcome a lot of my fears. Cole, I told you that I was afraid of heights before we started. That is an understatement. I have Bipolar Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. Because of these mental illnesses/spectrum disorders, I have spent much of my life afraid of just about everything. That has meant I have lived a very small, isolated life inside my “Bipolar Bubble.”

Even after I met Jesus in 1994, my life still was plagued by depression, rage, bitterness, and suicidal ideation. I couldn’t figure out why God wouldn’t just fix me and be done with it. I went to college at UC Berkeley and it was there that my Bipolar manifested. I had had SO much promise in high school. I was full of so much pride about all my plans. I was so conceited back then because I thought I was smarter than and better than everybody else. I got totally blindsided by my mental illness. My depression was so bad that I used to go to the top of the dorm (it was 8 floors)… I was an RA, so I had the keys… and I would dare myself to jump. I was in so much emotional pain that I just wanted it to end.

Fear stopped me from jumping. I would look over the edge and imagine that I wouldn’t just hit the ground and end it all. With MY luck, I would hit that big tree… and then that car… and I’d end up paralyzed from the neck down. I would spend the entire rest of my life trapped in my own body, worse off than I was before. Fear stopped me from ending my life… so it has served a purpose.

Following Jesus has not been the cake walk I was led to believe. All my fears and problems did NOT just go away when I met Jesus. I told Jesus the day that I met him that if he could love me knowing all the horrible things that I’d done… that I would follow him anywhere. Following him, for me, meant becoming a missionary on a medical ship bound for Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu even though I get seasick, can’t swim, and am afraid of water. We did a lot of things on that outreach that scared the crap out of me… but I trusted the Lord and he walked me through those fears.

Over the years, a lot of sh** has hit the fan in my life and I got bitter and resentful. I retreated into the protective walls of the Bipolar Bubble and pretty much told the world to go f** itself. I was mad at God and my trust levels had dropped significantly. I ended up physically disabled for five years because of a necessary surgery. My worst fear had come true: I was trapped in my own body and I was worse off than I was before. I could barely walk. I was in physical pain every minute of every day. There were so many different physical things going wrong with me, I didn’t think I could take much more. I was afraid the suicidal thoughts would start to overtake me. This was last year.

Instead, I told God that if he didn’t do SOMETHING all would be lost for me. That was just what he had been waiting for…. I needed to stop trying to do things MY way according to MY plan. That was at the beginning of last year. SINCE then, God has been doing amazing things in my life. Now I’ve been a Christian since 1994… but all that time I was bound up by fear and pain. God started showing me that I needed to confront my fear because fear was controlling me.

For the past few months, I would come to Maui Tropical Plantation and sit on that little island in the pond. I would watch the people zip by on the zipline and be excited by it. I’m not sure exactly WHEN I decided that I wanted to go ziplining… but I know that God had been prompting me for months to start trusting him again. It has been a long journey, but the walls of my Bipolar Bubble are receding. My life is beginning to be an explosion of colors, sounds, and new experiences.

Last week was my, “I Believe I Can Fly” party because I am no longer a slave to fear. God chose to have the three of you be a part of that. I do not know what you believe, so I hope this hasn’t offended you, but I believe that Jesus put just the right guides up there for me that day. I felt TOTALLY safe with you guys because I was… but you all went out of your way to make me feel special. After that first false start, I wasn’t afraid. I had told my friends to be praying because I didn’t want to just grit my teeth and scrunch my eyes up in order to get through it. I wanted to enjoy it! I had been rehearsing it at home and in my mind: I would put my arms out in Peter Pan fashion and yell, “I Believe I Can FLY” as I zipped over the pond. I had it all planned.

That day, I was able to walk up four flights of stairs – a year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do that because I was afraid of heights, but I physically couldn’t have done it. I’m afraid of SWINGS and yet I was able to get into that harness and trust you guys and God enough to sit down and fly. No, I didn’t end up putting BOTH arms out as I went over the pond. I couldn’t quite nerve myself up to do that… but when I zipped over the pond, I put one arm out, in true super-hero fashion and yelled, “I CAN FLYYYY!” It was no longer a matter of believing that I could fly. I was flying and God had used you guys to help make that happen. “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint”

It may seem like what you do is all fun and games… but for me (and probably many other people)… it is SO much more. Thank you for having the courage to do what you do and the sensitivity, humour, and grace to do it well. Thank you for being part of my adventure!!!

Peace,

Bipolar Girl

 

Bipolar Girl: Fear By Any OTHER Name (Part III)

I started this post BEFORE I had my “I Believe I Can Fly” party at Maui Zipline. The post abut THAT experience is in the works, but I still feel like I need to post this one because my fears did not all magically disappear because I put on a little helmet and zipped down some wires. That was a GREAT experience and I am glad that I did it… but now comes the challenging work of walking in faith with God… of believing that he HAS set me free from fear even if it rears its ugly head.

I am no longer a SLAVE to fear because I’m choosing to submit my life to a different Master. Once, I told Jesus that if he could love me knowing all the horrible stuff that I’ve done… I would follow him anywhere.

Who knew that he would call me to slap on a little helmet and zip down some wires with him??? In the next months and years I expect him to call me to confront a lot of the things on this list, so that I will truly be free to follow him anywhere. I worry about these things on a daily basis. Is there any wonder that I’ve battled anxiety and depression?? Pray that Fear would lose its hold on me:

Comprehensive List of My DAILY Fears:

Violent death
imminent death
fiery car crashes
murder/torture
kidnapped/raped
white supremacists
freak accidents
serial killers
spree shooters
violent death of loved ones
decapitation (fans & big rig trucks)
bank robbers/ATM robbery
terrorists
explosions
drowning
hurricane
tsunamis
elevators
airports
*intentionally left blank

Crashing
driving (tailgaters)
driving (in the rain)
driving (at night)
being a passenger
airplane travel
helicopters
motorcycles
decapitation (big rigs)
T-Bones
rollovers
fiery crash (my fault)
*intentionally left blank

 Catastrophic Health Problems
losing a limb(injury)
amputation (specifically my feet)
paralysis
total blindness
drowning
necrotizing fasciitis (look it up)
cancer/terminal illness
diabetes
heart attack
dementia/Alzheimer’s
brain tumor
unable to walk properly again
bone/joint injury
playing sports (freak accidents)
allergic reactions
unexplained illness
*intentionally left blank

Nature
cane spiders
centipedes
termites
cockroaches
flying cockroaches
praying mantis
crickets/grasshoppers
Ladybugs
butterflies
moths
beetles
dragon flies
bees
bumble bees
killer bees
wasps
ant swarms
red fire ants
bunnies/rabbits
goats/sheep
horses (falling)
unknown dogs
frogs/toads
hamsters
rats/bats
birds
guinea pigs
chickens/roosters
animals in general
bears (mauling)
critters (all others)
being crawled on
sharks (attacked/swimming)
fish (snorkeling)
snakes/scorpions
geckos/lizards
germs
hiking (violent death)
swimming (violent death)
surfing (violent death)
getting lost/ hurt
the dark/being outside
crowds
*intentionally left blank


Falling (heights)
biking
stairs/escalators
ladders
swings
roller skates
in-line skates
ice skating
skateboards
rock wall climbing
trampolines
climbing trees
roller coasters
Ferris wheels
amusement rides
*intentionally left blank



Failure
loser/insignificant
not good enough
stupid
mental
*intentionally left blank

Success
can’t handle it
fall/sex scandal
won’t find it
*intentionally left blank

Brokenness
end time apostasy
won’t ever change
mental illness
suicidal thoughts
Sexual dysfunction
nympho/frigid
depression
bitterness
church
*intentionally left blank

Abuse
physical/sexual
mental/emotional
workplace
spiritual
verbal
bullying/cyber bullies
*intentionally left blank

Rejection/Unlovable
never marry/too broken
dying alone/unloved
don’t fit in/racial
people in general
family
friends
living in isolation
being laughed at
unlovable: fat/ugly
*intentionally left blank

Emotions
rage/out of control
depression
love/unloving
*intentionally left blank

Family
my feelings for them
rejection
molestation
verbal abuse
emotional abuse
*intentionally left blank

People
men
mean people
black people
white people
emotionally draining
people in general
social interactions
physical contact
old bosses
Christians
police
*intentionally left blank

OTHER
the past
the future
the ocean
water
mountains
forest
needles
*intentionally left blank

*intentionally left blank

*intentionally left blank

I am no longer a slave to fear. I AM A CHILD OF GOD!!!

Bipolar Girl: Fear By ANY Other Name (Part II)

Last night I conquered a number of fears to get out of my comfort zone and attend an interdenominational worship night at the largest venue on the island. It was supposed to be this big unity thing… and there had been standing room only last year. When they mentioned it in church last weekend I was immediately excited and wanted to go.  Now that I have found my voice it’s kinda hard to shut me up… that is until Fear intruded. Not one second after the pastor mentioned “Deep Calling Out,” and encouraged us all to attend… Fear reared it’s nappy head.

“Oh, I can’t go. This is the kind of event where active shooters show up and kill everybody… or suicide bombers come wearing bomb vests that they detonate and kill everybody.”

Fear sifted through the file  labeled “Truly Horrible and Unthinkable Events” that is never far below the surface of my consciousness to remind me of those church folks who were gunned down in their pews by that radical white supremacists on the mainland…. or how that suicide bomber killed and injured all those people at that Ariana Grande concert a few months back… or those movie goers who got trapped in the theater during the premier of that “Batman” movie and were terrorized by an active shooter… and let’s not forget Paris.

With all that ammo to shoot with, Fear did not have to work very hard to get me to see that I shouldn’t attend this event. If I went… there was a chance that I might die a horribly violent death.

You think I’m joking.
I’m not.

This is what literally went through my mind in the minute it took me to jump from “YES! I want to go worship God” to “NO, you better not. You might end up getting killed… I should stay home… where it’s (reasonably) safe. I could pray and intercede for everybody’s safety from my home all by myself.” Fear insinuated some thoughts that began to sound like they were my own idea. Because that’s what Fear wants you to do… stay isolated without any help or hope of becoming free.

And I was content to let the thoughts of the event fade away, that is, until God kept bringing it up all day Thursday and much of Friday morning. I wanted to go… but I was still afraid. I even posted on FB to see if anybody would go WITH me. No joy. I texted a good friend to see if she was up for it. Again… no joy. If I wanted to go, I was going to have to go by myself. And that’s the thing about fear: there are some fears that God wants to walk you through all by yourself. Confess. Repent. And see the deliverance of the LORD.

God was calling out to me… deep was crying out to deep... and I couldn’t help but answer. Now this is where it gets interesting: I could have just shown up. But after the meltdown that I had last Monday when they changed the venue of the Monday Night worship… WISDOM fairly shouted at me that “just showing up” was NOT the way to confront my fear. Facing it was.

So…I went two hours early to scout out the “promised land.” It’s near my house, so I drove there and surveyed the parking lot to figure out how where I could park to address my visual limitations. I’ve hit my fair share of things in parking lots, so this fear is not irrational. I noted the layout of the lot and the exits so I could find my way out of a new place at night when my vision is not at its best. I went to the box office to see what time it was really starting and to find out where it was being held. I get anxious when I get lost or don’t know where to go. And finally, I went inside the venue to see just how big it actually was. Crowds freak me out because of all the unknown threats and the proximity of people to my bubble. So, I figured out where would be the best place for me to sit, JUST IN CASE I started to have a meltdown and needed to leave… or get air… or find the ladies room.

And in true Joshua fashion, once I’d evaluated my “Amalekites,” I knew that they were there… but they weren’t all that big. Or at least they weren’t too big for God to overcome. I drove home, changed quickly… and went back thinking I’d sit in my car and wait until it was time to get in line. Would you believe that in the 20 minutes that it took me to do that and get back there… a  line had already started to form!!! I quickly found my place in said line and watched as it grew longer still… and I was perfectly calm. I was there.. in a LARGE (and growing) group of complete strangers and I was COMPLETELY ok.

I would like to point out that when I got there… the VERY first person that I saw standing out front was my friend from church who prayed with me and tore up my Fear List last Sunday at the altar. I didn’t know that the event would have a prayer team… but it didn’t surprise me that it did or that he would be on it. The man lives to pray and intercede for people. Seeing him made me feel that much calmer. When the actual even started I was ready…. and would you believe that a big theme of the entire night was overcoming fear and allowing God to “break every chain” that binds us??? One of the last songs that they sang is the one that has become my own private anthem these past few months: I’m No Longer a Slave to Fear.” That song felt SO true last night. Still, I must confess… that while I was there… I did pray that God would keep out the active shooters and the suicide bombers because that close to the exit, I’d be one of the first ones to get killed.  SO…I’d like to give a big shout out to God for answered prayer!!!

And on THAT note, I end with my Top 10 List of Fears. They didn’t just magically disappear last Sunday when we confessed them at the altar. They didn’t just magically disappear last night as I sat in the very front row in a room full of strangers singing at the top of their lungs… but I believe, by faith, that I am free and being set free from all these fear that have held me captive my entire life.

My Top 10 List of Fears (In no particular order)

  1. Violent death/Abuse: murder/serial killers etc.
  2. Rejection: Verbal or Emotional Abuse/Never Fitting in/Never belonging anywhere
  3. Nature: Critters/Insects/Animals/getting lost
  4. Falling/Crashing (down stairs, off bikes, off cliffs, in cars, planes)
  5. Catastrophic Health Problems (disease, disability, dismemberment, mental and physical illness)
  6. Unlovable: Dying alone and unloved/never getting married/ugly and broken—nobody will want me.
  7. Failure/Success: poverty and wealth
  8. Brokenness: Never changing/always being dysfunctional/suicide
  9. Family – my biological family; never having a family
  10. Sex – touch, relationships, sexuality, love, emotion

Tomorrow I am going to go zipline with three people who have helped break the chains of fear in my life. I have absolutely NO idea how I will react once I’m strapped in… there is a very real possibility that I might scream like a little girl and cry like a baby… but I am not letting that fear stop me. Zipline is a symbolic gesture showing that I trust God NO MATTER WHAT happens and that fear will no longer have the power to stop me. There is also a very real possibility that I will climb to the top of that platform; get harnessed in; come to the edge; take a giant step out in faith…and instead of falling… I’ll be flying with a big ol’ fat grin on my face and my heart singing praises to God!!!

I am still going to post my comprehensive list of fears because I think there are people who read this that are nodding their heads because they KNOW what it’s like to be trapped in your own skin by fear. This song is for me… but it’s also for them

Bipolar Girl: FEAR by Any Other Name (Part I)

The bible says that “perfect love casts out all fear.” Honestly? I have never believed that because I have been afraid my entire life… and that did NOT change when I became a Christian. Maybe it was true for other people… but it wasn’t true for me.

Up until now, that scripture has been a HUGE stumbling block for me. If that verse was true, then clearly I had failed at that part of the Christian walk because, despite having done all the “right” things (going to church; getting baptized; being a missionary AND a Christian school teacher; doing countless bible studies, small groups, seminars, women’s retreats, and prayer groups; submitting to various forms of Christian counseling, deliverance ministries, transformation groups etc…) I found myself still very much bound up by fear.

And before you say that everybody deals with fear on some levels… Bipolar Girl’s fears were different. And rather than trying to “argue for my limitations” with you (because by arguing for your limitations, you own them)… God  wanted me to confess them first to him, and now to you.

For months, God has been calling me to confront Fear because I was in bondage to it. I wasn’t living life. I was merely existing and some years barely that. My fears kept telling me that nothing was EVER going to change and that I should just kill myself and be done with it. To walk in all of that abundant life that Jesus promises, I had to let his “perfect love cast out” all my fear… but I didn’t know how.

When I talk about fear, I mean the debilitating kind. The kind that keeps you so bound up that you are unable to fully participate in life. Over the past few months, God has been showing me that I have to face some fears because he calls me an “overcomer” and he wants me to overcome them. I’ve blogged about some of those things.

But there are other fears that have become so entrenched in who I am and how I view God… that I cannot break free of those fears on my own. For those fears, God faithfully sent wise and spiritually discerning people into my life to help me defeat those inner demons. That which I can overcome, I fully intend to. That which I cannot reasonably overcome need to be broken off  by Jesus.

He’s been telling me to name my fears because, like cockroaches, fear thrives best in darkness. Where there is no light… fear will stake out a plot and camp there. Keeping me isolated and in the dark is how fear grows. The more I walk in the light of Jesus, the more the darkness in my life recedes. For weeks now, God’s been prompting me to write a “Fear List.” I needed to write an actual list of all the things that I am afraid of because God wanted to cast all that stuff out.

Would you believe that I was afraid to start writing the list? I didn’t want to start raking up stuff that I wasn’t emotionally equipped to deal with… so for weeks, all I did was think about the list. Finally, I wrote an outline, “Top 10 List of My Fears,”  to kind of prime the pump. My fears fall into some general categories and it felt safer to start with the generalities.

Then, this past Saturday, I finally sat down and started to type… a LONG list of my fears. It was very revealing. It is an act of God that I am even able to get up, get dressed, and leave my home every day… because the list of things that I am afraid of on a daily basis is staggering. I actually think of these things every day or ALMOST every day with a deep sense of foreboding: TODAY will be the day that any one (or all) of these fears will decide to attack.

No wonder I’m constantly holding my breath. When you’re afraid of as many things as I am… you start to fear for you life and that fear traps your breath inside of you. You can’t ever really relax because you exist in that moment just before “flight or flight.” Fighting is NOT an option because Fear says that if you fight, you will lose and if you lose…you will die. SO, there you sit — half breathing and half living.

Why do I say “you” when I really mean, “me??

Me…I.

I… was only half-breathing and thus, half living...

and half dying a little bit more every day as life passed me by.

Last Sunday I took my list of fears to church with me. The Plan was to take the list with me during the altar call. I’d hand the list to my friend on the prayer team then confess and repent. No, I never asked for the fear. I never wanted to be so afraid… but I had made Fear an idol in my life thereby worshiping it every day. I gave Fear the power and ability to control my life… something that only God should have the right or the power to do.

I needed to confess and repent of those fears. All these years I’ve been asking God to “take the fear away” and I would get really pissed off  year after year (especially the years that I lived in that critter infested studio)… when God did nothing to take my fears away. My fears were very nearly debilitating. Didn’t God care??? Why was he making me face some of my greatest fears every freakin’ day and NOT cast it out??!!

I only now realize that God wasn’t going to “take the fears away.” He was waiting for me to confess my fears to him and then repent. For years he had been saying, “Fear not” to me… and for years, I would argue with him for my fearing limitations and, thus, own them. I was clinging to them so tightly, I couldn’t see him waiting to cast them out. Like cockroaches, my fears stayed hidden in the dark where they could thrive and breed more fears.

Well, things have been a-changing around these here parts…

My life is being radically transformed so that EVERYBODY is noticing. God is shining so much light into my life that many of my fears have scattered like cockroaches when you turn on the light in the morning. I have been confronting THOSE fears and putting them to death. When I took that list up to the altar on Sunday, I was making a confession of faith that was like shining a spotlight on my fears.

I felt confident.

I felt free.

I felt victorious.

My friend at the altar prayed for me and had me tear the list into pieces. It felt good. But no sooner had I started to walk away from the altar, that I realized something: God never wastes anything. I felt like I was supposed to blog the list because… somewhere… out there, there are people who read my blog who feel EXACTLY the way I felt: trapped in a murky pool of fears that they don’t understand.

I knew that I needed to blog my Fear List because somebody reading this needs to see that they are NOT crazy. Their fears are real. Some of them are rational. Some of them are decidedly NOT. All of them keep them bound up and unable to fully receive God’s perfect love that would cast out those fears like the cockroaches that they are.

Sunday was a first step for me. There were things on that list that I’m in the process of confronting. There are also some fears on that list that I’m actually content to leave be. I’m afraid of snakes… and content to leave it that way. This Sunday we’re having my “I Believe I Can Fly” celebration where I’m going to zipline to confront my fear of heights, stairs, and falling. But there are some fears on that list that are deeply rooted in trauma and evil… and God wants me to work through those fears with wise and spiritually discerning people in HIS timing, not mine.

So for now… I’m going to post the short list of things that I am afraid of on a daily basis. I’ve confessed and repented of these fears, but they haven’t magically disappeared. On Sunday I was set free and I’m in the process of becoming free of these fears. I want other people to be set free too… and I think that comes from bringing fears into the light of day. So… as neurotic as this makes me look (wait to you see the long list), here it is:

My Top 10 List of Fears…

 

Bipolar Girl: The Parable of the Pissed Off Tendon

Once, there was a woman who, through constant overuse, developed a funky type of tendonitis in her wrist. Let’s be honest: she was trying to look cool by driving her new car with only her left hand on the steering wheel… the way that all the really cool people do. Y’know… gripping the wheel, palm side down at 12:00, thumb extended.

 

Unbeknownst to her, with every sharp turn and bump in the road, she stretched and bruised and harassed the tiny tendon… until one day, it spoke back to her. At first, it spoke softly trying to get her to change her foolish ways. It spoke in the form of an almost imperceptible twinge when she moved her wrist, but still she persisted in her silly ways until one morning, the tendon was PISSED and let her know it by shouting at her in pain language that she could no longer ignore or try to make go away with ice and ibuprofen.

There were no demons. There was no spiritual attack. She had done this to herself. In his mercy, the Divine Physician used this overuse injury as an opportunity to teach her how to slow down and hear his still small voice… to stop rushing through life at a pace that he never intended, trying to carry burdens that were never hers to carry. He taught her how to rely more fully on HIM for her healing.

And in this season of healing, he taught her how to find her voice and own it. He taught her how to advocate for her own healing. He showed her that it isn’t always the big, giant hurts that cause the most pain. She learned that she, in her own ignorance, could re-injure herself and prolong the healing process… so it would behoove her to learn what she needed for healing and for growth. She learned that she could not heal herself or heal all by herself. She needed to be part of a body that loved, supported, and encouraged her. Her healing would come as she became a part of the body… not in isolation from it.

He showed her that the power to live abundantly and to love extravagantly is not some external thing to be chased after at top speed… but that it is something that is within her, because his Spirit resides in her. He taught her that “love is her super power” and that “joy of the Lord” is her weapon.

She learned this truth from the tiny tendon with a big voice:

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.  And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”
1 Corinthians 12:

During this healing season, the woman learned what it meant to be a part of the body of Christ. So rather than hate the tendon or revile the process… the woman has opted for wisdom. She would listen to and abide in the truth spoken by the tiny tendon. The healing would come in time and she would wait for it patiently, but she wouldn’t be waiting in isolation and fear because she is no longer alone. She is part of a body. The tiny tendon had taught her much and now it was time to “live up to what she had already attained.” (Phil. 3:16)

A wise man once said,If you abide in my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

The woman is now… and is in the process of becoming…free.

 

Bipolar, Fear, and Hair (Part 1 1/2)

Right now…
I’m still trying to wrap
my thoughts around
all that God walked me
through today.

Most of it was
great… thrilling even…
but one thing happened
to dim my smile
a bit and my heart is sad…
but God’s
also been talking
to me about how I now
handle disappointment:

It is NOT the end of the world.

Looking back over the years…
(by that I mean rereading an old journal)
I can clearly see that
a lot of my drama has spawned
from the fact that I didn’t
know how to handle it when
God said, “No.”

I used to get all depressed
and hopeless.
I used to feel every
rejection as a
statement about
my self-worth.
I used to get
mad at God
for allowing me
to hope in the first
place.

Fear will do that to you.
It will make you afraid to
step out. It will make you
afraid to trust God.
It will make you
fear rejection
like death.

It will make you
afraid to hope
and  afraid to
have
faith…

And without faith it is impossible to please God,
because anyone who comes to him
must believe that he exists
and that he rewards those
who earnestly seek him.

Amidst all the happy happy joy joy of today, God said, “No”and while I’m really disappointed, I’ve come to the “THY will be done” portion of the journey. I used to be afraid to say that to God… because it either meant that he might make me do something REALLY painful that I didn’t want to do or make me give up something that I really wanted. I now see that my view of God was really skewed if I thought he operated like that. Now? I no longer want to want something if God does not want it for me first.

 

God been telling me to hold
on to my plans lightly.
I’m a big fan of making plans
because Bipolar World starts
to spin out of control
when there isn’t enough
structure to keep me
tethered…
But I am reminded of and accept the truth:

Many are the plans in a man’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

And…

In his heart a man plans his course,
but the Lord establishes his steps.

That being said… I don’t know how to write about what happened today because while I accept God’s “No” and the rejection in which it was delivered… my heart is a bit heavy. I need to be still and put my focus back on God.

Of late, God’s also been speaking to me through the life of King David. David was so in awe of God that he worshiped him naked. He didn’t care what other people thought. Tomorrow, I’m going to walk into church feeling naked. And people are going to say stuff about my hair because the change is dramatic. Their comments are going to feel awkward and uncomfortable because most non-black folks don’t know that the braids were extensions. People used to praise me all the time for my fake hair.  I’ve always been “the Black girl with the braids” for decades and tomorrow I won’t be.

People are going to be nice. Even if they hate my hair nobody is going to tell me that I look like a Russ Troll doll or a Wookie. But now that I’ve committed to this the temptation to wear something to cover my head is probably going to be really strong tomorrow morning, I normally belt it out during worship. But tomorrow…I might  be tempted to sing really quietly so that people might not look my way. I’m going to feel more exposed than I’ve ever felt and I’m not sure I’m going to like it.

God’s been asking me just how naked am I willing to be in my worship of him. Just how vulnerable and unashamed am I? Just how transparent IS transparent?? He calls me “Beautiful,” but does my beauty come from my hair or the way I sing? Do I really believe that my beauty... my identity… my worth is in him alone?

When my heart is heavy I tend to feel like Icarus. He got too close to the SUN and started to fall. Me? I want to get as close to the SON as I can possibly get because that’s why he made me. So right now.. and tomorrow… HAS to rest on what I believe and NOT what I feel. God sent me a reminder for such a time as this. My scuba diving friend sent me an early birthday gift that she had specially made JUST FOR ME. It came in the mail today. Tomorrow in worship service I want to be so in awe of God that I soar on the wings of eagles.

 

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