Monday, November 05, 2007

At the age of 42...

The last comment on my last post and my probably-far-too-long response prompts me to explain something that has been of utmost importance in my life.

At the age of 42, after spending most of my life up to that point not believing in God, I decided to give him a try. I was going through a particularly horrendous time with psychosis and thought to myself "What if there IS something to this belief in God that people have? What if God is real? Could he help me? I can't keep hanging on by myself. I'm tired of the struggle and can't do it anymore."

I began researching God in the public library, not ready yet for church. Though I had been brought up in a Christian home, it was as though I knew nothing about God. I had to start from the bottom - this time with an open heart, a heart ready to receive. I found a book by Marjorie Holmes called "Are You There, God?" It sounded like it was written especially for me. I gradually became eager to read the Bible and to spend time alone with God in prayer. Spending this quiet time gave me peace. It comforted me during difficult times. Gradually I also came to understand what Jesus had done for me on the cross and I became a Christian.

Believing in God meant that I could put my trust in him. No need to hang on in fear, using my own inadequate willpower. I had for so long had to stay strong in an effort to survive, in an effort to keep my sanity. Having God meant I could relax my grip, knowing I was no longer alone. God loved me and would take care of me. My life - still very difficult - improved because my faith helped me cope.

My faith gave me a reason for living. It gave my life meaning. It was soon after my conversion that I took up the cause to try to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness. I started writing articles and my book, Riding the Roller Coaster. Being open about my disorder and writing about it was healing. It was a big step toward recovery.

Today my battles against stigma have taken on much greater proportions. I have another book, A Firm Place to Stand: Finding Meaning in a Life with Bipolar Disorder, ready for publication. And I've founded Living Room, a faith-based support organization. I'm speaking out more than ever before. This is not always an easy thing to do. Many times I feel overwhelmed and alone in the battle. But then I know I need to remember that it's not my work - it's God's work I'm doing. It's his plans I'm carrying out - plans to make the world a better place; I'm only a foot-soldier.

I trust God to keep me well and strong. God has provided me with a psychiatrist who understands meds well and knows what works best for me. God has brought people into my life who support me with a Christ-like love. God has given me a purpose to live for. He has given me people to care for. My life is in his hands.

And - by following God - good has come out of bad.


Merelyme said...

wow...i am 42. i have been reading about saints this year especially saint therese...the little flower. i can see how your faith and beliefs have helped you and have transformed you. thank you for sharing your story.

Dream Writer said...

Wow...I didn't realize that you didn't believe until your 40's or did you believe, but you matured with age and took him/her more seriously?

I wanted to be a Nun when I was a teenager, and I used to hang around my church all the time.

Making my Communion was so important to me and my parents bought me this small pocketbook size bible and I read the whole thing.

I taught religion at 17 years old to the "Noah's Ark" age group and it was fun.

I always believed, but I just don't talk about it a lot. To me, its a private thing :)

But that is interesting Marja, I just assumed that you always believed :) I think you did, though :)

marja said...

Thanks for visiting, Merelyme, and thanks for your comment.

Dream: Before 42 I felt guilty for rejecting God because I came from a Christian home (and I had always been such a good, "obedient" girl). I remember lying awake at night trying to justify it - trying to figure out what I could, with all honesty believe. I came up with a view that God was the force that drove nature. It was an impersonal God, not the God of the Bible. And I sure couldn't accept Jesus' story - didn't understand it and resisted even trying to understand.

Now I don't only believe in God, I want to walk with him, talk with him, follow his promptings. I want to follow the examples set by Jesus, thankful for what he did for me on the cross. The whole Christ story revolves around love - total, non-judgmental, love - immeasurable love.

And once I learned about God's great love, I couldn't help but want to share that love with others. That's what God can do for us.