We Dance

Inspired, in part, by Stefanie Gretzinger’s We Dance.
Sometimes I picture myself dancing with Jesus. The other day, during a church service, I nervously wondered if I was wrong to do so. Was it weird, that I pictured dancing with the Savior of the world? Then, in that same sermon I sat in, my preacher specifically said that Jesus wants us to be so close to Him it’s like we’re dancing. And he said it casually, not knowing that through him Jesus was speaking to me. He said, He wants us to be so in step with His ways that we move along with Him in a dance. And I smiled. Because Jesus loves dancing with me so much that He sent words down just to reassure me. So, I decided to write down how it feels to dance with Him. Of course, Jesus sent all these words, too.

I step up to Him, a ball in my throat. The toes of my shoes hit His and I mutter an apology, because we haven’t even started and I’m forgetting the moves. He shakes His head, that same serene smile on His face, and says, “Just follow me.” There’s a weight on my chest that my heart seems to be trying to pound away. He takes my left hand in His, pulls my right hand onto His shoulder, and holds me close. He smells like earth. Like waterfalls. Like air so fresh it hurts your lungs. It instantly stills my heart, calms my breathing, sets my mind in a place that feels like swaying on a hammock under a sea of stars. Suddenly, we’re moving, and I don’t know how but my feet know exactly where to go and my body doesn’t hesitate as it glides along with Him across the room. My thoughts fall away as the wind slides around our spinning forms, and this is life, this is life, this is being alive.

He’s teaching me the motions as we go, never faltering when I am a moment too slow, picking up the pieces of my mistakes without a second thought. I don’t feel ashamed when my mind stumbles and my feet follow suit. In that instant, He lifts me up, places my feet on His and we continue to swing. My slipups do not faze Him; He’s too perfect for them to affect His dance. As the song tiptoes upwards, the beat rising, the power resonating, a laugh tumbles out of me, so sudden it surprises me. He looks at me, grinning, as though my laughter we more melodious than the music to which we sway. And laughs. And that laugh is like a baby’s, like the sound of hope and wonder and enchantment and any good, new, fresh floating feeling I’ve ever had in my life. In His laugh I see my happiest memories sweep through my mind, and my body shakes with more laughter, with pure delight. I’ve forgotten that we’re even dancing. And this is joy, this is joy, this is being alive.

The longer we dance, the easier it is to predict His movements, to know where we’re headed and when. It becomes mindless, this dance, this togetherness, and I wonder how it is possible that I should become one with the One. I think, I am not a dancer. I have not put in the practice, the dedication, to deserve this intricate knowing of motions and melodies. I have not earned the right to be His partner. And, as though reading my thoughts, He pulls back to look at me and mutters, “No, no.” In a flash, I am blinded. The room falls away, the music fades, I lose track of my feet.

I see myself, four years old, playing in the grass of my old backyard. I am lizard-hunting, and as I watch my fat, happy fingers fishing for reptiles, a wave of powerful love slams into my gut. A love I’ve never known, a love incomparable, indescribable, and that love is for four-year-old me, who knows nothing and deserves nothing. I’m so ignorant of it, this love that could tear down cities with its ferocity. But something echoes within me and I know, it’s always been there; this adventuresome girl is followed around by a love bigger than the universe itself.

The memory is traded out and I’m a puddle of pain on the floor; I’ve been hurt, used, violated, at only twelve years old. I can still feel the love billowing inside of me, but atop it is a vicious anger, a roaring lion eager to defend and avenge. Twelve-year-old me is loved with a protective fire, ready to burn all who harm her. I am in awe. Nothing can match this love; a mama bear seems docile in the face of it. It is a five-car pile-up of screeching anger, it is tornadoes ripping up fields, it is an earth-shaker that would destroy everything for little twelve-year-old me to never have been hurt.

A new scene emerges: I’m older now, a wizened veteran, familiar with wounds of all kinds. But still the pain roils beneath the surface, and in this moment its burst forth; I sit alone in my car, as though the windows are a wall shielding me from the outside world. And the sobbing seems like it will never end. But surrounding that young woman, that little girl, I see ethereal arms. They hold me tenderly, but with a steadiness that promises to never let go. And I am struck by a whirlwind, a torrent of complete adoration, of heartbroken torment. And I know: the love is sobbing with me, sharing in the sorrow. I am so universally, eternally not alone. Where I ache, it aches. Where I tremble, it trembles. It refuses to let me bear the wounds alone. That love nearly brings me to my knees. It is a rising flood, covering everything. It is a powerful hurricane, unstoppable, ripping through all my fortresses, all the lies, the shadows where I hide, and the fears that keep me crawling away. It is a love that will not fail. It refuses to give up until its staring me in the face, wiping my tears away, calling me home into its embrace.

My sight slowly returns, and we haven’t missed a beat. My face is swimming with tears. Weighed down with that hurricane love, I hesitate to meet His eyes. I know what I will see there. In them is certainty, is eternity, is a roaring lion that will never stop His pursuit of me. I am seen. And I am known. And this is love, this is love, this is being alive.

We dance.

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How God Feels About You: A Reminder, Courtesy of Pixar

So last night I was watching Pixar’s Inside Out again (because sometimes you just want to make yourself cry, you know?) and I came to the scene where Joy and Bing Bong have just fallen into the Memory Dump. Everything has gone downhill. Joy and Sadness are both lost from “headquarters,” and without them, all Riley (our protagonist whose head we are inside of) can feel is Fear, Anger, and Disgust. She’s also missing her “core memories” which are what make Riley who she is. Without them, she is losing her love for family, friends, hockey, silliness, and honesty. She is losing herself. Because of this, Riley has just decided to run away from home. Joy knows this, but has no way to get back to headquarters to help save the girl they all love so dearly. Riley’s emotions are shutting down altogether, and she is becoming lost in a state of hopelessness and depression. In this moment, Joy is overwhelmed with the love she has for Riley and her desperate desire to help her.

Here is the scene, if you’ve never seen it:


As Joy picks up different memories of Riley, she recalls the special things about her that she loves so deeply. Looking at a little Riley coloring, she says, “Do you remember how she used to stick her tongue out when she was coloring?” And holding a memory of Riley telling silly stories, she earnestly adds, “I could listen to her stories all day.” Finally, looking at a memory of young Riley laughing joyfully and feeling overcome with sadness herself, Joy cries, “I just wanted Riley to be happy.”  

It struck me as I watched this scene that there are people in my life who feel this way about me. Chiefly my parents, but I know there are others too. Probably more than I realize. People who look at me and recall memories and feel love for me simply because of who I am, people who want joy for me. And then I was openly sobbing on my bed because I realized, God feels this way about me, too.

More than she represents anyone else in my life, Joy represents God in this scene. I picture Him, the Lord of all Creation, weeping over my heartbreak. I picture Him holding memories of a young Princess Jade and smiling sadly, because He just wants life for me. He just wants joy for me. God is holding little globes of my memories and whispering, “Do you remember how she always tried to catch lizards? She was so unafraid of the world.” He picks up another, “I could read her poetry all day—even the ones from middle school. She put so much life into them.” Another, “Her laugh is so full, so loud. I miss that sound.” He picks up a glowing blue memory and holds it to His chest. It’s me, a puddle on the floor, wracked with sorrow, crying out for someone to help me. And God loves me as deeply in that sad memory as He did in the joyful ones. He loves me for every single one. For every part of me, even the ugly memories that I’d rather forget. And He cries, “I hate it when she hurts,” He says, “I died so she’d have freedom and life. I just want her to have life.”

That’s real. That’s not make believe. That’s not a Disney movie. That is real life, happening right now. God feels that way about you right now.

God despairs for us. He feels pain over our pain. He aches for us to have joy and is jealous when we seek it elsewhere. God is looking at memories you can’t even remember anymore and loving you for them. He knows every single inch of your brain, has the blueprints memorized, can recall every single detail there is to know about you down to the number of atoms in your body and the amount of blood in your veins, and HE. LOVES. YOU. He knows you, and He loves you. And He desperately, desperately wants you to let Him save you.

Watch the video again. And this time, picture God instead of Joy, and you instead of Riley.

And believe it. It’s real.

From The Inside Out

No matter who you are or what your story is, you will be touched by this movie. It was truly profound.

No matter who you are or what your story is, you will be touched by this movie. It was truly profound.

Just a quick disclaimer: If you haven’t seen Pixar’s Inside Out yet, you should. Whether you have kids or not, enjoy animated films or don’t, just go see it. I’ve done my best not to include spoilers in here, and if you haven’t seen the movie, you in no way need to in order to read this post. But, still—read this and then go watch it.

On the surface, Inside Out is just a fun kid’s movie about an 11-year-old girl named Riley and her five main emotions: Joy, Anger, Disgust, Fear, and Sadness. When Riley’s family moves from her hometown in Minnesota to San Francisco, her emotions go a little berserk. In the end, the movie is really about discovering what Sadness’s true function is, and it is played out so beautifully. However, as the movie continued and Sadness lost control of herself more and more, I began to see something else between the lines of this sweet children’s film. I saw a reflection of what my brain had looked like while suffering through depression. I saw Sadness touching everything I thought about; I saw Joy lost from headquarters, completely forgotten; and I saw a profound representation of what it had always felt like when my emotions seemed to simply shut down. And I’ll be honest with you…it was a little unsettling, all of those memories being brought back to the forefront of my mind.

She looks cute, but she brings a lot of true emotions out of you.

Through middle school, high school, and college, I suffered through seasons of depression. I remember coming home from school one day and collapsing on the floor of my bedroom. The lights still off, my backpack fallen on the floor beside me, I curled into a ball and began to sob so hard that I could barely breathe. In that moment, I couldn’t even think long enough to know the reason why I was crying. I just knew that everything I thought about had been touched by sadness, and it was so heavy that I couldn’t bear to even sit up or hardly breathe. I remember sitting on the floor of a car having an anxiety attack because my best friend had been grounded and I didn’t know what I would do if I was left alone with my thoughts for that long. I felt honest, out of control fear that if I didn’t have someone there to distract me, my sadness might swallow me whole. I remember staring at the ceiling each morning in my freshman year of college, willing myself to fall back asleep because I couldn’t find a single reason to get out of bed. It was years of this. It was years of being terrified of the month of February, because it was when my depression always seemed to win after I’d battled with it all winter long. For so much of my life, my depression defined who I was. It owned me. It was as if I had placed a label on my own forehead reading “BROKEN,” and I was absolutely, 100% convinced that no medicine, no person, nothing could ever heal me. I knew, with all certainty, that if I wanted a normal life that didn’t include months of feeling worthless, I was going to have to be on medication for the rest of my life.

I haven’t been on medication for three years. I’m not against medicating for depression—I understand that some of us have a chemical imbalance, and medication can help our brains remember how to work right. I just know now that there’s a hope beyond medication. A hope for healing. A hope for joy. A hope for a future that makes every day worth living.

Yes, Inside Out reminded me of my depression. But it also reminded me of how I overcame it. I went 19 years of my life in a cloud of darkness, unable to find anything to save me from it. It’s not a coincidence that when I gave my life over to God, that darkness finally started getting pierced by the light.

SadnessFlower

Finding God was like finding Joy, after she had been lost from Headquarters for so much of my life.

I was standing on a ledge, staring down at the emptiness below me, with the monster of my depression breathing down my back—and it wasn’t until I took that leap and let God carry me that my monster finally started to fade. I have still faced sadness at some points over the last three years. Life has beaten me down a few times. The difference now is that it’s not crippling. I’m not weighed down by these feelings of hopelessness anymore, because now I have a hope that can literally never be taken away. When I start thinking, “What’s the point?”; when I get overwhelmed by the enormity of life and the pain that comes with it; when I start to forget joy, I remember one simple truth: I am a daughter of the living God. Because if I don’t have a job, if I’ve lost all my friends, if I struggle in school, or hate my body, or can’t even remember who I am anymore—I am always a daughter of God. And that’s enough. That’s the point. I’m a daughter of God, and if I just keep fighting through this race, I will receive a great reward at the end. Let me show you.

Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, I am making everything new! Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.” – Revelation 21:1-6

That’s the point. That one day I will go there, and there will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain. I will be made new. And in the meantime, I need to spend every moment inviting as many people as I can to come with me. But I know from personal experience that sometimes the pain is too much to focus on the future. Sometimes we need to be helped in this moment to be able to make it to the next. And Jesus Christ knew this, too, which is why he said:

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”Matthew 5:4

Crying

Just like Sadness, God knows that there is a time for crying and mourning.

Inside Out seemed to almost have been inspired by this verse, and it is such a relief to know that even Christ does not expect us to be filled with joy 24/7. Christ knows that there are times when we need to mourn, and He is here for us in those hours of pain. And if you need further proof that God is aware of our depression and can conquer it, turn to the Psalms. They are one of the best places to go to be reminded that God is with us even in our sadness.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. – Psalm 42:5

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds. – Psalm 147:3

And, finally, if these verses haven’t helped you feel a little more healed, there is a man that died for the sole purpose of our healing.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.Isaiah 53:5

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Peter 2:24

ChristWon

Even if you feel like you can’t defeat your depression, know that Christ already has.

We’ve been healed! Jesus did not die on the cross so that I could walk around with a label on my head saying, “BROKEN.” He bore my sins to bring me peace, so that I could walk around with the label, “HEALED!” God knows about our depression. He knows that this world is ugly and hard—His son experienced it firsthand. And He didn’t leave us alone here to deal with it on our own. He gave us the Lord, Jesus Christ, so that we could be healed from all of these sorrows. So that we could one day go to the place where there is no mourning or crying or pain. This is why I haven’t been on medication for three years, and yet I haven’t felt depression “win” once throughout that time. Because Jesus won. He won.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33

Pixar did a beautiful job at explaining what depression looks like, from the inside out.

God did a beautiful job showing us that He can heal anything, from the inside out.

From the Inside Out, Lord
My soul cries out, “Lord!”