My Awakening To Really Living
I am so thankful that God has opened my eyes to see the lies that I have been believing in. All these years, they were the same lies dressed in different ‘sheepskin’. Yet, I took the bait, all the time.
I guessed I needed to come to the end of myself to ‘see’ the start of God in my life. I was so trapped in my unworthiness and shame, confessing, and asking for forgiveness until I believe that God will not forgive me anymore. I felt that my spirit was dead, my soul was exhausted, and my body was breaking down. I could not pray, could not worship, and could not even finish listening to a worship song. I felt weak, not just physically. I felt like I was dragged around by the daily things that were happening around me. My heart seemed to stop feeling. I was having headaches from the morning when I got out of bed till at night when I went to bed. I was taking Panadol like a health supplement. My eyes were so uncomfortable, strained, and dry. My lips were constantly chapping and flaring up. I felt like I was in panic mode all the time and have been struggling with insomnia all these years. I was taking sleeping pills until it had no effect on me. I have lots of emotions, but I can’t name them. Deep within me, I felt empty.
This was my life even as I thought I had recovered from depression.
“What is happening?” I asked myself that every day, feeling lost and confused.
One day, I received a text from a friend whom I have not contacted for years. She invited me to attend In.habit.
Unlike my usual cautious self that would require more information, I found myself registering promptly for it after reading the first line.
The invitation had come from a friend I met at an organisation. I had left it abruptly. This recollection aroused in me a sense that I was being pursued. Later, that friend told me that she was no longer with the organisation but felt impressed by God to reach out to me and sent me 2 Kings 20:5. The moment I heard that, I broke down in tears, as it was clear that God has not abandoned me. He had heard my silent thoughts and even wordless and unsaid prayers. My birth date was represented in the number from that verse. I felt like God was speaking to me directly, calling me by name and telling me that He has heard my prayers and seen my tears.
From that moment, I felt like I was given a new lease on life. Browsing through my journal, I noticed that my mode has been to simply exist, cope and survive what life threw at me.
An excitement began to grow within me that there is more to and my imagination began to be awakened to the possibilities that lay ahead.
I began to try to start and end my day differently. Not entirely sure what to do, I turned to prayer. But it was hard, as it felt unnatural at times and there was a lot of inertia.
I recalled Ps Jenni telling me to begin to insert a gratitude routine into my day. Three times a day I was to pause and give thanks, for whatever came to mind. I used to hear people share on meditating Philippians 4:8 to think about what is pure, lovely... But I often ask myself "How?!" There isn't anything true to think about as I'm always feeling confused. There isn't anything pure to think about as I felt so unworthy and dirty. But that suggestion was so simple and practical! The 'magic' in it is to persevere and it worked like 'rebooting' my thought cycle, breaking my negative thought patterns.
I also embarked on a major cleaning and decluttering. Somehow, the physical cleaning had an impact, and I sensed a change in the home atmosphere. As I cleaned and decluttered, I would worship God and welcome His presence and blessed what I have.
I am so glad that I persevered on. As I continued to pray, and be open and vulnerable to God, He revealed Himself to me. Sometimes a song comes to my mind, and I will worship with it. Sometimes a verse or a book comes to mind, and I will read it. Sometimes an image comes to mind and even if I did not quite grasp what it represented, I made sure to journal it.
At times, I found myself just crying and groaning because there were simply no words to express what was coming forth from within me.
Day by day, spending time with the Lord became more natural. I was also reminded of my posture as I go to God. Previously, I have always approached God as if I am a slave because of how unworthy I felt. But I learned to shift my attention to God and decided to praise and exalt Him instead. It was amazing as I began to experience God in a new way, especially as a loving Father. In this space of safety, I found I would feel a leading to pray for others, especially my family. At other times, I am convicted of areas that I need to turn away from and even renounce. Some days, I would just remain to be enveloped by His Love.
My relationship with God is transformed and I am excited to deepen it further. I am aware now that this will require me to relinquish many things I held on to: my mindset, belief, habit, identity and so on. Amazingly, God seems to ‘drop’ thoughts/ memories/ ideas in my head.
I begin to notice a shift in my perspectives. A major area is taking ownership of my life. Previously, I approached life with a ‘need to do’ mentality: I need to sweep the floor because my dad told me to. I need to fetch my brother because I was asked to. I need to do this task because my boss… I have abdicated my power of choice and along with it, lost my voice to speak up and say “no”, and so lost my identity as a person.
Now I recognise how powerful personal choice is, and how I can desire something and act on it for my enjoyment and growth.
Two specific areas come to mind. From the time when I struggled with depression, I developed a snacking habit, probably to cope with the emptiness I felt. The problem is guilt often creeps in after I snack, and I am often preoccupied with what snacks to try. This craving has now been curtailed and I now need to clear out my snack hoard!
Previously, I did not even have a basic skincare routine. But now, what seems like a mundane routine is something I luxuriate in as I care for myself.
These are signs that my personhood is being restored, as God heals and sets in place my identity in Christ as a child of God, a human, and a woman.
Furthermore, I used to conclude that I was very bad at directions. But as I learnt to slow down and savour the goodness of God, I found that my senses have sharpened. I am more present to my surroundings and feel more confident about my body too.
Coffee for many of us is a critical energy booster. But in my case, I relied on it simply because that’s what I was told. Taking more ownership of my choices, I began to drink it for enjoyment, and have found I am better able to distinguish the various roasts. I had shut down my senses as I was often told I was too sensitive.
But now that God is my Source, I am learning to trust my senses as gifts to help me savour life and serve others.
Quiet Hour has been a great help in my journey. While journaling isn’t something new to me, the guided questions helped me to go deeper and examine myself. My journaling is thus transformed to become a powerful reflective tool to process my thoughts as well as a platform for God to speak to me. The activities recommended, like going for a walk and sitting with myself were practical ideas to help me pause, reflect, and receive from God.
One particular Quiet Hour, we were asked to go for a walk. I’ve never been interested in trees and plants, but I am so glad I went for that walk! God seemed to be speaking to me using trees. Even yesterday, I had a new revelation just by looking at the trees while I walked home.
The Group Sojourning time provided me a safe space to speak up and share my insights even as I learnt precious lessons from others.
Looking back, something wondrous began during that first In.habit. We had a breakout and as usual I was painfully self-conscious. But somehow, the word ‘me’ popped up in my head and once I started, it seemed the words came tumbling out – the first time I spoke without organising and hedging my words.
The theme for that In.habit was Bring Your Griefs.
I did not know that the loss of my sense of self was what I had been grieving.
It was only as I shared that somehow the understanding came to me. Later that night as I journaled, I came to see that I was grieving about myself, because I have held on to too many regrets and losses in my life. That was probably the longest journal entry I have ever written.
God was helping me to accept my losses, see them in a different light, and let go, so that I could move forward.
I cannot believe that it has only been 4 months. I have noticed so many changes within me. I have grown. God is continuing His loving restoration in my life.
Won’t you let Him do the same for you?