Tag Archives: redemption

New Year, New You!

You see them everywhere this time of year, don’t you?

“New Year, New Body”

“Change yourself – change your life”

“Spring Clean! De-Clutter for the New Year”

A new year is loaded with expectation, hope – and sometimes fear.

It can be tempting to pin our hopes on the clock striking midnight and a new year beginning. For many years I did just that, only to crash come the 5th of January when I realised that the date may have changed, but my life hadn’t.

I put so much pressure on myself and the new year that things would change – I thought the change of the date would mean that I’d get better – even though my situation, my illness, my attitude – none of it had changed. And I was sent reeling all over again when faced once again with what I’d tried to leave behind in the year that had passed.

And herein lies the problem, for the dawn of a new year can bring in a new era, and a new chance for change and hope. But at the same time, the world doesn’t reach perfection on the stroke of midnight on the 31st of December.

There has to be a way by which we hold onto the hope and expectation a new year can bring -without expecting change in life just because numbers on the clock change.

So this new year, perhaps it would be a good idea, to focus on a timeless hope. One that existed before the calendar began. The hope which may not mean a magic wand is waved – but does mean that we have a God who redeems and restores.

ThinkTwice wishes you the happiest of New Years, filled with hope and life.

And so I echo the prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr for us all this year:

“God grant me the serenity, to accept the things I can’t change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

Hoping and Healing

I do not have a victorious healing story.

I did not have a flash of light which made everything ‘okay’.

I did not wake up one day sick, and another day, well.

I have not been healed.

Yet I have hope.

For me, hope has been healing.

Choosing to hope when everything has seemed hopeless has taught me more about the God of hope that I would have dared to dream.

I’ve recently been reading Matt Bays brilliant book “Finding God in the Ruins” and in it, he says this:

“Healing has no map; every person’s experience is different. But if your journey is going to be successful, expect at some point to end up back at the scene of the crime. staring at the wreckage… And then you must tell your story without making it palatable.”

Quite often, when I tell my story, it centres around the parts which I found God. When mental illness went on a rampage but I emerged with a new calling. The darkest night in which the embryo of ThinkTwice was conceived, the times when I made the right decisions and found the light of a star in a dark night.

I’ve been challenged recently, however, about those times when I’ve surveyed the wreckage and not just found God, bit experienced something of who He is, without ‘making is palatable’.

The truth is, I do attempt to make my story palatable.

I edit my life to hide the parts of my story that I cannot face.

I do not let the light touch them.

It’s not that we need to tell our stories to everyone we meet.

 

 

But allowing those who love us to see us in the dark is a gift, not only to us, but to those who hear our stories and hear in our words that God moves even in the most unexpected of ways and in the most unexpected of places.

I have found hope and healing in telling my unpalatable story just a few times, because I think I’ve seen something of how God responds to us in compassion in the faces of my closest friends.

It’s still unpalatable for me.

But it doesn’t seem to be for others, perhaps because they see more easily a God who sits in the wreck alongside us and sheds light in the darkest places, and I have to believe that God created the darkness knowing we would find Him there.

As The Message Bible puts it:

“Everything was created through him; nothing – not one thing! – came into being without him. What came into existence was Life, and the life was Light to live by, The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn’t put it out.” John 1:3-5

 

The Aftermath

In her critically acclaimed memoir “Wasted” , Marya Hornbacher she writes of the aftermath of her eating disorder. It is not the happy ending we would wish to read after a memoir of such an acute and destructive eating disorder. She writes the following about the aftermath:

“It is the distance of marred memory, of a twisted and shape-shifting past…And it is the distance of the present, as well – the distance that lies between people in general because of the different lives we have lived. I don’t know who I would be, now, if I had not lived the life I have, and so I cannot alter my need for distance – nor can I lessen the low and omnipresent pain that that distance creates.” (1)

I was chatting today with a friend about the effect a suicide attempt has. The effect on the family, but also the lasting damage and impression it leaves upon the one so consumed with pain that they thought death was the only way out.

We don’t like to talk about it. Who would?

It is uncomfortable and painful to think about that kind of despair, that kind of blinding darkness.

And yet as pastors and preachers, mental health workers, doctors, friends, parents and children, the likelihood is that we will meet someone in our lifetime who has tried to take their own life.

And the damage it causes can leave long-lasting scars in their wake. It scars families, when a member tries to remove themselves from the world.

Samaritans estimate that 5% of the population attempt suicide over the course of their lifetime – but what happens next?

It is my belief that something like attempting suicide leaves its own private and painful legacy. The guilt at the pain you’ve caused family and friends, the knowledge that you have pushed an invisible barrier to breaking point. The body is beautifully designed to protect itself, and once that barrier as been destroyed – suicide never ceases to be an option. It is this which makes a previous suicide attempt the single biggest risk factor for suicide.

It sounds like a hopeless situation.

And yet, there is something about great pain that allows for great compassion. A fight for life in whatever form that takes. One of the most beautiful things about the Christian faith is that Jesus shows us that our pain can heal. Not only that, but He forgives us when we repent – we are not left to dwell on our sins for our whole lives. Wolterstorff writes:

“And what of regrets? I shall live with them. I shall accept my regrets as part of my life, to be numbered among my self-inflicted wounds. But I will not endlessly gaze at them. I shall allow the memories to prod me into doing better with those still living. And I shall allow them to sharpen the vision and intensify the hope for that Great Day coming when we can all throw ourselves into each other’s arms and say, “I’m sorry.”

A suicide attempt does not define you. It will always be a part of your story – but it isn’t the end of your story – far from it! With hope and help, it can be the beginning of a new chapter.

There is an aftermath. There is grief and regret. But there is also forgiveness and hope – the very ingredients of life.

Redeem The Day

Yesterday I wrote a little blog on redemption which can be found here here.

Today, I wanted to write a little about redemption in the context of mental illness. In particular, the redemption of memories and days.

So often, the memories of the most painful days and events can leave an open wound. We may be able to come to terms with what happened, but as an anniversary rolls around again, we can be doubled over with the pain all over again – as fresh as that first time. We can dread the day coming, because we fear the pain that is linked to it.

Today it will be six years since one of the worst days of my life. It was a day which left an indelible mark on me, and every year since it has felt like I am forcing myself to relieve the pain and shame of that day all over again.

And in the intervening years, the date has sent me reeling.

But then, as I having been reflecting on God as Redeemer, I’ve come to the conclusion that if God can redeem the worst of us, the worst of humanity – He can redeem a date.

He can make a day which nearly destroys – into a day which sparks something new – but only if we let Him.

One of my favourite passages in the Bible is found in Joel 2:25-27 which says:

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten—
the great locust and the young locust,
the other locusts and the locust swarm[b]
my great army that I sent among you.
26 You will have plenty to eat, until you are full,
and you will praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has worked wonders for you;
never again will my people be shamed.
27 Then you will know that I am in Israel,
that I am the Lord your God,
and that there is no other;
never again will my people be shamed.”

Here God promises the restoration and redemption of years of difficulty – even when sometimes that difficulty is a result of our own sins and mistakes.

Redemption is an act of mighty grace.

Redemption isn’t forgetting what has passed – but a payment – and the debt of our sin is transformed by the blood of Christ.

Our shame is redeemed by His grace.

Our pain is redeemed by His compassion.

Redemption doesn’t mean that we never find things difficult. It doesn’t mean that there isn’t a tinge of sadness, but it does mean being able to have hope in the future, despite all that has passed.

Redemption means not letting what has passed, spoil what is in store for us.

So far, God is redeeming this date for me, it’s the ‘best’ 29th November I’ve had since 2006.

There is a Redeemer.

We just have to let Him do His redeeming work.

Saved Despite Scars

I see the cross
Through blades
Trapping me
I can’t reach out
Can’t lay my burdens down
Without reaching for the old ways

I remember His blood
Sign of His grace

Yet I call to mind
Those dark nights
When I reached first
For the danger of the blade

My shame and desire
Block the Holy
Dare not reach out
For the Father’s arms
When I still see the scars
On my own, a reminder of pain

And yet.
It is the cross
Which reminds me
I’m saved from shame
And made new by His grace

My wounds are healed by His.
A poem reflecting on the guilt so often felt by those who are, or have struggled with self-harm. Author Anonymous.