He who searches hearts

I struggle with how to start this post because I want to talk about depression. I type thoughts, then erase them. Type other thoughts, then erase those too. It is hard to start writing because depression is difficult to talk about.

Right now I am not depressed, but I have been very affected by depression in my life. I have struggled for years with depression, disordered eating, and negative body image. This illness affects many people I know and dearly love, including many in my own family. I think that depression has a language, and I’m not talking about phrases you might hear from a counselor or on a TV talk show. I’m talking about the language of emotion. The language that goes on inside your head when you are deep in the depths of depression. Hopeless, lonely, sad, fearful, angry.

I have found that when I meet or talk with another person who is or has been depressed they understand exactly what I mean. They know how the world slows down when you are depressed, colors become dull, your brain feels heavy and confused, you are moving in slow motion, and it is very difficult to communicate thoughts and feelings to other people. With disordered eating and a mangled sense of body image, you can literally look in the mirror and see a completely distorted reality. Just like the image you see in the fun house at the carnival…only it’s not so fun and it’s definitely not a carnival.

This post was inspired by a recent re-reading of the story of Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis 21:1-21. At the birthday feast of young Isaac, Sarah observes Ishmael, the son of her husband’s concubine Hagar, laughing. Out of jealousy and selfishness (I think), she demands that Abraham cast out Hagar and Ishmael from their home. Hagar and Ishmael wander into the desert, eventually running out of water, and suffering to the point that Hagar places Ishmael under a bush to die. She moves far from him because she can’t bear to see what she thinks is about to happen and begins to sob loudly.

There is a point sometimes when we can do nothing but sob. Out of sadness, loneliness, anger, depression, or fear. The Psalmist knew these feelings well: “O Lord, God of my salvation; I cry out day and night before you…For my soul is full of troubles…” (Psalm 88 ) “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice!” (Psalm 130).

I believe that God seeks our response to depression. I believe that He wants us to respond to depression in light of what we know about Him — that He is sovereign and He is merciful. I believe that this knowledge is written all over the words of the Psalmist.

I am not as eloquent as the Psalmist and, in fact, I usually have no words at all. Fortunately, God has no need for my words. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Romans 8:26-27).

I love that — “He who searches hearts…” There are times when I need for God to search my heart and hear my groans that words cannot express. Oh that He would be glorified even in my deepest and darkest days.

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Waiting on the Lord…

I’m struggling today with impatience towards God. It stinks. My husband and I are on the cusp of what seems to be an amazing opportunity, and one that we think God has been preparing us for during this past year. It is so close I feel like I can taste it, but it is remaining far enough away that I know God is saying, “Wait on Me.”

There is, of course, always the possibility that this opportunity won’t happen. I realize that. Which is another reason why my impatience is growing, and also another reason why I think God is reminding me that 1) His grace is sufficient for me, and 2) He will bring His will to fruition in our lives when the time is right.

And this is enough. More than enough.

Bellydancing as therapy

Not many people know this, but I have been taking bellydancing classes. My closest friends and loved ones would probably chuckle if they knew this…or at least ask me, “what are you thinking??!?” I am actually finding bellydancing to be not only fun and great exercise but also some seriously good therapy for a person recovering from a lifetime of disordered eating and body image issues.

My teacher is a lovely woman (mid-50’s maybe) who has a background as a ballet dancer but has been doing bellydance for over 20 years. I will never forget in one of the first classes she encouraged everyone to “let their bellies hang out” and, by completely relaxing the stomach muscles, we would find that the bellydancing moves would be much easier and feel more natural. She called out to us, “I know what you young girls are doing! You are like most western women and you are trying to suck in your belly even while exercising!”

She was right. I was guilty. I have exercised for years and unfortunately have spent too much time noticing the flat bellies of the women exercising around me, comparing myself to them and usually wishing my stomach was flat and taught instead of its natural rounded state. I’ve spent countless hours talking myself into appreciating my rounded stomach and hips because they are reminders of my fertility and femininity… right??

Ah, the liberation of letting it all hang out! I have now discovered the positive reinforcement of hearing the coin belt wrapped low around my hips “ching” as it should while I do a thigh shimmy or a double Mayan hip roll. In bellydance there is praise for the ample woman in all her glory!

Final note from a Christian woman who endorses and encourages modesty: Bellydance is something I began doing only with the approval of my loving husband. Bellydancing is not inherently sexual, but instead is an art form that women in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe have been perfecting for centuries. Unfortunately, in my opinion, Western culture tends to sexualize most forms of dance and perceive a dancing woman as sexually provacative.  Have you seen many movies come out of Hollywood in the last decade about dancing women that don’t portray them as young, scantily clad, and trying to attract a man?

And with that, I will do a walking hip shimmy away from my soapbox.