Eucharisteo–thanksgiving–always precedes the miracle.”
Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
There is a free fall that happens deep inside me. There is a limit I reach, usually when I am tired, in pain, frustrated. In one moment I fall off the edge of living (even if it only feels like surviving) into a free fall of despair. Nothing may have changed externally, but maybe it is the 10th day of just not feeling well, or taming the will of my very brave and stubborn two year old is making me feel like I am more a warden than a mother, or my darling husband and I struggle to connect on an issue. Or maybe it is all these things, or maybe that it’s just because I ate some gluten accidentally?
My mind reels as the free fall starts slow enough. Slow motion as I grasp around for a tree or a rock to hang onto, slow enough that I know I am about to almost be drowned as the water second by second and inch by inch permeates my consciousness. I am falling, this is what is happening, why? What did I do to be here again?
Every second I’m in deeper as it speeds up, and I feel it like paralysis, like a poison invading, seeping in through the bite marks left behind by an unknown Adversary. And I freeze, as it is hard to stand up and it is excruciating to speak. I still have to get them in bed, I think, as the job of corralling these beautiful miracles up to their beds for nap time might as well be crossing the Red Sea. With every energy left in my marrow, these children are placed in their beds. And I slink to my own, wondering and hoping that a short nap might stop the free fall.
Minutes tick and I am still falling. Maybe, just maybe, a shower will help. But after the shower, I burrow deep back under the covers. I am devolving, giving way now to the free fall and I see my life as a hideous joke. I wonder how many free falls, how many still births of hope, how many ounces of pain can be extracted from a life, and I curl almost in the fetal position, under, under, digging.
A thought penetrates: What if you prayed? What if you gave thanks? I am deep, and I swim hard to the surface. I bob my head up just long enough to break the surface of this Monday afternoon drown, and I pray, “Thank you, Lord, Thank you, Lord, for my life, for this beautiful house, for sheltering us from such a cold day. Thank you for this body. Thank you for the children it has given me, thank you that my limbs still work and I can still hold my babies in my arms, and I can still carry them up and down the stairs. Thank you that my mind still can determine fantasy from reality, that I can still choose to live this life . . .”
Something begins to happen. It is instant and slow married; He fills and empties me. I find a cleft in the rock I have already fallen from, am lifted up, and my fingers grasp it. I reach for the next niche, and I am there holding. I am carried, I am provided for. I rise from my bed, do my hair, get dressed. This life is too precious to waste on a free fall. I am fighting back.
I am tired of playing the victim to this illness. I am tired of making plans and having to cancel them, tired of being frustrated yet another day because I couldn’t accomplish what I wanted to. I am tired of feeling as though I deserve this life of feeling powerless. I am tired of believing I can’t ask or want better. And, although I do believe there is a 100% biological reason my mind and body behave the way they do, I also see that there is a deep spiritual component to my illness.
So, I am going to pray and give thanks to the God who gave me this special mind. I am going to thank Him, and I am going to shift my focus away from a degrading depressive episode that will yield only torment and languishing. Yes, I know what I am saying. I am saying that without God, there is no way to rise above the bipolar life. Without God, this illness may be medicated and psychotherapized up the ying-yang of you-know-who. But I don’t want to be handled; I want to victor.
Maybe, this illness is a blessing? Maybe I am BLESSED to ask every day–every moment of some days–for strength and hope, for a life raft? Maybe a very small gas tank requires me to be in constant contact with my Creator just to keep this girl going? Maybe the more I connect with Him, the more I will see my life, my brain, my illness, through the lens of His provision? Maybe being broken is the greatest gift of all?
If you have not read Ann Voskamp’s , buy it immediately. She speaks about the hardships of life, including mental illness, the loss of her baby sister and two baby nephews, financial hardships, and more. She insists that only in thanksgiving–Eucharisteo–are we truly healed, truly connected.
So I am screaming EUCHARISTEO as I fall, hoping to halt the fall altogether some day with a heart clinging to gratitude in the depths of despair. When I see my Adversary slithering into my mind, I’m gonna shout “Thank you! Thank you!” like two year old Samuel does s when he’s trying to get out of trouble. Thank you, Thank you.
God bless you all,