“God will fix a fix to fix ya”, Pastor Phil Harris said, as we sat with them in their living room. He was referring to someone else at the time, but it stuck with me because I thought it was deep and catchy. A few years later, God fixed me a good fix, in an area of my heart I didn’t know needed fixing.
I sat on the edge of my bed with a few glasses of wine in me and a safety pin in my hand. I was listening for the kids, making sure they were distracted with their movie with no chance of one of them walking in on what I was about to do. Then a thought occurred, “What if this gets infected? How am I going to explain this away to a doctor, especially when I work for a ministry?” So I took out a lighter and held the pin in the flame to clean it, then pressed the tip into the skin on my arm just far enough for it to look like a cat scratch, and pulled the pin all the way down my arm. I was desperate for escape, but couldn’t go through with going all the way, though that was an option I dwelt on frequently. I still have the letters I wrote to my kids, just in case I couldn’t handle the darkness anymore. “How did I get here? How did I get here?’
It was the perfect storm, really. A constant pain in my side from cysts that lasted for weeks and weeks. Some days, I couldn’t stand up straight for a whole day. I started taking Vicoden to help with the pain. When that stopped helping, I was upgraded to Percocet, round the clock. I had surgery to remove one ovary, and when that didn’t help, I had another surgery to remove the last one. I remember coming home from that procedure, and as if someone had flipped a light switch, I was drowning in inexplicable sorrow. I should have been so happy that my pain was finally gone, but instead I couldn’t stop sobbing. I was coming off a painkiller addiction while transitioning from my natural hormones to synthetic ones. And while hormonal issues may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back, God wanted to use that time to bring to the surface deeply rooted troubles in my heart, and I fought Him tooth and nail.
I am a bit of a rules girl. It’s just common sense, really. Obey the rules, avoid the consequences. In hindsight, there has been a part of me that applied that principal to walking with Jesus. I would read of Job’s trials and listen to testimonies of people who walked through difficult seasons and the lessons they learned along the way, and none of that sounded appealing. I didn’t really recognize it then, but I was too afraid of being hurt for the sake of spiritual growth to let God in to change my heart. So I just came up with my own work-around: Being the best Christian ever.
Follow the rules, no refining necessary.
I never missed church. I read my bible. I didn’t break the speed limit. I went to small group. I didn’t swear or drink (Oh, how times have changed). I didn’t burn CDs or listen to seedy music. I had to do everything right.
The problem? That pesky old fallible human thing we all have. It makes it kind of a drag when you’re trying to walk out your faith in your own strength. I didn’t know just how badly I was hating on myself for falling short of perfection until it was highlighted by the emotionally dark place my medical circumstance had thrust me into. And I needed that perfection to avoid the need for a possibly painful heart lesson.
Grace for salvation, I understood. Grace for the journey, I didn’t.
And I didn’t want to understand it, because that meant letting go of control. It meant really trusting the Lord to hold my heart. It meant believing that, though the refining may be rough, the product at the end would be something beautiful. And I didn’t know if I could really believe that. It also meant surrendering the pride that built up from years of believing that my efforts made me spiritual.
Depression for me, as miserable of a feeling as it is, was a bit of a hiding place. I hated it, but it was familiar, comfortable, and allowing myself to wallow there never challenged me to face my problems. I ran from God for a year on the inside, while trying to keep up the charade on the outside. I didn’t want to be fixed, but I didn’t want to just walk away from 14 years of a faith I had given my life to, either, and I was tormented trying to decide on one or the other. So I just stayed where I was: drinking, cutting, crying, look like I have it all together at work and church, repeat.
Then one night, last January, the Lord woke me up in the middle of the night and took me to John 13:3-9
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”
Then, I HEARD (like, with my actual ears), the voice of Jesus say to me, “Courtney, let me wash you”.
The King of Heaven was pursuing me, and my eyes were starting to become opened to see grace for the journey.
“Let me wash you”
I did. I cried and cried, and thanked God, and cried some more. I asked Him to wash me, and felt His presence move in with a peace I had been missing for so long. I remember waking up and looking at the world through new eyes, much like I did when I met Him. Prayer was better, more real. Worship was better, more awe of Him. A rush of joy was only a God-thought away. But I wasn’t completely out of the woods. I don’t know that I will be until I am standing with Him in eternity.
It’s been two steps forward and one step back, and as time goes by, it’s become 3 or 4 steps forward. I still struggle with depression, but it is no longer my life. As each wave presents itself I have to make a choice: Am I going to go to the dark place, or am I going to worship and let Jesus wash me? Those are the times when I really, really, don’t feel like worshiping. I’ll just be honest, I don’t chose right every time, but I’ve never been disappointed when I have.
I used to see this whole “grace for the journey” thing as someone trying to keep their balance on a fence, and on one side of the fence is sin and lawlessness, and on the other side of the fence is religion, works, and self-righteousness, and to do it right, one would have to always be checking themselves to make sure they’re not leaning too far to one side or the other. It took these dark days for me to see that such grace is not a balancing act. It’s a dance with Jesus. That makes it even more amazing. Sara Young says it so beautifully in her devotional book, Jesus’ Calling:
“Because you are human, you will continue to make mistakes. Thinking that you should live an error-free life is symptomatic of pride. Your failures can be a source of blessing, humbling you and giving you empathy for other people in their weaknesses. Best of all, failure highlights your dependence on Me. I am able to bring beauty out of the morass of your mistakes. Trust Me, and watch to see what I will do. Romans 8:28; Micah 7:7”
I am amazed by His love. I am so thankful for what He’s brought me through. I am so humbled to be pursued. If that was what it took for me to learn all of that, it was worth it. Now that I have tasted and seen for myself what the light at the end of the tunnel looks like, I can say with all confidence that the trail is worth it. The refining is worth it. If you are where I was two years ago and don’t believe me, you don’t have to take my word for it. God will fix a fix to fix you.
I leave you with these lyrics from Kim Walker-Smith’s song, Unstoppable Love
Try to stop Your love and You would wage a war
Try to take the very thing You gave Your life for
You would come running
Tear down every wall
All the while You’re shouting
“My Love, you’re worth it all”.
God you pursue me with power and glory
Unstoppable Love that never ends
You’re unrelenting with passion and mercy
Unstoppable Love that never ends
You broke into the silence and sang your song of hope
A melody resounding in the deep of my soul
You have come running
You tore down every wall
All the while you’re shouting,
“My Love you’re worth it all”
No sin, no shame,
No past, no pain
Can separate me from Your love
No height, no depth,
No fear, no debt
Can separate me from Your love
Special thanks to my awesome Pastor, Lori, for her loving patience, and prayerful counsel during this time.