Throughout my adult life, I’ve moved along well in my career. I had most of the accolades I was looking for: a good job title, a solid reputation, and a comfortable bank account. They were all checkmarks that told of the progress I’d made in life thus far. Yet after fifteen years, I found myself hating my life so much that I was looking for ways to end it. My life looked successful and thriving from the outside. On the inside, however…
I became a Christian during my freshman year of college through the ministry of Intervarsity. In the fall of 1991, I arrived on campus, excited and ready to learn. My home for the next stage of my education was a prestigious, small, secular liberal arts university.
I came from a Catholic background, where faith was more cultural than personal. So, while my values reflected some familiarity and regard for religion, I had no real personal investment in it. Unbeknownst to me, the first person I befriended was, a Christian.
What do a large stage in Alberta, a tiny francophone church in Montreal, and my neighborhood coffee shop have in common? A ministry of words to steward, that’s what.
After I left the corporate world although I did not know it at the time, I was leaving behind a whole way of seeing the world and myself. Definitions of success and meaningful work would take on new wording. Through long months of soul searching, prayer, digging deep in God’s Word, and talking with my husband, I realized words were deeply important to me. And what until now had been a necessary tool and a fun one even, to leverage for my team and clients; was now to become an offering.
I discovered my knack for speaking if you will, through the PowerPoint presentation. Yes, that mandatory rite of passage for most corporate careers. I quickly realized I was at ease speaking to a room full of clients and I felt deeply engaged with my stakeholders when delivering their findings for any given quarter. I was not a fan for all the hard work it took to prepare one, especially in market research where the work entails interacting with statistics but did it gladly to offer the insights that came from that work.
I remember when I first felt the Lord calling me to a ministry of words. I wasn’t sure what it all entailed, what it was supposed to look like. But I pressed on in prayer and around that time younger women from our church started to ask if we could meet up for coffee to chat about career, life, and faith. My husband and I, a couple in our 40s are among the “older folks”. We chuckle, as in our previous life we were among the younger couples. Now, given our age and life experience, in a young church, we are vessels. I knew He was asking me to make myself available to listen, to devote some of the open spaces on my calendar and receive the words of others. So I did.
Around the same time, I felt called to write. It would take another two years before I’d take very insecure steps toward stringing words together in my first blogging attempt before taking it offline to regroup. In the meantime, I had a lot of coffee, listened in, and replied to questions and shared about my own experiences, along with the insight gained from the Bible.
God had placed on my heart this exhortation: to be a good speaker you need to become a good listener. And the practice of listening had to start with God’s Word. To listen closely to what I was reading, to dig deeper into it and in the process let it dig deeper into my soul. These things would then blend into the conversations I engaged in as I learned to listen.
The art of receiving words and offering them is at the heart of learning to steward them. A quick search online for the definition of stewardship yields this: “the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property.” How fitting that to steward means to take care of something, to supervise it.
In calling me to a ministry of words to steward, He is asking that I learn to care for and supervise how I am going to use the words I speak and write. How fitting that this should start with the quiet everyday practice of meeting Him in His Word. The act of reading it, learning it, wrestling with it, praying over the words I read, treasure them.
And how fitting that this would be accompanied by the call to make time for others’ words to reach my ears. To learn to create a space for them to share and ask and wrestle. How much, His Word, His people, and His call to serve are pivotal to my learning to steward the words He puts on my heart to share.
All of this reminds me how much we are not meant to do life on our own, or, on our own terms. That our gifts aren’t going to be uncovered, invested, and, nor will they flourish if we don’t start with His voice giving the guiding steps, and don’t engage with others to sharpen and be sharpened. Lastly, it reminds me that healthy growth happens over time, not overnight. That small everyday obedience matters more than any big picture idea. And to have one you need the other.
As I continue to learn to steward the words that weigh on my heart, and continue to pray for opportunities to offer them where needed, I want to share two exhortations:
You may not be one called to a ministry of words per se. At least not in the specific form of speaking, teaching and writing, like me. But, if you believe in God and follow Jesus as your Savior, then you are called to season your words with His. And that starts with spending time to read and learn His Word. No other endeavour is more worthy of our time and effort, I promise! It’ll keep you coming back for more. And in the process, it will make you a good listener. Which in turn will give you a door to say timely words as the Spirit leads.
The second -
Beginnings are hard. They are also exciting. And they always start small. So whatever you hold in your heart and hope to see flourish, be encouraged and take heart! Small obedience counts for everything. Pray and seek the Lord, spend time with Him, read His Word, and ask for guidance. He will meet you and use your availability to teach you, bless you, and use you for the blessing of others.
[This is part of the “first-draft” series. If you want to know what it is and why I’m doing it you can read about it here.]
“I wonder what this will cost me?”, I said to my husband right before sharing an article on social media about Jackie Hill Perry’s latest book. The book moved me deeply and my hope was that after reading the article, others would be curious to read the book too. He reassured me I should share it as worthwhile content. He was right. So, after posting the article along with my own enthusiastic recommendation of Gay girl, good God, as one my top reads this year, I put the phone down.
Shortly after posting I saw the first comment. There was pushback that misrepresented the piece and more importantly an open hostility against it. Jackie’s story, the article commenting on her book, and my own commentary, were all mixed together as part of the harmful efforts of the evangelical agenda against the LGBT community.
While I don’t expect everyone to agree with the faith professed by myself or the article, I realized it was likely they had not even read the article. The tone and words employed to express said push-back were out of sync with the spirit of the article. I understood it was a reaction to something more than what was shared. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,
“Nothing that we despise in other men is inherently absent from ourselves. We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in light of what they suffer.”
I wrote a short comment thanking them for their honesty, and affirming my affection for the person, as it was someone I know in real life. A short time later, they deleted the thread on their own accord and wrote me privately, where they apologized, and we engaged in written conversation for a long while.
During our private exchange, my friend expressed alarm at the harm the evangelical community was doing. It was a frank comment, and I took it seriously. While there are plenty of instances where in the name of religion people have engaged in behaviour unbecoming of the gospel they profess to uphold, I wondered how was that the case with my sharing this article? It didn’t matter. Their mind was made up.
I looked up the word evangelical in the dictionary. The root comes from the Greek evangelos, in reference to good news according to the Gospels or the New Testament, adding “of those Protestant churches that emphasize salvation by faith in Jesus.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary, Fifth Edition). It is an accurate word to briefly describe my faith.
As a person who writes and speaks openly about her faith in Jesus, I fall under the umbrella of evangelical. A word that has come to mean many things beyond the dictionary’s definition, and which groups points of views and behaviours I do not subscribe to yet fall under by virtue of being a Christ follower.
When do words cease being an indicator to inform, and become a label to categorize people? I think when we don’t understand something, and a word becomes easier than the time and energy it would take for us to know. Not agree with, but understand. We all do it.
As I processed the aftermath of the whole article situation, I was reminded we all use labels. The label I was reduced to stands for homophobic, verbal abuse, and even violence. Although I was not personally accused of partaking in all of those, I was quickly judged as someone who endorsed it all and was guilty of the first one. Being regarded in that light left me winded.
All are actions heavily condemned in Scripture as they blatantly violate the supreme truth that ALL humans are created in God’s image, including and especially people we don’t like or agree with.
A follower of Jesus is called to uphold the Word of God with their actions. This means that the same Scripture that compels me to stand for the rights of the unborn for example, equally compels me to treat with dignity and respect those who don’t share that conviction. This is a nuance many are not ready to grant space in their thinking in our culture today.
Whether the issue is abortion, sexuality, or something else, the discussion becomes black and white. Obliterating the fact that our thoughts and emotions usually run in shades of gray. We’ve blurred the lines of debate to labels void of character or humanity. It’s easier to lash out at the evangelical community, a faceless entity filled with hateful voices, than it is to debate amicably with a friend who disagrees with you.
With a sober mind I think of the times we’re tempted to use labels to explain away so we don’t like to engage in real conversation. For example, an immigrant stops meaning a person who moves from their country to a different nation. It now stands for lazy and opportunistic. Muslim is no longer someone from the Islam faith, but is now a horrible person bringing violence to our neighbourhood. Homosexual is no longer same-sex attracted, but dirty.
Those of us who follow a crucified Savor must be mindful of how we steward our words, especially in the way we think of others. Because whatever we hold in our hearts will eventually show up in our words and actions.
The way of the cross is costly and hard, because love always is. It cost the Father His only Son. And it cost Him, His life. Investing time to listen and get to know others will be uncomfortable. Not everyone will want to engage. And some may still react with disdain. This is part of the cost. And if Jesus deemed it worth it, we should do no less.
While my views on the gospel are uncompromising, there is a difference between saying things that oppose, and using rhetoric that reduces someone to a word intended to strip them of all but an adjective that makes us feel safer for keeping them away. I invite us all reading this to examine where in our hearts is there room for more time to listen, and less adjective calling?
I was reduced to evangelical as an adjective intended to close any further discussion with me and likely cost me a friendship. While I assume the cost as part of the price of picking up my cross to follow Jesus, I also take the whole experience as a sobering reminder to walk in humility and always see everyone first and foremost as the glorious expression of a God who chose to make us in His image, and be careful to never reduce anyone – myself included- to one word.
We are so much more friends. More than what words we want to attach to our personhood, more than those we heard all our lives and still hurt us, more than the good ones we fight hard to earn. We are His workmanship.
And when we look at humanity, may we see what God Himself sees; the work on the cross done by Jesus on behalf of a people who couldn’t do for themselves what God could.
Some of us are rescued from the very life we’ve always wanted. Freedom from self is the hardest to understand because it goes against every narrative we hear and feed in our minds. Here is my freedom story which Heather graciously includes in her wonderful series -
Heather: Okay, before we get into your story, I want to know some of the fun stuff! Tell me about where you’re from, what you love to do, and anything else that will give us a little slice into Paola’s life!
Paola: Several addresses and many accents along the way summarize my life. I was born in Spanish, live in French, and think in English! Born in Venezuela I was raised and educated between cultures. My formative years were spent between Europe and the US. I became a believer in college through the ministry of Inter-Varsity, and later joined a local church that became my home church for ten years. Years later I would return to Venezuela, now an adult. This makes me a TCK – short for Third Culture Kid.
Practically a foreigner, it would prove a hard experience, and by God’s grace, a great blessing. It was there that I met and married my husband. As the political situation there worsened, we began to …
I learned this truth in a personal way as I wrapped up a difficult endeavor that proved worth every moment, mental effort, and sacrifice it required to be completed. This is the first of a two-part post on my experience reading the whole Bible in chronological order.
As 2017 approached a few days away I was looking back and pondering on goals for the coming year. What needed to look different in 2017? I wanted my faith to take precedence over any other plan. It was clear that if anything else was to be planned and carried out, it would need to spring from a place of quiet mature faith. My mind was noisy, and my soul felt dry and spent. So, my first goal was to nurture my relationship with God.
In the 20+ years I’d been a believer, much of my knowledge of the Bible came from sermon notes and Bible studies. I had read a few of the books in their entirety and was acquainted with most through the instruction of pastors and respected writers. I was generally familiar with the overarching theme of the Word through these teachings but realized I did not have a personal grasp of the story. I had bits and pieces floating about in my heart, which I tried to grasp for comfort or counsel in moments of need. I wanted to have an anchor of understanding rather than ideas floating. It was time for me to go deeper in my relationship with God by way of His Word.
The same way we deliberately spend time with others when we want to get to know them better, I felt the need to be intentional in my reading and studying of Scripture. The goal was not to gain knowledge, but to get closer to God, to draw near to Him and let Him draw near to me. I wanted to take Scripture on face value and let it be the light unto my path it says it is.
I decided I would read the Bible in its entirety in chronological order. I wanted to look for the overarching theme of Scripture in the sequence of the events. This meant I would not be reading it in the order in which the books were printed. I looked online and found a plan that had the passages in chronological order.
Being a slow reader by nature I chose not to have a set deadline. The point wasn’t the time it would take, but the learning it would yield. The goal was to read Scripture and soak my mind in its message, one book and story at a time. Last week I finally finished reading all 66 books, cover to cover. The experience took my breath away.
A surprising thing happened, although I should not be surprised at all. I’m not the person I was when I started almost two years ago. The endeavor called for stick-to-it-ness I didn’t have when I started back in January of 2017. Often it looked like this: me showing up, tired, distracted, humble, broken, and prayerful. In that place God met me. And what wasn’t there at first would develop little by little, throughout the past year, nine months, and thirteen days.
I remember the first time I noticed this subtle change in my heart. My soul felt raw and my body tired during a particularly hard month. It was busier than foreseen and burdened by hard conversations with friends. One day I the midst of it all I found myself thinking out loud these words in front of my husband: “I just want to stay home by myself with my Bible and my journal!” After I said it, I realized amidst the whiny tone a real longing to just be with God in His Word. I was taken aback. My time with Him had become a place of comfort and safety. I sought it when tired and upset by others.
Interestingly, when I ran to Him for comfort, it was also the Lord who showed me through His Word, that I needed to embrace the hard in the season and the rough edges in others. Trusting He was as present there as He was in my private moments at home with my Bible and journal. This was an important lesson.
No, I am not the same person today. Reading the Bible with intention, expecting and praying to meet Him in those pages, changed me to the core. It deepened my dependence on God, my awe of His work, and gave me a taste and a lens for eternal perspective.
What we make room for, treat as important, and show up for open-handed and humbled, He will receive. Closing the last pages of Scripture’s last book, Revelation, my soul felt small and so whole. Deep sense of awe fills me even now typing these words. Without a doubt, God’s Word is the most worthwhile investment of my time, intellectual effort, and heart. Indeed, dwelling in His Word, wrestling with it, digging deep, praying through it, learning from it, abiding in the Truths uncovered; is a discipline worth cultivating.
Reading the Bible consistently has shown me that God works in the unseen quiet moments more often than the spectacular ones. This was understanding I did not have going in and now cherish looking back on the last year and half.
Reading the entire library that is the Bible took a lot of effort. At times the narrative was fast paced and fascinating as it took me through the sequence of events. Around the middle, at any given time, the text would take me through a psalm, a battle field, and a king’s court, all in one reading. But it also felt disruptive. There were parts that often meant jumping from one book to another, back and forth. I prayed through it all, asking for focus, discernment, and most of all a heart for His Word.
My favourite book, bar none, is Deuteronomy. It became my favourite when I completed the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible). As I made my way through the rest of Scripture, it remained so. Its content, which most of us associate it with laws and regulations, reveal the heart of God and what is important to Him. I understood His tender care for His people in a way I hadn’t before. Those laws and rules were there to provide safety and Life for them. No wonder it is along with Psalms, the book most quoted by Jesus.
I do not have a natural bend for those things, like obedience and holiness, concepts that at best feel lofty and even cumbersome. But the more I read, the more I dug, the more the words changed my preference. I still don’t have a natural bend per se, but I have tasted how personal the beauty of God’s Word touches my soul, my life. I now have a taste for it that makes me long for it and go back to it.
I loved the practice and hope to take it up again in the future. For the next few weeks I am reading a devotional to reset and rest my brain. Afterwards I plan on choosing a book of the Bible to read. If you want to get to know God better, show up with your need, and a naked heart before Him. Open His Word and prayerfully dig in. Read and look for Him. I assure you the quest will be infinitely worth it.
In part 2 I share what were some of my favorite books of the Old Testament, my takeaway after reading the New Testament considering the Bible as a whole, and some resources that I found helpful to learn and to stay on track.
Till then, a lovely verse and some words I prayed over myself when I first read it last year-
Dear soul, take note. He is my praise, my song, my gratitude, my salvation. Boast in the cross!
I recently celebrated my 46th birthday and underwent emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder. What can I say, it’s been a busy two weeks! Prior to my surgery, I had planned to write a reflective post looking back at the past twenty years. But then life happened in the form of excruciating pain, surgery, and a week of post-operation care afterwards. So, the following reflects the decade I’m in the middle of, the context of the past two weeks, and the biggest difference I see in my heart at 46; eternal perspective.
When I was 26 I wanted to eat the world. Fresh out of university, I was eager to claim and own my place in the world through a shiny job title and the perks and accolades that I expected would accompany said title. I wanted desperately to be somebody, and my plan was to make that happen through my job.
When I was 36 I was eating the world, avid to chew more, feeling that my enough was out there, yet to be discovered. I’d changed jobs often. I needed to be permanently in conquering mode. It was exciting and somehow unfulfilling at the same time. By the time I was 42, the world - that is my world- the one I had relentlessly pursued, was eating me alive and spitting me out in pieces. You can read more about it here and here.
The severe burnout that took place in my early 40s was God’s saving grace. Waking up to the life you always wanted and looking for ways to quit it, will sober you up quickly. God radically changed my perspective from one filled with hunger and urgency for control and definition here and now, to one with eternity as the destination and intention while I am living this one life I’ve been given.
God’s purpose never fails, He will have His glory. And it is a gift to us that He does. Seeking our own is detrimental to the very fabric of our spiritual DNA. We were created, we have a maker. We were made to know Him and be with Him. When we seek to captain our own ship and look for our own glory we are usurping the very purpose for which we were created. At best it will consume us enough to confront us. At worst, we will get what we want, and alienate ourselves from the One Who can give us purpose.
So, eternal perspective. What is it? What do I mean by it? I’ll start with what it isn’t. It does not mean having clarity in all things always, or a guarantee of a long-term plan in place. It does not mean a life free of complications, pain, or conflict. It does not promise the ability to outline the right steps with the assurance of a desired outcome.
Rather, it is having a vision that covers more than what I see and want here and now. It is a filter that helps navigate what we don’t know, can’t handle, or fear. Instead of eliminating those things – which is what we’ve been taught should be our life’s goal, eternal perspective equips us to live through it. For me, it has meant living with hope that goes beyond tomorrow or the next thing I wish to achieve. Is the reminder that God is still God, He is still good, and His purposes prevail, even when circumstances seem to point otherwise or aren’t what I want. It is the lifeline that assures him getting the glory will also result in my good. It is the reshaping of my heart that now wants Him to be glorified through my circumstances, rather than me getting my way.
For me, it means to set my eyes on what is eternally important, that I may discern all things in light of that. It helps to put everything in the right place, including and especially myself. Pressing needs here and now, like rent money, or food, or a health issue, are human needs that point to my limitations. We need food to survive, shelter over our heads, and the means to provide for both. We need help when our bodies malfunction or fail. We need. Eternal perspective sheds light on who I am not. I am not God. I am not self-sufficient or all powerful. As much as post-modern thought, my college education, and corporate career would beg to differ.
While I was at the ER waiting for the doctors to decipher what was the source of the blinding pain I was experiencing I thought of friends who have experienced hospital visits under much more severe circumstances. Eventually, I thought of Jesus on the cross. The Romans perfected a torture device designed with a slow and very painful death as the end goal. I saw the room full of trained medical staff, several of which were working hard to try and understand what was wrong with my body. My pain, 14 on the scale 1-10, was treated, and in the comfort of a medical facility with a bed, and generous painkillers.
His pain was inflicted while simultaneously depriving him of his dignity by removing his clothes, spitting on him, beating him, making him carry his execution device on a raw back after receiving forty lashes, and then hammering nails through his wrists and feet. A sentence reserved for the worst crimes at that time. Endured by an innocent man. All because His Father willed it, for our sake. This perspective is one I didn’t have twenty years prior.
Eternal perspective humbles me as it reassures me, that I am not in charge of everything. And that which I am charged to do, I face with the understanding that I have access to the One who holds all things in His hands. Pierced hands, for my sake. Eternal perspective is knowing this is not the whole story and having deep joy and expectation for the rest to come. Eternal perspective is knowing I serve a crucified resurrected saviour. And that I too must die to myself, my will, my plans, my preference, in order to be made new with Him.
(Photo and drawing by my husband Gustavo Ruiz.)
I wrote this on Saturday. The day announced beautiful, with a bright sun and cool breeze. The kind that brings home the idea of fresh new mercies. Yet, all I kept thinking was Anthony Bourdain's eleven-year-old daughter. Nothing about Saturday felt fresh when I thought of her and the family. The newness of a regular sunny Saturday felt dark, painful; a new I desperately wished to be old, before Friday, for her. I prayed while crying for a stranger’s child, who didn’t feel like a stranger to me.
That Friday, each time I heard the news anchor say “…he took his own life” the words felt too heavy to receive. Less than a week before, designer Kate Spade also took her life. Something about life ending by one’s own devices screams wrong in the soul. Why?! We ask. What happened?
Anthony Bourdain's death hit me and my husband closer than expected. Like many, we enjoyed his amazing expeditions around the globe recording a wonderful mixture of culture, gastronomy, and most of all humanity. He was no doubt very skilled in the kitchen. Personally, his diet scared me more than enticed me. But his storytelling I found spellbinding. He made the culture he visited feel seen and heard. And then shared it with us through the common and every day; one plate of food and conversation at a time.
I feel heartbroken. For the people that will have to reconstruct life minus one who leaves a void that can’t be filled. My heart breaks for Anthony and for Kate. I call them by their first names because they were -aside from their fame and success- like you and me. They had jobs, friends, loved ones, dreams, good days, and bad ones. Until one day putting an end to it all seemed to be the only option. I do not know what made them make that final choice, nor do I mean with these lines to assume I do. I weep with their families, because I weep for humanity, for us all. We are broken and can’t fix ourselves. Our time is made of moments, and the sum of them makes our life. How much one single moment can carry, Lord; how much it can take away. One moment can splinter everything.
I have wrestled with these words. I hesitate to share because there is such a stigma about mental health. I also hesitate for fear of being judged as an adult unable to function despite being a healthy, educated woman with a life by all accounts pleasant with “no real problems”. But as a follower of Christ, I belong to one body with many parts. So, I want to share honestly and openly for the sake of the body member who might be reading this, and find in these words, that you are not alone.
In November of 2014, I was wrapping up my last week at my well-paying corporate job. For the previous three years, I was a successful Senior Account Manager. My clients were big name companies. I had worked hard to earn their respect and establish my credibility as someone smart and reliable, able to offer strategies that could make a difference for their business.
I travelled occasionally on site to present findings to C-level executives, usually directors and VPs. The travelling was just the right amount, enough to make it exciting and yet occasional enough to not drain. My salary had been increasing steadily and by the time I left I was earning well. I was also held in high regard by my boss, my clients, my team and the CEO of the company.
Yet, by fall of that year, I was also suicidal.
For the previous 15 years, I had relentlessly pursued a very specific definition of success. I had traced myself career goals that encompassed climbing up a never-ending ladder, searching for the next achievement. My heart longed after what my bank account would say about me, how impressive my resume might look to the beholder. Meeting those goals became my life. The line between career and purpose blurred into a shade of sameness.
I want to tell twenty and thirty-year-old me that it is not the what that makes it or breaks it, it’s the why. And my why was breaking me.
I want to clarify, a corporate job, a good salary, travelling for business, and a portfolio of big-name clients, are all fine goals. I am in no way suggesting these are evil things to have or to desire. It’s why I was pursuing these things, which revealed the condition of my heart. My inner narrative said that to be a person of consequence, to be regarded as worthy, I needed to add to what is already there. Because what is there was too small to be important. And I wanted to feel important.
For that entire year leading up to November, I was exhausted. I slept poorly and was falling into deep depression. I came to believe that my life made no difference. I felt empty. The definition of self that I had built was not holding up. I remember feeling like there was no way out of feeling this way. Like I had no choice.
My husband started noticing my exhaustion and would comment that I looked tired. Was I ok? Then a few weeks later, he would say “you don’t look well sweetie, talk to me.” I told him I just felt awful, but that it was me, not us. “When you are not ok, we’re not ok,” he replied.
It made little sense to me at the time. One day he looked at me and said, “honey you know you can walk any time.” But somehow, I didn’t think so.
You see, the identity I had built was so strongly rooted, I struggled thinking if I quit what would I do?! More importantly, who would I be? After all, mature, together people, don’t just quit their jobs. They do so if they have a better one lined up. I was too burnt out to look for anything.
It got worse. I remember one day, on the bus on my way back from the office going home. It was toward the last days of summer. The sun was setting, and it was beautiful. The colours in the sky were amazing. And in the most sincere and natural manner, I thought “I will miss this when I’m gone. It’s so beautiful.” I realized immediately what I had meant by when I’m gone. I scolded my mind for thinking such a thing. Yet in my depressed state, I wanted to entertain the thought. And I did.
As the first days of fall appeared, my spirit became more and more restless. My depression reached its peak. I would cry regularly. I would muster an unbelievable strength to show up to work and put up a front to be functional for the hours I was in the office.
I always did my job. Always up to par with my peers, meeting my responsibilities, and even trying to outperform my own objectives. And again, gaining the praise of my superiors and clients alike. I was “attaining” what I wanted; that which I had worked so hard for. Yet inside I felt depleted. I would arrive home beyond worn-out, a shadow of a person.
During that time, I would often go for walks in the evening to try and clear my mind, as the thoughts and feeling of anguish were oppressive. There is an indoor pool in our building. We never use it. Once I walked by it around 10 pm. There was a sign that said it was locked to the public after 9 pm. I remember thinking - I guess it’s better if it’s locked, It would be so tempting to just go and drown, and end this.
My heart was empty, and my mind was a dark place. The meaning I successfully built was not giving me any significance at all. I was successful on the outside. Inside I was literally a dying soul.
I was addicted to what my job fed in me. Like an addict needs his fix to function; I needed to derive meaning from the existence I thought I had created for myself. The problem is that it was not giving me the fix I wanted. Not anymore. That sense of importance, I was somebody because of what I did. I could not quit that. So, quitting my life instead, seemed to be the option left. That is how blinded I had become.
God’s saving grace came through the few who knew I was not well. I reached out to my best friend in the US regularly, often through sobs on the phone more than anything. I did speak with my husband, although he was the one who did most of the talking, trying to reach out to me. And there was a co-worker, who is also a friend, and a brother in Christ, who saw the severity of my state.
They didn’t tire of speaking truth and wisdom even -and especially- when it seemed I wasn’t listening. I believe, especially their prayers made a dent. I came to an abrupt conclusion that I needed to quit my job, more than my life. Although at the time the two were one and the same thing to me.
Quitting was an ordeal for me. Because breaking up with your addiction is hard to do. But by God’s grace, I did leave. The suicidal thoughts slowly subsided, while the depression lingered for a long while. The road to recovery has been a slow steady one. One baby step at a time, letting new narratives from God’s Word take captive old ones and replace them. Much like a recovering alcoholic, I now walk through life with a deep sense of sober-minded awareness. Identity, purpose, and success are all definitions I revise regularly against eternal perspective, rather than the here and now. My life is now small, and my God big. It is a blessed shift that has literally saved my life.
I feel the burden to open my eyes wide to those I share my life with, to try to see them, to hear them. My neighbours, my church, my friends online, abroad, and those I see every week here in my city. If you are clear-headed as you read this, please embrace that burden too.
If you are struggling, I may not know you personally or the root of your struggle, but I know the burden of a life too heavy to carry. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. And your life is of immeasurable value, for the simple reason that you are an image bearer. There is grace for you. Please reach out, talk to someone. Let someone do the talking like my husband did with me. Allow others an opportunity to prove you wrong and let God, through them, show you He is present and cares. Please give your life a second chance. After all, we say everyone is worth that. So are you.
Whatever you are facing, please let this speak Truth into your life:
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible. Matthew 19:26
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