I realised once you accept the blessing you can understand God's rest, his peace
A few years back I was mega stressed and basically refused to let God talk to me. I got into the mindset of hating myself and this quietly spiraled over a few months to the point of trying every form of self-harm there is, I guess to try and make sense of pain, turmoil etc etc.
Not good. Turns out there's loads of ways to hate and destroy yourself, and none of them particularly work at sorting you out. Bummer! I hadn't lost my faith; I'd chosen to be the judge of me rather than let God do it.
This all came to a head and finally my brain popped and I was literally unable to speak for three days. It was pretty scary and I guess you could call it depression or a breakdown. Whatever it was, my mind just wanted to flatline for a while.
So I saw my GP and with help from my wife and family, a few days later found myself in a little retreat on the Pembroke coast where I didn't have to speak to anyone and I could just listen to God and primarily shut up for a bit.
I really clearly heard God say a few key things, and over three days there were ten massive coincidences and/or life lessons. After one such lesson I responded, "Alright God, that was a pretty cool coincidence, what shall I read now?"
Hebrews, He said. Alright, youre the boss.
So Hebrews explains the whole point of Jesus; what God was trying to do in the grand scheme throughout history. I thought I got this stuff but the truth is I'd rejected the idea that I was worthy of forgiveness. Hebrews kind of explains why God did what he did, what it means to be at peace, to accept grace.
Hebrews also references this bit in the Old Testament when Moses spritzes the Israelites with water as a symbol of God's blessing; a weird image that stuck in my mind. There are absolutely no references to depression or self-harm, so I was pretty sure it was all irrelevant until I got about halfway through.
So I went for a walk along the coast to get some decent thinking air. I'd jogged up the coast path and appeared on a massive high cliff and just stopped there for a minute and realised something: I felt fear for the first time in 12 months.
I heard God say, "What?"
So I replied, "I'm afraid of these cliffs."
"So that means?"
"It means... I must be worth saving, that I have value, the stuff in my head has a value!"
The thing about hating yourself is that you start to become numb to fear. I hadn't felt fear for about 12 months because I no longer thought I was worth anything. But when you relearn your value, you start to want to protect yourself a bit.
And God replied, "Bless that thought."
And right at that moment I got fully, bodily smashed with a wall of water.
I looked around to see where the water had come from. It wasn't raining and I was right on top of a massive cliff in the middle of nowhere! A freak gust of wind had blown up the cliff, lifted a stream of water over 20 feet of headland and smashed into me.
I immediately remembered the thing I'd just read the previous day, about Moses spritzing the Israelites when they were blessed.
"Goodness", I thought, "That was a coincidence!"
Racking my brains for the Hebrews reference to what comes after the water blessing spritzing thing, I realised once you accept the blessing you can understand God's rest, his peace. He's saying Were cool, while parting the curtain that gets in our way of the holy place: the peace which I craved most of all, the thing that would solve the turmoil in my brain.
Real peace is amazing, touchable stuff; its like gravy.
Really experiencing peace when you've just been generating turmoil is like that bit in Star Wars when C3PO comes out of the desert and gets into the oil bath and exclaims Thank the Maker! It soaks into you and displaces the stuff you thought would break your limbs apart and turn your heart into pemmican.
Peace is endless orders of magnitude beyond comfort or resolution. Not even ambition or self-judgement or ego or trauma can stand in its way.
Sam Cavender is Digital Media Officer for the Diocese of Bristol
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A new creation is everything! (Galatians 6:15)