A guest post by Janet Eriksson . . .
I was feeling out of sorts. Exhausted, but worse. No sense of life. No desire to do anything. Just felt dead inside, like my life had come to a halt.
When thinking about something I might want to engage in, I kept saying things like, “I don’t know” and “I don’t care.” As someone who had always loved writing and teaching, I heard myself saying, “I have nothing more to say. There’s nothing I can or want to write or teach anyone. I’m done.”
I thought my recent vacation would help — and it did alleviate my exhaustion. But it didn’t change my lethargy, my lack of desire to do anything more with my life. When I returned home from my wonderful vacation time, I felt refreshed for sure. But inside, my pulse was still silent.
I told God, “I’m here because You put me here. There’s nothing more I want to do. So, I’ll just be here. But that’s it. Otherwise, I’m done.”
Oddly, I didn’t feel done. I couldn’t imagine going through the rest of my life feeling this way. Although I kept saying I didn’t care, that wasn’t true. I really did care. But I couldn’t stir up any sign of life inside of me. I just felt flat-lined. I wasn’t depressed. I hadn’t lost hope. I just felt nothing.
I even wondered if I were really saved. I went through the list of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and came up 0 for 9. How is it possible to be saved and not detect any hint of the fruit of the Spirit?
Yesterday, as I pondered what I was feeling, I realized this sense of lifelessness had come on pretty recently and abruptly. Not too long before, I had been actively engaged in Bible study, writing articles, creating a new course to teach. Suddenly, the lights had gone out, and I had quit everything.
I started asking God, “When did this begin?”
As I sat pondering, a friend texted that she had me on her calendar for a prayer ministry session that night. How odd. We had never talked about it or scheduled anything. But I was free, so I told her we could do it.
Meanwhile, I tried to figure out when this lethargy had started. I checked my calendar and emails to find evidence of when I had quit everything. Discovered that everything shut down for me right after my birthday about six weeks ago. Life just came to a screeching halt.
“Okay, Lord. Why would my birthday trigger a total shut down?”
At first, I couldn’t think of anything that was triggered on my birthday. It was a great day with friends and a puppy, and I thought 55 was a cool number. Biblically, 55 means “double grace.”
As I kept saying the number, a memory surfaced. In all the years of my marriage, I had told my husband I couldn’t wait to be age 45-55. He had thought that was strange and asked me why.
I told him, “Because that’s the age when you’re finally old enough to have a voice, be listened to and taken seriously. And you’re not so old that you’re done and no one listens to you anymore.”
Oh, wow. I had locked myself into something there. That was clear.
Right about that time, my friend called for my prayer ministry session. I told her God had already started. I explained how I had been feeling and what the Lord had just revealed.
“Why did you choose that age range?” she asked.
I had no idea, so she asked the Lord to show me.
All I could see was me sitting on the couch in my first home with my parents as a kid, watching TV as we did every night.
“What age were they?” she asked.
I was conscious of that evening activity in that house from about age 5 to 12, and after that, we had moved away. That would have put my mom at age 45 to 52. Interesting! My dad was 11 years older, out of the range altogether, so we realized this was about my mom.
“What changed after that?”
“Well, after we moved, my dad’s health declined. He wasn’t around much longer. My mom was 55 when he died.”
Ding ding ding.
Clarity from the Lord came tumbling in. When my dad died, my mom died in a way too. She shut down. Quit everything. Was dead inside. Just like I have been the past weeks after turning 55.
My dad’s death was sudden, when I was 15. As a teenager, I had gone into a depression afterwards, and I had always thought the shock of his death was the cause. In that moment, I realized, “I wasn’t depressed because of my dad. It was because of my mom. I really needed her to be alive. And she just died inside. At 55.”
It’s obvious now that she was grieving, but I didn’t understand any of that back then. All I knew was she quit life just as suddenly as my dad did.
On my mom’s side of the family, we also had a generational curse of “death wish,” which means not choosing and embracing life (Deuteronomy 30:19). I have long since repented on behalf of the generations to break that curse and to choose life. In my mom’s last year on earth, God dealt with her directly on choosing life as well. But at the time of my dad’s death, that generational curse, that lack of choosing life was still operating. So my mom had that going against her as well, on top of her grief.
I told my prayer minister, “I really wanted my mom to remarry. To reengage in stuff. To do something that showed a sign of life. When my dad died, I desperately needed life. And she refused to show any sign of it.”
My dad had always been the one to bring life to her. Whenever he wasn’t at home, she was out of sorts, like a deflated balloon. When he was around, she filled back up with life. When he died, the first thing I thought was Who is going to breathe life into her? Because the one who breathed life into her is gone.
As I shared that with my prayer minister, I realized I needed to repent for saying that because it was sinful to say my dad breathed life into my mom. It was God who breathed life into her, and He was still there. So, I exchanged that lie for the truth.
Meanwhile, I realized I had judged my mom for quitting on life, for shutting down and not reengaging. Basically, I judged her for grieving, not knowing what grieving was all about, that it was a healthy and vital part of healing. I knew I had judged my dad for dying, and I had repented for that in a previous session. But I didn’t realize I had judged my mom for dying inside, for choosing to quit living, even though she was still alive.
From that judgment, I locked myself into the same behavior, including pronouncing the age (55) after which I would have nothing to say and not be heard anymore. In other words, I had an expectation, based on the way I judged my mom, which locked me into the same behavior I judged her for. (See Matthew 7:1-2 for why that happens.)
So, my judgment of my mom carried with it an expectation that life ends at 55. I was unaware I had created that expectation in my heart. But it affected me nonetheless. My heart had locked me into that behavior, and when I turned 55, that judgment and expectation kicked in. I had also subconsciously determined (made an inner vow) that I wouldn’t have anything to say after turning 55, which added another bolt to the lock.
Because of all that, in the past weeks since my 55th birthday, I had shut down and stopped living inside, just as my mom had done at the same age.
My prayer minister asked how long that shutdown had lasted for my mom.
“Two years.” Which is actually the minimum time for grieving. “Then a job opened up in the church office, and she went for it and was hired.”
I remembered what it was like when my mom took that job. She came alive in a way I had never seen. She became a person I had never met. Joyful! Her name was Joy (my dad’s nickname for her was Joyful), and it was the first time I had seen her really living her name.
My whole childhood, she often seemed miserable at home, even more so when my dad was at work. Because she didn’t want to be at home. She wanted to be working. She had told me all this before she died.
When I was born, she was forced to quit her executive secretary job, a job and a lifestyle she loved and was good at. It was the way of corporate life for women in the 1960s. At her company, when a woman got pregnant, she was out. Except my mom didn’t know that would happen. She had planned to go back to work. The news that she couldn’t, that company policy prevented it had caught her off guard.
I knew all that, and I knew she was often miserable while I was young. But I had never connected the two. When she took that church office job at 57, not only did she come back to life after grieving her husband for two years. She also came back to life in a way I had never seen. She stepped back into who she really was, the person I had never met. Joyful!
I told my prayer minister how my mom thrived as a working business woman, as an executive secretary. She was a totally different person, filled with so much life. Really, she should have been the one who was working the whole time I was growing up, and my dad should have stayed home.
Everything my dad liked to do was at home. His heart was literally too weak for the stress of his job. He loved the hands-on engineering work he had started in, the tinkering with electronics. But when he moved into management, it was all about numbers and corporate politics and pressure. The workplace literally killed him. Yet that’s the environment where my mom thrived.
“Once my mom took that job, our relationship changed tremendously for the better,” I told my prayer minister, as I made these connections for the first time. “I enjoyed being with her after that. I liked who she really was. It was wonderful watching her flourish. And she had always loved the church, so it was the best environment to do the work she loved.”
Eventually, she retired. She hadn’t necessarily planned to stop at retirement age, but they brought in computers. She didn’t want to learn them and said they would make her eyes go bad. I realized I had judged her for that too, and I quickly repented because I’ve been noticing how the computer has affected my eyesight. I thought I’d better repent for my judgment, so my eyes don’t get worse!
When she retired, the senior pastor devoted his column in the church newsletter to her. He titled it “The Joy Is Gone.” How amazing now to realize it was during her years of working at the church that I got to meet the real Joy and see her living fully in joy.
What a privilege to have experienced that season of life with her. And what a blessing to make those connections and recognize it now.
It was interesting to realize that in the past week of my vacation, the memory of my mom taking that job had come to my mind, seemingly out of the blue. And I had realized she was 57 (older than I am now) when she went back to work for the first time in 17 years.
(By the way, 17 is a number that also came up in my prayer ministry session last month, and it means victory and starting a new season in life — a number reinforced on my vacation by listening to the cicadas, who haven’t been heard from in 17 years. I love how God uses numbers to help us connect the dots.)
So, even last week while I was on vacation, God was laying the groundwork for this healing by bringing that memory to me.
Also, during my vacation last week, I was puppy sitting. And in this session, I recalled that I was also puppy sitting right after my dad died. I remembered thinking at the time at least the dog had life, where my mom didn’t. I looked forward to walking down the street twice a day to take care of Fluffy.
My neighbor, Fluffy’s owner, had said she was sorry about my dad dying. She said, “You and your mom are going to be best friends.”
I nodded and thanked her, but I thought, Not likely. Yet how prophetic her words turned out to be.
So, God was using all those circumstances during my vacation last week to bring these deep, unhealed wounds and memories to the surface so He could heal them.
With my prayer minister, I prayed to break the judgments and to renounce the vow and break its hold off of me. I repented for all those things I said too, like “I don’t care,” “I have nothing more to write or say,” and “I’m done.” As my prayer minister then prayed over me, I felt this huge smile creep over my face.
“The joy is back!” I told her.
I started laughing and immediately felt like myself again, even better than before. I felt life taking over my entire being and felt like I wanted to live again. Instantly, the lethargy was gone.
I kept interrupting my prayer minister’s prayer, which is something I don’t usually do. I told her, “Sorry I keep interrupting. Clearly, I have things to say again!”
And just like that, life returned to me full force, along with the joy I had lost or, I guess, temporarily misplaced. (And as I write those words, I remember a friend prayed last week for God to show me a lost item. I had lost something in the yard, but apparently her prayer went deeper than I could have imagined. Amazing how God orchestrates all of this for our healing. By His revelation, not only did I find the item in the yard, but I also found my joy again.)
“Thank You, God, for restoring my joy. That’s one fruit of the Spirit that has returned.” (Remember, a week ago, I was 0 for 9 on the fruit of the Spirit.)
In her wisdom, my prayer minister said, “The Holy Spirit has been there all along. You had simply shut the door on Him. At least it didn’t take you two years to come back. Just two months.” She expressed her gratitude for the way God heals and for the healing community we’re part of.
I told her I was grateful to have experienced those dead feelings for a short time because they helped me understand a little better what my mom was going through. And I am thankful for God showing me why my mom was like a fish out of water while I was growing up. And that He gave me the privilege to meet the real Joy in my late teen years. What a blessing.
Where the enemy had tried to shut both my mom and me down with generational death wish, instead now I can celebrate our generational blessing: “The Joy of the Lord has returned.”
And the writing of this testimony the next day is further evidence of my healing. Apparently, I do have something to write and say. Praise God!
Janet Eriksson is an intercessor, writer, and teacher in Dahlonega, Georgia. She loves conversation with friends, front porch swings, sweet tea, and spending time on lakes and rivers. The author of nine books and editor of many more, Janet blogs and teaches online at https://adventureswithgod.blog/.