College marked another important, much more challenging milestone for me: the introduction of anxiety and depression. Maybe it was living away from home for the first time. Maybe it was the difficulty of a long-distance relationship. Maybe it was the college-level work load. Maybe it was the location of the college in a poverty stricken, crime filled area. Whatever the reason, anxiety and depression were chains I could never quite shake. Believing they would disappear with my circumstances, I finally decided to transfer to a college closer to my home after finishing my freshman year. “Home,” I quickly discovered, however, was a mirage. My mom was getting remarried and moving to another state. Of course I was welcome to come with her, but I had only just transferred and re-established myself. At this point, I was also convinced that Jake was the man I would marry. Moving three states away from him was not an option in my lovesick heart. I had no choice but to move in with my dad, a person I felt I was really just meeting for the first time.
When my parents divorced, I felt like I was done with my dad. That’s hard to type, but it is true. The reasons are much too complicated and numerous to list. To sum it up, he was an alcoholic who was miserable with himself and with everyone around him. As a sixteen-year-old kid, I was none too thrilled about hanging out with my dad on the weekends. I wanted to be with my friends, and my friends wanted to be at church. As the Lord would have it, if my dad wanted to hang out with me, we were going to church. It just so happened that the pastor of my church had also just gone through a divorce. He and my dad connected immediately. It was not more than a year later that my dad was being cleansed in the waters of baptism. The Lord had given us a second chance at our relationship. Today I can’t believe we were ever distant at all. My dad now means so much to me and I am ridiculously proud of the man he has become. His testimony is part of the reason I believe in the transforming power of God.
Though it never went away, the anxiety and depression seemed to be manageable up until after I started having children. I came to a point that I realized failure to get help was going to cost me my marriage. I don’t even know how God held me together during that time. I started seeking out counseling and medication to dull the suffering. It helped, but the mental suffering became part of the background of my life. It may not always be crippling, but it was never fully gone, either. I had resigned to the thought that anxiety and depression were always going to be a part of my life. I took the attitude of Paul, who prayed for God to remove the thorn from his side, but received the answer that God’s grace was sufficient for his need. I knew that as I worked with other women who struggled with anxiety and depression, I would be better able to minister because I knew their pain on a deeply personal level. Though I continued to pray to be released, I never truly believed I would be free from that bondage. Little did I know the suffering was all part of God’s plan to make me stronger than I ever could have imagined.
All that I have shared so far feels like just a scratch on the surface of the depths of God’s transforming power in my life. By His grace, I have seen healing and redemption with both of my parents, in my marriage, in my ministry, in my relationships, and even within myself. That just about catches us up to the present, except to say that despite my wonder at His work in my life as a whole, the most spiritual growth in my life has miraculously occurred just over the past year. A year ago I never could have imagined the depths of which I have come to know God today. It’s very arrogant to admit this, but I really didn’t think I would be growing in my faith to this degree twenty years in. I know God more intimately, trust Him more fully, and follow Him more closely than I thought possible. I actually hear from God. Like, we actually communicate in prayer. It’s not just me spouting out a list of wants, needs and apologies. It’s reciprocal. That might be hard for some people to take, but I promise you, it’s true and it’s available to anyone who will seek Him. As I said in the beginning, the ways He has loved me could fill a library. Maybe one day I’ll contribute to that library with a book of my own. That remains to be written, though, as does the rest of my story. Only He knows, so I will keep following Him.
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