After being released from the mental hospital in which I had re-discovered what it meant to have Jesus as my Lord and Savior I set upon myself high expectations. I was going to overnight change every behavior that was holding me back, but the reality was that it was going to take casting a mountain into the sea to truly be free of them. Somehow, though, in spite of my own incompetence and the chaos I was bringing to the picture God worked through it all to draw me into a place of peace and acceptance.
In my own power, I started out great. I ate healthier, I worked more diligently, I didn’t drink. The only thing I couldn’t do was stop smoking, though I spoke of quitting often. I crushed pack after pack and threw them in the trash, only to be desperately digging them out 15 minutes later when the next craving struck. Every day I quit smoking two or three times, only to pick the habit up again as quickly as I had stopped. I read books about quitting smoking, I researched the effectiveness of hypnosis. I was desperate and ashamed that I simply couldn’t find the power to quit smoking.
As the weeks passed on my guilt over not being able to quit smoking started spilling over into areas that I seemed to have some measure of success in. First I started eating junk again, going to fast food at least 4 times a week and falling into my old habits of eating one giant meal a day instead of multiple small ones throughout. Suddenly I was feeling guilty not only because I couldn’t quit smoking, but also because I had returned to eating habits that not only made me gain weight but also destroyed my energy.
At work my new found attitude was also short lived. Working harder had gotten me no recognition, and though I constantly reminded myself that I was working for God and not men I began to feel old resentments. I would look around at my co-workers and rather than seeing the ones who like me were putting in an effort I only saw the ones who were slacking off. An anger welled up and I started cutting corners, taking more bathroom and water breaks, moving just a little slower, and before long I was right back where I had started resenting my job and not wanting to show up.
On top of this, my church attendance was also dropping off. When I first was released I was going to Sunday service regularly, attending a Bible study, and going to young adult ministries in the middle of the week and a recovery group on Fridays. I maintained these commitments for about a month or a month and a half but then they started to drop off. Instead of going to young adults every week, I’d go every other week. Bible study became especially sporadic. Eventually I was struggling to make it to Sunday service every week, and then even that dropped off.
Despite my best efforts I found myself right where I had started before my manic episode, before my faith had been restored. I felt like more of a failure than I ever had, and so I started drinking again. At first it was on the weekends and I pretended I was just trying to have fun. Drinking made things worse, though, and a resentment I had been carrying for a while started to bubble up. When I would drink, I was often alone and I began to go on online dating sites. Things with my girlfriend had fallen off and we were going through on again off again patches, so I began looking to break it off completely. I would sit in the dark drinking while browsing dating profiles and messaging every woman who was online in my area. Most of the time I was just chatting with them, but quickly it turned to abuse. My anger at my life would come to the surface and I would take it out on women I didn’t know, until one night I had a particularly nasty conversation berating a young woman until she turned around and cut me down to size. This wasn’t out of the ordinary, but what happened next was.
The next day she apologized to me. That apology absolutely cut me, because I knew how bad I had been and that I deserved every hostile word she had said. She and I had a conversation about faith and she explained to me how it was her faith in Christ that prompted her to apologize. After that conversation I put the alcohol away again.
I’m not sure if it was putting the alcohol away or something else but around that time I began to experience an elevated mood again. I started reading the Bible like a mad man, and at the same time began questioning my salvation and wondering what it took to be saved. The world around me seemed to take on a new importance and I began to see significance in every passing word. God was speaking to me through every little detail, I just had to piece it together. Most days the chasing of signs was manageable, and it all seemed to be working towards something that was just out of reach. I knew God was at work, and I was about to experience His power in a way that was completely unexpected. After about a week one day I decided it was more important that I figure out the mystery than be at work, but first I had to confess my sins. I walked up to my manager and told him, “I am a liar!” and walked off the job. From there I went to the gas station I regularly bought cigarettes at and asked the attendant how to be saved. He told me to drop to my knees and confess my sins. So right in the middle of his shop I dropped to my knees and declared myself to be a liar.
When nothing happened I moved to the church, where a kindly stranger read the passion narrative from Matthew to me and told me to go home and read my Bible. I went home, read about hating my family and decided I needed to wrestle my brother. After wrestling my brother, I declared I was leaving and walked out the door, I remembered reading earlier that if I didn’t doubt I could tell the mountain to be cast into the sea and God would do it. So there, in the middle of the street I began shouting at the mountain to move. I was on parade and determined to move that mountain, meanwhile my family was trying to convince me to go see a doctor. Finally I agreed and rode with them to the doctor where I was taken on the grounds that I was a danger to others because I said that I had to start killing people with kindness. In my head, this was the ordinary euphemism meaning I needed to be kind to a fault but the doctors focused on the phrasing.
During intake I requested a Bible, and was given one which I sat and read while waiting for them to decide which facility to send me to. As I read a young woman was sitting crying, which I saw as my first opportunity to be kind to another. I walked over to her and realized I had nothing to offer her, so I held my Bible out to her and simply sat there with her in silence while she read. She cried the whole time as she read, until finally she handed me the Bible back and laid back to go to sleep.
Shortly after I was injected with something and I began to react to it. My tongue swelled up and I was completely unable to talk. An ambulance came and took me to a facility filled with noise and a lot of scary looking people. I was frightened beyond measure because I thought this was my new home, and it was not a place I wanted to be. Since I was deemed a threat to others they placed me with individuals who were prone to violent outbursts or completely out of their faculties. I am not sure how long I was there but I spent the time quietly reading my Bible, crying because I was unable to talk at first. Once my speech was returned I spoke to a few about the love of Jesus, but continued to keep my distance only leaving my room for group therapy.
Eventually they moved me to the other side of the hospital, which was primarily people recovering from alcohol and suicidal thoughts. The day I was moved I saw the young woman I had seen at intake, and saw she looked completely transformed. Instead of crying and looking despondent she was bright eyed and holding a Bible lovingly in her arms. I was struck by how God had moved in both our lives through our sitting together while she read.
Moving into the other facility I quickly found some friends to talk to and began to return to a sense of normalcy. I stopped wearing the hospital gowns and began to dress in the clothes that my family had brought me. After some time I was told my parents were coming to pick me up, and I was discharged and went home.
Upon returning home I was put on disability for 2 weeks before returning to work and so spent that time reflecting upon how I had ended up back in the hospital. I would spend my days alternating between self-help books and the Bible until one morning I was reading the passage in Mark that speaks of casting the mountain into the sea and I was struck by the admonition to pray within it. I took a moment to set the Bible down, said a small prayer and while I was praying an earthquake happened. I went online to see where the earthquake was centered, and found that its center was in the mountain that I had shouted at. I don’t know if there was a relationship, but I took it as a sign from God that if I wanted to see the mountains move I’d better remember to pray.
The mountains that I had built for myself in my own expectations had been cleared away as well and I knew that I must wait on God rather than try to force the changes, and the slow process of healing was ready to start. Through the chaos, a peace that was beyond understanding had settled in and I was set free from the demands of being a “good Christian” and instead began living a life in communication with Christ both through praying and through paying attention when He speaks.