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Navigate Life - Sarah's Blog

20 Jan 2024

Birthdays, Death and a Sandal!

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Recently I have felt prompted to pray for God to heal the snakes in my mind. By snakes I mean all the wrong thinking (lies) that have become sneakily attached to my mind over the years. This has been something that I have become aware of and born out of a conviction deep down inside me that won’t go away and out of desperation. Conviction because I saw a picture in my mind when I was praying of many snakes(lies) hanging around from the past and desperation because of my love for God becoming more and more in conflict with what my mind has been holding on to.

My thinking about Jesus, life, myself, and others constantly need restoring and renewing to line up with what God says. I have believed so many lies over the years and when God reveals what they are I’m beginning to learn how to let go of them. I am so grateful that God reveals what is wrong in me but why is it that so often the lies that I have believed often come with pain and revelation deep inside my heart? Am I grateful to God when he reveals the painful lies? Id like to say that I am, but it is also a process of letting go that can take time. I’m always grateful on the other side of pain and am learning to be grateful for the restoration that only God can bring.

2 Corinthians C10 v5 says we destroy arguments and every pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

What if then, my experiences of past trauma and suffering have been an opportunity to heal, become vulnerable, take captive toxic patterns, develop a relationship with God and come to a place to surrender, trust and obedience? I can feel grateful for that!

What if I stopped running away from the anxiety that I have lived with since I was 8 years old. What if God was with me in my anxiety? What if God has been with me all along and is not punishing me?

You see, I have many snakes and the biggest one of all is around birthdays and death! My birthdays have been far from happy.

This time of Year, January, and February there is so much in my family around death and trauma. It’s like my body prepares for death in a way, almost longing for it, sometimes trying to escape from it but always trying to take control of it. I love God and know he is in control, yet I still fear the pain of loss because of the unexpected agony it has brought to me and those that I love. The truth is that death could happen at any time like it did for me in a very personal way at a time in my life before I met the real Jesus.

Happy Birthday

When I was 7 years old my sister Ann died. I watched my beautiful sister (like a mother) struggle for breath sat on the bottom step of our terraced home as she waited for an ambulance. She had asthma. I watched her face closely, I saw her fear, panic, and helplessness. I watched carefully (no one spoke) as she smiled when I said be quick because we are going to the pictures tomorrow. I saw her soiled dressing gown as she gasped for breath wondering why she couldn’t just go to the bathroom and why my mum was cleaning her up in silence. Why did I feel that I was under water?

She went off in an ambulance (I think) and did not come home. That was the end of that! Her life ended at 19 years.

I heard a scream from my mum that no child should ever have to hear. All my senses were heightened as fear entered the Fleming house and took root. My whole family changed in an instant. Fun became fear, Peace became conflict, connection became addiction, and love became manipulation. My sisters and brother dealt with the shock of this in different ways. One sister was only two and had a mother grieving, one sister was 18months older than Anne, my brother was a teenager who suffered his own trauma.

The day my sister died was a day we all died. It was the day before my birthday. Anne had planned a special visit to the cinema to watch Grease and had spent weeks telling me that I could eat as many sweets as I wanted. I can’t remember if I went to watch the film. If I did I have no memory of who took me and can’t remember eating sweets. I can remember my sisters open coffin very clearly. The peach-coloured silk material that wrapped around her body like a decoration leaving only her face and hands exposed. I remember her blue skin and closed eyes that wouldn’t open and a memory of someone in the distance saying, “isn’t it a shame for Sarah, she doesn’t understand what’s happening.” The truth is I didn’t understand what was happening. Why did my sister not open her eyes when I stroked her face, why was she so cold? People spoke of her being in Heaven and I was torn between wanting to go there and hating God for taking her away. My thoughts towards God were of a kind of confusion that developed into hatred over the years. No one told me that God loved me. They only said look at the star that is your sister. I thought how ridiculous, my sister is not a star. She has disappeared and rejected me just like God.

Since that day, many lies have sprung up deep down inside. Birthdays became anxieties as the child in me blamed herself as I believed that people I cared about would die because of me, would die because it was my birthday and therefore, I needed to control death. God was punishing me so I must be a really unlovable horrible person. As an adult looking back of course this is irrational, but the trauma stays with you. The hatred becomes overwhelming, the fear and control become too big to live with. I believed the lies. I became the lies. My identity was in lies. In fact, I didn’t know the difference between truth and lies until I met with Jesus and started to share my thoughts with others.

I often have a sense of loss and fear like an anticipated separation from love. A fear that disconnects me from life, from my body and certainly from my emotions. It is my birthday next week as I am writing this and my brother’s birthday tomorrow. The anxiety has been present in my body and mind for a few weeks in birthday anticipation. It’s strange how trauma can stay in the body.

With and without God

Without God the pain has been unbearable around death. (There has been so much death for my family and around the people I love ( maybe to talk about another time) but I know that my relationship with Jesus has shown me that there is still pain to be healed in me as there is in all of us and yet we can experience so much joy too. How is that possible? I have a hope deep down inside that I never had before and as the anxieties of life past and present will continue to come and go, I know that I am never alone. I find myself so grateful that my relationship with Jesus and others shows me who I am, who I need (Jesus) and helps me to have faith to trust in what Jesus says about me rather than the lies I’ve inherited. What a joy! I can have peace and truth even if it’s painful. I can give to God what is his to carry and let go of the snakes. Who am I to think I can carry the pain anyway! Its way to heavy.

What would I be without Trauma and grief? Is the pain so connected to love that I hold it? I will leave you to answer that one for yourself and your circumstances.

I love how God constantly challenges what I believe about life and death, He shows me the snakes in my mind so that he can renew them. I have tried therapy, medication, food, work, substances, people, mindfulness, Buddhism, spiritualist churches, positive thinking, Stoicism, atheism, Reiki, and many more things to find truth and peace and some of these things helped for a little while. They never lasted though.

My relationship with Jesus has shown me that he is with me in all my circumstances, and I’m learning not to hide or run too far from him. I can be still and know that He is God. Yes, my mind has of course been affected by many things and God reminds me when my thinking is out of line with his. The triggers of the past that still live in my mind and body are amazing reminders that I need God and can present everything to him, even the snakes. Romans 12 says:

“Therefore I urge you, brothers, and sisters, in view of Gods mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – This is your true and proper worship. Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

For years I thought God was punishing me until I met Jesus personally. He is real, he is loving, and he shows me who I am too. My triggers and emotional pain keep me running to him as I realise, I cannot change my own mind and behaviour, but God can.

The sandal exchanges

Praying a few weeks ago I had a picture in my mind of a large pair of sandals and trying them on as a child. The sandals belonged to Jesus, and I was walking in them with him. In Ruth Chapter 4 there is a ceremony of the sandal. This was in the Old Testament when a sandal was given in exchange for something, a way of sealing a deal. I love the idea of a deal especially if it’s a bargain. I can’t cope with paying over the value of what something is worth. It’s probably because I’m from parents and grandparents that rationed everything in the “make do and mend” culture after the war. Imagine exchanging a sandal as a deposit for a house? I would be up that. I could hop home with a few blisters. I see Jesus in the sandal. He gave up something in exchange for us. He sealed the deal with his life so that people could know him.

I love the idea of a spiritual, emotional, and physical exchange. I can exchange my snake of conflict for Gods peace, addiction for a relationship with Jesus and healthy relationships with others. I exchange manipulation and control for love. I exchange my need for self- centred living and surrender my faults daily to God. I exchange death for life because death has been defeated. I can live free and have a life now and eternally. Psalm 40 v 2:

“He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire, he set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand”

My hope for anyone reading this who has trauma and grief and who are struggling with life would be to ask God who he says you are. All those years waiting for the water to be stirred and for someone to put you in the pool when Jesus has been there all along. (John 5) I really do believe that people heal together, and they don’t need to be alone. I pray anyone reading this knows that they can find the courage and strength to reach out and find a church community. I pray you begin sharing the pains and joys of life as you receive Gods healing love together. There is a link to COTS church on the blog. Please reach out if you need support.

God Bless

Sarah xx