Sometimes I feel like I have a split personality. One moment, I am on my knees pleading with God to mold me into the woman He wants me to be. Then, before I know it, I am biting my tongue as impatience and frustration overwhelm me. I started off the week reflecting on this battle in my life between my sin-nature and the Spirit. What I forgot about was the third-party that turns the human struggle into all-out war. The admonishment of 1 Corinthians 10:12 did not come to mind until it was too late: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”
I often say that hormones counteract my anti-depressants. About 75% of the time, my depression is well under control. The other 25% of the time can be a roller coaster. I am usually able to stay rational, and not let those weeks affect my life too much. But this week it crept up on me and knocked me down. There are several factors, other than medication, that help me to keep my depression under control: adequate sleep, regular exercise, daily Bible reading, and spending time in prayer. The week began with a couple nights of poor sleep, after not getting my usual exercise. When added to the hormones, it snowballed.
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.
I had already been bottling up a lot of frustration with people, and biting back a lot of sarcastic comments. I finally exploded. I snapped at my supervisor. And I don’t do anything halfway, so it happened in front of the whole team. I didn’t have any residual anger or frustration with her; she just struck a nerve and I blew up. I don’t even know how my tone shifted so quickly. After being confronted about my inappropriate behavior, I started crying and I couldn’t stop. I pretty much cried all day until I was numb except for the beginnings of a migraine.
I have a particular problem of saying things I shouldn’t, and this time my tone was the worst part. In a moment, it seemed that all the work God had done on me in the past few years was reduced to nothing. I don’t know if depression pulls me back to who I am at my core, or if it just alters my judgement. I keep wondering, where do my character flaws end and the depression begin? How much of my outburst was who I am, and how much of it was the chemical imbalance in my brain? Does it even matter? I have never wanted to use depression as an excuse. It took me ten years to admit to myself that I was emotionally unstable when I made the bad decisions that led to the end of my Coast Guard career. I’ve been trained not to make excuses, which leaves me with my sinful heart and big mouth.
This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:15-16
Through my tears, all I could see was that I was falling short as a Christian. Where were the fruit of the Spirit in my life? I had already been struggling to be patient and loving to the people around me, and I had failed the test. There was nothing I could say for myself; I just wanted to hide. It is difficult for the cloud to lift when you are dealing with shame and uncertainty, and the anxiety they bring. In such cases, there is nothing else to do, and nowhere else to go, except to take it all to God. I know that He is already using it to humble me, something I pray for often, with trepidation. Depression makes humility challenging. It is like walking a tightrope with an ear infection. The tendency is to fall headlong into a pit where all you can see is what a horrible person you are. The irony is that this dejected thinking is really self-centered and not humble at all.
I am thankful to God who pulls me up out of the pits I dig. After a day of crying and feeling like a horrible Christian, He reminded me that I was not completely without the fruit of the Spirit. In the middle of fighting tears and not wanting to talk to people, He had led me to engage in conversation with someone who was working through changes in her family. I could sense she wanted to talk about it, and so I talked to her and tried to encourage her, even though I didn’t feel like it. Later, God brought this kindness to mind and showed me that He is at work in my life. I am not a lost cause.
A few days have passed and I feel myself returning to even ground. At work, I’m walking on eggshells, afraid I might go wrong again. But for now, it’s Saturday, and I am feeling and extra supply of mercy. While people may tire of me and cease to forgive, Jesus displays His “perfect patience” with me.