I stepped out of the shower and wanted to squeal with excitement. For the first time in months, I could finally dry my feet without excruciating pain. I quickly dressed and announced to Matt my news. He knew what a big deal this was. He had seen me writhe in pain every time I put my socks or shoes on. He saw me lie in contorted positions on the couch just to get comfortable. He saw me gingerly squat just to pick up a toy from the floor or retrieve dishes from the dishwasher.
A Long, Tough Road
Though my pain wasn’t gone, this was a huge feat. I looked back on the months of physical therapy I had gone through: twice per week since December, plus twice daily exercises at home. Then the flu hit me and coughing fits erased my progress thus far and I had to start all over in mid-January.
When I went to the clinic about my pain in December, I was hoping for a quick fix, of course. Give me a pill or something. I’d even take an outpatient surgery. I groaned on the inside when she recommended physical therapy. That would not be a quick fix and would require lots of time and effort.
My Lifelong Spiritual Illness
As I reflected on this, I couldn’t help but see that God was teaching me something about my life. As you know if you’ve read my blog, I have a spiritual illness of sorts. I crave approval and I work hard to do everything perfectly so I will be approved by God and others. This has been an ongoing issue since childhood.
As I wrote in this post, I likened my disease to David’s enemy Saul. Saul for the longest time continued to torment and harass David. But eventually God took out Saul and gave David the throne he was promised. I really believed one day God would rid me of my enemy. I just didn’t know how and I didn’t know when.
Accepting Unconditional Love
Then, two weeks ago, I experienced somewhat of a breakthrough. For the first time in my 24-year Christian walk, I began to truly experience God’s unconditional love: a love that began before I had anything to offer him and a love that continues just the same. I could write a whole blog post on the sweetness of my relationship with God since that breakthrough. It’s like I’m falling in love all over again with the Savior who pursues me.
But this week hasn’t been a relaxing honeymoon in that regard. My old enemy continues to creep in with thoughts of:
- I wonder what she thought about you saying that.
- I wonder why you haven’t seen her in a while; maybe you did something you didn’t realize.
- I wonder if that person thinks you’re (fill-in-the-blank).
Each time, I’ve come back to this one truth: I am loved. It doesn’t matter what someone thinks about me. It’s not up to me to manage others’ opinions of me. It’s up to me to be faithful to God, obedient to his leading, and trusting him to lovingly discipline me when I need it, even when that discipline may come by blows from others (see 2 Samuel 7:14).
Each time my thoughts threaten to cripple me like they have for so many years, I return. I return to the one in whose eyes I’m approved.
But don’t get me wrong. It’s work. It’s easier to just let those thoughts envelop me. It’s work to tell my brain to shut off those deceptive voices and to trust. It’s work to call upon the Lord instead of relying on my comfort crutches–mindless TV, social media, fiction reading, and food.
Just like physical therapy has been healing for my body, this last week has been like physical therapy healing for my mind and spirit. It’s work. It takes practice. I don’t want to do it all the time.
Progress and Healing
But each time it gets easier. Each time the pain gets less.
I’m finally making progress. My Saul is being defeated.
Why didn’t God knock my Saul out in one fell blow? The same reason I couldn’t take a pill for my bulging disc.
The healing is in the process. And my ultimate healing isn’t coming from an exercise in mind discipline; it is coming in resting in the love of a Savior I’ve known since I was 10 but for whom I’ve been trying to perform to please this whole time. From that love, with his strength, I’ve been able to slowly “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ Jesus” (2 Cor. 10:5).
Your Turn: Do you struggle with knowing you are loved without any strings attached? Or perhaps your Saul isn’t the need for approval but something else? Perhaps you’re hoping for quick fix and God wants to heal you through the process, by drawing you near him.
Thank you for reading! If you would like to join me on my very imperfect journey, click here and enter your email address to have each post I write emailed directly to you (usually about once or twice a week). I’d be honored to share my journey with you!