By the time I was 16 years old, I was deeply disturbed and depressed. Even today I find myself minimizing what it means when someone says that they are going through depression. Yes, the word is overused to represent any bit of sadness or emotional difficulty. But true depression is nothing to turn your nose up at. Only because I went through it in the most serious sense can I tell you that depression covers your mind like a suffocating blanket. I would get stuck in the negativity and couldn’t find a way out. The worse I got, the less hope I could feel. Small difficulties that don’t affect the normal mind will completely handicap a depressed mind. I can remember entire days that I wouldn’t eat, I would close myself up in my room and would cry all day because of some terrible thought that I was tossing around inside me. I simply felt that living was too difficult and too hurtful.
My parents could see the change in me and they caught wind of the suicidal thoughts. I went to counseling. They took me for an interview at a mental institution, but they didn’t keep me there. Nothing was improving and I was close to flunking most of my classes in school. I remember a deep sense of not caring. I was into some really dark and disturbing music. If you think music doesn’t have any affect on your life, try death metal out for size and see if it doesn’t eat away at your soul (don’t really, please).
I’d gone to church as a child, but my memories of it were very dark. All the heaven vs. hell talk didn’t do much for me as a child and the music bored me to tears. But, during my 10th grade year the guy I was dating at the time took me to a very different kind of church. Though I didn’t get it, the fact that everyone really seemed to enjoy being there was a big switch. I got into the music and some things were said that really intrigued me. I started to believe that Jesus was more personal to me rather than some untouchable figure on a throne in the sky. I listened and I watched, but I was careful to keep a hard exterior and not let anyone in. But, something in me changed anyway.
The biggest change happened on a Wednesday night in our youth group. It was after class. I remember being in a particularly depressed state that night and something happened and I broke apart. One of the other youth groupers named David came over to talk to me. I remember that he was a little older than me–maybe 17 or 18. He asked if he could pray for me. I didn’t really want him to, but I didn’t think I should say no. So, he did. When he prayed for me to be healed from depression, something happening. I can only describe it as total warmth and an incredibly light feeling. It was the miracle I needed to care about living again. I really believe that night changed the entire course of my life. I was on one path and I completely jumped to another (do not pass GO, do not collect $200), taking me to high school graduation, healthy relationships, friendships, a better relationship with my parents, eating again (which I went WAY overboard with), going to college, graduating college, marriage. a child, a successful career and most importantly confidence, motivation and self-esteem. I’m really not sure that I would have lived otherwise.
In regards to faith in Jesus Christ, there is a series of messages from Andy Stanley at North Point Church in Atlanta that helped it all make sense to me. It’s the series called Belief in God (It’s Personal) on their You Tube Channel. The point is basically this: it doesn’t matter about getting all your questions answered or rearranging the pieces to make it fit. What matters is the personal experience that brings you to know Jesus. You could study the Bible your entire life, but I don’t believe you’ll ever know Jesus until you have a personal, life altering experience with Him.
My world was shaken that night when a teenage boy prayed for me. You can academically debate the validity of what happened to me, but I was there and you cannot change the truth of it for me. I was healed. But, that was only my first amazing encounter with my God. I’ve also been baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. If you want to get your religious mind reeling, start talking about tongues. Personally, I don’t need to discuss it with anyone. I was there then and He’s still a part of me now. I’ve also been prayed for by someone and “fallen out” from the presence of God. The only way I can explain it is that something outside myself enveloped me with an overwhelming strength. My entire body went limp and standing was impossible. I don’t know how long I lay on the ground, but it felt wonderful. When I could, I sat up and later stood up. I felt like a new and refreshed person. Again, I don’t need to debate this with anyone. I was there.
Experiencing those things doesn’t make each day any less work for me. I still get down from time to time. My marriage isn’t perfect. My mind and thoughts aren’t perfect. The only difference is that none of those things have control over me anymore. There is a greater power at work in my life and I use my free will to CHOOSE to let Jesus affect and work in me each day.
Maybe somebody needed to hear that. Maybe I needed to be reminded of that because I’ve felt like I should tell that story for a few days now and I’ve just had the time to spill it out.