**Warning. Post contains graphic images**
What. A. Week.
I came away from writing my last post thinking how intense Week 2 was as far as emotions go, but as I sit here melting at a desk upstairs, contemplating the rollercoaster few days we’ve had as a class, and how on earth I’m going to put it into words, it’s starting to look pretty tame!
Buckle up. This one’s a good one. (also split into 2 parts to make it easier to read).
Week 3 in our programme was the long-awaited Identity Week, and basically one of the main reasons I wanted to come on DTS in the first place! I really believe that everything we do is affected by who we think God is and what we think about ourselves in relation to that, so I was looking forward to seeing what God had to say through Joanne Blaik, our awesomeeee speaker for the week.
It started out pretty well. We watched a lot of videos talking about being loved and valuable just as we are, including The Greatest Showman’s “This Is Me” – what a cracker!
We went back to the basis of creation in the Bible to emphasise how we were designed and created in love, and went through various material to illustrate exactly how unique we are as men, women, and individuals.
One thing that particularly stood out for me in lectures was reading a medical description of what Jesus went through on the cross.
I think sometimes it’s so easy for us to talk about the crucifixion flippantly – “I got my hair cut today, then I ate a sandwich, Jesus died on the cross for me blah blah blah.” We colour in nice little pictures of him in Sunday school as kids and show PowerPoints of a lovely, clear-skinned, western looking man wearing a loin cloth in church, but actually taking on the reality of the excruciating agony a real, blameless man went through to reunite mankind with their loving creator and father, added a whole new weight and understanding to the “gospel” for me.
As we kept reading, it hit home that Jesus chose to be mocked, abused and beaten until he was one whip away from death FOR ME.
The son of God did absolutely nothing wrong in his life, and he chose to go through the most brutal of all deaths in history to save ME.
The most compassionate, loving, king-become-servant’s skin was ripped from his back by whips beyond recognition, so that I would not have to suffer the consequences of the separation from God that I created. The son of heaven sweated blood in the garden of Gethsemane, then poured it out from every inch of his body FOR ME.
That cross was MINE, not his.
MY sin drove those nails into his hands and feet that he used to prop himself up on with the little strength he had left, just so he could gasp for breath.
He had the power to get down, but he didn’t.
He could have found another way, but he didn’t.
Not only did he choose not to save himself, but HE FORGAVE the people who put him there.
He forgave US.
Because of love.
Because God loves ME.
Because God loves YOU.
If that doesn’t say something about our worth then I don’t know what else does.
We were worth the sacrifice.
I think having the full weight of this revelation sitting on my heart at the beginning of the week had a huge impact on me emotionally, both in and out of class. As the days went on, some darkness started creeping in again and I began to find it increasingly hard to go to lectures. After watching a clip from The Butterfly Circus, we had to stand up and declare that we were “magnificent” out loud and I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I don’t think I quite realised how hard the lectures were hitting until then, so when I heard everyone else shouting truth around me, it sent me into a bit of a spiral of “I’ve had self-worth issues for 10+ years, am I going to be broken forever?” kind of thoughts.
Tuesday afternoon worship was really tough as lies flooded my mind again – long story short, it ended with me having to leave and cry-scream over the mountains for a while, followed by a long chat and prayer-sesh with two of the leaders (who are absolute angels). This is super emo, but I think the numbness and inabilty to feel God I had that night, was actually worse than feeling really down beforehand. Thankfully the dude in Psalm 42 also gets where I was coming from:
I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Psalm 42:9 – 11
Wednesday morning, I hit “rock bottom” and couldn’t face getting out of bed to attend Bible study – the thought of confronting so many people whilst also loathing myself completely for not being able to do something so simple was not amazingly fun. After deciding I was too much of a burden to be here and perhaps this wasn’t the best place for me to deal with my “stuff”, I started entertaining the idea of leaving Australia.
As gloomy and personal as this stuff is, I feel at this point I should say I’m not just oversharing for the sake of it or to trying to throw a pity party, but actually to highlight the victory that comes next compared to where I was. The last half of Psalm 42:11 says:
“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”
And that’s how the week ended – with hope in God and praise! There is glory in my story!
As I started wondering what was left for me back in the UK, and working out whether I could switch my flight to an earlier one, I was reminded of a promise I didn’t even realise I had made in my heart when I first got here: I would complete the entire course no matter how hard it got.
This is the strongest I’ve ever felt like I was called to be somewhere so specifc by God, which means that even though the bugs are horrible, my eczema hates the heat, I have felt really alone, the schedule has been super overwhelming and I have been going stir crazy being in the same place all day every day, I still KNOW that there are good things to come for me here; even if it’s looked completely different to my expectations so far!
God does not lie. He has calls us places for a reason. He knows what he’s doing.
Though this was only one tiny good thought, apparently it was all God needed to turn my situation around! (mustard seed and mountains spring to mind).
During student-led worship on Wednesday afternoon I decided to speak and sing against the lies running through my head, even though honestly I really believed them at that moment.
At some point during this, one of the leaders came over to me, sat down, looked me in the eye and basically spoke straight into my soul! We haven’t really talked much before and yet everything he encouraged me with was completely on point, even though there was no way he could know – so weird and awesome! After feeling like I was alone and that nobody knew what I was going through, here was a man who not only had been through depression himself, but who had come out of the other side and had a really specific word from God about what I needed to do! God hears and answers our prayers guys.
We talked for a while about different things, and in particular about how some people get healed straight away whilst others, for whatever reason, have to continually fight for it – sometimes to set other people free later on.
(This is also the exact word my brother back home gave me in the past too ahh!)
We concluded that God’s called me to be a fighter.
I realised I may not get instant healing and that there may be a lot more battles ahead.
I realised that God will fight with me, but I need to meet him halfway.
And for the first time, I was okay with that.
The leader kneeled down in front of me with his hands open in order to represent Jesus for me (intercession stylee). He told me that he saw me and that he would take away the things I was dealing with, but first I needed to actively surrender and give it to him.
It was painful, but slowly I gave him each thing I had been holding onto and after some more prayer, I genuinely felt a lot lighter. There was lots of crying, then I was filled with an absolute joy that was genuinely the opposite of how I felt a few hours ago.
I’m not saying I’m all better now and that everything is unicorns and rainbows, but something definitely was lifted from me that day that I can’t even put into words.
Sometimes actively giving God things can be really hard but I think that choice to even say “I can’t do this without you” enables us to gain a lot of ground in itself. Acknowledging and trusting God’s power cuts off the idea that we can do it in our own strength which is always the best position to fight a battle in!
I had a revelation a while ago that’s been brought up again now: sitting in the middle of the battlefield crying about why you are in a war when the enemy is charging towards you, is not a good war strategy! The enemy is going to come whether you want to handle it or not, so when dealing with matters of warfare I’m finding it’s better to focus on the “how can I deal with this” rather than the “why is this happening to me” and “I didn’t sign up for this” kind of thought tracks. It also really helps to zoom out of the here and now for a minute and remember that even if we don’t understand it, these 80 years ish of suffering are only temporary – the battle may be raging now but the overall war has already been won and one day the fighting will cease.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4
I don’t think I believe that God actively puts us in bad situations – he is a father filled with compassion, and it hurts him to see his children hurt – but I know through every time we walk out the hard situation with him, He brings growth and strengthening of character that just doesn’t happen when everything is easy all the time.
Hope begins in the dark.
Honestly, I could leave this as it is and it be an AMAZING victory story all on it’s own, yet this was still only the very beginning of the healing that happened in Identity Week! These last 2 weeks have been pretty crazy so I’m desperately trying to catch up with writing, but Part 2 is coming soon for those who want to know what happened next 🙂