Relief Brings Fresh Buds   Leave a comment

After some 6-8 weeks on a generic form of Prozac, I found myself with far more energy than I have had in many years.  My fears that I would lose touch with my feelings was proven false, at least for me.  I actually have more emotional space now to be more connected to my feelings, so it has inspired a new round of self reflection and growth.  It has been a lungful of fresh air… not perfect….  I still struggle with depression regularly, but that seems to me to be a good thing because the source of my depression is an ungracious paradigm or framework out of which I have operated all my life. I need to connect with the resulting emotions so that I can identify my self-criticism (which is constantly at work in my subconscious), and apply grace to a wider scope of my life and perspective.  Since a very young child, I have been severely limited in my ability to bring grace to bear at the deeper levels of my heart. 

At first the limitation came from being clueless about my true feelings.  My sense of failure in Calcutta and the resulting clinical depression fifteen years ago broke through that blindness to my deepest needs and their remedy in the grace of God.  For many of us, unfelt needs are far more significant and life-shaping than felt needs.  As I do everything whole-heartedly, for the last decade I have been on this rigorous journey of self-discovery and grace discovery.  I realized the problem and solution correctly, but I knew myself so little that I was greatly hindered in this journey.  Instead of moving from a law to grace perspective, I tended to simply refocus all my energies and obligations on knowing myself and grace better.  In other words, I was still mostly operating out of a foundational legalism.  I continued to “should” all over myself and drive myself to discover grace!  Like trying to vigorously fan a weak flame into life, it tended more often to blow it out. 

I continued to operate (unknowingly) out of a motivation of obligation and with great effort (both of which are inimical to grace).  I knew my house was broken and why it was broken, but I kept using the same broken tools in trying to rebuild it.  I think this is often inevitable, because when we realize our need for grace, our history is not erased (the tools are not exchanged for others, but must themselves be slowly rectified).  Regeneration gives us the power to be transformed, but growth in grace is a lifelong process.  I find that I can only apply grace effectively to the self-condemnation which I recognize, and I was out of touch with most of those subconscious views.  When the problem is not what you are seeing, but what you are seeing with, it is very hard to identify clearly, like using my eyes to evaluate what is behind my eyes or seeing a vast landscape without noticing the perch I stand on. 

At times that submerged perspective broke through (and still does) to the level of my consciousness.  Often I only notice a particular moment of dis-grace.  If I am able to give that moment my attention and reflection, I will gradually be more open and aware of those hints to my underlying outlook until I identify a pattern of self-condemnation that needs the salve of grace.  This often comes as an “aha!” moment.

My wife Kimberly laughs at how much I talk out loud to myself… carry on snatches of conversation actually.  I was so accustomed to thinking out loud in this way that I didn’t hear myself doing it.  But one day I realized that every time I make a mistake I say to myself (occasionally out loud), “Dummy!”or some other pejorative.  [At this very moment I suddenly remembered that my dad has always done that to himself, and anger is tied to this for both of us… but I will leave that for another time.]  I started becoming more aware, especially when I said it out loud, and began correcting that damaging view.  But quite recently I awoke to the truth that this was not just an occasional word of self-hatred, but only an occasional siting of an ever present self-condemnation over mistakes.  I had not only recognized a pattern, but the underlying sinkhole of dis-grace, and it makes me alert to more and more occasions of self-condemnation.

When I notice those destructive thoughts, my personal conversation goes like this:  Me: “I am not a dummy.  Making mistakes is human and everyone inevitably makes many all through life.  There are humans and angels (a perfect non-human), but at least this side of heaven you have no other option than being a flawed human.  God created us as limited, fallible creatures, and he looked at us and said, “very good!” Alter-ego: “He said that before the fall of mankind.  You are severely flawed.  He is disappointed in you.”  Me: “Yes I have many flaws, but God loves me all the more in my failures.”  Alter-ego, “Well sure he loves you, but don’t you believe he has expectations in which you are miserably failing?”  Me: “Your idea of love is a lie!  It suggests that God’s love is conditional, that it vacillates based on our behavior.  God loves me completely, unalterably, unhesitatingly, unceasingly!”  This conversation will go on as long as I need it to, until grace wins my heart.  Sometimes I need to get the help of others to stand up for me, for God’s grace–to declare me loved fully despite any situation–since in my most vulnerable places I cannot stand up adequately for myself, that is, I cannot embrace grace because my self-condemnation is too strong. I had a year of counseling to do just that, and would have kept it up if I had not moved across state and halved my salary.  But what I got in return (my wife) was a far greater blessing.


Posted June 17, 2011 by janathangrace in Uncategorized

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