Healing: Input, Thermometers and Thermostats

I was sitting on the couch watching an episode of Breaking Bad when my wife sat down next to me. The scene was intense. It was important to the plot of the whole show. The kingpin drug lord was making a point to one of his underlings in a brutal manner. While the underling watched the drug lord motioned for a thug to shoot the man’s brother in the head. In the style of the show, there was no looking away by the camera. The bloody execution unfolded right before the lens. The living brother bent over the dead brother as he bled into a swimming pool. I leaned forward to see what would happen next, but what happened next was not on the television.

I heard a small gasp and a stifled cry from my wife and looked over to see huge tears streaming down her face. I stared at her wondering what was wrong and if it had anything to do with me (I was hoping not).

“What’s the matter, baby?” I said.

She said through her tears, “That’s so horrible. So awful. How can you watch that?”

Under normal circumstances I’m not at a loss for words, and in that moment I heard a string of responses start up in my head. Things like: it’s just a show, it’s not real, it’s good story telling, it’s interesting… but right then I heard something else that came from another place; a revelation from the Holy Spirit. Looking at my sweet wife, who is a thoroughly loving yet remarkably unsentimental person, I saw it so plainly that it shocked me. My wife was responding to the images on the television like a normal human being would respond. To see what I’d just seen and sit forward curious to see what came next was not normal human behavior. It was a perversion of, or at least a diversion from, proper emotional response.

Listen carefully: I understand the value of stories. I am a story teller. Some of the stories I tell include brutal things. I am not suggesting we cannot watch things like Breaking Bad nor am I saying we need to “clean up” or censor everything. That’s not the point I’m making here. What I want us to think about in this context (healing depression) is that we may contribute to broken emotions by repetitiously taking things into our hearts and minds that call for an emotional response in reality but instead produce either a wrong emotional response or no emotional response. The Breaking Bad incident happened during a lull in the depression, but later, when things were especially hard, I went back to this revelation and made some decisions I’m sure helped me recover from depression.

What is depression? It’s lots of things, but anyone who has experienced it will agree that the experience of depression is malfunctioning emotions; emotions out of synch with reality. Perhaps it is also true to say it is the absence of proper emotions. As strange as it sounds, when I was at my worst, I could not be sad for sad things to the same extent I couldn’t be happy for happy things. Everything hurt so much and so long that nothing changed my emotions very much. It was like I could watch the tragedy and the comedy of life without responding. While we explore the reasons we are depressed, it makes sense to look for things that contribute to this emotional short circuit and work on rewiring our emotions. Since I was dealing with a mostly downward mood, I shifted my entertainment input to comedies and live sports, both of which required little thought on my part. Even the live sports can be a problematic thing when we are too invested in a particular outcome – seriously folks highly emotional responses to the result of games played by millionaires? That’s just as jacked up as my emotionless response to Breaking Bad.

I’ll tell a story on myself. My team won the national championship for the first time a couple years ago and even though I could barely watch the games it did effect my mood. I was invested, and it would have hurt if they lost. But now I go back and regularly re-watch the games because they make me happy; and it’s a lot easier to watch when I know they win. I do it for the same reason I watch the comedies that make me laugh and rarely watch new ones. I do want to be entertained, but I want to heal my emotions more than I want new movies or games.

We have to get real with ourselves if we’re going to get well. Getting rid of input that contributes to improper emotional responses and loading up on things that make us happy is relatively easy and accessible even for really hurting people. Did your team win the big game? Go on YouTube and rewatch it. Did that movie crack you up years ago? Find it and stream it. Is there a place nearby that makes you smile? Go sit and relive it. Go and get those recycled emotions and put them in your heart. On the other side: is a show making you feel heavy? Ditch it. Politics bringing you down? Turn off the coverage. A place remind you of loss? Stay away from it. Remember this isn’t a forever thing, it’s emotional triage. In the long run, one of the ways you’ll know you’re getting better is that you’ll be able to watch shows, go to places, receive news and have proper human responses.

It’s great to have normal healthy humans around like my wife who can help us see what healthy responses look like; thermometer people. It’s even better to have a relationship with a thermostat person like the Holy Spirit who sets the right temperature for us, whispers when we should heat up or cool down, and then helps us do it.

Some of the things He’s led me to understand I just shared: avoid “heavy” entertainment, disengage from the 24/7 news cycle, take in things that make you laugh, relive events that made you happy. The ongoing help from my Helper is the gentle nudge I get from him when I’m taking in things and not responding properly or letting the input push me too far down (or too far up) emotionally; the thermostat bumps me and I listen. Often the Spirit reminds me of the word “I have it” which resets my emotions to the proper temperature. The result is that I am not as easily moved in ways that used to spiral into deeper depression. The Holy Spirit is many things, but one characteristic I appreciate about him is his relentless hopefulness. I sense his presence here more than anywhere else right now probably because I know I cannot generate hope on my own steam. He is happy to give away his hope. All I’ve done is begin responding to the thermostat.

We can recover proper emotions. What he has done for me he will do for anyone who asks. Let me know if I can help you. You can email me at: rkenwardjones@gmail.com

Do You Have Problems You Can’t Fix?

I decided to get rid of a program on my computer.  I went to the Add/Remove programs section, found the program I wanted to delete and clicked on a tab saying “remove.”  A Broken-Screenmessage came up on the screen:  You do not have sufficient access to delete this file, see the system administrator.  I tried it again and got the same result.  This was a program I had installed myself.  After puzzling over it for a while I decided to call the company from which I downloaded the file.  The helpful people there walked me through all the steps I tried already.  They couldn’t delete the program.  Insufficient access.  Finally they gave up.

This was pretty frustrating.  I didn’t know it at the time but when I downloaded the program, I was receiving something I couldn’t get rid of later.  My computer didn’t seem to be my computer anymore.  Every time I logged on the icon for the program would remind me I wasn’t in control.  It was one thing to consciously download a program and then be stuck with it, but what if you never asked for it? Spyware are programs which come as files attached to something on the internet like an advertisement.  You click on it to see what it’s about and a little dialogue box comes up saying you have to download this file in order to go further. Click.  Next thing you know you’ve got a program pouring popups into your screen every five minutes for Viagra.  You may have been looking for info on trips to the Bahamas but now you are being inundated with info you never asked for and don’t want.  These programs get intertwined with your hard drive like an electronic boa constrictor.  Often, when trying to delete them you will get the same message: Insufficient access.

What if there was something inside of you you didn’t want but constantly had to face?  You try every trick you know to erase it.  Reboot, run away, read up on it, buy another program which will supposedly get at it, ask an expert to help free you, but in the end you find no way to rid yourself of it.  Fearful? Angry?  Suicidal?  Suicidal people are really on to something.  They have come to the conclusion there is something so broken they can’t fix it.  They know they don’t have sufficient access to get at the thing making their lives miserable.  The problem is killing the outer man doesn’t get at the inner man.  Suicide is like taking a sledge hammer to the computer monitor; the light may go out and you don’t have to look at the image anymore, but the hard drive is still running and still messed up. Sin is the human spyware none of us asked for, but all of us live with.  It has wrapped around each of us in ways we can’t even understand.  No one has the access to rid themselves of it’s effects on their own, even though some obviously cope much better with errorimagetheir fallen state than others.  No matter how well you deal with sin here and now you are left with one final effect of sin you must face: death.  Insufficient access.  Somehow, somewhere we all come up against this statement about our own lives.  We can’t sustain them.  We can’t fix what’s broken.  We have to have someone with the ability to reach places we can’t reach.  Jesus can reach anywhere.  He holds the keys to hell and death.  There is no door He cannot open, there is nothing overcoming us that He hasn’t already overcome.  You may think you have done things to your life that cannot be undone and you are probably right if you look at your access or the access of men or the tools of men.  Invite a God into your life and He won’t start on the exterior.  God begins to work where men are unable to reach.  Just admit you personally have insufficient access and let Jesus initiate the true work in you.

“I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive forever and ever!  And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” – Jesus (Rev 1:18)

“Therefore (Jesus) is able also to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25)

“See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.” (Rev 3:8)

What Can You Do if You Are Brokenhearted?

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
Psalms 34:18

The greatness of God is found in His willingness to consort with the lowly, to draw near to the brokenhearted, to listen to the song sung in private.  More miraculous than water to Broken_Heart13wine or blindness to sight, is a God who lives as one of us, who comes as a crying baby rather than a crusading king.  Only the high can stoop low, and only the most high can bend down into hell itself.  If where you are feels like hell; if you are truly brokenhearted and crushed, what is your help?  The Christian God is the only God for you, the only promise of help, the only one who has gone to hell and back to demonstrate both his ability and commitment to giving you help.  Every other god leaves you crushed until you find the right offering or make the right moves.  And if you have no god at all you have no one but yourself to heal your broken heart – you must be both the surgeon and the patient.  The Christian God only asks that we ask; only requires that we cry out when we hurt.  There is no god like this God.

Can’t Keep Swimming

How far can you swim? How long can you stay afloat? What if you discover there is no shore in sight in any direction, how would you know which way to go? And would it take your heart away? As I held a new born baby boy this week I realized he was just like me. Born afloat. Born swimming without knowing how to swim. For a while others will be his buoyancy. He will get a false sense of self sufficiency from this. He will begin to stroke away. His parents will encourage him. It is natural.

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Everyone wants to see a person learn to swim on their own. But eventually we know that not only are we swimming alone, we are swimming in a shoreless ocean. We don’t have a choice. We did not ask for it. We are dropped into the depths alone. It may take a long time to find out. It may take a lifetime before our arms get tired and we start to sink. We need a shore and we need real help to get there. Otherwise we will sink. What is your shoreline and where do you get help? This will define your life, values, and attitude.