Monday, October 24, 2016

Black Sheep are His Sheep

I’ve been feeling “off” lately (my word for depressed or, as my husband likes to say, lacking the joy). I was searching Facebook today for something that would sum up my feelings, and I came cross this quote from the page:  “I like weird people…The black sheep, the odd ducks, the rejects, the eccentrics, the loners, the lost and forgotten.  More often than not, these people have the most beautiful souls.” Bingo! I saw myself in that list 100%. People often misunderstand me; they mistake my introverted personality for being mad or aloof. Many times, I cannot go to a social gathering without feeling awkward, weird, and out of place.  All my life I have been a loner, the odd man out. In high school, I would gravitate towards the misfits, the outcasts, the ones the popular kids made fun of and avoided.  And now, when I find myself having to attend some social function, I gravitate towards children, elderly people, or pets, people I feel safe with, people I feel most comfortable with. They don’t judge me, form bad first impressions of me or make me feel like I’m weird. They just accept me as I am. 

Because I have always felt like the black sheep, in my family and society, I was always looking for an explanation for why I was the way I was.  I also suffered from depression for many years (and still do occasionally) and I wanted answers to that too. So when I decided to go to college in my 30’s, I choose psychology for my B.A., and then got my master’s degree in counseling (MFT). While I didn’t get a career in that field (that’s another story), I did gain a wealth of knowledge from all those years of studying personalities, mental illnesses, cause and effect, nature vs. nurture, (you get the idea). I did a lot of painful introspection during those years (and still do, because once a therapist, always a therapist). And I realized that it was my childhood experiences that shaped my personality, along with some heredity thrown in.  My parents divorced when I was young, so that had a big impact. Children need both parents in the home, and for girls especially, if they don’t have a positive male role model in their lives, many will start looking for love and attention in all the wrong places, which is what happened to me. In middle school, I was betrayed by my supposed best friends, when they told the whole school my father was Black. From then on, I was bullied and called horrible and ugly racist names. I think that is when my social anxiety began. That is when I started to hate being around groups of people, because I felt like a freak, never knowing when the next slur would be hurled at me.  I became rebellious, started getting involved in things that I shouldn’t have; I ran away from home when I was 13, staying in a car in Nevada and Arizona for a week.  Now that I am a mother, I can’t believe what I put my mother through, and how scared she must have been, not knowing where I was or if I was still alive.  Middle school turned to high school, and the feelings of weirdness and depression intensified, to the point of me wanting to commit suicide.  I remember walking home from school many times, feeling hopeless and worthless, and wanting to run into oncoming traffic to end it all. No one understood me at this time, with the exception of my wonderful grandmother, who tried to intervene when my mother threw her hands up.  The pain of loneliness and rejection is what led to me getting pregnant with my son when I was 16.   I thought that I would finally have someone who would love me for me.  I think my son saved my life in way, because as depressed and messed up mentally and emotionally I was at that time, I don’t think I would have lasted much longer.

Having my son did help me, but I still wasn’t right emotionally or mentally. I had 2 more children by the time I was 23, but I still had emotional baggage. I still felt like I was “different”. I made a lot of bad decisions, still struggled with depression, and when I was in my 30’s suffered my first panic attack. I remember it clearly.  I was at work, and the most intensifying feeling fear overcame me and I had to call a friend to come get me. The depression continued, and I tried antidepressants and alcohol to make it go away.  It wasn’t until I found the Lord, that things started to get better for me.  I didn’t get healing overnight. In fact, I suffered an intense panic attack about 3 months after I got married, which kind of  threw my husband for a loop, and it was right before he was to leave for a men’s retreat no less (the first introduction to “for better or for worse”). I still get periods where I am feeling down, or feel that panic may set in, but the difference now is that I know the Lord. No, let me rephrase that because I did know the Lord when I had some of my most low or fearful episodes; it was when I learned to TRUST the Lord, and go to Him first when I start feeling this way, and not to some self-help book or worldly wisdom. I have been blessed to have some sisters in my life that knew exactly what I was going through, and they helped teach me what I needed to know to get through these episodes.  They directed me to the Word of God, and from there I found the wisdom and comfort that I needed.  And I started to trust and feel God’s presence when I would cry out Him, and I felt His comforting touch. One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 91:4: “He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.”  When I am feeling down or scared, I read this scripture and I picture God holding me and protecting me, shielding me until the wave of panic and sadness leaves.  As I continue in my walk with the Lord, I find comfort in finding other examples in the bible of people who suffered depression, rejection and anxiety.  Elijah is a big one. He was a bold and courageous prophet; he challenged evil king Ahab, had a showdown with the false prophets of Baal, and was used by God to provide food miraculously to a widow and her son during a famine (1 Kings 17-18). In spite of his bold actions and faith in God, he too, suffered from depression. When he heard that Jezebel was out to kill him, he became depressed, sat under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. Jeremiah is another one. Known as the weeping prophet, he was rejected by the people he cared for and tried to witness to.  God had forbid him to marry and have children, so he must have been especially lonely and depressed, which you can see when he said “cursed is the day I was born” and “why did I ever come out of the womb to see sorrow and shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14-18). Other examples are David, who many times wrote of his anguish, Jonah, who asked God to take away his life, and of course Job, who we all know of the horrible sufferings he endured.

But no one felt more alone and rejected than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Isaiah 53:3 prophesied about Him saying “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised and we did not esteem Him”.  How awesome to know that our Lord and Savior can sympathize with us and feel our pain, our hurts, our sorrows. He knows what it feels like to be rejected, to feel different and out of place.  He knows everything I have felt. He knows that I am different, I am weird, and I am unique, but He loves me, insecurities and idiosyncrasies and all. I may suffer from time to time with feelings of rejection, depression or fear, but not like I used to. It no longer has power over me, because Jesus set me free.  Just like the men and women in the bible who turned to the Lord for comfort, protection and release from these feelings. And we have that same confidence.  I’m sure there are many of us who feel like they belong on that list I mentioned in the beginning. But that’s who Jesus came to save. Turn to Jesus, and He will bring you comfort and healing, and you will never feel rejected or alone again.

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