“Here is Christian identity; I know the world is filled with troubles and injustices,
I know my past, where I came from. … I came from God.
I know my future. My destiny is in Christ.
And I know the present. I can face myself now — my problems, my assets, my faults —
Because I have turned myself over to God.”
— Leighton Ford
Peter was 23 years old when he graduated from Biola University in Los Angeles and began his first ministerial job. The Sunday before he was to address the congregation for the first time, Peter was introduced to as elderly gentleman who didn’t know he had been hired as the new youth pastor.
“I saw that name in the worship folder this morning,” the man recalled. Then he asked Peter, “Is it your father who’s preaching this morning?”
The young pastor flashed a respectful smile and replied, ” No sir, I’m going to preach next Sunday.”
I can relate. On the identity trek from youth to adulthood, I started out as “Ed and Barbara’s daughter.” Then I graduated to “Chuck’s wife” and “Leonard and Harriet’s daughter-in-law.” When my children were born, I became “Lisa and Jonathan’s mommy.” So in my late teens and early twenties, I joined the ranks of 1970s women who were beginning to buck cultural tradition and pose the question, “Who am I really?”
The trend actually started for me in junior high school. I adored the short stories of writers like Edgar Allen Poe and Alfred Hitchcock, and Rod McKuen’s poetry seemed every bit as and haunting and mystifying to my impressionable spirit. They were craftsmen who searched the soul with carefully chosen words, leaving it to the imagination of their readers to determine the true meaning of their ramblings. Their writings challenged my fragile concept of truth and stoked my adolescent passions.
In those days, I effortlessly allowed myself to become infected with “wallflower syndrome.” I would often hear the words of Emily Dickenson’s poem, “I’m Nobody,” meandering through my thoughts: I’m nobody. Who are you? Are you nobody too? Then there are two of us, but don’t tell. They’d banish us, you know.”
I gathered tidbits of what I considered profound wisdom, wrote the words on colorful squares of paper, and tucked them into the decorated container that I called my “thought box.” These I kept as fodder for the dark times that were beginning to claim my mind in various ways.
It was a few years later during my “Lisa’s mommy” stage when dour mental clouds began casting terrifying shadows across my thoughts — darkening days… then weeks… and then my baby was suddenly eighteen months old. It became difficult to recall happy times. I became easily agitated and increasingly sad. So I went to a primary care doctor who told me not to worry. “You’ve got mother-of-a-two-year-old syndrome,” he said with little emotion. “You’ll get over it eventually.”
As I navigated my way back home through a blur of tears, I questioned his diagnosis. My daughter was six month away from turning two, and I could not have special ordered a more delightful child. There had to be another answer. A couple of years later, my darling son was born by C-section, as was his sister. And like his sister, he was mellow and fun to be with. Jonathan was merely two months old when a more menacing sort of darkness moved in. Happy thoughts were few, and it seemed as though every wisp of joy was being suctioned from my personality.
Thankfully, the Holy Spirit patiently guided me away from the lure of psychologically damaging literature, and I recognized it was best for me to run away from somber prose. But it would take many more years — with the help of seasoned professionals, appropriate medication, and continuing intervention from the Holy Spirit — to evict the destructive mindset I’d implanted in my subconscious during my tweens and teens. And it would be even longer before I could truly comprehend the reality that words on a published page do not necessarily portray truth.
“Say to those who prophesy out of
their own imagination:
‘Hear the word of the Lord!'”
A RUST REMOVER …
During the Holocaust, an unidentified young girl wrote this: “From tomorrow on I shall be sad. From tomorrow on, not today. Today I will be glad, and every day, no matter how bitter it may be, I shall say: From tomorrow on I shall be sad — not today.” That’s a wonderful attitude to have — if you’re genetically inclined toward a positive mindset. But sometimes mere determination and positive thinking cannot dispel feelings of sadness and hopelessness. If you can smile as you read this young girl’s journal entry, penned during one of the most dangerous and depressing times in world history, then you probably just need some cheering up when you feel down. However, if you are continually burdened with oppressive sadness that lasts for more than several days, you should consider the possibility that you are suffering from treatable, clinical depression and could benefit from professional help.
My prayer for you — right now — is that the Holy Spirit will help you discern one state of mind from another. And that He will guide you to the caregivers who can give you the best advice. In Jesus’ Name!