(3) For the homesick – denying yourself picking up your cross daily and following him

Luke 9: 23, is potentially one of the most well known verses in the bible, but also one of the most forgotten or scoffed at verse in the bible. If you haven’t read the first two posts in this series it will make little sense, so please go back and read it. 

When we think about picking up your cross daily and following Jesus, in the context of a sermon people generally nod as if this is something every christian should experience. However when you talk to friends about it in real ways it because much less accepted. I think it is because it sounds dramatic. It sounds like I need to stop being so melodramatic, but I don’t think that’s true. 

I firmly believe that I ’should’ be dead, as far as the world goes, people with my persistence shouldn’t be here, my life screams, why is she still here. But I also know as far the Lord goes, I was always meant to be here, always meant to be writing this post (when I should be revising – I’ve got resits), I was always meant to go what I do to show you how powerful the lord is. To show you when he says he transforms lives, he transforms people who you would least expect him too. 

Without the lord I wouldn’t be alive (ask any of my close friends), without the lord I would be a 20 year old memory in 20 years, instead of a 40 year old (honestly the thought of a 40 year old Abbie is weirding me out). He literally saved my life (salvation and prevented my attempted suicides from actually working – if you want to know the details send me a message). I still don’t know why he did that, and sometimes I wish he didn’t. I know this is hard to here especially if you love and know me, but it’s important, because if this is my experience i can’t be the only one. 

You may be on the verge of going through with your attempt, you may be sitting in a hospital bed just after it. No matter where you are, you are homesick. You long to be in a better place (regardless whether you are a Christian or not), and the God of the bible wants to offer you a permanent home, and all you have to do is to admit your sin and trust that Jesus has paid for it. But even for the christian, if your homesick I am going to assume that, that doesn’t fill you with comfort, because you feel all to well how broken this world is, how broken you are, how broken your life seems. And you want that truth now, I know I do. But I will say that for us, we need to hold each others hand and walk forward one step at a time. Because you know that although it is possibly the hardest thing you will go through, there is a beautiful thing about him choosing to show his redemptive story through broken sinful people like us. 

To live through my homesickness, I have to deny myself. Because as I said in the last post, it isn’t something I can easily cure. There is no godly way to get rid of it, obviously there is ways to deal with it, but not to get rid of it completely. 

To live through all of the symptoms of homesickness, all of the yearning and the longing, takes me to have to lean on my lord. Because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to do it. To live through the clear difficulties in my communication with my Lord, is very difficult. 

To live through my depression is denying myself. It goes against everything I think or feel or feel I know. It is very easy for me to give up. For me to know longer care about fighting, about God, about myself. 

But whereas some of my other struggles and the struggles of a lot of other people face is that they are private (which is not necessarily a good thing) but it does make things challenging. When I slip up, when I give up people know. This is because my ‘slip ups’ normally land me hospital (and I have found that is a very difficult thing to hide). But not ending up there, is difficult. It means going against what I want, what I feel I need, it means that I can’t indulge the thoughts, it means that I have to lean on the Lord. When I don’t, things can get very difficult very fast. 

The thing about me, is my depression is very public. Partly due to my own doing (i.e. the blog, but there is a lot I don’t share on here), but partly due to how my depression fleshes itself out in my life. My suicide attempts are public without my agreement, just because of the nature of it. 

But there is a beauty to it, there is a beauty to denying yourself, because through denying your flesh it’s desires and choosing to lean on the one that knows your desires and wants but more importantly your needs, that is where you truly find yourself, but even better it’s where you truly find him.

Depression – a symptom of homesickness (Part 2)

I have already wrote a bit about what I mean by this phrase so please read that post first (titled, homesick – yearning for your true home). 

But here I want to talk about how homesickness causes depression. General homesick doesn’t, because you can easily get home. But being homesick from Jesus makes it complex and complicated. 

The gap between you and your true home feels to big, and this can cause despair. We know that the new creation will be incredible, so we feel trapped in this world, in this broken, sinful world, that creates a gap, a chasm between you and the God who made you. Between you and the people sitting right next to you. 

It can be easy when the homesickness gets loud to what to get home by any means necessary, but to do that means suicide. 

Something that is massively misunderstood, that people don’t want to think about and think people can easily snap out of it. But you don’t usually shave unless you depression (I think, correct me if I’m wrong). And it is clear from the bible, from society and from pretty much anyone who isn’t suicidal that it is a bad thing. 

Many people will say that if you aren’t a christian and you are suicidal it’s because you don’t know Jesus. And while this may be true, that doesn’t count the people who Jesus didn’t cure of depression. Who didn’t take away my struggle. Many told me he would (and while he definitely can), I want to talk to those who are saved but still struggle. 

Because as a christian you shouldn’t have depression, you have nothing to complaining about right? You know Jesus so that should be the end of it, right? 

But that negates the fact that we still live in a fallen world. We know this world isn’t as it should be, we know that things are still difficult. But we act as if they shouldn’t be. We shame people who still struggle. And we shouldn’t, why? Because it makes no sense too. 

We all have our struggles, and we shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about them, with mine I have three common responses either they act awkward, tell me I shouldn’t say it. However this response is mainly because people operate out of a if I act as if it isn’t there it’ll go away, or if she doesn’t tell me its no longer my problem. This response is at best unhelpful and at worse dangerous. Because we aren’t talking about capacity (that’s a different topic) we are talking about people not wanting to deal with it because it’s complex and difficult to hear. The second response is they treat me as if I’m fragile and could break at any second, people forget that if I can cope with this (with God’s help) I can handle most things. I am stronger than you think. These people try to fix you, they think it’s there personal mission to make you all better, and when it doesn’t happen the way they think it should they get frustrated. 

The third response, is less common, but these people accept you as you are. Don’t see you as fragile. But see you as a person, a person loved by God more than they could ever love me. They are there to talk, to listen, but don’t freak out. They get sad at what you are saying, but instead of letting go they hold you tighter. Instead of creating a chasm between you and them they move in closer. 

I am lucky to have friends that fall into this last category. 

Having suicidal ideation is serious and often people need help, but they need love too. Because fundamentally they are homesick, and just like a child who craves to be home we crave to be home too. Just like you would hold a child and cry together, we need you to do that for us too. We aren’t fragile, holding us closer won’t break us, and though we may hurt you (just like any human being would) it’s worth it, because we also can show you what it means to suffer daily, what it means to pick up your cross and follow Jesus, which for us to just keep breathing. 

Homesick, yearning for your true home (Part 1)

When I was small I would often stay with my grandparents overnight, and at first, I would get very very homesick. I love my grandparents a lot, but as a young child, I wanted my familiar routine. I wanted to have the same things happen with the same person, night after night. And when I got a disruption in that I felt a strong yearning to go home. 

I experienced this again, in the first few weeks and months of my time at uni. I wanted again to be somewhere I knew, understood, felt comfortable in. 

But from that time at uni, I experienced something else. This yearning that I had suddenly went deeper than I had ever before realized. It became a fundamental understanding that rocked my world. 

As a Christian, we know this world isn’t our own. We know we don’t truly belong here, but although many people struggle with not making this world our home, I know all too well that it isn’t. I know this because I feel homesick. Now you may push back and say how can you be homesick from a place you’ve never been, from someone you’ve never physically met. 

My answer to this comes from the fundamental knowledge that God is our creator, and as Christians, we are told that we don’t belong here. So to illustrate what I mean I am going to use an analogy. 

Imagine that you are moving to a house but the house isn’t ready for you yet, so you’ve been given a room in a hotel to be your ‘home’ until it’s ready for. The catch is you don’t know when the house will be ready, you don’t know when you will be called home. 

There is a spectrum of what you will do in this situation (when my mum and I actually go to a hotel, she unpacks everything, while I just live out of my suitcase). Some people will not only unpack, but they will also hang pictures on the wall and change the bedding, they will act as if the hotel is the permanent home. They know they are moving but it isn’t in the forefront of their mind. They don’t think about it ever really. They make a temporary place a permanent home. 

Then there are others (and I fall into this category), who even though they know they could be in the hotel for years they don’t unpack. They live out of their suitcase to the point that they don’t even put their toothbrush into the bathroom, because what if they forget it. They are so focused on this new house, and more importantly the family they will be reunited with they find it difficult to think about anything else. 

They become so focused they want to get their now, they don’t want to wait. They know they don’t belong there so much, that they will do whatever possible to get there now. Even though they know it’s not time yet. 

This is how I feel. I know this is not my true home. Here there is suffering, there is brokenness everywhere, poverty, war, constant striving, broken relationships, and mental illness. I don’t want to be in a place that has this much brokenness. I know that my friends and family know that, my God knows that. 

And this may be difficult to hear, especially for those who love me, but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing to be homesick. No matter how homesick I become I know I have a purpose here. And that’s one benefit of feeling homesick, of having depression and having had suicide attempts that didn’t work. I know that Jesus will keep me here as long as he wants me to be here until my work here is finished. 

I have a laser focus on what I am doing here. I know that I’m to speak up in my suffering, to stand here in the middle of intense suffering to say God is still good, he still loves me and he is still my God. 

Shame due to judgement

I usually write about the things I am struggling with/ things that I learned about God. But the difference in the things that I have been going through lately, I don’t want anyone to know. I want to keep secret, why? Shame. I am more than ashamed, I am riddled with shame. I don’t just feel a bit embarrassed, I feel horrified, of all the things in the world why does that have to be my story? Why out of all the infinite ways God has at his disposal to teach, correct, love me and draw me to him, why does he have to use that? 

Why do I have to experience or go through that? And shame makes you hide, it makes you try to cover your self, it makes you want to disappear into the wall, or ground or abyss. Why would anyone want to love me, with that in my background and current struggles? Why would anyone want to be anywhere near me? Because yes I am hidden in Christ, and I don’t need to be ashamed of my sin because Jesus paid for it all, but why do I still want to hide? 

Another reason I haven’t written is that I don’t have the answers I normally do in a post. I have no conclusions, I have no tied in a nice bow. I have my messy life, my sinful nature, an incredible saviour and a laptop, and they don’t always lead to closure. But God doesn’t want to me approach issues in this way all the time, because whose life is tied up in a nice bow? Whose struggles have a clear and defining answer? Some however do, when it comes to suicide the bible is clear of how to approach this (and society says the exact same thing). Other things, however, like how to approach mental health in general, or same-sex attraction, although the bible is very clear in somethings, culture and the Christian world, in general, will disagree, is no defining answer of how to deal with these things. And through all the differing beliefs, we forget to love as Jesus loves us. We become use to judging people, being mean and harsh. We forget that regardless of your world view (and I make my beliefs very clear), we have a lot to learn with how to love others. Yes, I believe Jesus is the only way to fully be in touch with your humanity (I know most of the world disagrees). But saying this some churches out there are way more judgemental than those who are non-Christians. 

I’ve had the joy to be in churches every part of this spectrum. I’ve been part of churches that it’s okay to be not okay, it’s ok to not have it all together, it’s okay, to be honest with others. And I’ve been in churches that are very judgemental. God calls us all to put down our weapons, put down our assumptions, leave our grenades at home. And just love others. 

Saying this non-Christians can be very judgemental to Christians (not all, the vast majority of my friends aren’t). I this comes from the judgment they receive from churches, what their preconceived notion of Christianity is. I would challenge all non-Christians to do what I’ve told Christians to do. Leave your weapons at the door. Yes, we want you to enter into a relationship with Jesus because we know how incredible it is, but I want to love you anyway. I want to love you regardless of whether you are very interested or not at all. Because the goal of my friendship is to love you as Jesus loves us. Yes, I would love you to know him as your creator and saviour but the goal of my friendship isn’t conversion. And I think that is very important for me to say. 

Things like suicide happen very prevalently with individuals who don’t believe they belong in our world (I was one of them, and in my darkest moments I still am). Those who have their struggles broadcasted for the world to see, where individuals who hide behind computer screens, and terrorize those who forget they also struggle, those who forget that they actually have the same struggles. Judgemental attitudes actually ruin lives. 

But this doesn’t happen just in the cyber-space, it happens with bullies and kids in school, the workspace, friendship groups, in our hearts. We often have judgments about people that we would never tell anyone. But God sees it all. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5: 22-26, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder (Exodus 20:13) and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister (the greek refers to a fellow disciple) will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ (an Aramaic word for contempt) is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

This is very clearly saying there is no room for judgment in the church.

I am saying this to myself too, as some who can be very judgemental in my mind, I need to hear this. It’s okay to admit that we struggle with these things, it’s not okay to accept it as a part of who we are. We are not our judgment. We are made in the image of God, we live in a fallen world. And we tend to have a bent to certain sin struggles, but they aren’t who we are. 

I was having this conversation the other day with a family member, if we make a part of our sin struggle, our identity, it minimises the chance we have to actually grow in that area.  

And everyone regardless of who you deserve respect and dignity. And deserves to be heard without judgment. 

Reflections of a 21 year old

I am a sentimental person, I love looking at old photos, old memories, thinking about the things I thought I knew back then, the things I was sure of, the things that I found I had a warped understanding of. And it makes me do two things. 

First, I think about what she didn’t know, what the 15 year old me in so much pain with no understanding of why, what did she not know. What did she do in order to protect herself but ended up damaging her even more. I have always been fairly transparent. People can often easily tell when I am not doing well, but this doesn’t mean I  am an open book. Actually far from it. It takes a lot for me to actually say what I am thinking. I have friends now that ask me what I am thinking, and I still find it terrifying. They are out right asking me, and I still have the voice in my head telling me to lie. To not be completely honest, that they want 75% but not a 100%. 

But back then, we were kids. We didn’t know when to push things, we didn’t know the deep questions to ask or what things cause a person’s heart to beat a certain way. Even now I don’t always know these things. But as a kid, I didn’t know who I could trust, even though they wanted to know, I didn’t know what to tell them.  I didn’t truly know what was going on my self, never mind articulating it to someone else. 

So naturally I pushed people away, I made it seem like it wasn’t that bad, I lied to everyone, apart from a few very close people (who even them I only gave 75% of me). I often wonder how my life would change if I let them in, if I actually was honest for the first time in my life. 

But as a 15 year old I couldn’t do it, so I pushed it down, and waited. I pushed down every bad emotion, every bad feeling, every hard situation, every reminder that this life isn’t what it should be. I suffered silently, never being honest, never being truly me, or truly human. If you looked at me throughout my childhood, you wouldn’t think that is true. I am very confrontational, I am just aggressive (no passive aggression for me), my childhood was far from peaceful or calm for anyone involved. On the outside it looked like I was causing the fallout, but inside the was a turmoil that I couldn’t express. 

My only outlet was music, so I learned how to play the guitar, and I wrote like crazy. And even though this helped to an extent the turmoil was building, and when it exploded I would take down everyone around me. I went to uni like everyone else, but I was like a boiling pot of water bubbling over until the water spills out the pan faster than my world was falling apart. I had no idea what God had planned when my mum and one of my best friends dropped me off in Manchester. If he told me then what would happen in the next 3 years I would have got a plane to Bolivia and become a llama farmer (yes I did research where llamas live in the writing of this post), just to avoid my life. 

Uni came and all the pressure became too much and everything exploded, I stopped eating, just tried to get through anxiety attack after anxiety attack until God swooped in just before he was too late. I know God’s timing is perfect, but I often wonder why he waited that long. Why did he wait until I was so anxious and depressed that my personal safety was becoming an issue. But in his infinite wisdom he chose then, he saved me. And I would love to tell you after that everything fell into place. But I would be lying. Because It was hard, I knew my saviour, but now I had the added pressure of trying to do what God wants. And in my own strength I tried to do what he wanted, but I couldn’t, and I didn’t have too. Living in his strength didn’t make my anxiety and depression go away, but it did give me the strength to try and be honest. But this is still hard, and I think it will be one struggle I will always have.  

 

I am still living in the shrapnel of that explosion, trying to pick off the pieces of my life and trying to make sure no one else was serious damaged in the process. 

But secondly, I think about all the things I don’t know, all the things I think I have figured out. I want to have compassion for my past self, but I also want to work on there not being another explosion. Not letting things build up that much. And God is faithful, but it doesn’t always feel like it. It often feels like he doesn’t care, that he hates me or worse is apathetic to me. He isn’t. It feels like he isn’t here. He is, it’s impossible for him to not be here. It’s impossible for him to not love, to not love me. He can’t do it. He has no limits, but I do. I am sinful, I forget, I hate, I am selfish. I try to put on others what only belongs to God. I try to rely on them and not him. But it doesn’t work, it just makes me hurt so much and makes them feel the pressure to be what they were not created to be. 

What will 50 year old Abbie tell me. How will she find her past, that is my present, my future. What does she know that I don’t. What will God show me throughout the rest of my life. There is only one way to find out, and that is to live it.  

Living a double life

Do you ever feel like you live two lives? Like you have the image you portray to the outside world, and actual truth and state of your heart. To be completely honest, I do this all the time. I portray this image that I am open and honest about my life, that I openly talk about my struggles and battles. That I am seemingly sometimes too open, but it’s not true. 

‘But,’ you may ask, ‘I see the posts, I see your honesty’, but you see I carefully allow people to see what I want them to see, I allow them to see some of my struggles but quite often not the heart of it. I will tell you I’m struggling with depression stuff, anxiety stuff, and while that is true, I don’t say anything that I wouldn’t mind the world knowing, I don’t say anything that would mean I actually have to trust you. And I also wrap my posts up nicely with a bow, but the truth is messier than that. The truth is that I still struggle with what I post about. The closest people I allow to get near to my actually struggles is my church family (some not in my local church but in the big church), there I will breakdown, there you will see me in distress, but even then I only outwardly show 20% of what is actually going on. 

My close friends know this, and this mask, this need to hide from everyone, is exhausting. And this is why I haven’t posted, because the things I’m struggling with I would rather no one know. I’d rather stay behind the mask of a broken open person who can still function like a human. Compared to a broken person, who is struggling massively, who struggles to function like a human. Who doesn’t want to talk, eat, do anything. 

Why? Because I am still riddled with shame, riddled with guilt, riddled with embarrassment. Because who wants to show the world, this things? I have no issues with people knowing I’m broken, I have many issues with people knowing my specific thought patterns, specific troubles. 

I would like to tell you the solution to this, I would like to tell you how much I’ve grown, but to be honest, I don’t feel like I’ve grown in this at all. Because I still try and guard my own heart, I still get scared of people knowing the true me. The me, that I don’t want people to see. 

But regardless of whether I want them to see it or not, someone does. Someone sees my fake facade, sees my mask, sees the double life I live and loves me anyway. Loves every part of me regardless of my sin and shame. And he doesn’t just love me, he died for me. He died for my broken, sinful mess of human life, and gave me a purpose. 

My purpose is to share the good news of Jesus, but it is also to show the world that Christians don’t have everything sorted, we all still struggle, we still struggle with sin. I love Jesus more than anything, but I still struggle with depression, and although some Christians stopped struggling with it when they got saved (and that is amazing and we should celebrate it), while we still live in a broken world, we will still struggle. I do. If you do, know it’s okay. No christian, (or non-christian) has their life sorted. If we did, we wouldn’t need Jesus. If we did, we wouldn’t need to be saved from not only ourselves but our world too. That doesn’t mean we retreat, it means we endure, continue trusting in Jesus, but knowing that still battling with mental health is okay, and it doesn’t mean God hates you, it means the opposite. Because through the continued trial, we are reminded our desperate continued need for him just to get through the day. 

The world of autism

In this world that we live in, everything is confusing. I walk into a room, and feel anxious because trying to understand what is socially ‘acceptable, is hard, especially because it always changing, always moving. The world is full of grey areas, large parts of life that aren’t black and white. 

But it is black and white isn’t? You’re either right or wrong; understood or misunderstood; it’s left or right. You can’t be in the middle. And when it is grey, it’s confusing. I get scared because I just don’t understand what is going on. It’s like everyone around me got a manual when they were born, of how to act, react, when it’s appropriate to tell someone what you think, when you need to move on from your topic of conversation, when you can be angry and when you can’t, what you can say in one context but not another. 

As you can imagine, it causes me so much anxiety, because I have to work all this out when I walk into a room. Which means sometimes I get it wrong. Sometimes I will say something deep and meaningful when everyone is having a joke. Sometimes I will not understand what you are saying if you are talking too abstract, but I won’t let you move on until I understand. It means that people can highly misunderstand me. If I overreact to a seemingly minor situation, it is usually because I panic, because it what I prepped in my head to expect all of a sudden it isn’t happening.

I will randomly walk off in the middle of a conversation because I have nothing more to say. I will sometimes act standoffish because I simply am too anxious to speak. I am incredibly direct because I can’t understand why you would want to be indirect and confusing. If I don’t like something, I’ll tell you. 

When people tell me one thing and then do another, I  freeze because I don’t understand what is going on. I have to work out from scratch what the new rules are. Because it doesn’t come naturally to me. 

Change from routine is incredibly hard. It’s hard to make friends (I mean I have some incredible friends now, but that is by God’s grace, and it took a long time for me to get here) because I get angry easily. Anger is the way I express my anxiety and confusion. 

Autism affects me more than I would ever like to admit. When I was diagnosed (I was 17, which is super late), I had already learned how to mask it. Hide it. To try and make my life easier. But really I was ashamed of my diagnosis. I didn’t want to be different (but one thing I have learned is that being different is a bad thing). I was scared that people would leave. I thought that my friends wouldn’t want to be friends with me anymore and while I know that that is some peoples story, it wasn’t mine. Because the behaviour that comes along with it was already there, when I got the diagnosis it was an explanation, but I didn’t overnight become autistic. I always was. 

I came to uni and started to tell people, but only started really talking about how much it impacts me in the past few months. There will be good friends of mine who may read this and didn’t know until now. That is because although it is part of me, I didn’t come to terms with it for a long time, and it doesn’t make up my whole identity. 

But I want to share this for the person who has just a got a diagnosis, and looks at all the statistics of employment, or someone tells you that everything now will change. I want to tell you that it is ok. That you will be okay. There is nothing wrong with you.

You are beautiful, your mind is incredible. You aren’t a case study, you are a human being made in the image of God, and your unique mind is amazing. Not everyone will understand you, but that’s okay. I know the world is confusing and loud, I know you’re scared, I am too. But I promise you, you’ll be okay. You’ll make it. Take the support if you need it, but know that the world will continue to turn.