I walked into sacrament meeting today. Fortunately we were actually a few minutes early, so we didn’t have to do the walk of shame. That’s always nice. I talked to a few supportive friends and said hi awkwardly to a few others.
I knew it would be hard to sit near the front and endure the stares I imagined boring into the back of my head. It wasn’t too bad. I had friends on the row behind and friends on the row in front. The talks were amazing. Amazing. Just what I needed to hear.
I kept feeling the depression welling up inside me, but the spirit in the meeting helped me to discern the underlying messages seeping up inside me from the pit of hell.
“You call yourself the handmaid of the Lord. What right do you have to hear from God? What makes you think you are worthy to speak for him? Look around you at the women who despise you. They have important callings. They are responsible and hard working. You judge and condemn them and you could never do what they do. You lift yourself up in pride rather than humble yourself and learn from them. You don’t say you’re sorry for causing all these problems. You think you have depression. You are weak and unworthy and want to make excuses for yourself and get attention. Other women carry their burdens without complaint. You should have gratitude and humility and instead you lift yourself up in pride.”
Writing these things down helps me to understand how Satan and his depression messages combined with the well meaning messages of friends and family that unfortunately amplify Satan’s messages keep me from feeling worthy, lovable, and at peace with myself. Satan fuels my self-loathing, lies to me about my motivations and my character, and fills my heart with despair.
When I come before my Savior in humility, he has very different messages for me. He has nothing but love, support, and encouragement. He knows that my heart is full of love even for those who have hurt me. The only way I have found the strength to forgive and extend love is because of the Savior’s grace that he gives so abundantly to me. How can I withhold His grace when he has offered it to me so freely? The joy and peace that my Savior offers to me contrasts greatly with the shame and despair of Satan’s messages.
Perhaps the most cutting message Satan has for me is that my depression is all made up. Everyone has sadness. Everyone has hard times. There are many who struggle with depression for situations of severe abuse that make my situation seem easy. Still, I am not so cruel as to judge myself so harshly and compare myself to others whose lives and circumstances are impossible for me to judge accurately. I am a fair person and I will not condemn myself for the very real and difficult condition I suffer with. I am a better friend to myself and a better representative of my Savior than that. He loves me and expects me to treat myself with love and respect, just as I would my neighbor. He commands me to love my neighbor as myself and vice versa. The more compassion and understanding I give to myself, the more I have to give to others.
My Savior gives me strength and courage. He speaks peace to the raging storm of my mind. He assures me of my value to Him and importance of the work I do with my children and my husband; work that is undervalued and often misunderstood. He sees the effort and love I put into my primary lessons. He knows my heart and I am enough for him.
He also tells me to speak out against the hypocrisy and the hardening of hearts that has been creeping over the members of my faith. I see trends that are causing division and strife in our communities. It is partly due to political forces that are increasingly uncivil and full of pride. It is partly due to social media which can amplify the cliquishness and image cultivation that fuels unrest among members. There have been many times of tearful self-reflection in which I have asked my Lord if I am contributing to the problem, or if my efforts are doing any good at all. Still, I come back to my blog in hopes that I can with my words, touch some hearts and bring us all closer to Him who is Mighty to Save you and me.
I am no better than anyone else. In fact, I might be a lot worse. Why do I feel compelled to speak about making our churches and communities more compassionate, more open, and more safe for those who seek the Savior? Why has God asked me to speak? I can only think that it is because I am willing to speak. Why am I the Handmaid of the Lord? Because I decided I wanted to be. God doesn’t take the worthy as his servants. He takes the willing.
As I have built up my reservoir of Christ’s love, I have felt guilty at times for the choices I have made in the past. I have played the Pharisee in the stories of some other’s lives. I like to think I am better than I was, but the knowledge that my choices may have hurt others and driven them from the Savior has weighed on me. I had the blessing of being able to ask forgiveness this week of two girls that I was unkind to in school growing up. I judged them and considered them to be of little value. In fact, they have been very supportive of me in my recovery from depression which is the sign of the truest friend; one who loves you even when you feel unlovable. When you have little to nothing to give, those that still see value in you are worth more than a million of the other kind of fair weather friends that seem so important when times are good. They forgave me so quickly and with so little thought. They dismissed my lack of love and kindness as childishness. How compassionate! How much better I feel because of their mercy on me! How much easier it is for me to forgive the slights of others when I think of their examples.
I’m glad I went to church today. I’m grateful that I was able to partake of the sacrament and teach my primary class. I’m grateful for the talks that were given and the spirit that was there. I have hope that someday me and my message of love, mercy, and acceptance will not be so controversial; that God will soften the hearts of those who disagree with it or find fault with the imperfect way in which I deliver it. I also pray that God will continue to guide me in my recovery, that my fears will give way to faith and confidence. Happy Sabbath to all of my readers! May God’s spirit be poured out upon you in abundance.