“I don’t want to live like a vagrant anymore,” I pray. “I don’t want to be known for my lack, my weakness, my constant recurring despair.”
I inhabit a limited soul longing for the wide expanse of eternity. Sometimes I wonder aloud, “How long, Lord? How long must I wait?”
I first stood in line in the Walmart pharmacy to pick up my tiny orange bottle of pills that were prescribed like a life-line, a desperate measure I didn’t want to believe I needed even after the tears crashed down as I sat in my crinkly gown, feeling exposed and naked in every way, and my doctor reached out and took my hand in his and called me kiddo and promised we’d figure this out.
But the sadness made sense then. I had lost my baby. Who could blame me for my despair?
And when it didn’t relent, he scribbled a prescription out on his pad, ripped it off, and handed it to me.
I sat in the parking lot as I fingered the side of the bottle and slipped a tiny white pill up and onto my open palm, placing it on my tongue and gulping it down like bitter wine. I tore at the label, scratching at the sticker with my thumbnail. I didn’t want anyone to know I was taking an antidepressant.
I was embarrassed I wasn’t enough. I was embarrassed I couldn’t fix myself with more faith and more prayer and more hours dragged off the clock and spent in quiet seeking.
I was embarrassed on God’s behalf. He seemed to have dropped the ball when He made me.
So I searched for sin in the wreckage, a sign that if only I repented hard enough for my lack, the darkness would rise and lift and His presence would fill the empty places where nerves had long since stopped being receptive and the long pull of sadness had taken its place.
I want to believe God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness but it’s tedious to feel the ever present deficit. It hurts to walk with frail steps, mental illness a constant companion, consuming my life at the most inconvenient times. It’s hard to look around and see what appear to be whole people getting things done.
I feel the resistance all around me and I want to pretty myself up. Tidy up the corners of my mouth into an artfully arranged smile. I want to giggle like I did when I was a girl, I want to take in the leaves, fiery and burnt, blazing across the treetops, the wind making them stir and chatter happily.
I see them and believe in beauty all over again. He is so good at reminding me.
I grasp at God’s autumn love song and yet still the sun dips low and early and I feel the encroaching dark, like a devourer waiting to gobble the good days and spit out endless midnight.
Sometimes I turn up the music loud and lift weary arms high to the heavens and I sway under the weight and it might look like dancing but my mouth pushes worship from my lips with the faintest voice.
“I’m desperate for you,” I cry. I never mean it more than when despair creeps in.
I long to be asked how I am and to say, fine, with a wide lip-glossed smile and mean it. But often I am so undeniably not fine I can’t even bother to pretend.
I don’t know where I’m safe to be unfine.
I see it in their eyes. I see the wide circle tip-toed around my broken parts because they’re so messy and raw and tragic. They’re so tiresome to those who want me fixed by now. We all respect suffering for a season but then we long for a pristine ending, a moral, the salvaged parts made beautiful. Don’t we long for redemption to make sense of it all?
At first, they call you brave and vulnerable and honest for telling the truth that it’s not all perfect. That you believe even when you struggle to believe. That God is still good. At first they agree that life is hard, that mental illness is no joke for those who endure it, who spend their days dedicated to surviving it. But when you’re still trying to keep afloat and the years march on, it gets old.
I had a friend who went through a horrible divorce after discovering her husband’s multiple affairs and when he finally walked out on the family, she was left with an unyielding sorrow at all she had lost. Sideswiped by pain, it took her longer than many deemed appropriate to collect the shattered parts of her life and move on. At first, she was coddled like a fragile bird, people rushed in to watch her children, to help financially, to drop off casseroles, to Romans 8:28 her. They gave her room to grieve, to rage, to talk it out. Some offered prayer or the beautiful gift of listening. But time passed and when she still erupted in pockets of grief, it got dull. No one cared that carving pumpkins with the children was her husband’s thing and when she lugged the giant orange carcass onto the table, she found herself swallowed again.
We believe time heals all things and the clock is ticking. Shouldn’t you be redeemed by now?
So she learned to put on her brave face, to push down the pain rather than sit with it and offer it back to God. She denied Him the most broken parts of her soul. She learned to walk the tightrope and tip-toed on the line with her face creased into a smile.
She learned to be fine for everyone.
But I wonder, what if we didn’t grow so tired of admitting where we’re truly at? What if the church threw arms around the unfine?
What if we learned that church just might be the best place to be not fine for a bit? Or for a good long while if that’s what it takes.
What if we came unclean, unkempt, and scandalous and knelt at Jesus feet and let down our unwashed hair and scattered minds. What if we let our tears fall unrestrained? What if we believed our lips on His feet whispering praise and pouring out every last broken and precious thing means we’re bent low, the closest to worship, the closest to humility, the closest to really meaning, “I’m desperate for you.”
Alia,I know that feeling all too well of not being fine and having to pretend that everything was,but my marriage wasn’t.I was married to a man who was and still is hooked on drugs,who was physically abusive and all I did was pretend that things were fine.I was an emotional wreck after my divorce,I still have broken pieces beneath my exterior,but I thank God that he saved my soul and healed me to a point where I can provide for my daughters.I have so much to be Thankful for,my daughters,my family,my house & a job and God’s daily Grace and Strength.It has become socially acceptable to constantly be fine,to cope,to not bother other’s with your pain,anger,disapointment,resentment and to just be fine,even when you’re not.Looking back,I can say that God was and will always be my refuge.
Alia Joy says
Yes, God as refuge is such a huge source of peace in the midst of pain and turmoil. I’m sorry you had to pretend and I’m sorry for what you went through but I love how you see the beauty of the life God’s given you in your family and home and provision even after all of that. It’s beautiful to me.
Thanks for this post….more ladies than we realize are in the same situation and like myself….”feel I should be fine”. I have taken an anti-depressant for about a year now. Some times I feel it helps and other times I feel I am just using it to cover up what ever is “really” hurting. Just to make me “fine” faster, in this hurry up world, rather than seek to uncover what is really behind the “unfine”.
Maybe we are all a little unfine….just as we are all sinners….
Alia Joy says
I think yes, we’re all a little unfine or even a lot unfine. I think there can be something to unfurling that pain and dealing with roots. It can be both. We’re holistic, physical, emotional, spiritual. We come to God with all of our parts and ask for wisdom and mercy to heal. Sometimes that means medication, sometimes that means counseling or both. Sometimes that means grace for our brokenness when neither work the way we’d hoped.
Bev Duncan @ Walking Well With God says
I have lived with mental illness all my life…I’ve been on medication for 23 years now. One would think that I should be fine. I’ve gone off my medicine a few times with disastrous results. I have learned to live with “this thorn in my side” and like Kathy said, I believe that we are all a little unfine. Life’s stresses hit me harder than the average person and I have experienced people becoming annoyed at my unfineness. I do wish that the church was the best place to be unfine, but instead I’ve been met with ” if you just had more faith or prayed more” it would all be better.
The place that I’ve been met with the most compassion is with others, who have drawn close to the Lord, through their messy, unfine lives. In turn, I believe my trials have helped to mold me into a compassionate person. I “get” being unfine. Ultimately, not being “fine” has drawn me into an abandoned dependence on my Lord and Savior. I cannot survive without being in close union with Him. He is my safe place and my refuge. There is a blessing in not being fine.
Thank you for your honest posts that many can relate to. May you be blessed…
Alia Joy says
Yes there is a blessing if we lean into that. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. AMEN.
Susan Essary says
This may be THE best written article on how it feels to be a woman of faith with a long occurring mental illness. I too, like you, fight this battle every day. Like Bev Duncan, I have been on anti-depressants (increasing amounts for me) over the past 23 years. Along with talk therapy, they save my life. My nephew lost his battle when he got off his medication.
God is so good. His Love and His Word give me strength, and hope, when nothing or no one else will. In my weakness, He is made strong. I’ve always thought God would heal my broken pieces as if making a vase like new. What I’m learning is that some vases aren’t meant to hold water. They are meant to shine light through their God-glued cracks.
Wonderful topic. And several of the ideas are relevant to many non-Christians as well!
We all have seasons in our lives. Sometimes its cold and wintery with pain and the need to rebuild. Other times its spring and we are growing to try a new job or take a trip.
During winter we often fell insufficient or not enough. You are 100% correct that community and open acceptance is what we all need at that time.
Showing your vulnerability to others takes courage. It also builds strong connections and bonds with others. We all deserve it and should go get it!
“she learned to put on her brave face, to push down the pain rather than sit with it and offer it back to God. She denied Him the most broken parts of her soul.”
Thank you for writing honestly about this- I needed to be reminded of it today.
Melanie Vanlaningham says
Yes, yes, and yes! Alia, there is so much in this message that spoke to the years that I’ve struggled with depression, wanting to feel like I was living victoriously, but all along feeling so defeated. I’m not even sure what all I want to share in this comment….too much on my heart in the moment. I agree with what Bev shared, that in this place of brokenness and knowing God is with us, we have a greater sense of compassion with the hurting world around us. My biggest struggle is to not keep looking in on my despair but continuing to pour it out at Jesus’ feet and to make sure I keep loving on those hurting around me. I get up and pray for his strength each day as I go to school and hug and love on middle school students who are dealing with harsher realities than mine, and I know He allows me to feel it with them to help bring love and hope. I don’t know if I’m making sense….I just know that God has not left me even when it feels like He has and I will continue to worship him in all my brokenness and wrestle with the darkness to shine what light He has given me. Thank you so much for the honesty and vulnerability it takes to be real in the unfine.
From one unfine heart to another….
Alia Joy says
“My biggest struggle is to not keep looking in on my despair but continuing to pour it out at Jesus’ feet and to make sure I keep loving on those hurting around me.” <—- I so get this. Pouring it out at Jesus' feet. I think this is why I worship with music so often. It feels like obedience to worship when you're so weary but it's that pouring out instead of caving in to my own despair. It's mercy to see those kids and pour into them and you're specially equipped to do that because you've known suffering too.
Meredith Bernard says
What a wake-up call for the church. What a wake-up call for me. And I’ve been here with grief. Like how long can I still get upset at the drop of a hat because my mom isn’t here? It’s been 13 years already? Maybe the point is we never fully recover until we are fully recovered. Until we are fully made new. Thank you for pouring out your heart as beautifully as you always do, Alia. This beautifully broken soul loves your beautifully broken soul to the moon and back. xoxo
Alia Joy says
We’re not on the clock. 😉 Love you, friend.
About 3 1\2 years ago I lost my dad just 7 weeks after he walked into urgent care with what we later found out was a liver full of stage 4 cancer. There are still things that hit me, and I mean HIT me. Like writing this early in the morning. And for awhile I wondered when it would settle down. Then I read a quote someone sent me about grief and it said grief is “an alteration of the soul.” And I stopped asking when it would settle.
On another note I have struggled with depression my whole life except it went undiagnosed for the first thirty years. Then it took a couple years of feeling flat, of just not caring at all, of seeing apparently whole people getting so much more done than I could even dream of, before I sought medical intervention. I happily take my daily pull with the mindset that no one (or usually the fringe people most of us think are crazy anyway) tells a diabetic to stop reading their meds and just pray more. I had just started this medication when Daddy died. After a year of grieving with a congregation very flawed but containing good people who I thought cared about me, I felt very strongly that they were tired of seeing my grieving. I felt like I was the “cautionary tale” reminding them that God doesn’t always say yes and that it is hard as hell to continue to praise Him when He does say no. It decidedly became a place I felt I was expected to be fine “by now.” So after much prayer and a definite release from God I walked out of that church and never looked back.
Thank you for sharing this. It actually encouraged me to truly start looking for a new church so that I can offer that safe place to be unfine to others who are struggling.
Alia Joy says
Yes! I know so many hurt people leave the church but those are often the people the church needs the most. Because they get it. They know suffering and pain and while the church might not look pretty, (mine sure doesn’t), it’s beautiful what God does. I am so glad you’re seeking a place to serve in whatever way you can. Being a safe place is no small thing. And I get that grief. My father passed away four years ago this next week. It alters the soul. You’re so right.
So much comes to mind as I read your post. Putting on a brave face when your world is crashing all around you. Not knowing whether to turn left or right or just be still and know that God is there waiting and loving you in the midst of this maze we call life. Oh that I would really believe what I just wrote as my heart breaks in this long season of desperation. I lift my eyes up my help comes from the Lord. Still struggling but hopeful. Thanks for sharing Alia.
Lisa D says
Thank you, Alia Joy! I was one of those church-goers who thought that those suffering from depression just weren’t leaning hard enough on God. Then my son was diagnosed and our lives changed forever. My eyes were opened to mental illness in a way they never could have been otherwise. So my heart goes out to you. And I thank you for bringing this issue to light…to the doorstep of the church. We have much to learn.
Alia Joy says
Perspective changes things doesn’t it? I used to think myself quite a bit more together. I had a lot of pride in my abilities and very little compassion. And then depression hit and I learned mercy, and grace, and compassion in ways I never knew before. I’m so sorry for your son’s struggles but thankful you’ve made space to be there for him and to love him and others while they’re suffering.
Chandra Hadfield says
I am literally in tears as I read this, Alia! I am so thankful for you, and that you put words to the hard parts of life.
I’ve battled depression, and have written some about it on my blog. And, like you, “I don’t know where I’m safe to be unfine.” For the most part, the church has said to me “just praise the Lord and you’ll get your joy back.” I’ve put on a brave face, sometimes years at a time. This gives me so much hope, and helps to know that I’m not alone. Thank you for writing brave today!
Alia Joy says
You’re safe here, Chandra. I’m sorry the church hasn’t always loved you well in those areas but God sees your suffering or pain or mess and He loves you wildly. You’re not alone. It’s my prayer we as a church will be better at this.
Kerry brasher says
This post IS my life-as a believer for over 35 years. And might we not forget the enemy of our souls-Satan-who enjoys watching us wallow in the despair and self deprecation if our “weak” faith. But Jesus is a daily, hourly Redeemer-moment by moment. I have been on antidepressants since I was 23 and at a very similar place as you. I felt ashamed,weak and made it a goal to “rise above”. But at 39 I have realized that I need medication and it is OK. I would rather be able to see God’s light cutting through than contemplate the only relief is to leave this earth. And who is to measure what trials are worthy of unrelentless pain-only God knows our heart and he does not condemn. Thank you for such a well written post -a real comfort to know it is OK when your not ” OK”.
Alia Joy says
Thank you for sharing some of your story, Kerry. It is moment by moment. God is gentle with those who ache, we ought be gentle with ourselves too.
Were you walking with me yesterday???? Can we be friends??
Bent low, closest to worship, closest to humility, closest to really meaning, “I’m desperate for You.” Yes! This IS the position of the redeemed. I have taken this “position” more than once in my journey. Your writing is sheer poetry, Alia Joy. You’ve touched my heart in a deep way today.
I ponder the same thing–WHY must we paste on the stupid, smiling face and endure others who think we should be well & happy again, moving on in life after heartbreak? WHY must we stuff our real feelings way down deep and pretend we are no longer hurting over the trial we find ourselves in? Why can’t (church) people just be honest with each other? In a crowd of women we ‘should’ most be free to feel our feelings, instead we find ourselves suppressing, burying our broken hearts, sometimes even leaving the church because we find no solace there.
been there … done that … and oh, yes, the desperate, hopeless pain of it all.
i am here for you, Alia. i won’t try to fix you. for i know how annoying that is.
trusting that you have a little safe community wrapped around you, walking with you to the light.
as God brings you to mind, please know that I will cradle you in my arms and lift you right back up to Him …
Alia Joy says
In the past few years God has brought some beautiful people who walk with me and love me and minister to me in the simplest and most profound ways. Some of them I met through writing which has in itself been healing and cathartic and one of the ways God speaks to me clearest. Thank you for you care, Linda. I am grateful for all of your encouragement here and on my blog. It means a lot to me.
I have also just recently been put on an anti-depressant and wrestled with the idea of it for some time. Like Bev said above in her response, life’s problems hit me harder than others and somedays it feels debilitating. Thank you so much for posting this, because I am also one of those who pretends everything is fine.
Alia Joy says
I think sometimes we can expend so much energy pretending to be fine that we’ve nothing left to just dwell in God’s presence as wrecked as we feel. I hope you find more safe places to know you are ok being not fine.
WOW, I have totally been through this type of thing. I was even afraid to share how I felt with my family and my church until last year.. When I fell apart during services and my church helped me pick up the pieces. It was so wonderful and kind of them. Even now almost a year and half after my divorce was final, If I walk in and just say, I am here.. they still smile, hug on me and accept me for me. No more Barbie smiles for me. Take me or leave me!!!!
Alia Joy says
I love that, so much.
Who gets to say how long it takes to feel “fine” after feeling “unfine”? You’ll find no condemnation here. I have my own little bottle of anti-depressants and that’s OK.
I really needed to read this today. I spent the car ride home from middle school composing a blog post in my head that most likely will never see the light of day, much less make it into the list of “published” posts. I’m on day 2 of staying home with a sick child who believes that she needs to spread her misery on the closest person to her, which would be me. I’m tired and starting to feel resentful and feeling guilty for it. It’s all ugly and messy and not fine around here.
This too shall pass. But I do get tired of trying to smile my way back into feeling “fine”.
Lisa Smith says
I have been there. I am blessed to serve at a church where I throw my arms around the unfine and call them friends. His grace sometimes comes in the form of a little white pill. It is my humble reminder that I swallow each day. Bless you!
Dear Little Sister, I live that question too. I am 20 years since that first bottle. More questions than answers,But one answer bigger than the questions. Jesus suffered it all and said “It is finished.” Shalom
Beautiful! I have faced a long battle with depression and anxiety, and I have found a community where it is ok to be “unfine” – Celebrate Recovery. I was at the end of myself when I walked through those doors and God is doing things more than I could ever ask or imagine with the broken pieces I’ve laid before him.
Alia Joy says
There are a lot of people at our church that are part of the Celebrate Recovery community. I’m glad you’ve found a healthy place to be unfine and heal.
Kathy @ In Quiet Places says
Thank you for doing the hard thing and opening up to us this dark walk of depression. You reminded me I need to do better staying in touch with someone I know who shared they are in severe depression. I admit I have dropped the ball with her and I want to pick it back up and be there for her. I want her to know I will hang in there with her!
Alia Joy says
That can be such a life-line. I had a friend who was there for me in the darkest season I’ve ever been in and she’ll never know how much just her reassuring presence was in my life. She didn’t try to fix me or pep talk me, she just sat with me while I cried. Or took my kids to the park with hers. Or brought me hot tea. It meant the whole world some days.
Alia, I sit floored as I read this post. Someone else?
Susan Miller says
Simply stated, thank you for saying what I’ve wanted to scream for years……..
Carol Leonard says
Thank you! I’m not okay! I’m a mess. I’m God’s mess and He’s not done with me!
He’s not done with my messy family. We are broken, but not hopeless.
Thank you for letting us not be fine!
I love what you said there: “we are broken, but not hopeless”. 🙂
I love you so… I know that is so redundant and I say it (maybe) too much – but at the heart of any conversation, prayer, or post – that is the first thought that rises up!
I’ve been calling for and attempting to live an authentic life for a decade and it’s super trendy and hip to say that now but sadly, not always safe to DO it. I think we like the idea in theory but as you said – we want a quick fix… we want YOUR realness to give us courage to let ours show too, but then Comparison rears his ugly head. We fall for the trap of comparison when we are all ‘fine’… it’s why we pretend for so long. However, we can also fall for the same trap when we are unfine… comparing how bad we have it and that is a battle that no one ever wins.
I remember when our pastor stood up front one Sunday morning and he bared his unfineness with boldness and grace. He shared how he had been battling depression (without really knowing it because, come on- he’s a pastor and as he said and used to believe, ‘pastors shouldn’t battle this’…) He shared how he was on anti-depressants and how he was taking a three month long sabatical. I just remember thinking how brave he was in that moment and how much healing he was offering out to the congregation… finally, a real invitation to be unfine.
I had the same thought as I read your words, your heart: What an invitation… what a way to create a safe place, right here… right next to you… in a comparison-free zone!
(Insert Gushing Comment Here)
Alia Joy says
Thank you for always being someone who will pray for me no matter what, no questions asked. Thank you for being fine with my hot mess. Thank you for being someone I can lounge around with no makeup and yoga pants and feel right at home with. I love you, friend.
Liz Curtis Higgs says
SO PROUD of you, Alia Joy, for putting it all out there. Every word rings true. It took me YEARS to admit I needed help, to finally swallow my pride and swallow the pills my psychiatrist pressed into my shaking hands. Please, church. God uses many ways to heal us. Prayer, yes. Love, absolutely. Time, always. But counseling and medicine offer valid paths to healing too. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so!
Alia Joy says
Amen! Preach it Liz!
Thank you. I’m struggling right now, and I need to be reminded of this. I want so badly to be alright because I feel like I’m inconveniencing people with my mess. I’m resisting that urge. We moved only two months ago, so I’m starting new friendships right now and forcing myself to be vulnerable and bare because I know I need community as I walk through this. I desperately need the Church to be Christ to me. Also, I really just don’t do the “I’m fine” lie very well. 😛 But it’s hard not to cringe away from my own emotional nakedness especially around others who barely know me. I’m rambling. Just…thank you.
Alia Joy says
Yes, as a friend recently said of depression and sharing vulnerably, it can be hard not to feel like all of us is a little too much or not enough. It’s a hard place to move into a new community and to form new relationships. It can be scary to put yourself out there not knowing how you’ll be received. I hope you find a church and people to come around you and meet you. Thanks for sharing Marian.
Bev Klaiber says
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I sit for long hours with hurting folks on long journeys through dark places. Thank you for giving them permission, redeeming actually, their despair for positioning them in the best place to offer desperate worship and receive His ultimate healing. Their destiny holds healing forever, but their day-to-day may not always look that much different than before. Thank you, again, for articulating so well the beauty in even the darker part of the journey.
Alia Joy says
Thank you for the work and service you do. That can’t be an easy job either but yes, we all need permission to come to Christ as we are without the obstacles of pretension and piety that’s often associated with faithfulness. To me, the faithful always look a lot like the ones admitting how desperately they need Jesus.
Oh Alia this post was beautiful and speaks to so many. My 31 day series was Being a Daughter: 31 Days of mental illness. It took me a long time to show that broken part of me but now I freely share that with God and others. It was so freeing to be able to do that. Prayers for you.
Alia Joy says
Writing about depression is one of the main things that got me through it a few years ago when it was the worst it’s ever been. It’s a tool in God’s hand for my own life but I’m so glad when I see it as a gift for others too. Keep writing, Tara.
Reading this post was like someone had reached inside of my cluttered mind and soul. I have struggled with depression all my life, have been on medication for 15 years and I am afraid to ever stop it because I don’t like myself without it. I don’t like myself all that much on it, but at least I’m not flying into rages over nothing, crying all the time, and wishing I was never born. But I too “am fine” on the outside because nobody really wants to hear about the “un-fine” messed up parts. I long for the day when I can crawl up into Jesus’ lap, touch His face, look into His eyes and be whole and safe. Come quickly Lord Jesus.
Thank you all for these posts. I also struggle with mental illness and the need to be fine. Let us all pray for each other because we know God answers prayers.
Thank you for your beautiful words. I have suffered multiple traumas in the past 10 years. I am on several medications and I am still barely getting by. I am ashamed that I am still in this hole and I am definitely not fine. I don’t know if I will ever be fine again. Thank you for being honest about your struggle and helping to alleviate some of my shame.
Alia Joy says
I’m sorry for your shame. I know it well. But look at all of us, this rag tag bunch of women joining in this chorus to admit how much we desperately need Jesus, how even so it doesn’t always make everything tidy or perfect or even fine. My hope for you tonight is that you know deeply you are not alone.
Thank you. This is my life, but unfortunately not my experience. Grateful for your words–they’re exactly the way I feel, and helped me today!
God bless you for sharing!
tanya marlow says
YES. Oh, yes. I can relate to that shame, and the need to hide. And also that people get bored when you’re in a chronic situation. The church is too programmed to fix things. This is so important to say and keep saying. Grateful for your voice.
Alia Joy says
Oh how we long to fix people. You’re so right about that. We make a mess of things when we rush to do that, don’t we?
THANK YOU, Alia!!! I also am a long time woman suffering with antidepressants, began at age 14.. Your words are just soooo amazingly PERFECT to describe what we feel…think…and I am just so GRATEFUL for coming upon your words today!!!! God Bless you, Sweet Woman!!!!! <3
Annie Barnett says
“Shouldn’t you be redeemed by now?” You hit the nail on the head here, friend. Thanks for all the way you write it honest and make space. Love you.
Alia Joy says
I love you so much, Annie. thank you for always being a safe place for me. You have no idea what your presence in my life means to me.
Yes. That. Exactly.
Mary McCauley says
Whether it is a mental illness, or sin, the church should be a place we feel safe. But it is not. It is a place where people are quick to judge and condemn. Not all churches, but most don’t feel safe, even in small groups, for gossip comes easily to those in the church, they just rename it somehow.
I have found the church people to be the quickest to hurt you, while some who make no pretense of the fact that they have fallen and needed God to pick them up, such as those in AA or Alanon are much quicker to love and encourage and support you.
It was in Alanon that I first found unconditional love and support, even though I had been raised in a church and part of it most of my life. I thank God for putting women there who hugged me, cried with me, loved me, and encouraged me and helped me move on. As Philip Yancey wrote if the church upstairs was like the Alanon or AA meeting in the basement everyone would be better off. Sorry if I quoted that incorrectly, but that was the idea.
Thanks for your honest posting on this blog. May the people who call themselves followers of Christ be more open to His love and remember we all are in need of His grace and forgiveness.
Alia Joy says
It’s not a safe place for a lot of people in a lot of places and that breaks my heart. I’ve had the most wounds from church but the past few years God has used it powerfully in my life and although my church is in NO way perfect, it’s real. I see the gospel being lived and it’s the most beautiful thing to see how God works even in the midst of all the mess. I am so thankful for those imperfect people. And I think you’re right, if we truly and humbly understood our own sin, we’d have a better understanding of what it looks like to live like Jesus, like the Prodigal’s father, with arms wide open, instead of the pharisaical older brother with arms crossed resenting the ones who come empty or dirty or humbled.
“What if the church was the best place to not be fine” And how it should be just that – coming to Jesus, the One who can meet our needs, who knows our truest hearts. Yet church is often a place where we put on our “happy” masks answering that we are fine when asked and expecting others to do likewise. Love and prayers to you for making a difference here with your words…and your heart.
Thanks for sharing this. I often feel low and border line depressed. I often feel when I am at church I have to be fine. I am a honest person and will show how I am feeling . I sometimes wish my faith was stronger but it reality it’s not. God bless you all
Dana Butler says
Alia these words are a gift to so many. Me included. More than I can say. Thank you.
Trudy Den Hoed says
This post really touches a deep understood place in me, Alia. Thank you so much for sharing and understanding depression. Thank you for making me feel less alone. Far too often I put on a “I’m fine” attitude to try to be what is expected of me or out of guilt that I should have more faith, and it only makes me feel more alone. I’m so grateful Jesus cries with us and understands us so well.
I’m so sorry you lost a baby. That must be so devastating. I’m so sorry for your friend, too. Praying for daily grace and strength for both of you.
This was wonderfully written. I see so many sweet comments of encouragement and understanding. But I will be honest, I am one who does not understand, my personal struggles that must be laid at the feet of our Savior are different. I don’t want to turn a beloved sister away, so, could someone share some practical ways I/we/the church could step it up to love in a more effective way? Thank you!
Jen, First I want to thank you for being willing and open in your seeking to grasp what someone experiencing mental illness may need from another! What a wonderful question you’ve asked. A number of thoughts came to mind to share with you and anyone else who is asking the same question. These thoughts come from my time asking the Lord for His perspective as I (we) often don’t know what we need ourselves. Here they are…
1) Primary is for you to seek the Lord in prayer for your own heart, mind and soul to be made pure in motive. Ask Him to equip you with a sincere, compassionate heart that moves out of love rather than “I have to do”. Trust Jesus!
2) Pray specifically and regularly for the person(s) the Lord leads you to engage with. Remember that you as an individual cannot “be present” for many who are in desperate situations, so listen for His lead.
3) Be intentional about being present for that person. Perhaps because of other commitments, you can’t spend hours engaging with this heartbroken one. However, when you consistently reach out to her even with brief phone calls, visits or notes, this can speak volumes of care to the one aching and longing for connection but feels like no one really wants to know about her pain.
4) Listen first when she speaks. Pray quietly for the Lord to give you wisdom of when to share an encouragement from His Word. Acknowledge that the Lord cares for her pain.
5) When you share Scripture, share not only the ones that talk about joy, but also the ones which have words that express the very feelings your friend seems to be expressing. Look for these in the Psalms especially, but I’ve also found great comfort in 2 Corinthians and other NT books where Paul or other writer expresses their own struggles with “distress”, “fear”, “downcast”, “overwhelmed”, “anguish”, etc. Help her to connect these words for the pain with the words that praise the Lord in the pain.
6) Offer to pray with her, in her presence. Ask her what she would like you to pray specifically. If she doesn’t know, assure her that is OK and you’ll just trust the Lord to help you both. If you feel uncomfortable praying out loud, ask the Lord to help you and to give you the words. Remember when we are weak and willing to admit our need for help to the Lord, He is gracious to provide!
7) Ask your friend if you can share her prayer needs with other believers who the Lord lays upon your heart, ones with a compassionate and willing heart, mind and soul. If she agrees, contact these other friends with a mindset to come alongside this hurting one as a group, a community. Love her together! We are better together. It’s God’s design for us.
Oh, Jen, I hope that helps! I thank the Lord for you asking the question with a desire to grow in reaching out. I believe with a heart such as this, He will bless you and those you aim to come alongside. May the Lord bless you, dear sister!
I like the list but I think with 5) you do need to take care that it is right for that person. If you don’t think it is right then and there, I’m sure there will be another opportunity.
Yes, Ross, I completely agree with your thoughts about #5. I had hoped that the encouragement in #4 to pray for discernment about sharing Scripture would be seen as a transition into #5. It certainly takes the Spirit of wisdom to know when, where and what is best for the individual, doesn’t it?!?
I know I’m still learning much of how to care wisely for others in the pain while I am experiencing my own battles with an isolating chronic illness. I want my heart to be open to receive God’s word in my pain, but I know that there have been times when I’ve struggled to receive it because of perspective. Yet, there are many other times when His Word comes into my pain with such comfort and help that peace overcomes the trouble. I praise Jesus for His victory in this!
I guess, personally, I do desire and am grateful when others share God’s Word with me to encourage me. So, I included #5 because I know of how I need His Word to enable me to persevere, find comfort and hear truth. I realize since everyone is at a different place on the journey, the readiness for Scripture will be varied as well. Again, prayer is essential for this discernment! Oh, how I desire to truly “pray without ceasing”!!
Blessings to you.
Brandee Shafer says
The best thing you can say is: “I love you, and I’m here for you.” I would advise avoiding: “There’s a reason for everything,” “God has a plan,” “God won’t put more on you than you can bear,” and “You’re letting the devil steal your joy.” I can’t think that those statements are ever helpful. Also proceed w/caution before taking the other person’s pain and story hostage by giving a testimony about how you went through something just as bad or worse and God delivered. Sometimes a testimony is helpful, but sometimes the hurting person just feels, like: “Great! Glad it worked out for you! Can we talk about me?”
Susan Shipe says
Churches need a sign at the front door “LEAVE YOUR MASKS AT HOME” enter at risk of being loved, healed, prayed for, treasured because you are children of the Most High God. xo Beautiful post.
Love the idea, Susan 🙂
Diane Samson says
Painful but beautiful. Authentic. We need this. And we don’t get enough. We need to be real and yet the question so often is, who can we really be real with? I pray we can catch hold of allowing each other to live and be in the pain and then only can we heal. Blessings. 🙂
Sara Elizabeth says
You write the words that I dare not.
Why are we made this way? Do we disapoint God in our ever present despair and darkness? It feels as if to swallow us up…
You are not alone. And your story helps those of us who feel the weight of mental illness to not feel so alone. That God gave us the gift of each other to encourage us in the darkness of our sufferings. Thank you for writing your heart for us to see.
“God is near to the broken hearted, He saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
Alia Joy says
God is delighted in you. Wildly, incessantly adoring of how He made you. He sees you when you cannot see. You are not alone.
Melissa May says
Yes and amen.
Jenni DeWitt says
Sitting in our sadness – it’s definitely countercultural. But as you pointed out, so important. It’s a lot easier to sit in sadness when your not doing it alone – when the casseroles are still coming. But the tough part comes when you have to find out if your brave enough to sit there alone. This is something I’ve been pondering lately. I’ve started noticing all the things we do to keep ourselves from sitting in sadness. How many times do we reach for the phone, or food, or anything else that can numb the pain for a little while. But what if we just sat there in our pain with God. It would be very brave and hard and wonderfully healing. Thank you for your words that encourage us to sit in sad with God as long as we need to.
Alia Joy says
There’s another writer. Seth Haines. He writes about recovery. From alcohol specifically but from all things metaphorically. It’s beautiful work on sitting in pain. Allowing ourselves to deal with the pain in the waiting. Good stuff. Take a read if you like. I think he’s onto something. http://sethhaines.com/recovery-room/an-anniversary-of-inner-sobriety/
Everything you so PERFECTLY wrote and everything else, each of the commenters wrote, AMEN.
My story is the same. And, I am out of fellowship ( no longer have a church home). Except for today, with all of you un fine ladies. I have been blessed enormously by each of your comments. And you, Alia Joy, bless your ever loving heart.
Thank you, for saying what I’ve been too frightened and timid to say.
I think I’ll get out of bed after all today…..
Alia Joy says
I read this comment the day I posted and it brought me to tears. What a gift you are to me. Thank you for sharing. We really do need each other.
Alia, this was brave and beautiful. I’m Caiobhe and I’m not fine at all. delighted to meet you 🙂 I had my own sitting in the car with a bottle of pills I didn’t want to have, moment – now 10 years ago. Yes, to what you say about people wanting to see restoration – it’s so true. I don’t know the answers except to say that what we do as church or people right now isn’t always so great. We need to learn to do better, and your writing is a great help towards achieving real love towards each other.
Thank you for putting words to the time-frame-for-fine thing. It DOES feel like there is an “ok” amount of time to be grieving/struggling/a mess.. but then as time goes by (even if circumstances do not change) it’s time to pull yourself together.
Very timely and pertinent reminder for me – about what the purpose and role of the church really is.
Praying even now that my faith-family will become a safe haven for the unfine.
We as Christians do a disservice to so many in this way. I pray and hope we could all do better and meet people where they’re at not where we wish they’d be. Thanks for your brave sharing today.
My experience has been that church is often NOT the place to be a mess but to be judged instead. Unfortunately, this should be a safe haven but I have not found this to be true. Perhaps I have not found the right groups of people but I have a few close friends who walk with me through my mess. I believe God put them there so we can help each other. I wish the body of Christ would be more kind. I know this just is not true. Sometimes others in Christ attack or criticize our difficulties instead of offering grace and love.
Alia Joy says
Yes sometimes they do attack and hurt people. Sometimes I have. But I know this. I won’t ever look on someone who is suffering, the way I used to before I suffered. So that’s a place right there where we begin to change the language of the church and the response to the hurting and vulnerable. I’ll openly admit, I have not always been kind. Suffering taught me kindness and mercy and compassion. We learn to extend mercy and the next person won’t have the same experience we might have had. I still believe and love church. I know we get it wrong but everything in me tells me it’s Christ’s plan for His people.
Thank you for these words today. Currently living into how to speak honestly to people about how I’m doing without overwhelming them and pushing them away because there is nothing they can do to change my families situation. It’s hard to be my true self when people stare, walk away when the topic comes up, or simply avoid asking how we are doing. Even those people/spaces I thought were to be safe have become unsafe for me to share…that hurts so bad. To learn to give them grace because they don’t know or have skills to communicate – oh so hard. I figure if people who are expecting redemption in our situation, well how much more am I?!
All I want/need is people to COMPANION me. Willing to be with me in the dark and shadows as I walk through the unknowns. I no longer need “fixers” and those swinging their Bible verse floodlights over my life. Again, thanks for your words today – good to know I’m not alone.
Alia Joy says
You’re not alone, Melody. But I understand how that can be so hard to find people to Companion and walk with instead of just feeling sorry for you or avoiding you altogether. We’re not used to not fixing people or things in our culture. We don’t know how to sit with that kind of uncertainty.
I have been savoring, thinking on, holding onto your words all day. Thank you for coming to my Facebook page and sharing your heart for what you do when you need to write a post and be vulnerable and there is a need for wisdom on when to hit “Enter” and publish.
Your post struck a chord among a very diverse group on my fb page and I thank you for your honesty and your hope of what church should be, could be. I am sitting on my post and I now have more courage to finally hit that enter button. These words are His pressed into my heart: His goodness and my weakness preaching the gospel to my wayward heart so that I can see my need for him. I think I still might put off hitting “Enter” another day. Oh, Lord, help my unbelief.
Sue Tell says
Unfine … the position of the redeemed.
YES … I’m unfine, you’re unfine. Lord, may we have the courage to walk into the light unfine and allow love to come to us. amen
Thank you for posting this. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it! I’ve been unfine for so many years that I am beginning to think I’ll never be “fine”. I know Jesus cares and sometimes I cannot see him through the pain. It is awful and it hurts so badly. It makes it really hard to relate to people whose lives look perfect.
I love your name. It’s kind of funny to me that I’ve been thinking of changing my name to “Aleah”. Maybe God put that name on my heart because He knew I would see this post and relate to both your post and your name.
I will keep you in my prayers, sweet Alia.
Grace and peace to you!
Alia Joy says
I know what it feels like to look around and feel like there is no one to relate to because everything looks so tidy and perfect. I’ve been surprised in telling my story how many people are decidedly not perfect and who need the freedom and space to say so.
Myquillin says imperfections put people at ease. I think that’s why people say they feel so comfortable around me. I carry imperfect with me. But it’s ok. I see God using it.
I used to hate my name because I thought it made me different and weird when everyone else was Jennifer or Jessica. But I’ve grown to love it. My name, Alia Joy, means ascending to joy. It fits me. It’s a reminder.
Janet Olson says
Dear Alia! Thank you so for your beautifully written post. I’ve had depression all my life but wasn’t diagnosed until I went to the first depression screening day here. By then my 2nd child, 8 years old, was in a therapeutic day school because of his autism. We learned later it wasn’t all autism, he had an increasing number of voices in his head that by the age of 14 got him to try to hang himself. We added schizoaffective disorder to his diagnoses. Our daughter was in middle school, bullied terribly, when she was cutting herself, tried to kill herself. Bipolar disorder. And there are several physical disabilities thrown in too. Church is not always a safe place to be not fine. With some in our church family, but by no means all. It’s been 21 years since that screening day. I’ve stopped antidepressants twice, only to need then again. I’ve learned/accepted it’s clinical, major depression and it’s not going away. Neither is our son’s autism and schizoaffective disorder. He still lives with us. Neither are my physical disabilities or my husband’s physical disabilities. Neither are our daughter’s mental and physical disorders ever go away. We’re in this for a long haul. And your writing today is like music to my soul. I believe a lot more of us than anyone is aware of aren’t “fine”. Just believe in the church happy faces, the masks Casting Crowns sing about in one of their songs. Wish I could remember which one. I’ve reached a point that with people I know who ask how I am, I’ll ask if they want to hear the expected words or the true words. That gets people’s attention, knocks them back a bit. He is strongest when we are at our weakest. Praise God!
Alia Joy says
Oh yes, beauty here. He is the strongest when we are at our weakest. I know this is true of my life. Have seen it with desperate eyes. It looks scandalous, this kind of need of Him. It looks as wild and untamed as the woman at Jesus’ feet but it’s where I find He reaches down and calls me His. thank you so much for sharing your real, Janet.
Thank you for your honesty and openness. From one who struggles with depression to another, I thank you. I don’t think I could have written about this kind of difficulty as eloquently. Consider this a virtual hug and a prayer for you.
Alia Joy says
I’ll take that virtual hug and prayer. thank you.
This post is dear to my heart. I, like many others here who have commented, have experienced being “not fine” but not finding a safe place to express it for many years. My heart was further broken in the isolation. However, I can say the Lord is hearing my prayers for change. I believe that’s what He is calling me to do with the brokenness and hurt from the past, to ask for it to be redeemed. I’m praying for a revival where the people in the church will have a heart and mind change about what true authentic community is. I’ve been often drawn to Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 where He talks about those who cared for those in great need (e.g. hungry, thirsty, sick, in prison, etc.). I hope for more to be equipped like described here to reach out intentionally to those with various needs, including those with mental illness.
My personal journey with both mental and physical illness for over 20 years has been the greatest challenge of my life. Yet, it’s in this challenge, I have met the Lord and He has shown me what mercy, grace and love are. I’m thankful for His presence in my nearly homebound situation. Yet, I must persevere in seeking to cultivate Christian community despite the unique hindrances which come with the illness.
As I read your post, Alia, I began to weep as I sensed that here is a place where openness to the realness of pain, physically and emotionally, can be shared. Love your heart to be vulnerable and to encourage us to keep on seeking the Lord as our Refuge!
Alia Joy says
Oh yes, Diana. The Lord is our refuge and He alone is enough. Always. Give me Jesus. I’m thankful God gives us the church and we’re called to be a body to each other. To care for the weaker and broken parts. I have great hope that we will become people who love well. Who see our brokenness as a way to connect with others and minister with the mercy we’ve been shown. Sometimes it’s as small as saying, me too. Thank you for sharing.
Such a raw and powerful post. I am ashamed at how we, the body of Christ, treat our wounded at times. I think that it’s not always out of exasperation, it’s just that maybe we don’t know what to do or how to fix things. Or maybe that we don’t know that we CAN’T just “fix” things. I just know there are hurting people all around me. I’m convinced that we have all been broken in one way or another…and that most of us have learned to push down the pain and put on the smile. Thank you for sharing your heart in this post. It has given me lots to think about.
Kamille Scellick says
“We all respect suffering for a season but then we long for a pristine ending, a moral, the salvaged parts made beautiful. Don’t we long for redemption to make sense of it all?”
this part rung so very true to me. When our world stops and everyone else keeps going on with theirs. It makes sense; but, it doesn’t make it any easier on the bereaved. Your words are like gold here offering up space for so many who need this validation in their worth as children of the Most High God. I’m pretty sure God can handle all of it and gives us room to sit in the mess, since he sits in it with us. i love you!
Alia Joy says
Yes, God is gentle and He not only gives us room, He sits with us. I love that. thankful for you, friend.
lisha epperson says
This is how I see the church now Alia – a bunch of messed up people trying to live the Bible together. I don’t expect it to be pretty. Glory-filled yes, but pretty – no. I don’t think God cares how long it takes either, as long as you keep coming back. Our human perspective on time is the problem. Certainly God can heal and transform any situation in a second but I think redemption is found in the process. And that…takes time.
Alia Joy says
Yes, redemption is in the process. I love how Eugene Peterson describes our sanctification as a long obedience in the same direction. That speaks to me of walking with each other in this Kingdom work. Love walking with you, Lisha.
My word. I cried myself to sleep last night over many deep heavy things this year has brought me. I’ve blogged about them if you want details. But I opened my email right after I opened my eyes and there was your blog. The title was words that told me the Lord was listening. And I opened and read and leapt, and wept, and wanted to find you and hug your neck. Thank you for being brave. Thank you for sharing the depths of my own heart and helping me feel normal again. Can I please be your best friend forever? Praying today you would be overwhelmed with His love for you in your brave and your real because He is all up in it. Thank You Jesus. <3
Denise J. Hughes says
Just thank you. That is all.
You are loved. So very, very loved.
Alia Joy says
I love you, friend. And thank you for always feeling like a safe place to me.
What a great post, and what’s also inspiring is the amount of heartfelt responses from everyone. Its so important to know that you are not alone in your pain and that there are so many women who have walked a similar path.
Alia Joy says
I’ve been blown away. It’s a gift.
Lindsey Brackett says
I adore you and the way you make prose poetry and call us out on how we’ve turned what should be a hospital for the unfine into a clique for the belonging. Beautiful, honest piece. And that story about your friend–I’ve got one who is there right now. Thank you for reminding me there’s no timeline on how long this will take her to find redemption.
and it made me laugh to read “Romans 8:28 her”. That’s priceless and so true. Doesn’t always make everything better even though we want it to.
Alia Joy says
Yes, there is no timeline. We are on God’s clock and His works are perfect and good. He is patient and kind and walks with us in our suffering. I love the hope in that verse and I’ve seen God work good and beautifully redemptive things out of the ashes but yeah, it’s not awesome to have it quoted to dismiss the pain you’re currently in.
Very well said. I wholeheartedly agree. The church often does a good job of compassionately caring for people in the wake of tragedy or loss, but only for a time. I have been struggling for some time with overcoming trauma that I endured early in life. I would love for church to be a safe place to be real, to openly share my struggle and to be encouraged by others who are also struggling. What a wonderful witness it would be to those outside the church to see broken people being ministered to, and lovingly restored. I think it begins with a willingness to step out of our comfort zones and take the step of being real. Easier said than done, but someone must initiate the change.
Alia Joy says
Yes, sometimes it just takes someone going first. Extending a safe place, even for one person.
Amy P Boyd says
There is much I can add to the comments above except to say Amen, thank you and love you.
“I don’t know where I’m safe to be unfine”. I believe your word have just created our new safe place.
Lauren Huss says
So very true…every word! Shamefully, I have found myself on both sides of this story. Thank you for saying what so desperately needs to be said!
True, Lauren. Until I could walk in the shoes of the chronic wounded, I would have lost patience and judged. I believe that is why God is allowing so many of us to walk that road to be able to reach out with genuine empathy instead of patronizing.
Alia Joy says
I’ve been both too. I’ve rolled my eyes when someone rolls out the drama again and again and lost patience with mess-proned people. And I’ve been humbled. I love what Sita says. It gives you eyes to see a new way.
Faith Raider says
I know it is so hard for others to walk with us through a long trial. When my husband walked away from our faith my friends were supportive for a little while, but then their own lives got overwhelming and they didn’t have space in their lives to support me too. I get it. But it doesn’t make it less hard. No one ever even asks how I am doing with it, seven years later. Not even my family. That feels like a long road to walk this hard road alone. But I’ve been in a small group at my church for awhile now, and I try to just be honest – not saintly but not melodramatic – and I think it is helping. People feel free to talk to me about their own problems because they know I have struggles and am in the middle of a struggle and am walking through it with God.
Alia Joy says
I’m glad you’ve found people you can talk with and I think you’re onto something huge with how sharing our struggles opens the doors for others to walk through and feel safe. We create safe places by admitting we don’t always (or often) have it all together. We learn to shoulder burdens together.
Elin Griffin says
Wow. That was absolutely beautiful. Thank you for your vulnerability and transparency. I am convinced that if we all were more brave about sharing our struggles with one another, we’d find great freedom and power and hope. This sort of authentic sharing is exactly what I seek to encourage in my writing as well. Thank you for being brave. Bless you.
Alia Joy says
We need voices telling the truth. keep writing brave.
Wow. I don’t think I could have written this better myself. These are my thoughts and fears and frustrations. I too would like to really be fine the next time someone asks me how I am.
My friend e-mailed me a link to this post today. She does not even know the private pain I’ve been in, but she must have known after reading this that I might be in this very place. And she was right. Eleven months ago, I lost my second child. She died in my arms six hours after she was born. Everything you wrote here is so accurate, and I find myself reluctant to spill such words out to even my therapist. I have read that this has happened to others before. But somehow, in denial, I did not think I would experience it. I never thought I would talk about my baby eleven months later and be met with blank stares that seem to tell me I should be over this by now. I never thought there would be those who would shut down the conversation if I bring up even the slightest inkling of the pain I am still in. It’s not that every single friend or acquaintance is this way. But after it happens just a few times, especially with those you don’t expect it from, it’s so difficult to trust anyone with your pain. It’s so hard not to be disappointed… even angry. But I try to remember that I might be doing the same if the tables were turned… because that is, unfortunately, the way we deal with such loss as a society… sadly, even as a church. I think what some forget is that, even though time heals, it also brings us closer to the biggest reminders. I’m one month away from the one-year mark… from her first birthday. In so many ways, her death hits me harder now than right after we lost her. Only, by this point, the support is long gone. I venture to say that anyone asked individually would say, “Of course I still support you.” But it’s not the same. There was a net under me then. Now, I stand alone… sometimes. Sometimes not standing… just sitting hunched over alone. Other times flat on my face. Though I ache to know others suffer alone as well, I am comforted to know there are others who understand this place I am in because they are there or have been there, too. Most days, I am far to tired to be brave… thus the isolation. And when I try to be brave, I often end up revealing the farce when I break down in front of very unsuspecting and shocked friends. The more “fine” I feel I have to appear to the outside world, the more disparate my external self and my true “un-fine” inward self become. And sometimes, that is more of a grief to bear than the actual loss itself. I’ve often said, losing my little girl is not the hardest part of loss. It’s how everything else changed afterward that is the hardest. That might seem strange, but it’s because I’ve come to accept and trust God about the loss of my daughter that no person can fix or control. What is harder to accept is the way in which this kind of loss has so much taboo and the fact that others are uncomfortable with it… which seems far too fixable to be so prevalent. At one time, some were brave and loving enough to push through the uncomfortableness. It feels so much less like that now. Very few know just how un-fine I still am. Thank you for putting a voice to this pain and the people who are in it. I have not known how to tell people how real it is. You have done so, well, here.
Alia Joy says
I’m so sorry for your loss, Georgia. I’m sorry you haven’t found the room to grieve fully and wholly and for however long. I think you’re brave whether you’re alone or not in this. Brave isn’t the act of pulling it together. Brave is admitting this side of eternity some things might never be fully right and still believing God is good.
I can’t help reading through these comments and believing that God has something better for his broken and grieving people. We belong to each other, including the pain, the mess, the awkward moments and the things we don’t know how to say.
I know when my father passed away there was a moment of profound kindness and understanding that came from a woman who had lost her daughter a few years before. She understood this random grief that was coming up in me in a way no one else could. Her pain and suffering turned out to be a gift to me so many years later. I think we are meant to bear each other’s burdens and lighten the load for the suffering not by trying to fix them but by coming alongside and walking right up next to them.
Thank you so much for sharing a bit of your story here. Maybe we can all begin to be a people who learn to walk together.
Thank You Alia Joy.
A wonderful post. So True Its made me feel i wasn’t alone. I also lost a baby and i am having a hard time at the moment. Your post was a blessing from God, letting me know i wasn’t alone.
I also suffer depression and take medication. I can so relate to your post as if it were me saying those words.
Thank you again
Alia Joy says
Thank you Jenny. I keep coming back to read these comments. Such a huge outpouring of truth and encouragement for my own weary self. I’m bolstered by everyone’s story. We are not alone.
Alia, thank you again for your real honesty and vulnerability. You are so wise and full of insight, your words always touch deep places in me, and help me see things that I would never be able to express on my own. This post was no exception. I am also one who struggles with depression and puts on the “fine face”. Meds help a lot, but I have shared this with very few beyond my immediate family, especially at church, because I don’t want to be seen as “not fine”. As I read the comments, I see that so many of us are in the same boat. Your words are a gift to all of us who read them. You make us think, and point us to Jesus. I am so thankful to God that I get to share family with you!
Alia Joy says
Thank you so much, Margie. I love having you as part of my family. I married a good one and got the bonus of all the extended relatives as well. Thank you for your encouragement, it means a lot to me. This has been a rough season and the writing’s been hard in a lot of ways, so it’s a blessing to know it’s not for nothing.
I read this entire post, shaking my head — I know this pain, I’ve hidden the “pill bottle” time and time again, not wanting to admit the turmoil I feel inside. Even with those in the church, I feel judged, as if I can’t be real, because my life surely would be better if I were closer to God. Oh friend, I understand completely. The church must be that place, where the “undine” can come and be just that – broken, bruised and bleeding at His feet.
Alia Joy says
Amen. Let us come.
Christy Willard says
Alia, I am not fine, a lot of the time. And I’m willing to bet there are many more. I thank God for safe friends I can turn to when I feel swallowed up and strain to hear Truth. What you have written here is beautiful honest. The church is not a safe place to be “not fine.” And I wonder why? Since we are all hurting and broken. Why can’t we let tears escape without feeling their shame? Ugh! Your words always churn, convict, and inspire! Thank you, as always.
Alia Joy says
I have a lot of ideas about why we stink at this in the church today but I know it always starts with God moving in our lives, softening our hearts, opening our eyes to really see people, moving us to care and invest and walk with each other. It’s counter-cultural to live the way the church is called to. Always giving ourselves away even in the sharing of our pain and the truth of our need. I want to be a safe place. I know you and a lot of others want it too. Maybe that’s where we start.
Michele Morin says
Perhaps those among us who appear to be “finest” are among those who are most in need of God’s grace. I’m thinking here of Jesus’ harsh words to the religious elite in contrast with the cupped-hands gentleness he used with the un-fine of His day. Can we come up with a beatitude for this? Blessed are the un-fine . . .
. . . for they know that what it is to mourn, to be meek, to feel less-than.
. . . for they are open-handed to receive God’s grace.
. . . for they have learned the patience of waiting for God.
Alia Joy says
I think there’s more truth to those words than you’d think. I often think of the poor in spirit. This is what the Message says in Matthew 5.
3 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4 “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
Those are sure different than the tidy package we wrap around blessings in our culture.
I have just spent time reading through your post and the subsequent conversation in the comments. I have just returned from a conference this past week on Mental Health and the Church. So much of what you shared and others were so open about is much of what resonated with my own journey with depression. Thank you for breaking a safe place with your words and for (in) courage for be creating the haven they do. May this be the beginning of something new rising up in our churches, eyes open to see the hurting, turning away from a quick fix but instead result in a coming alongside on the whole of the journey. You ARE Loved dear sweet friend
I could not love this more.
I used to wish I could write like this, you have such a gift. Instead I’m just super grateful that you’re willing to share these deep places with us, because you so beautifully say what I want to but cannot.
This line-“I was embarrassed on God’s behalf. He seemed to have dropped the ball when He made me.”….oh, how I have thought this over and over. I’ve never been able to sum it up like this, it feels good to see it on “paper”.
Seems lame to say thank you, but I’m going to and I really mean it. You have no idea what a lifeline this is for me and, I suspect, many others.
Marilynne Rowland says
Thank you for putting into words what my heart needs to hear; the tears I cannot stop! Also, thank you to Diana and Brandee Schafer. Mine are from physical pain of chronic pain illness that leads to depression and other mental issues. I no longer work outside the home and without an incredible husband, I probably not eat a decent meal most days. Everything is an effort including sleep! Have lost many “friends” within the church because I cannot “do”, commit to activities or Bible studies outside the Sunday morning study my husband leads and I support through cards and notes, the one thing I can do with a system. The same people who did not acknowledge my mother’s death 2 years ago, whom they had known longer than myself. I’ve learned to smile and say I am fine or OK because most do not want to here how I really am. I appreciate the very few who actually ask, “Really, I want to know, how are you?” The ups and downs can be worse than just down! When you have a decent day, then you are are supposed to be “healed”! Thank you for the words and creating a safe environment. Very different from other Christian chronic illness forums.