The No Pants Dance
Every year on Christmas morning, after presents (and cinnamon rolls) had been gobbled up, we always ended the morning with a scavenger hunt. It was my favorite family tradition.
My siblings and I each had a personalized hunt written and planned by one of our parents, and it typically consisted of 3-4 clues that we'd have to find around the house; by tradition, one of the clues would always be hidden in our mailbox outside and we'd take turns running out to get it one at a time.
Now, this was December in Ohio, so we would all playfully complain about the cold as we slipped shoes on and wrapped blankets over our pajamas to run out to the mailbox and find our last clue.
And every single year, as the rest of us threw more layers on, one of my siblings (who will remain nameless) would strip all of his off and run out to the mailbox in nothing but his underwear to make us all laugh. We thought we were hilarious. Neighbors thought we'd lost our marbles. I like to think we were both right.
Thankfully, the tradition dwindled once we got older.
Running outside naked from age 0-12= Cute, funny, take pictures and end up in a scrapbook.
Running outside naked from age 15+= Not cute, definitely still funny, risk getting arrested, and end up in a youtube video gone viral.
No one wants that to be the reason for their big break. So as cooperative citizens of society, once we’re out of diapers, most of us pick our outfits out each morning because fashion is fun and expressive, or because we're cold, or we're warm. But mostly, we pick our outfits out because we try to avoid walking outside naked.
But for as much time as some of us spend putting together our outfits, it tickles me that we don't realize how every morning we put on not one, but two outfits. And I don’t mean doubling your socks because your feet are cold. I'm saying that we wear two very different kinds of outfits every single day, whether we realize it or not.
Typically, we only choose the outfit we slip onto our skin, but we aren't aware of the outfit we wear on our souls starting from the moment our feet hit the ground in the morning.
And the thing is, if I'm not choosing my soul-outfit for the day, who (or what) is? Is something or someone else dressing me? Am I soul-naked? What does that even mean?!
During some of the hardest years of my life, every morning as I’d attempt to get ready for another day, depression and anxiety made my soul-outfit look a lot like...
I can’t do this. Can’t do today.
I look ugly.
No one likes me.
I am too much.
I am not enough.
As I began taking baby steps toward recovery through counseling (looooooots of it), medication at some points, community, nutrition, and physical health, I wanted to have a closet of truth that I slipped on my soul every morning before depression had a chance to dress me for the day.
Mayyyybe at this point you’re rolling your eyes because you think I’m just another unoriginal blogger about to suggest “positive self-talk” as a real solution to deep sadness and strife (yawwwwn, we’ve heard it all before).
However, I think any “solution” to depression and anxiety is NOT one-size-fits-all and is just as multi-faceted as the condition itself. This isn’t your typical positive self-talk spiel. Cross my heart.
This is science and spirituality teaming up to be the best seamstress and stylist you've ever had. (#seewhatididthere? #alltheSWords)
In a book of the bible called “Romans," the author Paul says that you are to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2 NASB).
I’ve always been really confused by that because it sounds nice...in theory. But what the heck does “renewing my mind” actually mean in non-theologian terms?Like, can I have tangible steps and not mystical cloud language, please? Do I have to build a zen garden in my backyard and do deep-breathing excersises where I “inhale Jesus” and “exhale Satan” for an hour every morning?
I mean, come on. Is God being confusing just to see me run around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to uncover the true meaning of "renewal"?
Nope. That’s not it. He ain't about that life.
God is not confusing. He doesn’t trick, complicate or confuse. He brings peace and clarity (1 Cor 14:33). He’s actually quite clear if we’re willing to pull our heads out of our butts for a second and listen (I can’t back that part up with scripture, sorry.)
In a different translation, that mind-renewal passage is worded in a way that made it all click for me one day: “be transformed into a new person by changing the way you think.” (NLT).
Now waaaaaaaaait just a hot second. Did that just say what I think it said?
New person? By changing how I think?
Yep. Self-talk. Mindfulness. All the things we talk about now like they are some amazing new-age discovery for mental health, while in fact God’s been telling us to do this for one bajillion years.
The amazing thing is that we can not only have our minds renewed, but we can literally be transformed into a new person with new chemical flows, chemical balances, and thought patterns. What we often forget is that God isn’t some obscure floating orb in the sky. He’s personal. Intentional. And He’s also the first-ever chemist and OG psychologist.
Once we grasp that, it's easier to see how we over-complicate the idea of “chemical antidepressants." Yes, chemical antidepressants can be pills (and can play an important part in recovery in some cases), but chemical antidepressants are also a million other things. Did you know that the process you are undergoing right now to read these words is purely chemical?
Pause right now, and picture a pink puppy. Do you have one in your mind? I thought of a mini-Clifford, only pink instead of red.
Poof! Your brain just whipped up the perfect chemical concoction necessary to picture a pink puppy.
So, every thought you have is not just a thought-bubble floating in mind-space or hippie-dippie positive (or negative) self-talk, it's also literally a chemical concoction. (You can read more about this concept in Dr. Andrew Solomon’s book “The Noonday Demon.”)
In fact, our thoughts are SO powerful and SO chemical, that studies have shown that when a person sits perfectly still but simply THINKS about moving a particular muscle, the microscopic fibers of that muscle respond as if it were moving. With zero actual movement whatsoever.
Do we believe that the God who created our inmost being is both the King Spiritual Guru AND the King Chemist? Because He so is.
He gives us tools for spiritual peace and chemical and neurological peace. And it doesn’t have to feel like rocket science.
Our thoughts are chemical concoctions God gifted us in order to renew our minds, bodies, and souls.
I’m sure by now you can guess that this can be both good and bad, though. We aren't robots and God doesn't choose our thoughts for us -- so some thoughts will produce chemicals that make us feel good, and other thoughts will produce chemicals that make us feel like caca.
(Caca is poop, incase you weren't sure).
So, today, try paying attention. What outfit are you putting on your soul? What chemicals are flowing like a river as a result of that outfit? God has given us incredible, loving, practical tools, like fashion and chemicals. He’s so hipster.
What if you tried on a truth outfit today? Maybe it’s, “I don’t have to be perfect and crush a 50-item to-do list in order to have significance and value.”
Say it out loud. Write it on your hand. Wear it all day long.
Say it and think it even when you don’t believe a single word of it or it just feels super uncomfortable (like those just-out-of-the-dryer jeans that you have to propel yourself into the air for so that on the way down the force of gravity squeezes each butt cheek in and you seriously wonder if you gained 18 pounds overnight. You haven't, they just need worn in.)And If you wear your truth outfit long enough, it just might start to fit perfectly.
Just like simply THINKING about moving a muscle engages the fibers without any actual movement, thinking your “truth outfit”, even if you don't believe it, will cause a neurological chemical reaction as if you did believe it. And it will slowly become easier to believe as more of the warm fuzzy chemicals flow your way.
To wrap things up I'd love to let you in on 4 of the soul-outfits I slipped on often in the middle of some of my hardest days (weeks, months) of depression--and still wear proactively to this day.
These are scripture passages from the Bible that I think have the power to actually change my brain chemistry (remember; God is both spiritual guru AND king chemist.) But if that’s not your jam, you can easily find other truths that resonate with you.
4 Soul-outfits to slip on when you’re depressed or anxious:
1. God isn’t disappointed in me. He isn’t offended by my lack of praise for Him during this season of stress or sadness. He doesn’t want me to slap a smile on to just look like a “good Christian who’s filled with joy.” He just wants me to let Him be near to me.
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” -Ps 34:18
2. Even though I may often feel lonely, I am not alone. God has positioned people in my life to help lift me when I cannot stand, I just have to be willing to open my door and let them in. God is also with me, in my midst, and sings over me because of how much He loves me. He sings over me when I don’t have the strength to sing. I am never alone. And even on my ugliest days, God is giddy about me.
“The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” -Zeph 3:17
3. This won’t last forever. I can remind my soul confidently that even if I’m not full of praise right now, I will be again soon. This season is temporary. There's hope to hold on to.
“Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation” -Ps 42:5
4. He loves me just as much when I’m depressed as when I am full of joy. It doesn’t matter how up and down I may be, God is always the same, and when I feel the most unstable, I can lean into his stability.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”-Isa 40:8
“Every good gift and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." -Ja 1:17
Some days, I didn’t believe these things. Some days, I said and “wore” these outfits over and over again, even though the words felt empty. I repeated them until the lies depression was trying to convince me to wear fell to the ground.
So let’s choose our outfits with love and intention. Lets be empowered with the knowledge of the chemical-gifts God has given us to change and renew us from the inside out. We can ditch the "clothes" that weigh us down and dance freely. As free as as an 8 year old running to a mailbox in his underwear.