Every Tattoo Has A Story

unnamed

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and OCD in my twenties, and while I’ve aged far beyond those years I still have days when I struggle—and even suffer—with feelings of hopelessness and despair. Granted, they aren’t as frequent or extreme as they once were (thanks in no small part to brain chemical research and modern pharmaceuticals), but those feelings are a part of who I am, and they can rise to the surface before I even sense their advance.

In art, the spaces around and in between objects are referred to as “negative space.” Sometimes those spaces themselves can take on the appearance of shapes and real objects. (Google “vases/faces illusion” for a good example of this.)

I envision my depression to be like negative space in my brain, taking shape between my rational thoughts, insidiously growing larger and larger, taking over first one thought and then another… pushing, distorting, and completely transforming them until the mere thought of getting up and out of bed becomes too much. I then become only what I envision in my mind, and my mind holds nothing but disfigured lies.

My tattoo is a reminder that I am more than this.

In Acts 9:36-42, the apostle Luke recounts the story of Tabitha, a woman he describes in the original Greek as μαθήτρια (math-ay’-tree-ah) – a female disciple. This word is used only once in the entire New Testament and Luke chooses it to singularly identify Tabitha.

As Luke tells her story we learn that Tabitha was most likely wealthy, given her acts of charity and what would have been an atypically large home for that time and place. (Tabitha had died and the women placed her body upstairs.) But before any of this—before even giving us her name—Luke writes, ἦν μαθήτρια: There was a female disciple.

Yes, Tabitha was a woman devoted to good works, sharing her money, time, and skills making clothing for the widows of Joppa—women of limited means with few ways to support themselves. But first and foremost, she was a Christian disciple. She had a heart devoted to Jesus Christ that brought focus to her individual days and, ultimately, her entire life—a life that wasn’t quite finished…

Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said, “Tabitha, get up.” Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.

Depression tells me I’m alone…

but God surrounds me.

I am μαθήτρια.

Depression tells me I’m worthless…

but Jesus claims me.

I am μαθήτρια.

Depression tells me I can’t even move…

but the Spirit fills me.

I am μαθήτρια.

And I am alive.

 

Lent – Day 10

March 13

Today’s Thought: Why won’t God stop bad things from happening?

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:11, 14-15)

Pain and suffering affect us all at some point in our lives and for Christians, it oftentimes results in intense questioning of our faith. C.S. Lewis, author, Christian, and former atheist, processed his pain publicly in A Grief Observed following the loss of his wife to cancer: “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” Loss, especially unexplained loss like we saw this week in New Zealand, drives us to despair and to wonder… why?

Continue reading

But First…

And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  (1 Kings 19:12-13)

In my last entry, I talked a little bit about how I approach studying scripture and how I’d be sharing the nuts and bolts of my version of scriptural exegesis (or interpretation). However, a good friend suggested that I might want to back up and give a little more attention to a topic I glossed over too quickly: When I sit down to meditate or write, how do I quiet my brain? Like Elijah, I sometimes need to intentionally cut through all the noise so I can listen for the whisper.

Continue reading

I Have a Confession

Jesus did not eliminate evil; he revealed a God willing, at immense cost, to forgive it and to heal its damage.  — Philip Yancey, The Question That Never Goes Away

I have a family member that I’m not speaking to. I am in no way, shape, or form proud of that statement. In fact, I’m crushed by it. And no, that’s neither an overreaction nor hyperbole. There are actually times when my entire body struggles to move under the weight of the sadness I feel about this one dysfunctional relationship. Questions of fault are pointless, although I estimate that there’s plenty to go around. I know that I possess a good deal of it.

Continue reading

Healing

Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, and walk.’  (John 5:8)

Christmas will be here two weeks from today.  Two. Weeks. When I still had little ones at home, I always felt a rush of childlike anticipation at this point in the holiday season. After the little ones grew up and left home, I accused them of taking all my holiday enthusiasm (along with several glasses, two iPhone chargers, and a crockpot). My holiday joy was gone, so I hunkered down for a long, cold winter.

Continue reading

Worthy

…according to your steadfast love remember me…  (Psalm 25:7)

Have your ever thought (and, I mean deep-down-inside-at-your-very-core thought) that there was absolutely no way your life could be salvaged? That you had messed up so many things, made so many bad decisions, that there was no way your life could ever be reclaimed? After my divorce and a subsequent botched relationship, I started using words like failure, unlovable, and relationship-catastrophe to describe myself. I spoke those words so much, I actually believed that’s who I was. In my assessment, I was merely the sum of all my worst relationships.

Continue reading

Paul’s Outlandish Joy

Paul was coming up on two years in a Roman prison when he wrote a letter to the church at Philippi. Unlike many of his dealings with other churches, this letter wasn’t written to help with problems or to defend his own ministry; this time, Paul wrote to a thriving church whose members needed counsel on how “to walk worthily of their heavenly citizenship” (Phil. 3:17-21).

Continue reading

Currently Reading

91yRS7VBI7L.jpg

From Amazon.com:

“Life is turbulent. On that, we can all agree. Disappointed dreams, broken relationships, identity crises, vocational hang-ups, wounds from the past—there are so many ways life can send us crashing up against the rocks.

In this deeply personal book, Jonathan Martin draws from his own stories of failure and loss to find the love that can only be discovered on the bottom. How to Survive a Shipwreck is an invitation to trust the goodness of God and the resilience of your soul. Jonathan’s clarion call is this: No matter how hard you’ve fallen, no matter how much you’ve been hurt, help is on the way—just when you need it most.

With visionary artistry and pastoral wisdom, Jonathan Martin reveals what we’ll need to make it through those uncharted waters, how we can use these defining experiences to live out of our depths, and why it will then become impossible to go back to the half-life we once lived.”