"Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me."
I am a natural introvert. I’m comfortable and even enjoy being alone. A night in with a good book or Netflix is something that I look forward to. Because of this, I was so confused when I started to feel lonely and even flirted with some symptoms of depression. I began to be uncomfortable by myself. I couldn’t put my finger on what had changed. To fill the void, I’d reach out to my friends to get together. Every time I’d try, something would fall through. My friends are married, have children, careers, and their own responsibilities to tend to. At the time, it seemed like neglect, but now I know it was God vying for my attention. Up to this point, I wasn’t open to hearing from God past my little 5-10 minute devotion and prayer time. So, he began to use my everyday experiences to get to me.
I am enrolled in summer school, and one of my classes require that I take personality and relationship assessments. Upon learning my results, I was ANGRY! How dare they tell me my focus and determination causes me to be stubborn and inflexible! Who are they to say that my impatience and short attitude with those that I consider incompetent is reflective of my personal feelings of inferiority to others?! This can’t be right! I showed the results to my mom, and she just looked at me. Initially, I took the victim route. “Am I THAT bad of a person? Is that why my friends are neglecting me? Is that why I’m alone? Well maybe I’ll just withdraw from everyone then!” THAT attitude, my friends, is how people stay exactly the same. Although I was initially hurt, I desired to change.
I began to use my alone time to work on me. It was not easy, and every time that I discovered a new ugly thing about me, I’d tuck tail for a day or two, and revisit it the next day. I kept (and continue) to push because I knew that God was showing me myself for a reason. In these moments of reflection, I dug up masked envy, hidden jealousy, broken friendships, and the residue of unforgiveness. The funny thing about when it’s just you and the Lord – you can’t lie. So I cringed, cried, and researched scriptures that dealt with everything that I was forcing myself to face. I developed a prayer for each one, and recite them daily. I made an intentional decision to be accountable instead of attitudinal.
This season of learning to kill comparison, choke envy at the root, cry freely, forgive, shut up, laugh at, rebuke and be honest with MYSELF has been...challenging. There have been days when I literally didn't even know I was crying until the tears hit my chest. However, I've gathered that if freedom is on the other side of tears, then let them fall! If this is your season in the valley, I encourage you to take to heart whatever it is that God is trying to show you. It’s not punishment, it’s preparation for what’s to come.
Disclaimer: My journey is anything but over. I am continuing to walk this out, but I am grateful for the change that I’ve already began to see.
After my wedding in April all I could focus on was graduating with my masters in May and honeymooning ALL summer long. The summer before I began my doctoral program would be anything short of epic. This is the first summer that I wasn't required to work or enroll in a summer class. My husband and I decided to just enjoy one another's company and distress before the next phase of life began. I had it all figured out...VACATION ALL SUMMER '16! *whooooo* So I thought... Level 1. The thing about a valley is that It's easy to fall into but it takes WORK to try and climb out. Guess who's still fighting to climb out? Guilty. I never thought I could be overwhelmed with life. I have always been an effective 'multi-tasker'. I even joke with friends about being a human check list. I'm always moving from one task to another with ease and a little pressure. Well, what does one do when there is nothing required of them? Normally, they relax. Not me. Mentally, I became depressed feeling useless. I wasn't needed so I began to cling to my husband hoping he would have a list of things for me to do. Wrong again. It was exactly the opposite. He didn't need anything from me at all it seemed. Not my help, not my affection, and at times I felt like even my presence was unwanted. Level 2. Being a new wife was more challenging than I ever thought it would be. I had more responsibilities, I was a new mom, I missed my friends, and I had to cope with living in a smaller town AND a new church home. Our faithful subscribers know that my previous church, Fullness of Joy was my second home. FOJ was where I found a true family. Everyone kept me accountable and LOVED - something that was very unfamiliar to me when I joined. I felt that I had bitten off more than I could chew and I wanted to scream. Instead of seeking help or even an outlet I decided to bury my emotions and feelings - which was not such a good idea. I couldn't recognize myself. I had slipped into another level of my valley. Rock Bottom. By June, I felt as if I was plum insane. I had completely lost my marbles. I couldn't grasp reality and I felt isolated. My faith was thinning and I was too embarrassed about my personal life to try and reach out to anyone. I laid out before God and wept daily. Yet, I felt as if I never got an answer. On the outside, I was fine. On the inside, I could not control anything. I found myself reverting to old habits and a bad attitude. Everything in my life had become exhausting and I felt like throwing in the towel. I began to even question my role in life. Did I really know my purpose? Am I really as close to God as I think? Am I a bad wife? What about my friends, have they replaced me? Am I smart enough to even be in the PhD program? Doubt had settled and my mind seemed to have went on its merry way. The journey back up. Needless to say, it's July. I am finally beginning to climb up. I'm no where near the top but I have not given up... I believe God. The bible says, the LORD God is a sun and a shield; the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee” (Psalm 84:11-12, KJV). I know that I belong to God and I try my best to live up to the standards placed before me. He doesn't require much of His children but He does require faith and endurance. Sometimes I'm low on both areas but I recognize it and I put forth effort. My try and His promises are the perfect rescue. It may not happen over night but I'm still trusting God for victory because He promised it to me. Even in God's silence I trust Him. It is not always the easiest choice but it's a life changing decision. I choose the life He provides...valleys and all.