PART ONE- WEARY AND OVERBURDENED
“Come unto me, ye who are weary and overburdened, and I will give you rest.”
Pride is a very strange thing. It is something that both controls and eludes those of a sinful human nature, which is pretty much all of us. It controls us because of our nature- it’s that surge of dopamine that we get when we are recognized, put on a pedestal, or see the potential of such in the future. It’s the cause of social strife, the promise to be stratified higher than one’s peers. And it is elusive because of our inability to reign it in and keep it from influencing us.
I am no different. I didn’t grow up without material comfort, but that’s another mistake that we all make: that because we are not desperate and “broken” in the earthly sense, we cannot be found lacking in any other. This was wholly not the case. As a fourteen year old experiencing adolescence at full speed, I found myself in a new and strange place in life, where rules were changing and a sense of “normlessness” found itself creeping into my life.
I’ll admit, I was a lazy high-achiever in a culture that was hard working. I defined my worth by my achievements, which also left me with a strong sense of impostor syndrome because I knew I did not put in the full effort to receive the worldly applause that I got.
Melville once called Ecclesiastes the truest of all books, as well as it being “the fine hammered steel of woe.”
The gist of the book can be summarized in the second verse of the first chapter:
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
The teacher, as did I, were permeated throughout with a deep sense of existential triviality. Mine just became manifest at a vulnerable stage of life.
I put defined my worth by what I achieved, but it was never enough to make me happy. here was something deeply wrong with me- a disconnect between what I was, what I thought I needed to be to find satisfaction and joy, and how I felt.
I became an insomniac, and slept about three to four hours a night. Everything was just a motion I carried out. I was angry, sad, confused, hurt, and anguished all simultaneously and all constantly. I had panic attacks all the time even though there was no reason for me to feel anxiety. I was a good student that excelled at everything- why did I feel so horrible?
Constant anguish evolved into a bitter depression, and that in turn evolved into constant suicidal thoughts. I was both bored and exhausted by the life I lived. I was fine by societies’ standards but it wasn’t enough.
That way of life was unsustainable, and I knew that without some drastic change that I would one day commit some great violence upon myself. I resigned myself to the thought, probably sometime during sophomore year, that I wouldn’t be around to see myself graduate high school.
But pride is relentless, and burrowed itself even more deeply into my heart. It wasn’t until my senior year when I was fully humbled.
I feel a bit strange writing down this portion of my conversion, but it is a key and necessary part of my transformation. To put it plainly, I was abused. Now we often make the mistake of automatically assuming physical abuse, but no, this was emotional abuse. And I beg the reader to understand that emotional abuse is very deeply cutting, and that one should not waive off the pain of those going through it simply because it is not physical. I have my own experience encountering a lack of compassion because of this, but I digress.
The emotional abuse was committed by someone I was very close to and even loved. It isolated me and told me I was worthless- it made me a pariah and closed me off from even my closest friends. I would go to school, talk to almost no one, and go home with stress migraines so intense that my molars would ache severely. And worst of all, I felt wholly deserving of the pain that I received from trying to break free of it.
This was the final layer of suffering that I needed before the moment of “sink or swim”; quite literally, this was my “do or die” moment.
And by the grace of God I swam, and I did.
PART TWO- REFUGE
“I cry aloud to the Lord;
I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
2 I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble.
3 When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
people have hidden a snare for me.
4 Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life.
5 I cry to you, Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
6 Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
7 Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me.”
It was the hand of God that led me to a verse written by a certain Old Testament king when I needed it the most. There were parallels in our lives; both of us were trapped and had “enemies” surrounding us on all sides with no emotional refuge except that which we accepted from the permanence of a faithful God. Young David was hunted by King Saul’s men and trapped in a cave fearing for his life. I felt hunted and ostracized as a social pariah, trapped by an existential lack of meaning, and feared for my life. I saw my struggle in that of David’s, and finally understood God’s faithfulness and the value of faith through Psalms 142. God’s whisper through this chapter in that moment saved my life. It is also the first time I remember a piece of scripture resounding so deeply in my understanding of reality that it resulted in a change of identity. I surrounded myself with God-fearing women who built me up in faith and fellowship. If there a verse to express my love for them it is Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God every time I remember you.”
I underwent a massive change in my understanding of self-worth and reality. I began to define myself not by my power of will or by my achievements, but by my status as a loved daughter of God.
I gave up my life, and finally found it.
And this is where the power of God in my life can be most objectively and outwardly seen in my life: in only two weeks, I was no longer depressed or experienced frequent anxiety attacks.
PART THREE- CHRIST LIVES WITHIN ME
“I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me. and the life I now live is by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
Two weeks passed. I was a different person. I was in no way even approaching spiritual maturity, but I understood that it was time to live out my faith now that I was given the capacity to. My heart was open, willing, and humbled to receive God’s call and instruction.
Easter Sunday, 2016: A suicide bombing in Lahore, Pakistan leaves 72 (mainly women and children) dead and 320 injured. The attack was targeting Christians during Easter celebrations, but killed many Muslims as well.
We were told about this attack during the following Sunday service at my church. I felt a deep sympathy for these people on the other side of the world that I had never met before. This intense emotion for these people was not my own (because I am a selfish and apathetic person by nature), but placed in my heart by a God who loves all His children. I was told powerfully and clearly; emotion and spiritual conviction knocked me down so forcefully that I had to sit in the pew and not stand like the rest of the congregation:
“You are going there.”
Now naturally, the human mind does not see danger and run towards it. My first thought was not, “Oh, but it’s dangerous!” (although I will admit that the thought has popped up many a time since then), but rather, “Yes, of course.” I obeyed because of my changed nature, and also because it was the first time I had so clearly heard the voice of God. And I obey still because it is what I was put in this town, this context, with these traits and skills for.
I changed my major from Horticulture to International Agricultural Development. I took classes in Hindi and Urdu. I studied, and am still studying the Word so that I will be better equipped for the task ahead of me. By the grace of God I am growing in faith and knowledge to live out the beautiful plan given to me- one that does not ensure a memorable or even long life, but a full and purposeful one filled with the love of Christ.
PART FOUR- DELIVERANCE
“I have sought the Lord, and he has heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
I always sought a vocation that let me travel and see the world, and God has given me one.
I wanted an exciting future, and am living one.
I constantly yearned for meaning, and was granted one.
I lacked wisdom, and received some.
I wanted to be the kind of person that cared deeply for the well being of others, and by the grace of God became one.
I wanted to stop having to compare myself to others, and found that my worth derived from the incomparable: the love of a faithful and everlasting God who so loved the world that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.