We’re only on the first morning of Soul Survivor so far. Skip a bit, brother. Morning of day four. There I was, asking the wrong questions, not having them answered, feeling grumpy and swearing a lot. Being picked on by God. Towards the end of the week I was beginning to think that perhaps I was going to be let off the hook. No crying this year. Lots of other developments, yes, but mostly of the non-scary variety.
Not so much. Mike Pilavachi changed the order of the sessions at the last minute, moving what we were going to focus on that morning to the evening. He said he felt it was right to talk about this other thing instead. And he gave a talk on weakness, which was really quite annoying because I’m confronted with my weakness every day and I hate it. I don’t want to be weak and I go round in obsessive circles trying to work out how to rid myself of the weakness that crushes me. But just as I was frowning to myself, Mike said something that made me laugh. We have God’s treasures in jars of clay (2 Corinthians 4:7). He said something about crappy broken pots being used to hide valuables back in the day. He said he’s a cracked pot. I like that. Simple pleasures for simple minds, eh? I’m a cracked pot. 🙂
But I’d really rather not be a cracked pot anymore. I thought when I got better a couple of years ago, and stayed better for quite a while, that that was it. Mental illness was in the past tense. And it’s not. And it might never be. This displeases me. Displeases, ha. Understatement. Mike said that God chooses the weak and the broken. He picks failures and losers and sorts them out on the way. But the sorting out might not mean taking the illness away from me. Dammit.
It’s not like I talk about super crazy spiritual things like healing around here very often, but I have asked God to heal me, of course I have. I’ve begged him to take it away from me, let me live my life free of mental illness. And so did Paul (the apostle, Saint Paul, that one). He had what he called a thorn in his side that tormented him and he pleaded with God to take it away from him. Been there. And God didn’t. He told Paul, “my grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I was thinking about this and then Mike mentioned it, which made me roll my eyes in irritation at God. Seriously, go pick on someone else.
Mike said that life is hard, it’s a struggle but that God will hold onto us, he will do miracles through us. And then all of a sudden he was talking about himself. He said that he’s had the hardest six months of his life, recalling the session a few days before. Terrible things had happened. He had nothing to give to SS this year. But he came anyway and so did God, and he said they’ve had a remarkable time. He said that sometimes it is a victory just to show up, just to get out of bed in the morning. I was squashing tears back, my breath fighting in my chest. He told us not to doubt God’s love for us. Intimacy comes in a place of weakness. I didn’t understand but it felt like a sword was piercing through me right to my core.
Mike then told us that he had a group of people on his heart that morning, and he’d shared it with other SS leaders who encouraged him to go ahead. The people weighing heavy on his heart were those who suffered from deep depression, suicidal thoughts and panic attacks. The world shattered around me at that moment and even now I haven’t picked up all the fragments.
I have no idea how to write about this. I can’t speak about it. Apologies for lack of eloquence. I stared at him, stunned, pierced, and still rebellious. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I can’t, I won’t, I’m not going to fall apart, my mum’s sitting right next to me! Mike said some more words that have muffled in my memory. Just as I was about to panic, as my breathing became ragged and I was preparing to bolt if he told me to go to the front of the tent again, he said some more muffled words and all I caught was “depression, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks” and I broke completely, right into my mum’s arms. She didn’t do anything except hold onto me as my body convulsed with sobs, grief-filled sobs. I felt someone behind me and it was Mr Narky. I had my head buried in my mum’s chest, her arms around me, Mr Narky’s hands on my back. I cried and cried and cried, broken, desolate.
As I calmed down I told my mum very briefly about this year, about my suicidal ideation (not something I would generally talk about with my parents), that I don’t want to live like this anymore. I told her about the fear I live with all the time, fear of being like this for the rest of my life. That I want out. I told her how much I’ve pulled away from them all, that I’ve retreated inside myself, that I had spent the week determined not to lose it in front of them, that I would rather anyone except her was with me right now. She laughed and told me I was stuck with her.
And she talked and prayed. She said that I need to accept the illness that I have. It may never leave but if I stop fighting it, it’s possible it could loosen its hold on me. She told me she sees growth in me even though all I see is how far I’ve been set back. She saw fear, guilt and shame running through me, which was incredible. They’re my black balloons. I had told her about fear and she could have inferred shame from my reticence around her, but I’ve said nowt about guilt. She told me I have nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about, nothing. She told me to drop them, drop my shame and guilt, drop my fear of the future and she prayed against them. She said I’m a beautiful cracked pot. This illness in my mind may never leave but that doesn’t mean I have to live like this. There is no need to fear the future for God is with me. That is the answer to all my questions, all my fears.
And she prayed for Mr Narky. She made him cry too. She said he’s been holding this burden alone and he needs to trust God with it, to let go, to stop trying to be strong all the time. *coughsomethingisaidmanytimescough* She prayed for us to be bound together as a couple with God. Not alone anymore, not burdened, not afraid.