When God Spoke To Me Through Music

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In line with my article, Mary Did You Know, I can recall my earliest memories of both my mania and darkness fairly early on. If I had to put an age on it, my best guess is age 4. By age 9, aside from my own biological mental challenges I had been witness to a divorce, the absence of a father, financial destruction, and the fact that my mother would rarely be present as she took on numerous jobs to try and make ends meet. My brother and I frequently relied on bread and sugar sandwiches to fill our empty bellies. I even recall one teenage babysitter would bring her own food, then eat it in front of us as we watched on like dogs begging at the dinner table. Swallowing heavy with increased salivation in the mere sight of something like fresh vegetables. We were like Pavlov’s dogs. Only our bell was just the sight of food.

The first song to make a presence in my life, to draw me in, bring me to tears, and hold on to me for dear life as I memorized and belted out every lyric in time with the singer, was Bonnie Tyler’s Total Eclipse of the Heart. This may seem like an unusual song to appeal to a nine-year-old, but unbeknownst to me, it spoke volumes to my current mental state. First, the lyrics,

Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit lonely
And you’re never coming round
Turnaround, every now and then I get a little bit tired
Of listening to the sound of my tears

And I need you now tonight
And I need you more than ever
And if you only hold me tight
We’ll be holding on forever
And we’ll only be making it right

Lyrically it makes sense, I was all too aware of a new darkness and hardened life. If I look deeper, who was the YOU, in I need you tonight? I was too young to really think of the love to another in the same capacity Bonnie did as she sang this to her lover. Maybe this was an inadvertent plea to God. Maybe God gave me this song to hold on to. All I knew, is someday the YOU in that song would make an appearance and He was going to bring me out of my darkness, show me something brighter than where I was in that moment. And every time I was down, I played that song as a reminder that my I would eventually come.

Various other songs spoke to me and came and went, but only a select few stayed with me permanently held captive in my mind. The next song to draw me in and stay wouldn’t come to me until I was in my 30’s. This song shook me, woke me up, and played a significant role in how I managed my future manic episodes. Initially, I was drawn to this singers mainstream song a year prior, months later and now completely entrenched in a bipolar mania, I was driving down the road to my home where my husband at the time and children awaited me. At this point, every manic episode was dictated by one destructive behavior after another. The consequences were always severe and life-altering. I had no control over where the monster in my head lead me. Until the song The Reason by Lacey Sturm. First, as someone who was raised Jew”ish”, it was quite interesting this song was not only biblically based but Christian. The lyrics hit me as if God’s mighty hand struck me directly on my face at that very moment. It not only woke me from my mentally induced ignorance but physically shook me from my manic state right then and there.

These lyrics hit me first,

All my life I’ve searched
For something
To Satisfy
The longing in my heart
And every time I’d come away…
Emptier than before…

I’d spent my days giving my heart away
To anything new
Only to ache from the poison
Of my temporary muse
And there were times I’d cry myself to sleep at night
Only to wake up, wishing that I didn’t

Here is why this was so significant. Seduced by my mania, I was commonly plagued by hypersexuality laced with deep-rooted insecurity. My lovers’ weren’t just about the desire for attention or to fill a void, they were passionate, intense, dramatic, and unpredictable with emotion. They were a reflection of my mania and torn apart by my crashes. Highly sexualized, emotionally and heavily entrenched in ups and downs. I would drag each lover through a myriad of drunken rages, intense adoration, occasional weakness, then bouts of independence and emotional distance. They were my puppets, their strings frantically whipping them about in an effort to keep up with the many faces of me. When they ended it was as if my heart was ripped out, I was rejected and highly volatile. Those lyrics, always emptier than before, giving my heart away to anything new, a temporary muse, then crying myself to sleep at night, and wishing that I hadn’t. Not just a slap in my face, but a punch to my gut. I felt physically nauseous then sobbed uncontrollably. This song was meant to me, my hearing it was incredibly intentional. From that moment on, I never compromised my moral compass for anyone. It gets better, she sings

You formed my heart with your own hands
But I just could not understand
If I gave you my life
I’d be healed by your grace
I was made, for your love
And gave others your place
Thank you for never giving up, on me
When I looked to everything else
And lived, so selfishly
You bled, you died
To be with me
Why would you do
Something like that?
For someone like me?
And now I finally see The Reason
‘Cause I was made to be yours alone

This stuck with me, I heard it, but I only focused on relating this to God because I was not ready to hear of Jesus. I stamped out the, You bled, You died part and honed in on the rest. Even given that, this was directly placed in my life in the most poignant moment to hold such a powerful life-altering effect on me. This was, for lack of a better word, HUGE. This began my search for God and Christ, albeit, in baby steps, it was the beginning of something far more important to come, at the right time, by Gods plan. God was speaking far louder than the interrupted transfer of neurotransmitter messages in my brain. I heard him through the monsters chaos because he was no match for God.

There has not been a more powerful message in music than those two songs, always popping up in my brain at just the right moment, but there were certainly other times when a song struck me, placed in my life intentionally. For anyone who has survived, thought about, obsessed about, or known someone who succumbed to suicide is brought to tears every time you hear Logic’s 1-800-273-8255, I know I do. Another obvious moment God spoke to me in music was December 15th, 2016 the night before my pastor, his wife, and God I accepted Jesus into my life. As I explain in my article, The Zobrist Effect, leading up to that moment merely saying the name Jesus made me uncomfortable. I was raised in a way that as a Jew there were constant eye rolls, shoulder snubs, and heavy sighs when the name Jesus was mentioned in our presence. Typically under the pretense of some religious debate. I cringed every time I saw one of those little red buttons with bold white letters, Jesus Loves You. God knows this, and in pure delight of my transformation, and in God fashion, I left their home that night, turned on KLOVE and the song, Just Say Jesus by 7enth Time Down was playing.

When you don’t know what to say
Just Say Jesus
There is power in the name
The Name of Jesus
If the words won’t come
Cause you’re to afraid to pray
Just Say Jesus

And who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor. Listen to the music, know when you are being spoken to through song. Think about it, where has God spoken to you in lyrical verse? I bet it’s more than you realized so take this moment to reflect on those songs that impacted your life, dissect what you are supposed to learn from it. Now, put those headphones on, clear off your desk, and grab that journal!

Proverbs 3:6 Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go.

Say NO to New Years Resolutions!

This year I encourage you to say NO to resolutions.

Instead, trust in God that everything that is supposed to happen will.  In creating resolutions you are holding to an expectation for yourself that may be opposite of what He has in store for you!

Just let life happen, enjoy the ride, let go of expectations and disappointments. Cultivate a true relationship with God and yourself.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future

Wearing The Armor of God In Restlessness

Hypersensitivity can be a curse to my already exhausting madness of ups and downs. Whether sitting in a boardroom meeting or church wanting desperately to pay attention to the message that day.  Only I hear every paper wrinkle, every baby coo or crying, every person within two rows of me whispering. Even every shoe tapping a chair, every coat rustling, every throat cleared, every coffee sipped only to send all my senses into overdrive. The hairs on my neck standing on end, the intensity of pressure in my chest suddenly insurmountable, anxiety and anger rising, the irritation so great I envision myself lashing out. In my mind, I am a record player of scenarios in which I react with some hostile aggression like screaming, physical harm, or storming out. I am strategically posed in my chair slightly seated to the edge of my chair placing myself in such a way to exit quickly if need be.

During my school years, I was distracted to the point of grasping very little discussion with an incapacity to focus on one thing or person for longer than mere minutes. As an adult at work, it was my inability to drive out distraction from coworkers. It may be the way they tapped or clicked a pen, chewed gum, spoke on the phone, or move items from my desk. Even friends or family can be victim to my oversensitive mind. A touch to my skin, something said, they way they ate or drank, or even breathed while sleeping. All otherwise minuscule or unnoticed by others.

Now add Hypervigilance and my psychotic mind manufacture delusions and paranoid thinking. I am keenly in tune with every facial expression, eye movement, body language, the inflection of someone’s voice hiding a hint of underlying untruthfulness.  In this state, everyone is hiding some deceit and very few people are worthy of trust. I could never understand the triggers, there was no rhyme nor reason. Sometimes it was a partner in crime to the monster dwelling in his darkness of depression, and other times the mania spawned by mother natures light. Neither one seemed to be the common denominator. It was random in its severity, but always present in some facet.

Now I have God. In his armor, I pray vigilantly. I pray to quiet my mind and focus on His peacefulness. I pray that I can feel His hand on my shoulder. “Please Lord, place your mighty hand on my shoulder, give me strength with your grace and loving kindness” I remind myself of 1 Chronicles 16:11, Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face continually. And Isaiah 26:3  You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! If I focus on His presence I stand to drive out distractions and sooth my soul. I only stand to gain peace by knowing He is forever present.

 

Finding Biblical Discernment Through Mental Illness

In schizophrenia or bipolar, the frontal lobe, the part of the human brain thought to be where human judgment, planning, and putting things into perspective takes place is considerably impaired.  So for me, it can often feel like using faulty equipment while attempting to navigate in life. The subject of discernment is particularly difficult when it’s mentioned so many times in the bible and plays such a significant role in your relationship with God and ability to follow His word. According to writers like John MacArthur from Grace to You, Unleashing God’s Truth, One Verse at a Time, discernment per the New Testament is not a suggestion but required. I thought of it more of a spiritual gift acquired over time.

It’s not just biblical discernment however that can be difficult. It takes years of self-reflection and talking to God to discern between what is my cultivated personality based on environmental upbringing versus my faulty equipment. This too can have blurred lines since many of the environmental factors can be directly related to the mental illness itself. Am I falling prey to unsettling bouts of self-hatred because of deep-seated insecurities as a result of childhood abandonment issues or sexual abuse? Or is the monster in my head spreading his darkness in my mind penetrating and distorting every thought and perception of my surroundings? Or is it both? I hear many with a mental disorder speak of family members or spouses making statements like, “have you taken your meds?” in response to something that can be simply related to expressing an unfavorable opinion or becoming upset to everyday stressors. Kids, finances, marriage, careers can all create common stress. But not everyone gets questioned about their medications or told their acting bipolar and irrational making it that much more difficult to discern from the two.

For someone who not only has a diagnosed mental disorder and having experienced childhood abandonment, divorce, childhood sexual abuse, loss of a child,  and an abusive spouse can create quite the inability to discern which behaviors are me as a result of my environmental factors or my disorder. It’s like having a living sociopath in your head making you feel crazy for every thought and perception.  But I am a living testament that it is possible.  When it came to me I felt a sense of freedom and awareness I had never experienced before. Actually having come to Christ and studying the bible has definitely made me far more in tune with my illness. My pastor explains discernment as in fact being a gift from God to the believer, but it is developed and increased through the study of the Bible and in prayer. He also agrees it is required since as a believer you must make that commitment to God and Christ in constant study and prayer.

By continually reminding myself of Ephesians 6:10-20, surrounding myself with the Armor of God I am able to discern what is my monster and what is me. It’s the most rewarding part of being given discernment through God, having the understanding of when my illness is creeping in and being able to open my Bible and turn to pages where God shows me how He protects me, tells me He loves me and urges me to be a fighter. The end result is having an ounce of peace in my chaotic world. Knowing that a power higher than me is always fighting nose to nose with the darkness on my behalf. And that through Him I can and will always rise above my illness.

Mary Did You Know?

It may not have been the path God wanted for Mary, she was persistent in silencing His words and continued to carve out her own trail. Mary now months into a pregnancy, growing by God’s design. A life flourishing inside its mother amidst the consistent heartbeats, the rocking of her breaths in and out, and the muffled sound of her melodic voice now recognized by this new life. These phases of development are to be an ethereal and nurturing process, one entrenched in delight and elation anticipating the welcome of a chubby little bundle. A perfect mixture of mother and father, eager to be swaddled securely and hear more clearly the voices who soothed him or her. Too often, a child created under circumstances other than that of excitement and joy would experience something much dimmer.

The stages of my formation, unfortunately, were created under duress. Mary’s heart beat fast, her breaths erratic and deep, her voice strained and loud. Violent physical altercations thrusting me into her internal organs. Each stage of my development rooted in piercing shocks of stress. The warmth of the amniotic fluid surrounding my body chilled by the rushes of cortisol now fueling my bloodstream. Enzymes permanently altering the programming of my delicate brain most likely reeking havoc on my growth process and predetermining my future behavior. A tiny little flaw of malformed and distorted lens fibers now altering my vision development.

Born slightly premature and with low birthweight, a mere 5 pounds, I would not be welcomed and swaddled securely by a common voice to soothe me in my transition. Rather whisked away by nurses, I would no longer hear her voice, the one who spoke to me for so many months. Being placed for adoption, I was disrupted by a temporary arm and unfamiliar sounds. There would be no moments for further emotional and maternal attachment, feelings of security, or peacefulness in my new world. The uncertain and insecure environment would be my new existence.

It began a long fight for my life. Even still God intentionally placed little golden trinkets, a little nugget of motivation, another yellow brick road to something better. I couldn’t always hear Him, or see this nugget for what it was. Sometimes not until months or even years later. There was always someone, or something, an opportunity, a hidden message that peaked my interest, that intrigued me and allowed me to see past whatever season I found myself in. Particularly before my official diagnosis, and again leading up to my choice in coming to Christ.

Knee deep into the trenches of a bipolar shift I was drawn to journal every detail of what my illness was doing to me. That no matter how crazy my thoughts are I had to track its progression, not just for me but maybe for someone else who might be trying to make some sense of their loved one’s battle. During this process, I had no idea where it would bring me. I couldn’t know how it would lead me into the arms of my Father in heaven, where a peaceful mind awaits me. It’s the pages of my personal journal that will help me provide an insight into how my bipolar pendulum controlled me before coming to Christ.

The darkness played and fed off my mental instability and caused a spiritual warfare within my own self so huge it impacted not only me but my family and everyone else in my path. This journey brought me to dive head first into my past, recognizing the times the chaos and God went nose to nose for me. I am undeniably more in tune with my darkness now, and in that, I directly thank the Lord.  This has been an amazing triumph that could not have happened for me without a determined pastor, a headstrong husband, and a lot of self-reflection.

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