To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
It is a little known fact that I tried to end my life. It’s not something I publicize often. Not because I’m ashamed of the fact, because I’m not! Rather, because there isn’t much opportunity to bring it up in a normal conversation. Yes, it is true. I tried to kill myself. But I’m not going to talk about that now. I am going to switch gears for a moment, but I promise I will get back to this. It’s too good of a story not to tell. (Yes, as crazy as this sounds, my attempted suicide was a good thing!)
Throughout the Bible, God is known by many names. These names show different facets of His nature, attributes, and character. These names show just how awesome, and powerful, and loving our God is.
A few of these names include:
Jehovah Rapha – The Lord our Healer
Jehovah Jireh – The Lord Provides
El Elyon – The Most High God
Yahweh Shalom – The Lord is Peace
My personal favorite: El Roi : The God Who Sees Me.
El Roi was Hagar’s name for God when He saw her affliction (Genesis 16:13). If you are not familiar with the story, Hagar was Sarai’s servant. When Sarai was unable to conceive, she gave Hagar as a wife to Abram so that she could have a family through her. When Hagar knew she had conceived, she began to treat Sarai with contempt. In return Sarai treated her so harshly, that Hagar saw it best of just run away. It was there, lost and alone that God found her. He saw her hurts. And He comforted her. She said “I have now seen the One who sees me.” But He didn’t want her to keep running. He wanted her to go back to Sarai and face the situation.
While Sarai saw Hagar as a mere slave girl; a person without worth or value in the eyes of most people, God saw Hagar for who she was, rather than what she was. And He cared about her, when it seemed that no one else did. How often is this true in our own lives, when others fail to really see us for us?
Going back to where I began earlier, I didn’t have many friends growing up. In fact, I really didn’t have any. I was too shy to go out of my way to make friends, and I spent much of my time alone in isolation, especially once I hit my teenage years. Around the age of 14, I found myself in a deep depression. I was so deep into it, there was no way out. Being bullied didn’t help either. That just made the feelings worse. All throughout middle school, and most of high school, I was taunted, teased, and bullied. For no good reason, other than that kids are mean! Even in a “Christian” school, kids can be very mean.
All I wanted, was for everyone to see me for who I am. Not for what I looked like (I wasn’t exactly the prettiest girl in school), or how I dressed. If they only took the time to know me, they would have seen that I was a nice person with a huge heart, and someone who liked to laugh and have fun. Instead, they chose not to know me, made judgements, and spread rumors.
It wasn’t long into my depression, when I began to cut. Sometimes I would burn myself. I still have the marks on my arm 18 years later. They’re not scars, I prefer to call them “battle wounds”. They are there to show that I am a survivor.
When cutting and burning became not enough to deal with my pain, I overdosed on pills. More than once. I don’t know how many times, to be honest. After so many times, you begin to lose count. I was desperate. I was desperate to die and feel no more pain. I remember at one time thinking I would be surprised if I lived past the age of 20. But at the same time, I was desperate for life. I was drowning in a deep ocean, and I wanted someone to see me and rescue me, because I was suffocating and could not ask for help. But everyone was blind to me, as if I weren’t even there.
In November of 1995, I went on a nightmare of a camping trip with my church youth group. To this day, I really don’t care for camping and I think this trip has a lot to do with it. There were 3 tents. Two for the boys, and one for the girls because there were fewer of us. The other girls made a huge deal out of who would sleep next to me in our tent, because no one wanted me in there to begin with. What a way to begin a “fun” weekend. We came back Sunday evening. Monday evening I overdosed again. I couldn’t take all the hatred anymore. I just wanted out of this life.
Obviously, since I am writing this, I did not die that night. Instead I spent the entire night throwing up in my bed, too weak to even get to the bathroom. And then I went to school the next day. Like I always did the next day.
My mom picked me up early from school that Tuesday afternoon. She was taking me somewhere, but I didn’t know where. We eventually pulled up to the emergency room, where I was greeted outside by my youth pastor. I was confused. I had no idea why I was there. My youth pastor pulled me aside and told me that after I went off to school, my mom went into my room and found my empty pill bottles on the floor, and my sheets and blanket bunched up in my hamper. I have to admit, I was furious that she even went in there. But it was part of God’s desperate plan in getting to me.
I was checked in to the ER, but there was little they could do at that point because I had already thrown up. All they could do was give me a nasty charcoal drink to hopefully absorb anything that made its way into my bloodstream. At that point, almost 24 hours after my overdose, I was still feeling a pretty huge buzz from the cocktail I swallowed the night before. They sent a counselor in to talk to me. I did not want to talk to her, but I bitterly told her all I had done to myself over the past year, my feelings of self-hatred and everything else. That night I was admitted into the behavioral center, where I would spend the next two weeks.
For most of those two weeks, I was bitter and angry that my parents would put me there. I did not belong there. I could not wait to get out. Individual counseling was okay, but I was extremely uncooperative during family counseling, where in at least one session the counselor told me to leave because of my attitude.
I think it was a little over a week into my stay, that I met God. And it wasn’t some generic, someone reads you a bible verse about salvation and says “Jesus Loves You” sort of thing. What I experienced, was very real, personal, and almost supernatural. The God I met, was the same God Hagar met while she was running away: El Roi.
To give a little background to what I am about to tell, there was a gentleman my parents only knew through telephone conversations. I don’t remember how they “met” to begin with, and it doesn’t really matter. But he and my parents formed a faceless friendship for a reason. God had a plan through this friendship. The night I found myself in the hospital, this man called my parents up and said he just felt as if he needed to call and asked if everything was okay. So they told him what happened with me. And that night, this man who I never knew of or met, who lived about 100 miles away, began to write. I don’t think even he knew what he was writing. The pen was just moving across 3 pages of yellow legal pad. A day or so later, he personally delivered this letter to my parents, where they met face to face for the first time. He asked them to deliver the letter to me.
I had the letter in my hands, and as I began to read, God was speaking to me in a very real, very personal way. And when I say personal, I mean PERSONAL. Three pages of things only I knew about myself. Things I kept hidden inside, away from everyone else. I am talking about specific thoughts, specific feelings, and situations that only I knew. So accurate, it was scary. How could this man I never met know all these things about me? The answer is simple. HE didn’t know. But GOD knew. God told him what to say to me, so I would listen to Him, because He had been trying to get my attention for a long time.
Unfortunately, somehow I lost the letter not long after I received it. I still kick myself to this day for not taking better care of it, and storing it a safer place. So I don’t remember everything that was written. But what I do remember very clearly, word for word, was the first paragraph, which I am about to share.
Listen to My word. For My word is True. Men may lie, but I do not lie, for I am the Truth. Listen, I have had my eye on you. And what I see in you is not what others see in you, or even how you see yourself. For My eyes are not clouded over with wrong judgement.
This was El Roi, the God who Sees, speaking to me. And when everyone else failed to see me, HE SAW ME. And He LOVED me, despite the fact I had been oblivious to His presence.
I don’t remember His exact words, but He told me I was never alone. That every time I thought I was alone, and I was crying, He was sitting right there with me, crying too. He wanted so badly for me to turn to Him, and rest my head on His shoulder. But that I didn’t even know He was there.
He went on to say that every time I heard voices that I couldn’t make out, it was Him speaking to me, but I just wasn’t listening. This was one of those “specific things” I was talking about. No one knew about this. Sometimes I’d insist that someone was quietly saying something I couldn’t comprehend, only to look around and find no one near me. He told me that when I do hear these noises, to stop, quiet myself, and listen, and I will hear His voice.
He also foretold me that there would times in the future I would face even more uncertainty and sadness. That I would feel like giving up. He told me when that time came, to come to Him, and He will keep me strong. I didn’t understand how that could be… I mean, my feelings were almost instantly reversed after reading His letter to me. But God is God, and He is always right. He knows my past, present and future. And like he said it would happen, those times of desperation came, even sooner than I expected.
I went back to school, and continued to be bullied. This time it was worse. When it became known what I had done to myself, I was labeled psycho. No one liked me before, but they despised me now. I even had a teacher go along with the cruelty. A teacher!! A person who should be trusted, stooped down to the level of my peers. This teacher called me a freak to my face. It was very hard to deal with. Feelings of worthlessness and suicide started surfacing again. I had to switch antidepressants because I started doing the same things I was doing before. I had forgotten to lean on God for strength. I was attempting to deal with it on my own.
Eventually, I remembered His words to me and I learned to lean on God again, like He asked me to, and trust Him to be my strength. Even when I wanted to give up. It is because of El Roi – the God who sees, that I’ve found the strength I needed to face life and live life.
Even to this day, 18 years later, circumstances arise and I think I am not strong enough to pull through. I feel weak in spirit and in faith, and I want to raise my white flag, and say “I give up!”. But God gives me the strength I need to face whatever comes my way. Whether its financial hardships, family or marital conflicts, infertility and the uncertainty of ever having a family, El Roi sees it all. He sees beyond what my own eyes and heart see. He sees beyond what others see in me. He loves me, and will never fail me. When things seem hopeless, he has a purpose for it. Every battle I go through, whether you see the wounds or not, plants a seed that grows into a living, flourishing tree that gives God all the glory.
I’m here today, alive to tell His story (It’s not my story to tell), because he saw a purpose in my life, even when I didn’t.