victim & victory

The electric water heater hums as it preps for my morning french press. The windows in the sun-filled studio are cracked, bringing in the sounds of neighbors, birds, and the construction that has been on our street for a month. The pup runs laps in the yard, a blur of white fluff and loud barks. And as I sit on the back porch, watching the world warm up and slowly awake, I realize that this month marks an important anniversary.

Two years ago, on a flight home from a family vacation, I had a panic attack. Never in my life had I experienced this traumatic reaction in my body. There were many thing that led up to that point, a perfect storm that had been brewing for three years. But the months leading up to then were especially rocky. So as I sat on the plane, my body and my mind broke. For the next year I struggled with horrible anxiety and depression. It wasn't circumstantial, my body had literally reached a failing point that would require a complicated plan of attack and a team of professionals who would guide and assist. But for that year, I was lost, stuck in a haze so dense that I can not remember the majority of that time. 

One year ago, right after returning from Nicaragua, I began seeing my counselor and a new doctor. My family had met me in my lowest and began to pull in support from everywhere they could find it. This moment, the first time I walked into those new doors, it's when the fists went up and the fighting back began. 

The majority of my story is deeply personal and is known only by those closest to my heart.  It will most likely remain that way. But what I gleaned from these two years of darkness and healing is worthy of being shared.

You can't hold up the banners of victim and victory at thesame time. 

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 Victim had become a common banner, a flag I raised far too often. Somehow, it became second nature to wave white fabric in every area of my life. A banner that reads "victim" is one of fear. One of faithlessness. One of unmet demands. of jealousy. Of pretense. of self-imposed martyrdom. Granted, I was helpless against what happened. However, I didn't have to victimize myself. It took an entire year, plus a few months of serious counseling, to grieve over the year I lost. I wept for the year in my twenties I would never regain, for the silliness and joy that would never be. I wept over my inability to reach out for help, for the confusion I felt, for the diagnosis that made me feel shameful. I wept over every holiday I missed because my mind was adrift. Grief flowed from every pore and eventually I laid down the label and weight of being a victim.

When Jesus performed miracles, healing the bleeding women (Luke 8:43-48), restoring a paralyzed man (Luke 5:17-39), or saving a tax keepers soul (Luke 19:1-10), those individuals had a choice. They could lament over the time they lost, what their life would have been like if the circumstances had been different. OR they could boast. Not in themselves but in their healing from their Savior.

Not a believer? No problem. Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Corrie Ten Boom, Coco Chanel all faced horrible circumstances. But they didn't wallow in what happened to them. They progressed forward, and in that act brought many others to healing, freedom, and bravery.

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When we lay down the banner of victim, it frees us to grab the banner of victory. To proudly proclaim the hope we now have and march on toward the future with a fire in our eyes.  While the banner of victim is one of fear, and everything else I mentioned earlier, the banner of victory is one of joy. It's a banner of humility, recognizing the grace that got us through. One of power. One of selflessness. One of bold faith. The word victim is individual. THE WORD VICTORY IS UNIVERSAL. It offers hope to others who struggle, it declares that we are not defined by our conditions or circumstances. It removes our eyes off ourselves and places them outward. For many, on Jesus and his grace. But even if not, it puts our eyes on others, on how we pull people from the shackles of victim and into the heartbeat of victory. 

As I sat on the porch, a wonderful mix of crying and laughing began to happen. Because I realized that while it had been two years since my body broke, it had been a year since the fight for victory had started. And the sun warmed my face as I rejoiced over what the Lord had done in my life. Ellie ran fast chasing squirrels and my heart nearly burst with gratitude and disbelief. My hands were grasping a new flag and it was beautiful.

There is still a long way to go. I still have a great team of doctors and encouragers in place. But for now, I can boldly delight in an anniversary that at one point felt like prison sentence and now feels like a jubilee. 

Praise, praise praise. Raise those banners high, friends. Let's be flag carriers. 

 

Meredith Harper