The healthy schizophrenia of the Spirit

Like most of us, when I’m hurt, I get mad.

Some people vent their anger yelling; my old boss punched walls and threw phones; some people cry, some go take a run or a cold shower.

But when I get mad I get very, very quiet.

Don’t get me wrong–I have a million potentially damaging phrases roiling inside, pressing at the walls of my heart and begging to be let out. But I know that if I open my lips, daggers will fly–so I clench them shut. I retreat inside myself.

Funny how in the moment of anger, nothing seems important except causing pain–either to the person you’re mad at, or to yourself–it almost doesn’t matter. In these moments, vulnerability seems like folly, so I consciously build a wall. I tell myself: I don’t care how much damage this wall does–I just don’t want to be exposed again. I make myself unresponsive and cold, because it’s the only way I can contain the volcanic heat in my heart–by surrounding it with blocks of ice.

But while the main force of my emotions and thoughts is caught up in this protective and harmful endeavor, there’s something else going on: a little voice right offstage. This is no bullhorn, no elocutionist, no long-winded politician–this voice is quiet and small and meek.

I can feel that this little voice wants to cry out to God, but I’m too furious to even want to pray, much less to articulate a complete sentence heavenwards.

So the little voice just says “help.”

Just one word.

I’m so weak at these times. In the heated moment itself, I don’t have the self-control to pray for reconciliation, or the softening of my own heart, or anything else–but somehow a small part of my heart can cry that simple word: help.

And what a powerful word–it’s the tiniest channel, but that little peephole of an opening is enough for a powerful God to push through, open up the prison even as I’m building it, and tear it all down. Unclench my fists. Calm the volcano, melt the ice.

God doesn’t require a long prayer from me at these times, or outward signs of repentance, or even an apology. He doesn’t wait for me to cry, or kneel, or talk, or say “I’m sorry” to him or to anyone else–just that one word help sets him in motion, and he runs to me.

I believe the part of me that cries “help” when I don’t have the strength to say anything else is the Spirit in my heart. I’m afraid to even imagine what I would become if it was just me in there, in the corner, refusing to budge, closing myself off with all of my efforts. I would soon construct a prison that would be so hard to demolish that it could stay up for days. Weeks. And eventually, as I built on and added thickness to the walls during moments of anger and hurt, I could be closed off for years. For life.

I thank God for the Spirit in my heart, who looks after me so well. Who is antithetical to the part of me that wants to inflict pain and suffering on myself and others. Who is antithetical to the part of me that refuses help, that wants isolation.

“The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)

“For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” (Galatians 5:17)

Yes–it’s a little schizophrenic. I’m in conflict within my own spirit. I am of two minds. But if I were of one mind with myself and was 100% invested in my own feelings and thoughts moment to moment, God save my soul!

“So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:21-25)

10 thoughts on “The healthy schizophrenia of the Spirit

  1. Kimby

    Jenna, I agree with you completely — the wounds, the walls, and the way we deal with them. Then there was that tiny word: help… I love that. I love this post. And I love the JOY on your face in that photo! Happy, Happy Thanksgiving, my friend. May your day be as blessed as you’ve made mine!

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  2. Elspeth @ paper armour

    Thank you for this. I could have written every word for how much I identify with it, but you gave me new insight into what I experience every time I feel hurt and small and start shutting down. That the small plea for help (that’s the only thing I can say too!) is coming through the Spirit inside me. That God is able to heal me because He is in my heart. That gives me so much peace on a crazy day when I can only get through because I know that God is so good.

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  3. Suzie

    Wonderful post Jenna. I really enjoyed reading this and also learning from this. I need to ask for help more often, instead of harboring things, I will keep this story in mind…and thought. Thank you.

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  4. Tonya

    I love serving a God so personal, so ready to jump to our rescue when we ask. Being the gentleman that He is, He’d never just push His way through the crowded thoughts; demanding us to call on Him. No, instead He gently calls our name “Tonya, I’m here, let me carry this hurt for you…” and as soon as we breath a yes (or help!), He is there, gathering us in His loving arms. Hallelujah!

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  5. Veronica Miller

    Wonderful post, Jenna, and I love the scripture and photo you ended it with. I wish I would get quiet when I’m mad, and sometimes I do, but I usually to blurt hurtful things. Thankfully, however, I always overcome my anger and apologize, but although I’m forgiven, those words can’t be unsaid, you know? Thankfully, also, I only blurt the hurtful things to the people I love the most and who love me the most and we are pretty good at hurting and forgiving each other by now. haha! I’m glad that little voice inside of you can still call for God’s help. I think I have that voice too, but I’m better at keeping it quiet for longer periods (better isn’t a good thing, in this case). It always finds it’s voice, though. :)

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  6. Layla

    When I read that your old boss would punch walls and throw phones… my mind immediately remembered all the broken chairs and headsets at the call center LOL, I’m assuming you’re talking about who I think you are? 😀

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