Words are living, with a creative power that can work for good or bad. God spoke the world into being. The Word of God is living, according to Paul in Hebrews 4;12, as I am sure many of us can attest as we mull over things that have been said, frequently enhancing them until we have interpreted them to suit our emotions and needs. So many fights and wars have started because clear unequivocal communication is hard.
I lived in a world where the words that were spoken at me, to me and over me, were uttered with an intention contrary to their literal meaning. I had to learn to discern their true intimation, and react accordingly. For my husband, it was a game, and like all games there were rules. if I broke the rules, there would be retribution designed to make sure I thought twice before doing so again.
I realised one day that making me lose my temper was a big win, so I would be needled and provoked until I reacted. I have a temper. I don’t like losing it because it is an exhausting explosion of negative energy that does no good to anyone, least of all me. Someone described losing one’s rag being like dropping a can of paint – a lot of people get splashed.
So I would try really hard to contain my anger, but he was a well-seasoned veteran in the art of goading, and I was no match. The point would come when I would crack and start yelling. I would end up feeling awful, frequently in tears, he would be smiling smugly at having won, my children and staff walking around me on tiptoe.
Until I found what has become an important foundational scripture.
Proverbs 4:23: ‘Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.’ NKJV
The amplified Bible says: ‘keep and guard your heart with all vigilance, and above all that you guard, for out of it flow the springs of life.’
NIV: ‘Above all guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.’
In other words choose wisely what you allow to penetrate your heart, make sure it is truth and that it edifies. It is our choice to accept or reject the things that are said to us. Reject lies and falsehoods, particularly those that demean you and attack the very essence of who you are. If our hearts are tainted with skewed truth, our lives reflect this. Easier said than done, but going back to these words over and over again really helped me to sift out much of what was said. It just wasn’t enough.
I am a bit slow on the uptake but when it dawned on me that this was a deliberate ploy, a move in a contorted game, I decided, come what may I would not to take the bait. I closed myself off and allowed the jibes to pass over my head, countering with remarks like “can I get you a drink?” “how was your day?” and so on. It felt good because for once I was in control. But it annoyed my partner to the extent that he did not speak to me for three weeks! I’d spoilt the game.
That was small potatoes. The biggest lie levelled at me consistently over the years was that I was insane. If ever I tried to react to some irrational accusation, that I was always responsible for, the tirade would begin: “You’re mad! Paranoid, you are totally irrational. Off your head! You should be on medication. You need help.” In later years I became bi-polar, probably needing to be on Lithium.
What was actually meant by all this was: you don’t matter, you scarcely exist; I don’t have to answer to you. I certainly don’t have to honour any promise I may make to you.
Stop and think about this for a moment. How do we regard the insane? If they are not institutionalised, we disregard them, write off what they are saying as insignificant because it is part of their malaise, the mentally unstable are non-people in a way.
When I wasn’t mad, I was a depressive. I got to a place where I eventually allowed myself to be put on medication. I was so demoralised and filled with fear, that I was having panic attacks. I think I lasted a year on the fad drug of that time, Cipromil. It was awful – I was wandering around in a state of recumbent docility.
“You are a depressive that is why you are so difficult to live with. It makes my life easier when you are on medication!” Yeah, right, because I was zonked out, any drive and energy sublimated under the effects of emotion deadening narcotics
There is a film called ‘The Stepford Wives’, where men working together in some large company drugged their wives into submission. They were like robots, smiling and obedient and pretty much brain dead. I was adamant I would never be a Stepford wife!
Through all this did I behave irrationally. Darn sure I did, any sane person would. How do you cope when any normal relational issue that needs to be discussed and resolved is met with blunt refusal because you are crazy? How do you manage in a world where you don’t really exist? This sobriquet is amongst the cruellest there is – how do you cast off that cloak? Those taunting voices, that quiet confidential voice that would say confidingly, “Well you know she is a depressive and she won’t take anything for it.” My husband’s remedy for everything was a mood elevator and a sleeping pill.
I often felt that I was living in a vacuum, shaped like a bubble, transparent but opaquely thick. I would be talking and people would see me, but not react in any way. My lips would be moving, I could hear my voice, but others would not hear what I was saying. He had effectively silenced me, people genuinely did not hear much of what I said, so suggestions I gave went unheeded, while the same suggestion from someone else would be accepted, pleas for help ignored. I retreated further and further into a lonely cell located somewhere close to hell, desperate and isolated. When I ventured out I was prickly with defence, loud and repetitive as one is when no one listens to you, aggressive and defensive.
I had a lot to unpack those first months at the beach. I had to figure out what was truth, what was lie, what was reality, what was hope. But my journey had begun, and that was good and it was positive.
One of the first verses that was given to me in those early days of freedom is found in Psalm 18v19:
“He also brought me out into a broad place;
He delivered me because He delighted in me.”
I couldn’t stop reading this verse. God Himself delighted in me! this person who no-one wanted to be near, according to all I had been told, this reject, this crazy woman! But God had brought me out, and He delighted in me. God is so good and gentle. He gives us the encouragement that we need, the strength of His succour so that we are armed to face the fight, to take those steps into His light. Because He knew that as much as I needed His healing, He needed my repentance in order to bring it about.