Early in the healing process of a severe manic episode related to my bipolar disorder, I felt the nudge and a voice I believed to be God’s. I heard, “I want you to share your story. This story you are living now.”
The only emotion I felt was terror. I quaked in my sneakers as I struggled to walk the cemetery hill by the mission house, where we were temporarily living. The dogwoods which lined the pathways were not yet in their beautiful state of blooming a canopy of white that transformed the solemn place.
I felt far behind their soon expectant fruition. I didn’t know when I would or could open to a life this side of the devastation. My manic episode led me to several weeks without sleep. I deteriorated mentally until I lost touch with reality, escalating to hearing voices which led me to do bizarre, reckless, and possibly life-ending things.
My life, my hopes, and certainly my expectations of what my life would be were a tiny pile of ash. How would I, how could I, find the courage to share the days which wrecked me, nearly taking me from this world? How could I come to life, to a certain blooming, once again?
I didn’t know. Even my physical steps were unsure in these days. I was still reacting to the first medicine given to stabilize me. It caused neuropathy so that my hands and feet weren’t working properly.
One faltering step at a time, I charted this new path into a great unknown. I knew I needed to take my delicate hand and my confused self and place it into that scarred one, and the One who was the Great Overcomer, the Redeemer of all.
And yes, all he is would be acting towards me, being for me. Although I felt closed, not even a bud or even on a live branch to call my own.
Yet my story wasn’t over, not nearly.
At the time of my hospitalization, I was three-quarters of the way through a memoir, my life’s story. It was a triumphant work that I believed had ended in a beautiful denouement, as my family and I pursued our missionary work in the nation of Hungary, and its majestic capital, Budapest.
If I wanted to see something new, I had to abandon so much which had bloomed before the tragedy of my manic episode. I had to surrender that beautiful work of words I loved. In its place, I faced the great need of monumental courage to share a story I never wanted to live. Perhaps, I only would release that memoir, that life, for a season, but I felt like I had no way to be sure it wasn’t going to be gone forever. How would that seed of flower, that seed of hope, in this altered life, ever bloom?
Now seven years later, the sure blooming in God’s eyes, has become my own vision too. I just released what was then only tragedy with a mustard seed of faith, and an ember of hope, into the world for anyone to read. That story is now a book of moving from darkness to light called A Million Skies.
I had become that grain of wheat falling to the ground and dying, which was raised up into life. God had been the great pursuer of my heart, my not-even-close-to-over story. He’d brought great medical treatment, treasured relationships, courage for my fear, and mostly his essence of “Immanuel, God with us.” I had experienced him preserving me through the fire, bringing beauty out of those ashes of destroyed dreams.
It wasn’t an easy journey by any means. But it was certain that our God is a God of healing, of life from death, or a new day from the rubble of ruin. And yes, the one who takes a mustard seed and causes a greatness of tree to grow and bloom.
The daily dying to my reputation clothed me in a beauty solely found in the heart and goodness of God. And it happened one faltering step at a time, one molecule of growth coming to life. But the result was glorious, and the faith restored a certain and sure bloom.
Vulnerable as a bud is, connected to a living branch, there is great hope. I pray you can know that today, friend.