The Glow (and the things that I have seen it cast out)

Psalm 34:5 “Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame” (NIV).

About sometime last fall at a women’s event at my church, I heard Psalm 34:5 read aloud for the first time. Having newly arrived at my church, I was looking for a way to connect with other women in our growing body of Christ there and this verse has continued to catch my attention ever sense. Before ever hearing it, this scripture was spoken over my life in a way that slowly transformed my walk with Christ and brought me to the point where I am at today. Like portions of Isaiah that speak to the redemption of Zion, in casting off the chains of depression, in coming to Christ, in taking bold risks with unexpected forms of pay off, I have stumbled across the glow.

The glow is something you can see on a person when they have been especially blessed. Think of it like annointing oil or broken chains. The Bride of Christ, the Church as she stands, is meant to be glorious, like a city on a hill or a light unto the world. For whatever reason, when I examine the lives of women I know who have been blessed and redeemed, the glow has come with it.

The glow is healthy. The glow is giving. It is compassionate, wholesome, good to be around, honest, pure, and simple. It laughs easily, like Proverbs 31:25, laughing at the days to come (which was also woven into the scripture at that women’s event). You see, the glow is something that comes into your life when you have enough to share (think Luke 6:38). Like any spiritual phenomena, the glow isn’t something that we as humans always see, but it exists on the same level with other routine spiritual events that we don’t pick up on unless we’ve seen them in passing. When you get the feeling that a woman gives life to be around, I’m pretty sure you can find it there.

I was petting my dogs just now, and the words that have been echoing in my head steadily as I’ve contemplated what it means to be beloved came back in full force: “I am the one you love.” Those words speak to Christ, but they can be taken up by all of us. Speaking those words in my heart, it was a weird moment. The sense of warmth I get when others have off-handedly noticed the glow in me came out at the expression of those words, and it was a haze of love for a second.

One of best lies people cling to when they disown spiritual truths is that God’s love is impractical, irrational, and fruit loops at best. While a Savior who would die by us for us is certainly fruit loops, spiritual happenings are not inherently unscientific, they aren’t inherently illogical, and they aren’t made up. As a different way of intuiting truths that no one has the cajones to admit we all look for and quietly disown, you can see the fruit of the spirit all around you if you try. No, you cannot prove it. You cannot prove Christ either, which is good, because proof is beside the point. I’m not trying to start any false doctrine here, but if you open your heart to the work of the spirit, you will run into more and more stuff like this. The weird way concepts interweave and conversations echo in a way that answer your questions sometimes immediately. The weird way you were able to strengthen a person in passing without realizing that for them, it was much needed. The weird way that God throws us into “mistakes” or situations we didn’t sign up for just to prove a point. Y’all can think that’s mostly fruit loops, but as for me, embracing the fruit loops was one of the best unwilling, dragged into it by the nudges of the Holy Spirit decision’s I’ve ever made. Some “crazy” is meant to be heard until you accept that it’s not going anywhere, and maybe crazy is a definition we should reconsider. Although I haven’t heard any voices in my head as of today, I think the nudges of the Holy Spirit definitely qualify as a pre-requisite to cast most commonplace conversations into a realm of immediate awkwardness for nearly all people you’re talking to. Which is ironic, since I’ve learned more about health and recovery from depression through learning to trust in all the crazy I can’t explain.

In my psychology classes, I often wonder if we design guidelines for what is and is not clinical to exclude the experiences of people who have been helped spiritually by accepting what others might see as crazy. It’s like casting crooked lines for voting districts sometimes, in what people accept, don’t accept, and only accept if you are paying thousand of dollars for therapy where professionals may or may not address your “problems”. I believe God in Christ is the cure. I don’t accept how conveniently we designate psychologists and psychiatrists to be the definitive and squabbling audience for deciding what counts as crazy. If the vine is the solution, what need is there for so many trained professionals?

For me, depression was an intensely spiritual thing. The amount of willful resistance I had to any kind of treatment, (especially anything that would cast out sin) was fierce. I was not down for other people telling me how to fix my problems. Without being able to remember, without being able to sleep well, with constant chronic body pain, an erratic appetite, chemical dependence that I wasn’t happy about, constant low self-worth and feelings that no one would ever accept me as I am in love, I didn’t really know what there was to live for. Being gradually dragged into faith cast so much of that out. The first major thing to go was sexual sin and thoughts that I would have to compromise unconditionally if I ever wanted anyone to love me. The last thing thus far has been ignorance of what it means to be redeemed (and what a man of character even looks like, through the lens of faith). It took me years to believe that I didn’t need anything to buy me my happiness, whether medication, close friends, male approval, being “smart”, etc. Having peace over the past and how awful living was back then has only come from the blood and the life of Jesus Christ working in my life. Without him, I’d be just as screwed as I was before.

The root of so much sin that capitalized my life was the false belief that no one would ever love me. Given the love I have encountered in Christ, no love could ever replace or come close to that. I know that anything is possible in Christ because I remember. I know that he is capable because years later, he is still just as faithful.

So tell me which is more fruit loops: Striving to seek out healing in academic accomplishment, beauty, the company of others, “success”, money, men, etc., or the all-saving power of grace that I could do literally nothing to earn? Part of the way you know that Christ has the power to heal is that what he gives is free. This is no magical snake oil, because the Son of God has nothing to prove. It has already been proven because it has already been given. What exactly is there to lose but a bunch of sin that was making you sick to begin with? Godspeed.

I don’t need to prove myself because my story and the life I am living now is all the proof I need that my Father heals. It’s a radical faith that is intensely practical, based on having experienced how the spirit moves and knowing for a fact that he is willing to meet us. Above all things, I plan on continuing to invest in the spirit of love and the fruit of peace that God intentionally places in my life in order to minister to others. He is more than capable.

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haleylol

I am a teacher-to-be who loves people. I am not afraid of many things. I like to explain my thoughts logically on a very birds-eye view level--I was born thinking that way. I follow Jesus Christ, and I accept only that label to describe my identity--that I am a child of God, as are infinite others, regardless of their other identities. Christ is my one thing.

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