Success, failure, ups, downs, joy, and regret.
I had one of those years that is a blur, not because it went fast but because I just don’t remember. I don’t remember last Christmas or Thanksgiving. I don’t remember what I got for Christmas or what I bought my children. I don’t remember the New Year or starting the spring semester.
It was only after reflecting on the year with my wife on our drive to Texas that I started to recall some specific memories. I remember events but not necessarily when. Everything seems to run together. Up until last year I could tell you in precise detail the previous five years of my life because of the life changing events that continued to unfold. So why suddenly has this past year been fuzzy? Why is it when there is no change, my memory has shut down?
Usually when people have a bad year, they can remember why the year was bad for the same reason people remember why the year was good. If the year was good, your brain creates a sense of euphoria when reflecting on that which brought pleasure. However; if the year was tragic, the brain can block certain painful events, but this leads to suppression and future mental instability. Suppression is the brain’s way of trying to reconcile pain and allow a person to survive. I have thought to myself, did something happen that my brain has suppressed the memories of this past year or was there simply nothing euphoric about it?
I was diagnosed with OCD about ten years ago and then anxiety and PTSD a couple of years ago. I had a breakthrough this summer in therapy where some events of my life had come to light and I was reconciling the pain in a positive way. Things happened, and my normal therapy of every two weeks changed to once a month, which faded into one canceled appointment after another. I spent the first half the year trying to process my life with great success then the second half I lost the battle ground I had taken back. The terrain of my emotional war had retreated to where it was at the beginning of the year.
I feel fragile, breakable, anxious and scared. Most people with anxiety disorders will testify and agree with this feeling of fragility. If you have never experienced it I hope I can paint a small picture for you. My brain, my thoughts, my head itself feels exposed both physically and emotionally. I’m teetering between wakefulness and sleep. It takes all my energy to get up, go to work, come home and be a husband and a father. On weekends and vacation, my mind races with all of the things I should, could and did or didn’t do both past, present and future. It’s a balancing act with all my thoughts, if I drop the ball on one thought for the sake of another, I feel weakened. I somehow must solve all my own problems and have the future figured out to have my mind at ease. It’s as if the very nature of thinking about all the should and should nots will help me avoid problems or could potentially lead me into one. The constant fear of failure, disappointment and my own inadequacy are at the forefront of my mind’s eye. Whatever people see from the outside of me is not who I am, I have a good poker face. People that know me will see something is off, I look worried or burdened. The reality is that I am burdened beyond what is normal. All of life’s troubles can weigh down on me at once and give me a sleepless night. I lash out with a gut response that lands an unintended blow to those closest to me as if the balloon of emotion has popped; only to realize that the hill I perceived as momentous was only a pile of dust in the wind. In those moments I sense my fragility, it has been projected onto those I call family.
Pray, some people say. I’m never not in a constant state of prayer. My obsessive thoughts are always a cry to God to include Him in my chaos. God knows my mind, he knows my brokenness and he knows the line of my reality and fantasy. What do I need? Perseverance I have decided. The last and greatest attribute of a believer is to persevere.
Colossians 1:9-12 “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, 10 so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, 12 and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.”
Paul prays over the Colossians for knowledge, wisdom and understanding that comes from the Holy Spirit. I can please God through the life I live in the Spirit, I can bear fruit because of the Spirit and I can increase in knowledge of God because of the Spirit. I have strength and power to endure because of the Spirit. Though people might disqualify me (Colossians 2:18), Paul says it is God who has measured me and found me worthy, qualified to be a part of the inheritance in His kingdom of light. The Colossian church is dealing with a heresy that has twisted and perverted the grace of God and turned the cross into nothing but a stepping stone to self-piety. These false teachers were saying that you must absolve yourself of sin through the controlling and even mutilation of your body. They have told the Colossian believers that Jesus isn’t enough, they need absolution for their sin found in one’s own strength to tame the evil found within the body.
Paul unequivocally rebukes this heretical teaching by placing the focus on what God has done through Jesus. The Spirit testifies to this truth that there is nothing I can do to save myself. There is no work of man that can do what God has already accomplished, otherwise the cross would be foolish. Why would Jesus die on the cross if there was another way to rescue ourselves from the pain, sin and suffering in this life?
I tell my students, either Jesus does everything or nothing. Either God has accomplished the impossible and rescued us from the clutches of sin’s grasp completely or he failed and therefore is not God. If God is all powerful, all knowledgeable, all loving and all good; then God in his infinite wisdom and love saw to it, to rescues even the worst of us, which is all of us to display His glory and goodness so that no one can claim they alone have no need for God.
Why has God allowed me to suffer? Why has my year been a blur? Why does my mind fail me, and my emotions break me? It is to remind me that I’m not supposed to do this on my own. If I could, I would be playing the role that God is supposed to fill. How do I persevere? Paul’s words to the Colossians in 1:10, “so that you may live…” I want to live to see good days. I want to live to see my children grow up. I want to live so that others have an example of someone who is broken, imperfect but enduring all the pains of this life not on my own but because of the Spirit’s work in me. Even on my worst days, God sees me as I am on my best days and reminds me that no matter how I feel or what I think, His view is the same and his love is the same. Not based on merit, piety or self-perception but on grace alone, by faith alone through Christ alone. God waists no experience, pain, tragedy, love, passion or time.
2018, I do not remember you, it isn’t you, it is me; but it’s okay. You were a stepping stone of growth for me and I will reflect and realize that 2019 is a direct correlation to you, for better or for worse.
In Truth & Love,
Matthew J. Diaz
P.S. Avengers was a hallmark of the year, the snap heard round the world. I look forward to Endgame very much 😄