There I was, crying AGAIN. Four pairs of eyes looked up at me, as I desperately tried to stop the flow of tears. I was the teacher, for goodness sake, why couldn’t I hold it together for one hour?
All summer I had been dealing with sadness and depression. Sure, I had some bright moments, but I had come to realize those moments were like breaks between waves that keep pummeling one after another as they crash into the shore. This particular night, driving home, I began to wonder if something was wrong with me. Did I need to seek counseling? Did I need medication? Was I just hormonal? This season of heartache had lasted far too long.
Normally an open person, I hadn’t shared the details of my struggle with a soul. Sure, I had shared generalities, both in person and on this blog, but the details? I was too ashamed to let anyone in on my pain. Blessings surround me; how could I get tripped up something as innocuous as this? Loneliness was my friend all summer, despite being surrounded by people. What I felt was too fragile to trust with anyone else. At the core of my feelings lay bleeding wounds of rejection; how could I dare risk rejection again by sharing this raw part of me?
So, uncharacteristic of myself, I began retreating further. I had never really done that before. It felt unnatural, yet the more I retreated, the more protected I felt. And the lonelier I became.
That evening, which happened to be my birthday, I bought blizzards at Dairy Queen and brought them home. Matt and I sat on the deck enjoying my birthday treat, watching the kids swim in front of us. It occurred to me that even if I didn’t feel safe sharing my deepest hurts with friends, I should be able to trust my husband. Why hadn’t I done this yet?
So I ventured a try. Kind understanding met my fragile tear-smattered words, and a few simple words of wisdom seemed to softly and lovingly bond to the place of my pain, slowing the bleeding. Suddenly, though not healed yet, I felt hope.
I had so tightly wound a protection over my heart, yet by entrusting myself to him, it was as if he cut the one thread that loosened the others and allowed my heart to breathe again.
That night I read a fiction book based on Scripture on the life of Aaron, Moses’ brother. Speaking on God setting the Israelites free from the Egyptians, I read very familiar words seemingly for the very first time. God planned to free the Israelites so they could worship God (Exodus 9:1).
God freed them so they could worship him. I hadn’t considered this before, as many times as I’ve read and even taught on this passage, and how it points to Jesus setting us free from sin.
I knew God had something for me in those simple words, but I wasn’t sure what. I tucked them into my heart and went to bed.
The next morning, I awoke earlier than normal and decided to spend some extra time in Scripture and prayer. I walked out to my patio, coffee in hand, and sat in the stillness and quiet of the morning.
It was in that stillness that conviction came. Words tumbled from my heart in prayer when I knew I had to write them down. Opening my prayer journal, which hadn’t been used in a couple of months, I penned the words that began the opening of freedom to my soul:
Father, when You set the Israelites free from the Egyptians, You set them free to worship you. You also set me free from the chains of sin for the same purpose. But I haven’t been worshipping You. My heart has been bowed to the desire of an acceptance and love of another…Tethered to this elusive approval I sought, bowing my heart to You and You alone has been an impossibility, as satisfaction in You can never come as long as I trust in another’s opinion of myself. You loved me while I was in chains – when I have been the very worst of myself – and yet the fact that this wasn’t enough for me points to my vehement idolatry. On the throne of my heart has been the quest for love and approval from one who is not You. Forgive me for this idolatry. Forgive me for my wandering heart. Help me break free from these chains as only you can. Usurp my “self” and self-protection that has sat in Your rightful place far too long. You have set me free to worship You. May I never lift up my soul to another again.
Peace came with the lifting of the sun, and I knew this was it.
My sickness was not mental-health related, nor was it hormonal. It was the sickness that comes when a heart elevates something else in the place where God should be. Idolatry.
God has set me free to that I might worship Him, bowing my heart to Him alone. And just like the freed Israelites, I’m under no illusion that I won’t long for the familiarity of Egypt from time to time. But for now, my heart is intent on worshipping the One who set me free.