The War on Life—a Non-Fiction Short Story about Depression and Jesus

I’m just having one of those nights that make me feel like something is very wrong with me.

“Mooooommmy, moooooommy!!!!”

Like I have everything I could want. We’re bottom of the middle class. But that should be even more why I know the things like my perceived successful marriage and life as a stay-at-home mom are so wonderful. We’re so young. We’re so healthy and able. Yet I feel so empty. So alone. So incomplete. I’m after more, so much more. God says he will fill this for me. But I convince myself again and again that the thrill to satisfy could only come from sin. There is the lie for my life. Plain and simple. We each have a lie that is crafted to pull us. Sometimes we have seasonal lies. Sometimes we have lifelong lies.

I wrestle my small boy on my lap and he moves the small toothbrush around his mouth. I try to get down every dripping of emotion on my phone’s note pad. Like if I twist the truth out of the moment with words, I’ll stop feeling so void. Pitter patters from the kitchen. It is the feet of my short haired girl who was calling out to me, with her round checks and luscious lips. Bright blue eyes beaming with innocent rays. She runs across me like an agent from danger in front of me, tucks knees to flat chest, and stares at the thick, dirt-tangled carpets.

“Mama,” she stumbles over words quietly, “I wanted to pray for dad to get home safely, but I missed that prayer.”

She was right. A few minutes earlier I bent over like a kettle of boiling water and scolded her with my burning words.

“I already carried you to bed once Brooke and I’m not doing it again! Come to bed now or I will spank you and you will miss prayer!”

I turn around gripping fist. Holding back my want to flip. Stepping over a coat pile and miscellaneous toys. Trying to calm my storm while asking difficult questions about motherhood and my lack of ability to control anger. But now that I’m calm, I say it as though I’m the best mom in the world.

“Okay, Brooke, lets walk to bed and pray for dad.”

My small boy now off my lap with tooth brush in hand wobbles steadily behind me with tiny thuds. I trace my steps back over to coat piles and toys. I turn into the dark room where two exhausted bodies lay in warm beds, their minds reaching for REM sleep and dream land. I sit on the edge of her gray bed while my son goes straight past the girl’s room and to the bathroom to wreak havoc. I sit and pray while I listen to that brave boy fling doors wide, knock contents out, bang hair spray containers on walls. The bathroom door slams shut and the small light it was lending to Brooke and me disappears. I jump from the praying-girl’s bed to rescue my bathroom-rebel boy.

The prayer ends and I scoop the child up and bring him out to a place where the toys spread. And I feel dead. I will retrieve him several more times before I tuck him into white and blue oceans of mountain covered comforters bought new for my only son. He walks immediately after his decent from my arms, past the toys to the kitchen and starts pulling out pans.

I sit with phone in hand, thumbs flailing.

I sit here with you. We are together now. As you read my words wandering what’s even the point of what I’m constructing. I am wondering too. Why do I even write? What’s the point of where I live? Some days I would say, “Oh, I know the purpose.” Pride shows when others can clearly see the pseudo-confidence, when plans are small talk among acquaintances. But here alone, with honesty and exhaustion, at the death of this day while my husband is miles away in the cold, dark wrapping bear arms around packages and leaving them at stranger’s doors covered in Christmas lights and faux evergreen, running to and from a large brown truck across yards stabbed with fake candy canes and moving light-framed deer, here alone with my son banging clean pots on a dirty floor. Here I can’t help but feel empty.

“NO ELISHA!”

I scream as his pudgy hands try and tuck a triple-A battery in his mouth. I throw my phone to the counter on its charger and rescue the battery from swimming in my child’s throat.

I’m empty. I’m here writing to distract myself from the unavoidable distractions that come with living in this land of overflow and this time of glowing rectangles that create realms of communication. What’s the point of living here? In this land. Where your kids are spoiled. Where you fight to not watch TV or binge on Facebook because we’re so selfish as mothers we think we need mental breaks or moments of esteem. I feel like I’m going soft to my sin and wants. Here. The land of overflow, the land of compromise.

Here the imminent desire to live on a farm or foreign land far away grows. We have that option I suppose, outside of Gods will. But it’s all damage control now. With sin in the world. The best I can do is control my sin and selfishness and desire and command the control to go to God’s hands.

That’s what I long to do. Send these needs and desires to God. As easily as you read that sentence. But sometimes I don’t. I hold on to it. I put potential fallout in my pocket like spare change. Drop these dimes and nickels in a jar to cash out later when it really makes a difference. That’s the thing about sin. It’s exactly that. The “nickel and diming” of our soul. Every great fall is from a hundred bad decisions said  KB. We are nickeled and dimed by distraction until we wake up in devastation with a chunk of our perceived control spent indulging in the things that control us. If we’re giving our nickels and dimes—money, time, energy to sin or even to worry and doubt and fear, it controls us.

Here in the land of overflow, everything in our grasp, I am grateful to not know war and famine up close. Still I debate that I might. I think that I do. This war on my soul and this famine of fulfillment. Here in America we may not know war like other countries. But we know the war of indulgence. The famine of compromise. And the cost is the truth, is sanity, is our walk with God. This war has fatalities too… false belief systems, suicide, mass murders, overdose. This famine has left us hungry. So many churches with watered down crop, so saturated, growth stunt forever.

Maybe I am just your typical solider with PTSD? I’ve always said my sin has left me traumatized. Maybe I’m a warrior. Boot camp was the hardest season of my life when I chose God despite wanting the freedom to run away forever. Boot camp was the crucial projection where I was falling on my face surrounded by sin, yet all I wanted was to be right with God. And my allegiance to my heavenly country is the reason that I stay in the war. Sign up for another tour. Wrap prayers around children. Battle thoughts mid-day. Pace my house and beg for Gods peace to fill it, beg for him to reveal his will. Maybe this is combat. When the Holy Spirit prompts my head and my heart to speak to a stranger and I do so afraid. Share the gospel in a new place. When I cross boundaries I knew were wrong. Prophesy over someone and just pray I heard God right. Battle is messy. Life is battle. God never said the weapons wouldn’t form. He said they wouldn’t prosper.

I feel foolish. Walking around telling others we won the war when men and women have lost limbs and heads in THIS battle. We think too much about us prospering. Which makes me fear the enemy’s plans have prospered. I feel silly telling myself I survived the war when I’m brought to places again and again that make me question God and his goodness. Am I even intact?

I feel like a failure to admit to the depression and the anxiety, the lack of prospering. I feel angry when I see others speak high and low about proclaiming things over life that are so glorious. They were meant to be claimed in heaven. This is life and life is war and you have to be more serious about the battle than you are about your blessings some days. Some of us are trying with ever fiber of our being to just stay alive… for me it’s been just to get off the couch.

Forgive my tone. But I’ve seen in my family and among my friend’s what sin does to the human race. What misconception does. I can’t walk around pretending like we’re not all infected. Like “getting a blessing” is more important than fighting the good fight. I can’t pretend like if I turn my back on God and just live my life searching for peace and happiness apart from him, I’ll be good or even good enough.

Didn’t you read those words? I am traumatized by my sin. I’ve lived seasons away from it all. Away from the church talk and the worship sets and the communion. I am in despair that after learning those lessons like bullets to my leg, I soaked in the bullet rain. I didn’t run from the rapid fire for a while there. Now, after limping and scarring, I still stand before man with what feels like inadequate evidence, I stand with my history of sin, failure, and downright incompetence, and I proclaim Jesus is Lord. Because if the claims of Jesus are true, it so easily destroys every other thing spoken. If we are fallen, if we can’t fix ourselves (which I’ve been trying), if we live and breathe continuously hurt, then I desperately need a savior. Not a method of savior-ism, not a mystical means to maybe give hope, not spiritual claims to serve as an Identification. I need more because I am so much less. I need someone who finished the work I cannot begin to complete. If sin is the war on our soul that means I could die here, but if Jesus is who he says he is then there is a glory. And it is a dialect and language the greatest psychiatrists scratch their heads at and cannot break down. So, they say it must be false. They explain away what they can’t break down, but they will bow down. And I will too. If it breaks my back I will bow. Who am I but a flower in a story about a garden? If you ever find any beauty in me let it only ever point to the Gardner. This is his garden. I won’t be here long. Hopefully one day he will beam at me with pride, pick me from the earth, and bring me to his home. That’s all I could ever want.

I try every moment of depression and anxiety to wrap my head around that truth. Because I’ve sat in such fierce pain for so long, I want out. So many before me have made that decision for themselves. I’ve received news of suicides almost every three months for the last couple years. But I trust God too much to give up now. Sometimes it gets too hard. The pounding of emotions, the void of inability, the lust for life, the lists of things that grow and grow. I have many nights like this. Sometimes days. Sometimes weeks of depression. Weeks of anxiety weeks of exhaustion. Weeks of hard questions spinning around my head with no real answers. How did I end up 23 with five kids? Is this really the best way God? Are you pruning or punishing? Could sin really gratify me enough to break free from this pain? Are the visions spoken over me true? Who to trust in the body or Christ who to believe? Who to listen to? God are you even for me when the pain is this deep?

*     *     *

Her tiny voice squeaks to me. It is months later and summer is beginning to swallow up the cool days I truly desire. She pops in front of me with her tiny frame and mix matched clothes. Her hair a mess. I’ll admit I even see dinner from two days ago still on her face.

“Make a bun like this.”

She straightens out her arm completely revealing a balled-up fist.

“A bun, Daphne?”

She just repeats, “Like this!” shaking her fist closer to my face now.

She holds out the gaudy pink haired doll to me with an inhuman hour glass figure. I quickly wrap a rubber band over my fingers pulling it over the rather large hair and make a bun. She watches and then her face eases to a smile and she claps furiously.

“Yes, mama, like that!”

I’m convinced I deserve a nomination because I’ve fooled even myself that I’ve been depressed for the past couple years. But I’ve sat long and hard this week and I saw myself sobbing on every kitchen floor we’ve ever rented feeling the way I do right now. Ministry forces us to ignore minor symptoms. I have a ministry mindset. But it’s coupled with so much fear and anxiety, I’ve been working against myself for years it feels like.

We don’t talk about it DURING. The Christian circles are so prone to talk about it when we finally get our foot in the door of healing. Could this be modern day leprosy. I suppose we don’t talk about it because it takes courage and it takes risk and it costs you your track record of being put together. We tell people about our sad story with no guarantee it will end happily. Some don’t want to talk to the Christian with depression because as even Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, it’s sort of a contradiction.

Did Jesus die for living contradictions? Could confessing this contradiction create an umbrella for me to heal under? Am I allowed to accept weakness? In this weakness could something stronger take over and be the strength for me? Then I must claim my truth. I must know Christ saw my mess and claimed me. Christ saw my weakness and promised to be strong.

I stand up and walk carefully over the children wrestling in my blue bedsheet on the living room floor. Don’t ask me how bedroom sheets end up in living rooms. If I had it my way they never would. I spotted my coffee cup on the counter and desperately wanted to finish every ounce of liquid energy. I pop my cup in the microwave at 10:35 in the morning, feeling exhausted. I wonder how many hundreds of times I’ve done this in the past five years. I’ve spent months writing this thing you’re reading. Picking up and continuing all hours of the day and night. Wondering if this work of art will ever see the light of a Facebook post or my blog site, because I’m too afraid to share anything that doesn’t seem to have a point. Too afraid that it shouldn’t be shared if it doesn’t invite anyone to bask in my wisdom or provide a positive plot twist. Too afraid to be a wounded warrior. Because, like I said, sharing these things takes courage. I have written 2,000 works—poems, blogs, stories, plans, journals—that are neighbors to this very one on my note pad here on my phone, here to distract me because the one thing that hasn’t changed all these months of writing is the depression and the anxiety. It’s the one thing that was supposed to change for the sake of this story under your eyes. It hasn’t changed. It’s gotten worse. It’s starting to deteriorate more than just my mind, my relationships. Because I don’t want to talk on the phone. I don’t want to hang out. I don’t want to get dressed. Don’t want to go to church. The other day when my husband got home, he let me go to Target, and I couldn’t even go in. I sat in the car and cried then turned around and came home and ran to my bed to sleep. The depression hasn’t changed. Maybe circumstanced have changed. I’ve started therapy, discovered my husband and I created a new life that is now swimming in my womb, I’ve excavated dreams I’m too tired to attempt to execute. I’ve opened up to my mom and husband and one of our closest friends about how very low I’ve gotten. I’ve gotten tired of people asking “why?” Because I’ve searched all these months for that grand thing… “why?” I’m tired of talking about it because the words aren’t healing anything—Hold that thought

—Sorry, I had to clean pee of the floor for the third time this morning. I’m tired of talking about it because the words aren’t healing anything, just confirming exhaustion. I’ve been working on this for months, since December. It is now May, and the heat has me questioning if I have summer time depression that’s making this whole thing worse. I can’t be in heat without feeling fatigue due to anemia and when I’m pregnant I have severe anemia. So, we’re officially trapped inside dreaming about when pumpkins will grow and sweaters will be worn on hay rides. I’m salivating over pumpkin flavors and windows open to share with the world Autumn Jazz. Even by then though the depression might not change. For months for years the depression hasn’t changed. But for some reason my words cannot reach an ability to explain how hard this is or how I have a weird hope. It keeps coming back to me no matter how much I try to disprove it and divorce from it. I suppose it is this: my depression hasn’t changed… But neither has my Jesus.

I’m writing all the time. I don’t exactly know what I’m doing. Kind of like this very piece. But I know that I’m writing things that could potentially be books. I started one the other morning that I’ve been in such a slump about because I just don’t understand how or why God would use me. I’m literally in the middle of the worst depression I’ve ever faced in my life. I have nothing to offer right now. I can’t get off the couch so why would I be writing a book while I’m here. Still this gut-wrenching force inside of me that wants to write books to edify. Sometimes it’s as unbearable as fire shut up in my bones. I become Jerimiah.

I needed a reference from a book that I read a long time ago to complete what I was writing. I pulled barstool-height chairs up to a towering, black-cube bookshelf, slowly tried to skim the tittles of every book. I still couldn’t find the book anywhere. I sat there with my incomplete story at my fingertips scratching my head trying to remember the name of this book or an author of this book because I desperately needed it for reference. Like most people I know that time to time I will post about a book that I’m reading on Facebook, but I also know it’s been years and years since I’ve read this book. I decided to hop on Facebook and scroll all the way to the end of my pictures and that’s when it happened.

I saw something through these pictures, but not something that can be seen by human eyes, something that is perceived by the spirit. I realize something that honestly most people don’t realize they have until it’s gone. Something vital. Something hidden yet right before my eyes. In the pictures that I posted years ago of my children and my family and even of my struggles I saw treasure. Don’t ask me how, I can’t tell you. Don’t ask me to explain it, I don’t have earthly words. This was a spiritual discovery.

The God-man Jesus talked about treasure many times. He told us that where a treasure is there your heart will also be. Interestingly enough this morning for some weird reason when I woke up I wrote a devotional about that very subject, which you have to understand, with me is very, very odd. I’ve been opening and reading the words on the pages of my bible all these months. I take the words in and they never get past my eyes. I’ve been stagnant. They haven’t helped, haven’t healed. The words in my bible have been leaving me more confused than comforted all these months. For some reason this morning the words penetrated and I remembered other things I’ve read in the past and I started to understand this beautiful image about treasure. The Holy Spirit does this meticulous but painful head and heart surgery on us to replace and fix our treasure because Jesus told us where our treasure is there our hearts will also be. King David tells us in Psalm 119:11 that when we treasure Gods commands in our heart it enables us to not sin and fall short. I just had this overwhelming confirmation that several years from now I’m going to look back and I’m not going to feel the way that I feel right now. I’m not going to see what I see right now, I’m going to see treasure.

In this depression and in this perfectionism, I am desperately scrambling to try to not miss the mark. I am being harder on myself than any savior that is ever good would be hard on anybody. Yes, we make sacrifices following Christ. Yes, for even some of the boldest believers this means death, and loss and deep pain. But what really does all this mean? It just means that he’s replacing our earthly treasures with his heavenly treasure. I’m stressed out, and when I’m overwhelmed, I always want to run. That’s been my signature move. My thoughts turn to places of me just packing a bag and leaving and never coming back. But I saw a glimpse of what I would be leaving if I ever did that, I would be leaving my treasure.

This difficult thing you’re in is nothing more than a coal turning into a diamond. This hard thing is only producing a lesson for you to know where you heart will also be. So why would we not treasure our treasure? Fool’s gold is the only reason. We see something that we think has more value than it really does and of course we would be tempted to put all of our weight on it. Still nothing can bear the weight that Jesus can bear. Nothing can point us to what truly matters like Jesus can. I didn’t do anything. I was slumped on the couch complaining about writing something that I felt too depressed to write and God showed up and the Holy Spirit allowed me to see treasure. Things started turning…

What’s so mind blowing is I’ve seen so many “I’m pulling myself out of the mud” posts/blogs. We always see these women or men who are seeking to inspire and so they vulnerably share their story. I extremely admire that, that’s literally what I’m at least attempting to do right now. Only I’m trying to show you it’s so beautifully different with my Savior. I didn’t get up today and decide enough is enough, or that I was going to go to pull myself out of the mud, I don’t even have the strength for that decision. I didn’t get up today and say I’m going to put my big-girl pants on. I’m going to suit up and fight this war. I didn’t wake up today and decide to hold my weight. But it’s like the Holy Spirit woke up today and decided to come for me.

I literally woke up today feeling exhausted. My husband came into the room with our son and held him out to me while he was crying. I navigated around the three other girls who are all taking up the space in my bed that was meant for me. I sighed, deeply rubbing my eyes, I even whined and I said, “No, it’s too early for this,” as I threw myself off the bed like my toddlers do when they throw fits. I walked over to my husband to grab my son. I immediately started battling thoughts of how I don’t want to be a stay-at-home mom today. How I don’t want to have to clean up pee off the floor. How I don’t want to have to make meals and clean up after my children all day. When I am so exhausted sometimes making lunch demands I nap for two hours. I immediately started feeling depressed and sucked into the void before I can even think straight. I don’t want to feel like I need to call someone and talk but be so bitten by anxiety that I’m afraid to speak to even people I love. I can’t leave the house because its too hot. I wasn’t going to get dressed because I don’t make adult interactions most days. I didn’t get up this morning and say, today I’m going to get over my problems and I’m just going to do better and feel better and treat myself better. NO, NO, NO!

The word of God doesn’t lie when it says that the Lord is close to the brokenhearted. Because this morning for the first time in a very long time I lived that truth. I felt that proximity. And I didn’t even have to work for it. I’m ending this day on the highest note that I’ve ended any of my days on in a long time. Because Jesus is the kind of Savior who comes to us. To be honest, I didn’t know how I was going to end the story. But Jesus knew all along. He knew He would meet me here. He knew every time I picked up my phone to moan here and spill my thoughts to whoever might read them or share them he knew you would be here too.

All throughout the bible, we see that God asks that men place memorial stones in places. To grab large boulder and rocks and move them to where something transpired.

I put my lips around the plastic lid of the caramel latte and inhaled as I sipped so that my nose and tongue would benefit from the sensory pleasure. My phone started vibrating next to my laptop on the small table. In front of me lay my laptop open to this story that I came to a coffee shop to finish for you to read right now in this moment. I answered to hear my husband’s voice.

“Hey babe! I was listening to something on the radio I just really wanted to share it with you.”

I shared with my husband yesterday evening about what looking at those pictures had done to my soul. Rather what God allowed to penetrate the very real darkness.

“This guy was talking about how the Israelites had to set up stones and I think that pictures are your stones. They help you to remember what God has done in your life.”

It clicked seamlessly. Comfortably. Truth does that when we are barren and ready for it.

Think about it. Men traveling their lifetimes throughout the landscape of the bible. In those moments of victory or godly influence, leaving those stones. Stones in rivers that were crossed, stones in land that was won, stones in places God had visited. So that when ANYBODY looked at them, they would see what the Lord our God has done. That’s exactly what my pictures have done for me. That’s why you don’t get through this without God. He created you, he sent Jesus, and through Jesus his Spirit released, and that same spirit KNOWS how to speak through the darkness when the time is right, when your heart is ready. And the longer you follow God the more stones you have to look back on. I don’t know what your stones are, but if you’ve been following God, they are there spread over the landscape of your life. I can’t pull myself out of this. I can’t create amends with faulty inspiration. I wonder how long others, women and men will. I need Jesus the sustainer of my soul. You need him too… so ask him. Ask him to enter into the dark clouds around you that you’ve been sitting in and shifting in for too long. Ask him to ready your heart so you can start to see what your treasure really is. Ask him to bring light to your life and rescue you so you don’t die in the smoke. Most days our problems don’t go away, don’t change. But to endure the inner change that Jesus offered the outside situations don’t have to. The depression might not vanish completely, I foresee many therapist appointments. I see many tears on my husband’s arms while he holds me. The depression might not change, but neither does Jesus and he brings that to the inside of us to create a change inside of us. Despite that you will finish the words on this page very soon, this story isn’t over. The depression might not even be. But I have someone very real working on my behalf and causing things in my life from the outside in. He decides in the morning to pursue me when I’m deciding to loath. This story isn’t over. My happy ending isn’t what I did, it’s what Jesus did, and that’s better than the best happy ending.

John 1:5—The light shines into the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

To God be all the Honor and Glory.

Alison Propps

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