LET’S BE HONEST

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I’m beginning to think that whoever came up with the phrase, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” was never required to put that confidence to the test. In fact, I’d be willing to bet they knew the guy who first said, “Buck up, little camper!”

Don’t get me wrong. I know adversity can lead to great strength. The Bible is full of examples of that – Paul, Job, Joseph. Tough lives created tough guys. And historically, some of our greatest entrepreneurs, leaders and athletes have risen from the ashes of adversity. I’m confident that each of us have that same potential. I know we each have that opportunity.

However, I also believe that life can really kick you in the butt and wear you down to nothing first. But the nice thing about being that low is that there’s nowhere to go but up, right? Very few successful people are transparent about the times they were down for the count; the moments right before they started to get back up.

One of my favorite quotes about being knocked down is from J. K. Rowling:

“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”

As I’ve mentioned before here and there, I belong to two wonderful Facebook groups. One is for survivors of C/PTSD and the other is for survivors of Aortic Dissections. More and more, the line between the two – one emotional and psychological, the other primarily physical – is beginning to blur for me.

I have one friend who survived necrotizing faciitis (flesh-eating disease) and another who survived a staph infection that was so rare his doctor told the intern to not even bother taking notes on it because they’d probably never see it again. When I gave birth to my first daughter at 28 weeks gestation, weighing one-and-a-half pounds, measuring 13 inches, I stayed at a Ronald McDonald House, where families were staying to be close to their very sick children. Some knew their child was going to die. Others were hoping their child would live. Watch the news and you’ll witness people losing everything they have to natural disasters.

And…?

And I’ve come to the conclusion that there are whole lot of us out here who have been through “stuff”!

And I’m noticing some common denominators:

We’re dealing with something that happened to us. Most fiction is about man vs. man or man vs. nature. Sometimes, what happens is a result of our own sequence of choices, although for the sake of this post I’m not going to address that.

We didn’t ask for it to happen to us. So whether you’ve faced the possibility that you’ll lose your life to cancer or had a fender bender with a rotten driver; whether you’ve lost a child or lost your job; spent most of your life under the dehumanizing  abuse of a  parent or been treated as “less than” because of your size, your gender or the amount of pigmentation in your skin, no one asked if you’d be OK with it. And yet, like the family whose home and all their belongings have been destroyed by a tornado, it’s left to you to clear the debris.

We think we’re alone. Either shame or misinformation has isolated us into thinking no one would understand. And you’d be partially right. If you’ve been raped, not even another rape victim can understand how you translated and processed your own violation. If your spouse tells you they think you’re unlovable, no one else has the same life as you to enable them to truly empathize with your sense of unlovability. (It’s a word now.)

And, finally, we aren’t handed manuals or PowerPoint presentations to tell us what to do next. You, my friend, are on your own. Your friends, family and therapists can support you, but ultimately the true work is up to you.

Now there are plenty of scriptures to address everything I just said, and a few sermons that could be preached about challenges. And, yes, I will insist that God loves us and will never leave us or forsake us. I know that I can cast all my care on Him because He loves me. I believe He will make a way when there seems to be no way. And I am confident that he is able “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20) However, since this post is already around 1,000 words long, I’ll save these for other posts.

Today, the thing I want you to understand is this: None of us are the only ones and we are not c553a748a7656e370d73d8dab054b6f0alone! I may not have gone through what my friend Jeff endured, but I’ve had my own “stuff”. You may not have had a mother who punished you by not acknowledging your existence for 2-3 days like I did, but I know you’ve had your own “stuff”. Can we agree on that much? Can we be compassionate and patient with each other without judging who’s had the worst “stuff”?

So if someone tells you that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger or “You were given this life because you were strong enough to live it.” don’t feel bad if you think it’s hot air. Don’t let those words shame you into thinking you should be doing better than you are doing. We may become strong from our trials, but I don’t believe that God is sitting on a heavenly throne passing out painful things and saying, “Yeah, give it to him. He can take it.” I think those statements, while being well meaning, actually invalidate your pain.

When I started this blog, I wanted to share things that would give others a sort of permission to embrace their own challenges and pain, as well as to provide some encouragement and validation. I’ve come to believe that one of the things people need to move on or move through their struggle is to have someone look at you and say, “I see you! What you went through was rough. You didn’t do anything to deserve it. But it can be better than this.”

It’s time we shared our stories.5734bd36c0aa8d7f59f5d6e7cc395e25

 

YOU’RE AN OVERCOMER!

I belong to a Facebook page for people who have been through some degree of post-traumatic stress. I joined because there are still elements of my growing up that still adversely affect my self-image and my relationships with others today, long after the “threat” is gone. I wanted to be part of a group that would help validate what I’d been through. I wanted to see how others dealt with their struggles. To be honest, I was expecting to see stories worse than mine. Unfortunately they’re out there. Some of the group members have been through far more horrifying things than I have. I was one of the more fortunate dysfunctional adults. I was raised by a mentally unhealthy mother and a step-father who was probably as afraid of her as my brother and I were and did nothing to stop her.

Living with a mentally ill parent can distort the way you see the world and yourself. It alters how you trust yourself and others. Learning a healthy perspective of the world and yourself can be a challenge. Sometimes it can take years of dipping your toe in the pool of “normalcy” before you decide to even get into the water. (Imagine trying to get in the pool when you’re terrified of drowning.) This can be especially true if you’ve lived in an isolated abusive or destructive home. And most likely that how your home was – isolated. When you grow up thinking your isolated life is normal, you have to learn what “normal” is. Now, I know…what’s normal? Let’s refer to it as “healthy” instead. After all, there are a lot of “normal” people out there who aren’t especially “healthy”, right?

There will be no navel-gazing today. Someday, we can talk about the past, but not today. Today, we look to the future with hope. I want to just put this quote in front of you to think about.

“Instead of being ashamed of what you’ve been through, be proud of what you’ve overcome.”  Dr. Phil

I know…it’s a quote from Dr. Phil. And before you try to engage me in a debate over his qualifications or practices, just let me say that this is simply a stand-alone quote that I think is valuable to ponder, regardless of its source. Can we agree on that? Good.

Now, if you want a word from a greater authority, we can look at Romans 8:34-39.

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life –  is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Through the sacrificial death of Christ, we no longer need to be ashamed of the pain, discouragement and fear we went through before we committed our life to Christ. Because of God’s great love for us, we are more than conquerors; we are victorious and free to start anew!

So don’t dwell on your past pain (or failures). Don’t continue to live in shame. Rejoice that God has a good plan for your life. And what he has declared will not return void. If he declares that you have a good life ahead of you – and he has – so it will be. It may not always be easy, but it will be good. And remember, you may have been through a lot, but you’ve survived. Now, through the power of a risen Christ, you can not only survive; you can thrive! Be the overcomer Christ died for you to be.