Sunday, October 20, 2013

Life Outside the Church Walls

Spiritually I'm struggling.

Growing up I've been the granddaughter and a niece of two great pastors.  I'm even a deacon's kid.  I've helped run the powerpoint at church since I was about 7-years-old (or, back then, I helped run the overhead projector with transparencies).  When I was 12-years-old, I became interested and involved in missions - going on my first mission trip when I was 15...going on one almost every year since.  In 2012, I even spent 6 months overseas helping a mission organization.  In between all these activities, I have done other things, such as write articles for Christian magazines, been involved in different leadership activities, and I like hanging out with the youth group when I have the free time.  I've even attended the same church since all my life, minus my time at Bible College and my time overseas...and that's only a portion of my church resume.  (Please note - I am not saying all of this to brag in any way at all.  I'm just wanting to give you a history and background of my life so you have a better understanding, and so you can see that even those who grew up in church and those who have done many church activities can still struggle spiritually.)

In the midst of all of that "churchy" type of stuff, life outside of the church walls has taken place.  If you've been following my blog or my Facebook page, you know my story, at least, the part of my story that has taken place in the last 3 years.  Between the death of my baby niece, the near-death of my father (3 times in one year) and his poor health, and many other family emergencies, life has not been easy...Not to mention the things I haven't, and can't, Facebook or blog about.

Being a "church girl", I know my hope shouldn't be based on my circumstances.  But, when circumstance after circumstance is one bad thing after another - it's becomes harder and harder not to lose hope.  Mentally I know my hope ought to be in God alone.  Emotionally and human wise, sometimes my hope becomes divided.

I think my spiritual struggle first started a little bit when I was 15, when my dad became really sick for the first time.  Then, I think I was okay for a while, until 2011 --- when everywhere I would look my life seemed to be turning upside down.  I went to London in 2012, even after a rather traumatic year, and was incredibly blessed.  There is no doubt in my mind that I was suppose to be in London when I was - and I thank God for my time there, the spiritual growth I experienced, and for the amazing team I was blessed to work with.

Then I came home from Germany after this most recent summer.  Coming home from Deutschland, I was not in a good place.  At all.  (I even posted a blog about struggling after my return.)  I wasn't, and am still not, the same girl I was when I left.   I figured after a month or so of being home, I'd snap out of the funk I was in and would get back to "normal".  But I haven't.   I've dealt with anxiety, depression, the desire to isolate myself, and self conflict...and my relationship with God hasn't gone unaffected.

I've been home for a little over two months now...Yet, I know I'm still not myself.  I am still struggling spiritually and emotionally.  I came home totally and completely broken.  And although I've been home for 2 1/2 months, it wasn't until about two weeks ago when for the first time, I verbally admitted to someone that I was, and am not, okay spiritually.

I feel extremely tired, worn down, weary, and spiritually dry.

Many Sundays I haven't even wanted to go to church.  I've gone for the service, but I've just about completely stopped going to Sunday School...and that's not a normalcy for me.  The thing is, it's not that I don't believe in God - because I definitely believe in Him still.  I've just been struggling.

The other week I told someone that I would pray for them.  Then it hit me, "When was the last time I even prayed?"  Then I wondered, "Have I stopped praying because I've lost hope through the last few years of hardships?"  Sometimes it seems as though all that comes my way, and my family's way, are hardships...and that's a tiring process to go through time and time again.

But why did it take me so long to admit to someone that I was struggling spiritually?  I've told people with ease that emotionally I've struggled in the last few years.  That, for me, is an easy thing to admit to.  But when it comes to telling people that spiritually something just isn't right in my life?  That's hard to share.  Oddly enough, I find it easier to tell people that I've been in and out of counseling and therapy than it is for me to tell them that my relationship with God isn't where it should be.  When I opened up to someone for the first time about my deep and personal struggle, it wasn't even to anyone I am close to.  It was to a retreat speaker that  spoke at a retreat in September during a drive to take her to the airport...I talked to someone who barely knows me, my story, and someone I barely know myself.

Maybe it was easier to talk to someone I hardly knew because she was someone who doesn't know my history, who looks at me as just me and not as the girl in leadership, or as the "girl who goes on mission trips".  I felt less pressure to hold up to a standard that I feel I sometimes have to reach - whether that's just a standard I've given myself, or a standard other people expect me to meet.

Overall, I think I've kept quiet for so long because because I have felt incredibly embarrassed about the issue.  Here I am, the granddaughter and niece of pastors...A girl who has attended church all her life, has always been involved in multiple church activities, has been a short-term missionary, and leadership positions...You get the idea.

I should have it all together, even through the hardships...Right??  Well, I haven't...and I don't....and I've put a lot of pressure on myself to be "that Christian girl" who continues to play all the same parts, not wanting to clue anyone in on my ongoing battle.  And truth be told - pretending I have it all together when I don't...Well, it's exhausting...and sometimes I feel as though I'm just going through the motions with a weary and frustrated spirit.

It's not that I enjoy struggling with my relationship with God.  In fact, I hate that this has been a big struggle of mine for the last several months.  More specifically, I hate that it has gotten worse in the last couple of months.  But more importantly, I really dislike that I've let it gotten to this point, not knowing what to do, and not telling others sooner.

I really miss feeling refreshed, and my passion and zeal for God.  Even more so, I miss having the relationship with God that I use to have.

If anyone has noticed my struggle - I'm unaware.  No one has said a thing to me about it, although I wish someone would have if they took notice to my internal battle.  It's a hard thing to go through alone, not knowing what to do.  I've noticed red flags and changes in my own behavior (such as not attending Sunday School), and I can't imagine no one else noticing.  Then again, maybe I'm a better actress than I thought when it comes to hiding what I've been ashamed about.

Do I feel ashamed to admit to a spiritual battle because of pressure I put on myself, or because it comes across as a taboo subject??  Why, as Christians, do we have a hard time admitting to one another that we don't always have it together spiritually?  That our relationship with God isn't always at it best?   Why do we find the need to hide this part of our life, when what we need is to be open about it so that others know how to better pray for and help us?  To keep us accountable?  After all, our church family and Christian friends have all probably been here/there themselves, and (hopefully) want what is best for us - physically, emotionally, and spiritually.

So, here I am being honest, once again.

In the last few months especially, and even throughout the last few years (on and off), I have struggled.  I've been in and out of depression after many hard life circumstances...And I've never really healed from anything that has happened in the last few years.

Although I firmly believe that recent events have a lot to do with my current struggles, I know they aren't the only cause.  In my heart, I know that the struggle is the result of an accumulation from the last few years and recent life experiences.  The most recent issues just seem to be the cherry on top of it all, and I'm just tired.

If you're struggling emotionally and/or spiritually - I encourage you to tell someone you trust.  (Although, I've noticed if you struggle with one, more than likely you also struggle with the other.)  Once you open up to one person, and once you say it aloud for the first time, it is easier to be honest about it and face it.  By opening up with just one person, it instantly took a lot of pressure off of myself - and now I've even found myself opening up to you here in my blog - even though I'm not sure how any of this will be taken by those who read this.

Once you open up with someone - make a plan.  I'm still working on a plan to get myself in a better place with my relationship with God.  I'm working on healing, and not running and ignoring things that I know I need to deal with.  I'm trying to be proactive by talking to a couple of mentors I know on the phone (as sadly, they live out of the state of California), and I'm seeing a local counselor for a few issues - my spiritual battle being one of them.

I've also been learning to tell others that for now, I can't take on any jobs at the church because I know I need to focus on me and God before I can take on any responsibilities.  If I were to take on any jobs right now, I would be cheating God and the church because I'm not where I need to be to take anything on.

Ironically, I'm 22 and have grown up in church, and yet, I still am lost as to the best way to get to where I need to be...But I know that admitting to where I am currently at and knowing where I want to be is definitely a good start.

Sure, I have two pastors in my family, have been a leader, been involved in many church things, and have gone on many mission trips. But I am human.  I have emotions and I experience life.  I'm not immune to possible struggles, physical, emotional, or spiritual...and I shouldn't feel ashamed, embarrassed, or even guilty about these struggles - as I've allowed myself to feel.

When I get responses from people about my blog, I always like hearing that people love how I am open and honest through my writing.  I figure, the more open and honest I am, the more I can truly connect with you, my readers.  Maybe through my writing, you'll know you're not alone in an experience, or maybe you leave my blog feeling encouraged or hopeful.  Sometimes the opposite happens as well.  Sometimes, when I hear from you (which I LOVE comments left, or emails I receive), and I hear your stories, I sometimes realize and learn that I'm not alone, and I often am encouraged by your responses.

By hiding this from you all, I have felt like a lying impostor posing as "that chick", seeming to come across as having it all together - even when I don't.  But here I am...Telling you, being honest with myself, and owning up to the fact that I don't always have it together - and right now I definitely don't.  Right now, I'm just trying process and attempting to figure some things out.

I've spent the last few weeks debating on posting a blog entry like this one...Not knowing how it will be received by others.  As I have gone back and forth on the idea of posting this entry, I've wondered, "Will people judge me for my struggle?  Will they think my struggle is stupid?  Will people see me in a different and negative light?  Will anyone even understand??"

Truth is, it doesn't really matter what others think about where I'm at in life - and I shouldn't worry about it.  It's a real battle and it's my life story.  Why should I hide where I am at?  I'm now less concerned about what others think about my struggle, and more concerned about getting back to where I know I should me…Where I know I want to be with God.

No matter how it's received by strangers, family, or friends, I can't hide the truth any longer.  I have to be honest...and really I feel like it needs to be posted.  I want to continue to stay open and honest through my entries - because odds are, realistically...I'm probably not alone.

The Travelin' Chick,
Crystal

3 comments:

  1. so, I"ve got a similar story, which i blogged about a long time ago, but can't put my hands on it right now. But the gist is the same. God brought two things to me....I peter 5:5-11 -- read it carefully, slowly, and afresh. And wait for HIS due time. Secondly, he gave me an word picture...of a plant, on that has been neglected, not watered, and dried up! And when it was time to water it, the ground is so hard that the water just spills off the top and does not soak in at all. That's how I felt when I prayed, or when I read the bible. I knew it was the answer, but it didn't "sink in" at all. And he reminded me that the only way to get the water and food that plant needed into it's soil was to break up that hard dirt. And so...he did. Digging deep, together We churned over the soil and in those cracks and and turned over places, water came. For refreshment. food came for growth. and I began to bloom again! Hang on tight!! in the end you will be "strong and firm and steadfast." love you crystal.

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    1. Hey, Angie! If you find your blog post - I'd love to read it. Or, maybe some time we can talk about what you wrote and what brought you to that place of being weary. Thanks for the image about the plant…That is super creative, and I like it a lot. It gives a visual to the spiritual struggle! Love you too, thanks for the comment and encouragement!

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