For some time I had been struggling with something vague--a feeling that I was “out of sorts”. I ignored it, and just went on with my life, my very busy life. This went on for months. Then the symptoms began to get worse. The vague feeling became more acute, making its way through every part of my being. A deep sadness began to permeate my soul; a lot of remorseful thoughts and feelings began to surface; I had no motivation; a feeling of heaviness seemed to surround me; I had to literally force myself to get out of bed every day—a black cloud seemed to hover around me. Basically, even though I really didn’t recognize it, I was experiencing every symptom of “clinical depression”. I was never consciously aware of it. I just kept ignoring it and going on with my busy life to cover up some of these negative feelings. But that only works for so long. It helped for awhile. Then it got worse.
I started having a real problem with other feelings: strong feelings of guilt and failure. I felt guilty about many things, even about trivial things. But I couldn’t make it stop. I was tormented, even in my dreams at night. There seemed to be no escape.
And I felt so isolated, so alienated, so alone, so out of touch with everyone—including myself. But to everyone, even those closest to me, I seemed just fine.. I got up every day, got all dressed up--makeup and hair “perfect”--big smile, talked to lots of people, made lots of presentations at work, interacted with lots of people. But it was a role I was playing. Consequently, as a result of all of this “play acting” I felt drained. It takes a lot of energy to keep up that kind of appearance...
And what of my faith? What of my relationship with God? Well, it is really kind of strange, looking back on it. I was like the proverbial frog, sitting in the water, slowing boiling, unaware, as the heat is slowly turned up. I could go to a church service, hear a good sermon—even have a Bible study in our own home--and enjoy it all--but not have it affect me. There came a point when the pain seemed to take on a life of its own. It started after my mother’s death, then continued on after Julie’s death, and finally, after Jon’s arrest and imprisonment. I think I sort of “retreated” somewhere inside myself, like I went in there and just closed the door. Meanwhile, that part of me that is strong, has good coping skills, and is actually a pretty positive person took over ( I was relying on my own strength to make it through each day). All of my feelings just kind of got frozen up inside of me. As a result of all of this, my relationships, even my relationship with God, had become superficial. But I continued going through the motions, and appeared to be “ok”. I believe I put up what Dr. James Dobson calls the “betrayal barrier” in his book “When God Doesn’t Make Sense”. Although this was not something I was conscious of—I believe I put up this barrier, this wall between God and me, because I was so hurt and disappointed. Somewhere inside, I felt betrayed. But nobody knew, least of all, me. Finally I began to get some inkling that something was very wrong.
It happened one Saturday morning when Michael suggested we go out for a cup of coffee (which we hadn’t done for a very long time) I was sitting quietly, and I looked at Michael—and I started to cry. I had no idea why...and it was like I had absolutely no control over my emotions; they just started spilling out. So I went home and did something I hadn’t done in months. Something I was desperately needed. I sat down and began to write. And the more I wrote, I began to realize that I really HAD to do something, something very drastic. I was in far worse shape than I imagined—and how in the world did this happen? What I began to realize through all the writing I did that day, was that I had a choice. I could go get some counseling, maybe even some medication—I was open to that. But deep in my heart, I knew the Lord could heal me. He is called the “Great Counselor” in the Bible, and I knew He was quite capable—but would I be able to hear from Him? Would I be open to Him? I felt so far away from Him, so out of touch. I wasn’t sure I could hear from Him. But the scripture kept coming to me, “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He restores my soul”. That’s exactly how I felt, and what I needed! My soul needed to be restored, and sometimes the Lord has to MAKE us lie down in green pastures, because we are too busy, trying to cover up the pain, or handle it ourselves! The idea that came to me so strongly that day was that I needed to go away—alone. For 3 or 4 days. Complete silence. No distractions. No job, no house, no people, no family, no phone, no pets! Just me, my Bible, my notebook, and maybe one other book that might be of help. I knew just where I needed to go for this self-imposed “silent retreat”. A place called “Capitola by the Sea”. It is my favorite place—small and quaint, with these cottages right on the beach. At this time of year, the rates are very reasonable. This is where I would go away to be healed and restored. Once the decision was made, I began to have doubts. What if nothing happened? What if all this stuff finally came to the surface, and it overwhelmed me, and I just went over the edge? What if I didn’t hear anything from God? This was a “one chance” kind of deal. I was going to let God give it his best shot. See what He could possibly do with this messed up, pathetic, emotion-suppressed, bundle of pain! If He didn’t come through then I didn’t know what I was going to do. I felt like I was hanging on by a very fragile thread: what was going to happen to me?
Michael wasn’t too sure about me going away by myself. It’s something I had never, ever done in my whole life. I’ve gone away with him, with friends, etc., but never alone. But he knew it was something I just had to do. He is used to me being so strong, so he knew I really needed this. He had never seen me in this state and knew I needed it.
I had to wait about 2 weeks before I could go because I had a lot of things o take care of at work. In preparation, I asked several friends, that I knew would REALLY pray for me—to pray that I would truly hear from the Lord, and be open to whatever He wanted to do or say to me. During that two week period that I anxiously waited, I had a remarkable thing happen in the night. Not once, but twice. Twice I woke up in the night, out of a dead sleep—and this is the thought that was bearing down hard on me, as if it had been said aloud to me: “Don’t look back—go forward”. (Is that you, Lord? It had been so long since I had heard from Him, I didn’t know if that was Him or not...) I began to get a little excited Surely He was directing me to go away—and He must have something good in store for me. But then the doubt would push itself back into my mind, and I just wasn’t sure.
Then another thing happened that was equally remarkable. Two of the emotions I was struggling with were feelings of guilt and failure. On the Sunday, 2 weeks prior to my retreat, our pastor preached on failure—how God uses even our failures, and turns them around for His good (like how Peter was such a big failure, denying Jesus the way he did before the crucifixion—but later, he was so filled with God’s Holy Spirit, and was so bold that he preached and 3,000 were added to the church in one day.) So, I thought, I wonder if the Lord is trying to tell me something here. But I wasn’t sure. The next Sunday, I was so bad off, that I actually couldn’t get out of bed. I felt like I was in quicksand, like I was drugged. So Michael said, “You stay here and sleep; I’ll go to church”. The night before, we had had this conversation—I was trying to explain to Michael why I needed to go away. He brought up the possibility of counseling, and I told him I was open to it. But then I thought about something I had heard about 20 years ago, from some pastor I don’t even remember, who said, “The institutions are full of people, and the psychiatrist’s couches are full of people who really can’t be helped. Because they feel guilty. The counselor or doctor can listen to them, can diagnose them, dole out medication to mask their feelings—but they cannot remove their guilt. Because there’s only One who can do that—God. Only God can remove our guilt, through His shed blood, and our acceptance of His sacrifice for us, our acceptance of His removal of our sin and guilt.” This is what I told Michael that night. Then I said, “I know where I need to go for help. I know He can do it. I just don’t know how receptive I’ll be.”
So that Sunday morning when I couldn’t get out of bed, Michael went off to church. When he came home, he had a strange look on his face. “You’ll never guess what the message was about. It was about guilt. And our pastor said exactly the SAME thing that you said last night, about the institutions and the psychiatrist’s couches being full, about them not being able to remove guilt—VERBATIM.” I couldn’t believe it! I hadn’t heard that for about 20 years—and I had never talked to Michael about it before!
The big day finally came. I had to work a half day, and I was out in the hallway talking to this guy, Dave, who I work with. I found myself telling him about my need to go away, that I felt like I needed restoration and healing. He looked at me and said, “Well, Nita, I feel like I’m supposed to tell you something. And this is it: Don’t look back—go forward.” I almost fell over. The same thing the Lord had told me those 2 times in the night! I got all excited and told him that that’s what the Lord had spoken to my heart in the night—and He was speaking to me again, through him! Now, it was Dave’s turn to nearly fall over!
I finally got on the road. I had my notebook, my Bible, and this book that was sitting on my shelf that I’ve had for about 25 years. Someone gave it to me, and I don’t ever remember reading it. I don’t even remember who gave it to me. The name of it is “Come Away, My Beloved”, and it is the beautiful writings of Frances Roberts, things God has spoken to her heart, along with scriptures.
That first night in Capitola, before I went to bed, I laid down and read some of the Psalms, and prayed a very simple prayer that the Lord would truly meet me the next day and speak to me, and heal and restore my soul. I still had this little nagging doubt, and a little fear that nothing was going to happen. But I would soon find out...And what happened over the next 3 days was so remarkable and amazing—it’s going to take some faith to believe the story.
I got up very early, and went out to the beach. I climbed up on these great big rocks facing the ocean, with the cliff to one side and this railing up above me next to the highway . I sat there, looked up, opened myself up completely to God, and said, “Ok, Lord, here I am...I’m all ears. If you want to speak to me...I’m listening”. I still get such a joyous feeling, every time I think about what happened next. The Lord began to speak to me, not just a little bit, not just a phrase or two—but torrents of words, like a flood over me! And as soon as He began to speak to me, that suffocating heaviness that I had felt every morning for months, that sadness, that grief—it lifted, in an instant! As God is my witness, it is true! When He began to speak to me, it was just as real as if He were sitting there right on the rock next to me, as if it were His audible voice I was hearing. He began to address every issue, everything I had been feeling. I felt His presence so strongly; it was like He took a bucket of joy and love and peace and just dumped it on me! I started laughing and crying—tears of joy! He spoke to my heart about heaven and how glorious it is—how all of the beauty I was seeing around me, the waves, the beach, the cliffs—all of this was nothing compared to what heaven was like. And then he told me that my mother and my sister were there with Him, and there was no reason for me to grieve any more. They were in absolute splendor! I caught just a glimpse of this, of how wonderful it was for them—and the grief and sadness just melted away...This went on for a couple of hours; as if time just stood still. It got to the point where I needed a rest from it! It was too much joy! But He knew I needed it. So badly. Well, over the next 3 days, He spoke to me about many things, about my son in prison, and other things, as well. He gave me so many object lessons. It was so wonderful. I felt completely free! I had been in such bondage! I shouted praises to Him over the roaring waves; I lifted my hands to him atop the rocks; I sang songs of praise to Him; and in the sand I wrote “Jesus loves you”. There were probably some people who thought I was nuts. But I didn’t care. When you are that bound up, and then you are set free—absolutely free—you want to shout it from the housetops!
And then there was the sunrise.
On my last morning there, I had such a desire to get up and watch the sun rise. . I’ve watched many a sunset, and I’ve been up early enough to watch the sunrise—but I had never gotten up with the express purpose of watching the sun rise. For some reason, I didn’t know why, this was really important. I didn’t have an alarm clock, and the first 2 mornings that I got up, it was early, but I missed the sunrise. So on the night before my last day in this wonderful place, I just simply prayed, “Lord, could you wake me up early enough tomorrow, so I won’t miss the sunrise?” And He did. I got up, and I didn’t miss it! I ran outside, with my notebook and my cup of tea, and sat down on the rock, and watched the sun, as it peeked it’s head just over the cloud, and slowly, slowly came into full view—a magnificent, golden orb, casting a beautiful corridor of light upon the water. The sight was so wonderful, so awesome, I began to cry. And the Lord said, “This sunrise is just for you, my child; because this is a new day for you, a new dawn”. It was beautiful beyond words.
A little later that day, as I made my way to the special rock where He had first spoken to me, He whispered to my heart, “Today, I am going to give you a special gift, something you are going to find, something I have hidden away.” Well, I was very curious, and right away I started looking at the ground, thinking I was going to find a $50 bill or some gold jewelry or something. As soon as that thought came to me, I had to laugh at myself for being so earthly minded! That wouldn’t be the kind of gift He was talking about! I climbed up on the rock, and reflected upon everything that had happened so far. I had spent a large portion of the day before reading the Psalms (which were so soothing to my soul), and also the book I had brought, “Come Away, My Beloved”. At this time, I felt like I was supposed to read that book. I sat there on that rock and opened the book—and I couldn’t believe what I just “happened” to read at that particular time. Here’s exactly what it said:
“For ye shall walk in newness of heart. With freshness of spirit shall ye serve Me ; for I shall revive thee and bless thee, and pour our My Spirit upon thee, and thou shalt know that it is the Lord. He it is that healeth thee and forgiveth thee thy transgressions, that setteth thee upon a rock and establisheth thy ways.”
When I got to that last line, I stopped. I read it again. “Setteth thee upon a rock.” What??? No way, it couldn’t be! And the Lord smiled (I could just feel it!) and He said, “That’s right. Remember, I am outside of time. 25 years ago, when I put this book in your hands, I knew that there was going to come a day, September 25, 1997, when you were going to be sitting here on this rock—and I timed this just right, just for you. This is the gift I was talking about, something I had hidden away for you, my child”. I was dumbfounded! Even the word “rock” which is always a reference to Christ and is always capitalized, was NOT capitalized. Because, yes, I believe it was referring to the rock I was sitting on right there. I thought, this is too fantastic! This is crazy! Who would believe this? I began to laugh and to cry—and you know what? I had the distinct feeling that the Lord was absolutely delighted with my response—the way a father is, watching his child open up a present he is sure will delight. He was going to such lengths to show how much He loves me! And not just me, but all of His children.
As if that wasn’t enough, later He did something even more incredible. It was my last day, and I would be going home soon. I was not disappointed about leaving. The Lord had gone way beyond my wildest expectations. I felt like I had partaken of a huge feast, and I was quite satisfied. In addition to the things He had spoken to my heart. He also gave me some very practical ideas about how to change some things in my life. His abiding peace was with me all the time. I knew that I would be going back to “reality”, and it wouldn’t be like this all the time. But I was confident that with the changes He spoke to me about, I would be able to simplify my life, and keep my focus on Him—turn to Him often—start my day with Him, think of Him throughout the day, ask Him for wisdom and guidance—and things would go well with my soul.
I was on my way to that same rock where He had first spoken to me. It would be my last time before I left. As I walked along the beach, I said, “Lord, this has been so great, so wonderful—I would sure love to find some kind of special rock or shell to take home with me, to remind me of this special time that we’ve had together.” I began to look around, and I didn’t see anything too impressive. Then my eyes fell on this shell, lying in the sand. When I picked it up, I saw that it was broken. Not what I had in mind. I said to myself, “Oh, it’s broken. I don’t want this one.” And then the Lord said immediately, “Yes, my child. It’s broken. Just like my body was broken for you.” Oh, Lord! Let me always see things the way you do!. Then He said, “Turn it over”. I slowly turned over the plain white shell and what I saw defied all reason. “Seeing is believing,” they say. I saw it, but I could hardly believe it. Tears of joy welled up once more in my eyes. The Lord’s voice was so tender when He said, “Do you see it? There’s the big rock where you’ve been sitting—and over to the side, there’s the cliff. Above the cliff, right there, there’s the railing, next to the highway.” I looked up, and saw the real life scene before my eyes, and looked at the shell, and there it was, just as He said. Impressions in the shell, and a little discoloration made a perfect picture of that special place where He first spoke to me, and healed me. Unbelievable, but true.
I have told this story to many of my friends—and when I take the shell out and show them, they marvel, and some have even cried. Coincidence? I don’t think so. I looked all around, and there wasn’t a single other shell around like that anywhere. Not even close. The others were just all white, no markings or impressions. How is it that I would find that particular shell, with those markings, that so perfectly matched that special place, at that particular time? Incredible? Yes. But my God created the Universe. He can do anything.
After I got home, I’ve experienced some wonderful changes in my life. I didn’t think I had time to start my day, early in the morning, reading God’s word and praying BEFORE work—but suddenly I was making it a priority. He also told me I needed to praise Him. Praise Him and thank Him for anything and everything. He told me I needed praise in my life for 3 reasons: 1) to acknowledge Him and give Him glory; 2) to lift my spirit; and 3) to use as a weapon against Satan, who has tried to destroy me and my family. I have found that reading His Word and getting out there and praising Him in those early hours has been glorious (even though I have NEVER been a morning person!)
His peace abides with me every day. It is so wonderful. I feel like shouting from the housetops the words to that old hymn: “He touched me, He touched me....And oh, the joy that floods my soul! Something happened, and now I know, He touched me and made me whole...”