Family Photo: Reflections on Unraveling

I’ve been caught up in a few things lately; mostly myself, if I’m allowed to be honest.

Many things have been preventing me from writing another blog post, so I’m sorry that it has been so long. I guess technically it has only been a month, but this month has been long for me—almost like it has been three or four.

I want to begin just by saying that despite how I’ve been feeling, God has been teaching me so much about who He is and what that means for me. I feel like that’s really easy to say sometimes, but really, my dudes, things have just been difficult.

I usually don’t have an issue going through the hard times and knowing that God is there, but in this season of my life it has been harder than ever to rely on Him and His strength. I have good and bad days, but mostly, the days just blur together.

And while we’re on this path of honesty, I have to admit that I’ve often lost sight of what that means.

I believe it started when I was in class one afternoon and one of my classmates brought up how religion is the “opioid of the masses.” I’ve heard this before, of course, but when it registered within me what this really means, I felt like every ounce of faith within me left. The conversation only unraveled from there into knotted nests of prosecution, hatred, and pain. My skin felt like it belonged to ants the way that it tingled with a type of embarrassing anxiety.

I’ve seldom felt like that before, and despite how hard I tried to conjure up some kind of argument I really couldn’t. And that terrified me.

Because when I thought about it, the fact remains that the history of Christian’s being horrible people that discriminate, hate, and murder is long and goes further back than what I even know.

This thought felt haunting to me for a long period of time. I decided to get ahead of myself and I started to have conversations with people about how I was feeling. I talked to a pastor, talked with a mentor, talked with my friends, but still I could not reconnect with God.

And to be real with you guys, I’m still trying to. I’ve resettled myself into the idea that we don’t have to do anything to receive God. This has been helpful for me; I’m unlearning the “do” thing in Christianity, and I’m relearning and allowing God to cultivate a simple state of “being” in me.

And I’m re-focusing on the things about God that I know are true—the things that remain true despite the pain caused by imperfect people (even myself) loved by God.

One thing I keep remembering is that people are not responsible for God; the pain that the body has inflicted upon itself and to others is not a reflection of God because God is perfect and people are not.

And the church is a body; I don’t want to practice self hatred.

In the case that’s a little confusing or misleading; I’ve been letting God speak for Himself.

This whole rift that I’ve allowed to get between God and I has had its effect on my mental health too; or I think it has played at least a minor role in it. It was right around the time that all of this began that I felt myself getting bad again.

I don’t think I’ve slipped into anxiety as deep as I have this semester than since before I was in college. This is something I wrestle with a lot; the last year has been easily one of the greatest of my life in a variety of ways. I have seen + felt God do so much in my life and in my heart. To think about all that He has done in me and to also feel like I’m falling apart is something I feel deeply ashamed over. I hadn’t had a panic attack in almost two years before this week and I had begun to believe that I was “growing” out of that. God helped me understand that panic disorder isn’t just something people “grow out of” and that I’m allowed to fall apart, and I can fall apart in Him.

And a more disturbing shame rests in the fact that I’m a leader.

I suppose I can counter-argue that with a slighted yeah, Caitie, you’re a leader. Right? These things happen to leaders.

I’m so thankful for Lifegroup these days because the weeks are long and exhausting, but come Thursday night I’m surrounded by people pursuing Christ despite what they’ve done. There’s a reason Hillsong called grace “scandalous.”

Not long ago we looked into Hebrews 12 which, in verses 4-11 discusses why God disciplines His children. I felt a strange comfort in verse 8, which says:

If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.”

Hebrews 12:8

This just felt like a subtle reminder from God that this season I’m in will produce a harvest; something good will come out of this. And the mere fact of struggle means I belong to Him.

I’m weirdly okay with that.

This passage has always been difficult for me to read because it’s always been difficult for me to see and come to God the Father. I could go into detail about my family issues and how my relationship with my parents has influenced my relationship with God in not so good ways, but really I don’t see the point in placing anymore blame.

It’s just another thing He’s teaching me right now.

As much as I try to listen and really hear those around me speaking truth and love to me, I find it something difficult to climb over.

Even through all of this frustration, I am learning so much; God has maintained His faithfulness to me and to my heart. Though I don’t always know how to receive it, He has brought me to people and places that have been nurturing and restful.

To think that I get paid to work at the Wick Poetry Center feels surreal; all of my life I was told I would never get paid to do what I love, and yet I make rent every month, have clothes to wear, have food to eat, and I get to write poetry, go to readings, and do what I love. I am beyond grateful that I applied to Wick because some days it is only through poetry that I can feel reminded of God’s grace and love. My coworker’s are some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, and my bosses are the sweetest individuals I’ve ever gotten to work under.

I’m twenty years old (almost 21), I’m going to college, I’m doing well, and I get to do what I love: write.

And God has been so faithful to meet me in music: a place in which I’ve always felt Him.

A song that’s always been a favorite of mine but has resurfaced to bring me more comfort is “Can’t Stop Me Now” by Lecrae. I can’t understand completely what he was going through when he wrote this, but I resonate so much with he says throughout that song. If you haven’t heard it, I recommend checking it out however you feel about hip-hop, it’s worth it. (Check out “Worth It” too).

And really the entire Social Club Misfits “DOOM” album—man that whole project has hit me so hard and it came at the right time. In “Stones,” Marty says some things that reminded me that I wasn’t alone.

I think what hit me most was that I realized that we, as Christians, don’t really have a huge following for struggling well and being communicative throughout our struggling. When I hear people talking about their struggles, it’s almost always an “after” the fact kind of situation. I know a few people who are being counter-cultural in this thing, but the overwhelming truth is that there’s only a few people who talk during the pain. And I’m so thankful for those who have been vulnerable and faithful enough to say “I am not okay right now.”

I want to join them. I want to humbly admit that I’m going through a difficult time and I’m anxious, depressed, and doubting.

In “Stones,” Marty asked where leaders go to bleed, and I think the answer is that we go to Jesus. I think we confess that we are human; we are prone to pain, and messing up is some kind of prerequisite to living.

And we tell our people, we tell the church because we get to set an example that it’s okay to struggle, it’s okay to bleed.

And it really is, my friend, it is totally okay [and 100% not cliche] to not be okay.

For my readers who are bleeding too; God’s given me a word I want to share with you.

  • Do it anyway

This is something He told me last week when I was feeling hesitant to go be with the church. He reminded me that we don’t get better by ignoring what we need and who we are. The truth is that I’m a part of the body, of the church; I am His, and even through difficult moments when I feel apathetic about that, it’s still so Good to be with the other parts of the body.

  • Practice thankfulness

This might be a little more self explanatory, but it helps nonetheless.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22.

  • Give yourself (and your people) some grace—there’s enough of it to go around.

This one is last because it’s probably the most important. This last week I had my first panic attack in almost two years, and after the matter, I was talking through some things with a teacher (she’s not a believer), and she reminded me that these things happen and people need time. She reminded me that no one, even herself, is immune to feeling anxious or being in need of grace. Hearing that from her kind of felt like God’s way of telling me I’m going to be okay.

And we’re going to be okay.

if you’re interested in some of the music I talked about, check out these two playlists I made to listen to when I’m unwell. Most of the songs are the same, but it’s all good.

grace and peace

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