Who are you? What defines who you are? We all wear many hats. Some wear more than others, but I can throw a list out and hit hats that many of us wear:
Nurse (or whatever your profession is)
and I am sure you can think of more, good and bad.
But, is this who you are?
Below is a story about me and the end of my first marriage. A story about a storm that changed my life and my heart. A storm where white lightening crashed against a dark sky and illuminated the end and the beginning of myself. An illumination that glowed bright until all I was left with was a brilliant rainbow of promise against a fresh blue sky of Hope.
I used to define myself as a good person, a nurse, someone who cares for others, the baby of eleven children, financially frugal, organized planner, homemaker, young, athletic, beautiful, thin, and at the very top of the list WIFE. And I looked forward to being a mother, having traditions in my family, and growing as a unit raising children for God, honoring Him with our lives. Sounds picture perfect? Exactly!
After being together seven years (married for four), my husband left me. It was like he took off a mask of the man he was pretending to be and displayed the man he was. He left our marriage, our church and all our friends. I was heartbroken, confused and scared. And although it didn’t happen all at once, each one of those descriptions that I defined myself with started to disappear.
If I was really a good person he wouldn’t have left.
if I cared for him well he wouldn’t have left.
If I was more beautiful,
if I was more athletic,
If I was someone else, someone better…
As time went by, he didn’t come back. I came to realize that it wouldn’t be long before I wasn’t a wife anymore. I hardly told anyone he left. I just kept going to work hoping he’d change his mind. I couldn’t eat or sleep. I dropped so much weight the doctors at work said I looked like I came from a concentration camp. I was an anxious mess. Three months later he told me he wouldn’t end his relationships with other women and that I shouldn’t call him anymore. And then the final blow: I needed to get on with my life and not base it on his. I hit bottom. I was so low and empty that very little mattered to me anymore – even God. And the pain that filled me was so great emotionally and physically that the best way to stop this, I thought, was to die.
So as I was lying in a ball on my living room floor one night weeping; physically ill, emotional drained, and spiritually disconnected and thought about killing myself to end the pain. I imagined what I was going to do. I would go into work, get the keys to the narcotics cabinet in the Operating Room (they weren’t computerized back then), and inject myself with that wonderful little drug they use to put patients to sleep before surgery. By the time someone found me it would be too late. But, then, I thought that killing myself would be giving up on God; taking away His chance to do something in my life. And because I thought that that was ultimate sin, without possibility of repentance: after I successfully killed myself I would go to hell and be physically ill, emotional drained and spiritually disconnected eternally. I felt trapped. I was living in my own hell with the only way I saw to get out leading to another hell that was worse. Or so I could imagine.
With my nursing education, I knew that fantasizing about suicide along with a tangible plan was a very bad place to be. So I called my sister in Las Vegas who is a Christian and lay counselor. I asked her, “Can you come here? I need help.” It turned out that after trying to make arrangements to come she couldn’t. But she flew me to Vegas instead. And I went for five days.
Before these five days I did not believe in the spiritual world the way I do now. I didn’t believe we could hear the voice of God or that the Holy Spirit was involved with our daily lives. But I couldn’t deny that God spoke to me in Vegas and what He said changed me.
It’s difficult to reason with a person in depression. Though my sister tried to tell me the truth I just couldn’t see it. I was lying on her bed sobbing, trying to convince her that I was unlovable and there was no hope for me. That my life was over. All my dreams were crushed, unrecoverable, trampled in the mud. From the outside, this sounds ridiculous. But when it’s you and all you feel is pain and powerlessness it couldn’t be more resonable.
My sister would go in the bathroom and cry and pray for me. Her words didn’t seem to make a difference. One morning she put a worship cd on and left me there in her bed to go take her son to school. I was exhausted. I nestled into the huge down filled bed and listened to the music. I can’t say I heard an audible voice but I had a conversation nonetheless. As clear as I have ever heard anyone speak He said,
Don’t you know you are the daughter of the King of the Universe? I love you! Why would you let anyone else define you?
My sister returned 15 minutes later. I was up, dressed and going outside for the newspaper…to find a job! She was shocked and asked what I was doing. I said, “I’m moving to Vegas!” God did not cure my depression in that fifteen minutes. That was a healing that came through time and process. I had many beliefs in the core of my being that had to be unlearned and replaced with Truth. But what He did do was remind me of my identity. He reminded me who I was, He reminded me who HE was!
I came back from Vegas with new eyes. Everything looked different. Lying in that bed in Vegas I learned the most important thing a person can ever learn: I AM THE DAUGHTER (or SON) OF THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE! I was empowered and I had direction. I had given power to the physical world to define my worth and value. Because he didn’t love me – I was unlovable. Because he tossed me aside – I had no value. No man or job or friendship or anything deserves the right to define us. We mistakenly give those things that power. And those things are inevitably going to fail miserably at defining us. Who better to define us than our creator? Not to mention the value He gives is so much better than any other. Spouses, bosses, children, friends, church, tradition, culture they can all make us feel insignificant when we give them the power to define us.
Why would you let someone who is bound to fail because they are human tell you what you are worth when you can allow God to say, “I created and formed you. Fear not, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by name, you are mine. You will pass through deep water and I will be with you in the rivers you will not drown. You will walk through fire, but you shall not be burned; and the flames shall not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, your Savior. I have given much as ransom for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and glorious, and I love you. I gave my life in exchange for you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I have chosen you to know, to believe, and understand that it is I, the Lord, there is no Savior, but me.” (paraphrase of Isaiah 43:1-8)
Who are we to say that God wasted the blood of the Lamb on us, that we are not worth His sacrifice? Who can say that God is wrong? Who can challenge him and remain standing? What does it say to God when we give others power to define us, even ourselves? Do we not make them a god in a way? When my self talk is demeaning am I not saying to God, “What do you know?”
So I decided I will no longer allow perishable things to define me. Not people, position or possessions.
I am an eternal being. My life will never end. And because of the blood of Jesus that was used to pay my ransom, I will spend my eternity in Heaven! When this is true how significant is anything here in the physical world? Nothing matters except Him! There is no marriage in Heaven. There is no parenthood. There is no money. There are no popularity or beauty contests. That doesn’t mean these relationships and things are not important. How we treat each other and ourselves and steward our possessions is how we show God how grateful we are and how much we love Him. But these things can not be our goal, they can not be our dream and they can not be what defines us.
So now what? I tried to live out my dreams, accomplish my will and I failed and found myself devastated. And I want you to remember that I did all those things thinking I was accomplishing the will of God, being a godly wife and friend, being a “good” person. But I was still trying to accomplish my will, trying to make myself feel good, trying to complete myself. Lying that day in my sister’s bed I heard God give me a choice. He said,
“You tried to live for your (selfish) dreams and look what happened. Now, do you want to live out My dreams for you or do you want to try it your way again?”
He gave me the free will to choose and would love me either way, but for me, the answer was obvious.
The rest of the story:
Despite my efforts to try and make my marriage work it ended. Nine months after my husband moved out we were divorced. I did move to Las Vegas, got a job and an apartment. I became part of my sister’s church, went to support groups and was surrounded by friends who showed me what love and life looked like. I came to know God more and what He was really like. I learned how to forgive and found healing for my soul. I became an amazing me that I loved and I learned to dream with God.
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*** If you are reading this and find you relate to the thoughts of depression and suicide PLEASE get help! Talk to a friend, pastor, or doctor. If you don’t know who to call or how to get help please click here.