life:filtered

…learning to live a life filtered by the truth of the gospel.

Who am I? Who I am. April 19, 2016

Filed under: seriousness,Uncategorized — Stephanie @ 4:00 am
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Who am I? Whenever think about that question, I usually respond in bullet points. I am a wife, a mother, a writer, a reader, a Christ follower…and the list goes on. But who am I? Where is my identity? I know what the answer is, but it is so hard to believe. I am a child of God. A redeemed daughter of the Father, saved by grace alone and called good. Why is that so hard to believe? Because I don’t think I’m worthy to be called these things. In my eyes, I am a miserable wretch, undeserving of grace, of anything good. But that isn’t true. My true identity no more rests in those lies than it does in the fact that I have brown hair or am 5’4” tall.

On a women’s retreat recently, I was consumed by anxiety and wrought with fear. Fear of being inadequate. Anxious about the social aspect of the weekend—making friends, finding a place to sit for meals. I realized that for all my bravado, for all the times I proudly said “I have bipolar” instead of “I am bipolar,” for all the times I put on the persona of a confident woman, I was still allowing my illnesses and weaknesses to define me. I was identifying as being bipolar, being anxious and being inadequate. They were my identity. Even realizing this during a conversation did not allay my fears or calm my anxious heart. I continued to categorize myself in terms of my faults, my weaknesses, my illness, not allowing God to have the final say in who I was. And they consumed my heart as I allowed these thoughts to reign.

So what is identity? The dictionary defines identity as “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.” And being is defined as “the most important or basic part of a person’s mind or self.” At its core, identity is how we are defined. It is fact. And while there are many facts about me, it is in the facts that are me that my identity is found. It is in these facts of being that we find our true self.

What’s the difference in facts about me verses facts that are me? A fact about me is that I have brown eyes. I am not brown eyes though. I could have colored contact lenses and a casual observer might think that I have blue or green eyes. I have brown hair but someday it will turn gray. A fact that is me is that I am a child of the King. I am his beloved daughter. Those facts define me to the core of my being. They are who I am. It is the most basic part of my true self. It is who he has made me to be.

How, then, do I live out of the reality of who he says I am, who he has called me to be instead of letting “about” facts take the place of “are” facts? It’s a heart change. One wrought by years of beating down a path in your heart to make the truths personal and real. It’s allowing his words to penetrate deep down and take root in your soul until your heart finally believes the truth of who you are.

While other things may be descriptors of my person-hood, they are not definers of my soul. One word separates the two—have. I have brown eyes, I have anxiety, I have bipolar. But I am a child of God. My identity is found only in who he says I am. And he says I am loved, honored and precious.


©stephanie g. pepper

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The Great Depression, 2012 April 13, 2016

Filed under: seriousness — Stephanie @ 3:13 pm
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In February of 2012, Super Bowl Sunday, I fell into the worst depression of my life. The Great Depression. There is pain so raw that you become numb. Darkness so deep that it’s blinding. I was drowning in an ocean of darkness. Always clawing at the waves, fighting against the undertow, reaching the surface only to gasp and find my burning lungs filling with thick, black water before being pulled under again.

By Monday, worn down by months of this blinding darkness and pain, I simply gave up. I quit. All I could think about was death. I wanted to be dead. Actually, I didn’t really want to be dead, I just didn’t want to live in the darkness and pain anymore. The light had been almost completely extinguished, barely the flicker of a distant match in a cave, and I couldn’t see my way to the light. So, wanting the pain to be over, I walked further down the path than I’d ever dared:  I considered the end. I am not proud of the fact that I fantasized about suicide. It is a shame that runs deep, but it is the truth. I did not make a plan. I had no pills at the ready, the knives stayed in the block, I did not fill the bathtub. But the longing was there, rooted deep inside. As Kathryn Green-McCreight writes in her book Darkness Is My Only Companion, “It [suicidal energy] is not wanting to hurt the self. It is simply wanting not to hurt.

Having traveled so far down that dark road, I called a friend, but she didn’t answer. It was by grace that she called me back at arguably the worst time. I told her where I was, what I was contemplating. And Heather, she didn’t panic. She kept me on the phone, talking with me for forty-five minutes. Praying for me in the car rider line as she waited for her children at school. Until Brian got home, she talked. Just hearing another voice was enough to pull me away from the precarious ledge I was standing on. After we hung up, she called friend, who called another friend, and soon my little network was praying.

I told Brian. Saying the words out loud somehow gave them less power and the urge to die was fading. The pain was still there, the darkness still suffocating, the waters still raging, but I could breathe just a little bit.

I spent the next day in bed, alternately crying and sleeping. Brian stayed home from work to watch me. I saw my doctor that afternoon. Unable to look him in the eye, he bent down and met my eyes, not letting my shame take me any further down the road than I already was. This was serious and did I need to be in the hospital? I was adamant that I didn’t need to be hospitalized. I was scared, though in all honestly, I probably should have been someplace safe. I was embarrassed and ashamed at the thought, though, and he accepted my pleas that I not be in a psychiatric hospital. I was sent home with a prescription for Zoloft and five sleeping pills. The sleeping pills he gave to Brian, not trusting me with a medication that could be used for ill purposes.

During The Great Depression, I all but lost my faith. Questioning God, asking why, but getting no answer. I lay in the mire with Job. I cried in the night; I cried in the day. I especially cried when surrounded by his people in church. When confronted with the life-giving words of Scripture, I cried, longing to believe the truth being presented. I ached with my need for God and for that Light that shines in the darkness.

The days turned into weeks, turned into months, still dark but growing a little lighter day by day as the anti-depressant kicked in. It took more than three months for me to recover from The Great Depression.  Unfortunately, in May, I rebounded and flipped into mania, although I did not know at the time that mania was the cause of my euphoria. I had not yet been diagnosed with bipolar and simply thought I was feeling great after the long months of depression. I had beat it, I thought. I had beat back depression and run into the light. And the light was so bright that, again, I was blinded.

©stephanie g. pepper