A few short years ago I was sure my life was pretty much over. As far as I could tell there was nothing ahead of me but ill-health and increasing disability.
I was approaching 50 years old and my body was starting to let me down. I had no partner and no hope of finding one. My children were grown up and no longer needed me.
I had tried to make some of my dreams come true without success and I had been so badly traumatized I had no hope left that life could ever be any good.
So many bad things had happened. So many hard lessons learned over and over again making me certain I could never really enjoy life so I resigned myself to just enduring it.
In a couple of months I will turn 51 and I don’t feel that way any more. I feel as if my life is just starting and I have finally begun to live rather than just endure my existence.
My hopes and dreams are starting to rise from the ashes of trauma like the phoenix springs to life after burning. I’m going to have a career again. I’m going to own a home again and I may even find love again too. Anything is possible – even that.
An old man used to call the help line I work for as a crisis counsellor. He called every night. He memorized Psalm 23 as a child and used to like to say it at the end of each call and I used to like hearing it. The Psalm never had any meaning for me personally. I just liked hearing someone so old (he was in his 90’s) express such faith because it gave me hope that I would not lose my own faith some day.
After he died I tried to memorize the Psalm myself so I could say it in memory of him. I don’t know why I wanted to keep his memory alive or pay tribute to him like that. I just did.
Punctuating the Psalm was a problem to begin with. I couldn’t say the psalm from memory without singing it to the tune I heard in my head.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me down to lie.
In pastures green, he leadeth me, the quiet waters by.”
I can now see a subtle difference in meaning depending on how you punctuate the psalm. I can see it because of the subtle difference in the way I thought about the words then and how I view them now.
All my life I have heard those words and interpreted them as;
“The Lord is my boss, I better not want!
He prefereth me down.
He leadeth me past green pastures and quiet waters.
Slowly my view has changed and the psalm has come to have meaning for me too. I don’t say it just for the old man any more. I say it to give thanks because now I am living it!
“The Lord is my Shepherd!
I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pasture.
He leadeth me beside still waters.
He restoreth my soul.”
One day, as I said the words, I realised they were true!
The Lord IS my Shepherd! He has brought me to this place, this job, these circumstances despite all my efforts to go elsewhere!
When I was attacked in my home by car thieves a few years ago I hit rock-bottom and learned a very important thing about myself.
The most important thing in the world to me is believing in God. I can survive anything as long as I have God to lean on. I can lose anything and everything as long as God is there loving me. I can go on living no matter what happens as long as I believe there is a God and he loves me.
When my world came crashing down around me and I wondered if there really was a God I realised I need my faith. I need God. I don’t want to live in a world without God. I cannot, I will not, let go of my faith!
I would rather believe in a God that does not exist than live even one day without Him.
I made a choice. I chose to believe He exists and He loves me in the face of almost overwhelming evidence to the contrary. I told God I could let go of my house, my car, my career, my hopes, my dreams, my health, my safety – anything but my faith. I begged Him to help me hold on to that.
When I arrived here in this town that was all I had. I believed in God. I didn’t believe in anything else!
I didn’t believe in me because I was a failure who had run away from a bunch of kids. I was a lily-livered quitter who had let a bunch of kids break her down and make her too frightened to stay in her own home or carry on practicing in her own business.
I didn’t believe in other people because they heard me screaming in the middle of the night and they ignored me. They heard my alarm wailing for hours and they ignored it. They told themselves this was a domestic dispute and they left me to it.
I didn’t believe in justice because I called the police when the thieves cut the lock on my gate and the police failed to come. Not only that but three of my attackers have never been charged.
I didn’t believe in dreams. “Til death us do part” had turned out to be just 13 years. Owning my own home had proven beyond me twice already. Being my own boss ended when post traumatic shock sent me running with my tail between my legs.
All I had left, and even that was hanging by a thread, was my faith in God.
I had tried to go elsewhere and failed. I couldn’t get work anywhere else. My trauma was showing and people didn’t want to hire a broken shell of a person.
So I moved in with my kids and slept on their couch and let them take care of me for a while. As soon as I was able to I started applying for jobs I thought I could do even in my weakened state.
My current employers knew I was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and they hired me anyway! They comforted me and assured me they still valued me even after I broke down a couple of times and had to take sick leave! They have nurtured me and taken care of me in every way they could.
The criminal justice system came through for me and awarded me the money to get counselling and a cash sum equal to the cost of a new car. I used the money to get out of debt and I have remained free of debt so far.
My counsellors helped me work through the trauma and I grew strong enough to regain some suppressed memories and work through those too.
That was the turning point!
The trauma had tapped in to a trauma I suffered at age 15 and left me feeling the same way – like a weak, stupid, cowardly failure.
Now that old trauma surfaced and I regained memories that showed me I never was weak, stupid, or cowardly. Not at 15 and not now.
That one small thing, realising I didn’t fail to try and take care of myself at 15, has had a positive effect way beyond what I would have ever dreamed possible!
As soon as I remembered how hard I fought and what was done to subdue me during that incident it was as if someone gave a vital piece of me back.
I felt whole for the first time in my life and stronger than I have ever felt before.
Strong enough to overcome my gambling problem. Strong enough to go on a diet. Strong enough to work on other issues. Strong enough to start dreaming and hoping and trusting again!
I’ve lost about 8 kilo’s and suddenly my health is improving! I am starting to feel stronger physically. Aches and pains I thought were being caused by getting old are disappearing and I’m feeling lighter and lighter in every way.
I’ve been on the anti-depressants for over a year now and I’m sure they are helping. Every now and then I have gone off them for a few days because the prescription has run out. Each time I do it I realise I need to go back on them because I can feel the familiar old black cloud of depression starting to surround me again.
After a lifetime of depression and misery God has finally brought me to green pastures and quiet waters and I do not want! I am living with peace and tranquility and it feels so good!
I’m starting to feel the truth of the psalm and to believe in the promises it contains. My anxiety and depression are gone and that makes it possible for me to believe the final lines.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Somewhere deep in my heart I believe the best is yet to come and I like believing that. It doesn’t matter if it is true or not. I just really like believing it’s true!
The only thing you can be sure of in this life is that you can’t be sure of anything. What you CAN do is believe! You can believe it is bad and will always be bad or you can believe it’s good and will always be good.
Everything that has happened to me has taught me something, showed me something, had consequences I am glad of now. It has taken me 50 years but I finally believe everything happens for a reason and God will never let anything happen to me that I won’t be glad of at some point.
I’m glad I was attacked and traumatized now because, if it hadn’t happened, I might never have regained those repressed memories! I might never have gotten that vital piece of myself back or found these green pastures and quiet waters!
The Lord really IS my shepherd and I really shall not want. I believe that now.
I’m sure of it!