One of the things that gets brushed under the rug a lot in ministry is the hard stuff. If you’ve had a human life experience, you probably know what I’m talking about – it’s that painfully oozing wound right in the middle of your heart, infected with the awful shame of having the wound to begin with. It really, really, really sucks and it’s really, really, really hard to figure out how to put that giant gaping wound in front of other people without anybody showing you how to do it first. Technically there’s not necessarily a right or wrong way to do it, but there are some ways that are so convoluted that they may as well not be happening (AKA the way I usually do it). Even then, it’s pretty hard to figure out because most people don’t actually know how to do it well, so whoever it is that is trying to show you how to do it is quite possibly doing a really weird job of it too, and the whole process just keeps getting awkwardly reproduced to varying results. We can share the hard stuff once it has passed (“I really used to struggle with *insert struggle* but after *x amount of time* I realized that *solution to the struggle* and now I’m free! #PTL y’all!”), but I know there are a lot of people out there who are just like me when it comes to exposing that big ol’ ugly oozer in our sad little hearts.
One of my most uncomfortable pet peeves is when my brothers and sisters in Christ look me dead in the eye, grab my hand reassuringly, and give me the terrible reassurance that “God wouldn’t give you more than you could handle!” This isn’t advice that I would give to anybody ever, and I really don’t think it’s anything that any Christian who has professed their need for Christ (hopefully all of us) should tell people.
- It puts the onus right back on us to “handle” the situation on our own. That’s crazy individualistic and lemme just say that we were not created to live our lives on our own. This whole extreme individualism is a relatively new creation and it’s a cultural value, not a biblical one.
- I think God would absolutely lead us into situations that we cannot personally handle (or let us walk into). If we could handle everything, we wouldn’t exactly need a God, now would we? If I didn’t actually need a saviour and a creator that was more powerful and amazing than all things ever created (by Him might I add), I would be living a very different life and you probably would be too. We totes mcgoats exist in a chain of creation that is far greater than us and to have the audacity to say that you as one single, independent, puny human being can “handle” it is to deeply misunderstand the ways in which we’re inextricably all tied together.
- We’re going to bend and break sometimes. That’s just a fact of life. We’ll go through times so good it feels like our hearts will burst with awesomeness, but we’ll also face some really terrible hardships that make us crumble into tiny little pieces of sadness.
Over the past few months I’ve developed a nasty little anxiety disorder and a mild depression that grip my heart and my mind in ways that I’ve never experienced before, and I have no idea how to share this with people in my life in a good way. It’s totally coming out bit by bit (like now) and I’m sharing it in the only ways I know how, but it’s very much overwhelming. I’ve always fought pretty hard to be “A-OK Alba” (JK nobody has ever called me that), but I’m finding that I’m really not OK sometimes and I’m coming to understand that that’s totally OK. For all the people who gave me that really terrible reassurance, there were those who gave me the hard truth that some things in life I can’t manage and that’s OK. A few times every day I get insanely dizzy and I have this insatiable need to escape from wherever I am, and sometimes it feels like an imminent doom is coming straight at me. When it happens it’s like my soul is banging pots and pans and scanning the whole world for a safe space to escape to, but the problem is that there is no physical place that can suffice. I really do have to run to God every single time and give Him everything in me every single time. This also includes sharing these terrifying panic attacks and awful feelings with my family, my church, and my friends. It’s really hard because I do actually want to do this on my own, and to a certain extent I do need to, but I also need to let my peeps catch me because my Abba God has shown me time and time and time again that I can and that they will… and it’s better that way.
I cannot even fully handle my own mind, how am I supposed to handle everything that comes at me in this world?! Answer: I’m not supposed to do it by myself. I am so blessed to have a supremely amazing group of lovely people supporting me in so many ways. Most days I’m totally fine and I’m in the process of getting back to normal (through a lot of different cognitive exercises), but I’m definitely not there yet.
As a campus missionary, I live life on the go and every 8 months I get to catch my breath for a period before it starts all over again. I see students teetering on the edge of breakdowns way too often because they feel like the weight of the universe is on their shoulders. So many times I’ve questioned myself and my eligibility to be in this line of work because my mental health really limits the amount that I can handle. I ask myself all the time if I can justify working with students day in and day out while I myself need help, and to be really honest I have to spend a lot of time in prayer + talking with people to remember that I’ve never been able to do it perfectly on my own to start off with. I’ve been here doing what God has asked me to do, but not through the absence of his presence and support and love and endless awesomeness. He is here, He was here before I was called to this vocation, and He will be here even after I’m lead somewhere else. Yes, I have something going on that makes it super clear to me right now that I’m very much fallible and kind of easily broken because of my sucky anxiety and mild depression, but in my humanity I have never been the perfect “okay-ness” that I thought I was. I have, and always will, need to lean on the Lord for support (however little or lot). I read through the psalms and I’m just like “wow, those are the words that my soul is shouting out.” I read about how Moses was like “uh… maybe you should ask my brother or somebody else instead of me?” and I’m just like “yeah, there has to be somebody more stable and good-to-go than me?” But look at how God actually used the psalmists and Moses. Look at how the bible is a collection of histories about people who weren’t actually totally OK all the time.
So this is a post for you, my fellow ministry peeps. People depend on us, but that’s all the more reason to throw everything we have down before God and shout, “Lord, help me!” with everything we have. We are not above needing help, and we don’t actually need to be perfect rocks. It’s totally OK not to be OK. The important thing is what we do with/in our not-okay-ness.