The zone of proximal development is the period between what one can already do, and what they strive to do. Lev Vygostky proposed this concept within his theory of development. I’ve learned about this at school, in childcare at tafe, in teaching at uni and again over this last semester in psych. But wasn’t until the other night that I began piecing together the similarities between Vygostky’s zone of proximal development, and the concept God taught me whilst reading a devotion by Ann Voskamp many months ago. I don’t know if you can recall on previous blog posts, but I often refer to the concept of God giving me what I need to get through each season. Where even if the worst thing I can imagine comes to pass, He would still be there to get me through. The zone of proximal development that I often find myself amidst, comes in the form of a period where I am trying to venture toward something; often a search for safety and security in God, trust, faith, or more recently recovery. These are all things that my heart longs for, but that I am still learning how to achieve. It’s within this zone that God scaffolds me and gives me what I need to get through.
These last few years have been some of the most turbulent that I’ve ever walked through, I feel like it’s only natural to seek peace amidst the storms but so often I have run from peace because I’ve felt undeserving and ashamed. Earlier this year God and I transitioned into a period of vulnerability, there I learned how to allow God to remove my bricks. It’s nearing the end of the year and He still has to remove a brick every now and then, but I’m learning that that’s okay too. Something God’s been doing as He removes my bricks that are not of Him, is that He has slowly started to replace them with what I call ‘heart bricks’. My heart bricks form a shield of protection that God places around my heart, one that keeps me safe and secure in Him. I have heart bricks for faith, trust, hope, all the concepts He has taught me; that I am fearfully and wonderfully made, that He is my Home, that I am loved unconditionally. Over the months God has created a fortress around my heart and with that He has built strength to withstand the turbulent storms that otherwise once would have drowned me. The most recent heart brick God has blessed me with has been peace.
When we think of peace, we all picture something different. Peace manifests itself in different ways and presents to us all uniquely. For me peace has looked like returning to the riverside after months to sit with Jesus, it has looked like uncontrollable laughter and unexplainable joy. But let me tell you that peace has also looked like crying in the bathroom stall at church the night before Christmas, it’s looked like screaming riverside and begging God to hold me, sobbing in pain after a meal and desperately resisting the urge to engage with Gollum. Peace is Jesus and Peace has met me in each of these circumstances. When I think back to afternoons spent with my Jesus by the riverside, I picture peace. When I recall the way my heart broke as I said goodbye to T, all that stands out through the whole process, is peace. When I remember how I felt the first moment I saw my weight after months of blind gain, I can feel how Peace flooded by being. If I think of my life over these recent weeks, all the brutal and the beautiful moments, they all point to God and work to form a perfect picture of peace.
A while ago I ended a post by saying that Jesus tells us that He is our peace. I always thought that it meant that I could find a sense of peace in Him, and whilst yes, that may be true, I am also learning that peace isn’t so much a place or a feeling; it’s a person. Jesus is Peace. We can’t arrive to a place of peace, our hearts can’t travel into a sense of peace. The truth is that peace is a Person that we can abide in, a Person who offers the deepest peace because He is Peace. The broken pieces of my heart find themselves abiding in unison with my Jesus because in every moment I have endured recently, Jesus has been my Peace.
It’s almost as if the atmosphere shifts when you step into the plans God has for you. I’ve seen glimpses of it before, over the years but those glimpses always seemed to disappear as I found myself retreating back under the blankets of guilt and shame. I read a devotion by Ann Voskamp recently and given the time of year, it was centred around peace but it also perfectly went hand in hand with the season my faith is in. Ann wrote that the pieces of ourselves that we keep trying to bury, are exactly what keeps burying our peace. When we hide pieces of ourselves, we never find peace — I’ve never thought of this before but it’s so true. In an attempt to avoid the rawness of vulnerability I have spent years trying to hide pieces of myself and my reality from the world around me, and if I think about it, I can’t honestly say I’ve ever truly had peace either. Ann began putting forth a series of ‘maybe’ circumstances; Maybe there are things in our hearts and minds that we never want fully found out, because we’re terrified to find out that no one fully loves us. Or, maybe our hearts ache to be taken and accepted as we are, but the fear of that very ache is what drives us to take and hide the parts of ourselves we believe are unacceptable. She then said “maybe the secret to peace is to have no secrets”.. I thought about this for a while and it dawned on me that this concept doesn’t necessarily mean that we need to go around sharing our deepest secrets with everyone we know, all it means is that we can’t have secrets from God. God already fully knows every secret that we try to keep hidden and do you know what? He loves us anyway. The idea of God loving me regardless of knowing everything that I’ve been ashamed of my whole life, is something I am honestly still trying to grasp; I’ve been learning how to sit with it, to accept it and to just let God love me.
Ann wrote that we are called to carry each other’s brokenness, but we can’t do that if we’re all wearing masks of fake holiness. Whilst I’m still trying to figure out what she means, I do know that God has called me into a season where I have needed to take off my mask so that He can use me. God made me who I am for a purpose, God’s been revealing to me more and more how He plans to use me as His hands and feet. But my largest conviction came when God asked me how I planned on letting Him use me, if I was too ashamed to give up my identity to the world. This became a two-fold because firstly my identity should be in God, and secondly if I am safe and secure in God, then why have I been so bothered by what the world thinks of me? How can God use me to carry other’s brokenness, if I am too caught up in hiding the secrets of who I am? Where would I find my peace?
As the recent weeks have unfolded, I’ve come to realise that the peace I’ve been searching for amidst the turbulent years, has always been there. I’ve learned about what it means to allow my brokenness to wash me up at the foot of the cross. At times I have been so distressed, thoughts of self destruction screamed piercingly but even then by the grace of God, I was able to seek Him. I’ve learned what it means to feel my emotions wholly and surrender them fully unto God, in the past my emotions always got the better of me and I used to hate myself for the way I felt. However I have come to realise that emotions are what makes us human, we are allowed to feel them and we are allowed to sit with them. Having emotions doesn’t make us bad, in fact I’ve been reading a book T lent me called ‘Fully Human’. This book so clearly outlines and normalises the concept of emotion; I’ve proceeded to give pages of summaries of this book to members in my team and ladies at work, I find myself recommending it to pretty well anyone and everyone I know. Anyway, as the weeks have passed I’ve also learned how to seek God amidst distress and how to bring everything to Him in prayer; I never used to be able to do this and now that I can, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’ve never been more grateful to recognise progress within myself, God’s slowly become my first habitual point of contact. I am each day learning how to rely on Him more and more. You see, I used to be too ashamed to go to God but Jesus died for all the unspeakable and shameful things of this world, God has already forgiven all the things I have been ashamed of. Because of this unconditional forgiveness and love, I’m learning that I forever have access to peace.
When God first called me out into a season of going all in for Him, I didn’t know what that would look like, I didn’t know what it would entail and I didn’t know the extent of what God would ask of me. In the beginning I went through phases of thinking that it was almost cruel for God to continually ask more and more of me. I soon saw that everything He asked, even the most brutal requests, were all necessary in order for Him to be first in my life. There is nothing out of reason that God has asked of me and despite the tears and distress, I would honestly do it all over again if it meant that I could have all of Him. I remember one of the last things T said to me as my GP; “some days life is like buzlightyear, ‘to infinity and beyond’, but other days it’s like dory, ‘just keep swimming’. I’d like to think that since that day I’ve kept swimming, or at least I’ve tried to. Each day God has called me out into deeper waters. I remember when I first questioned Him and told Him I was afraid and I couldn’t swim any further, He asked me why I felt the need to swim when all He wanted was for me to trust Him; when all I needed to do was trust Him.
A little while ago my church held an encounter night, a night devoted to worship and encountering the Holy Spirit. The day came around faster than expected and I’d had a more difficult day than usual, as I was hopping into my car I remember telling God about my day and asking Him to meet me; as the beautiful words of Isaiah 65:24 say, God heard me and answered me before I could even finish speaking. As I buckled in my phone lit up with a reminder, it was an hour until encounter night began. I smiled and asked God if He was sure I needed to go, but I already knew the answer and almost reluctantly I went. But my oh my, can I tell you that I’m so glad I did? In the span of two hours I surrendered myself so wholly and so completely over to God’s plan for me. In a state of vulnerability I found myself stripped raw before Him, in waters deeper than I’d ever found myself in, only this time I felt no need to swim. That night Ps S prayed over me, anointed my head with oil and spoke only God’s truth over my life, He declared the breaking of chains and the freedom that comes with stepping into God’s plan for me. I walked away that night and I listened to God, I allowed Him to write through me and I shared only the smallest bit of my testimony with those around me. Following on from that, only God’s fruits have blossomed.
For a brief moment I found myself overwhelmed by the raw feeling of nakedness that coupled with vulnerability… but the further I wade out into the unknown, the more I’m realising that I’ll never stop being in awe of God and if I’m honest, I hope I never stop. I am humbled and grateful for the beautiful ways in which people have responded to what God and I shared, both on Facebook and Instagram, but also for all the private messages. The testimony I shared was merely the tip of the ice burg and I genuinely can not wait for God to unveil every other testimony that has come and that is still to come. Speaking to people about it has opened my eyes to a world of blessings, that the guilt and shame kept me blind to. People have reached out in the most unexpected ways and I can see how God is planting new seeds of healing, restoration, relationship and how His plan is being carried out in my own life, but also the lives of those around me.
As humans God created us for connection and since choosing Him, above all others, He has restored and created new connections in my life. The vulnerability of stepping out from under the familiar blankets of guilt and shame, came at the price of my safely trapped, but it allowed me to fully and wholly be safely held. I have been so afraid to connect with people because I’ve feared that if they found out about my past and my secrets, then they would want nothing to do with me; however, the more God connects me with His people, the more I realise that my fears simply aren’t logical. Ann speaks about how whatever fears we have, don’t actually exist because God exists and there is no fear in perfect love and God is Perfect Love. Love has always been my hearts deepest desire, and its deepest fear. Love breaks us open in the most raw and vulnerable way, but when held in God’s Love, it is eternally safe. When God’s love is within us, our hearts are able to safely abide within those around us; that’s what it means to have a heart for Gods people: to love those around us and to live with our hearts first inside of Him, and then inside of His people. I continue to be blessed by my Father, His provision and favour over me is like no other. I have learned new meanings of a Peace that surpasses all understanding, because by any standard I previously would have been beside myself in devastation and distress over recent weeks, but instead I have found ways to praise God through every trial this season.
Okay, you might want to sit down for this next little praise point because it takes a whole new meaning of monumental… I’ve been battling with Gollum for many years, longer than before I began treatment and before anyone knew. It never occurred to me that I’d be able to say this, but would you believe me if I told you that I have been Gollum free for 7 weeks?! What does that mean? That means 110% full intake of proper people food every day; three full meals, two main snacks, normal snacks, a fortisip and everything in between!! It also means that I haven’t skipped a single meal, not one! It also means that there has been no throwing up of any kind, no self harm, no exercise, no giving into temptations.. absolutely nothing other than my whole-hearted pursuit of God!!!
What does this mean?
Are you ready for it?
Yip, you heard me! *Inserts little girl squeals here*
Okay don’t worry, I didn’t expect it either but let me explain! So it all started when I saw J little over a week ago, during our dietitian appointment we were chatting about progress and I asked about extending to monthly appointments. J surprised me by how willing she was to do so and she then started talking about going six monthly, simply for the sake of checking in on my bodies nutritional levels; nothing about Gollum was even hinted toward! I remember walking away praising God for this sign of progress, I thought it was the most exciting thing ever but I also thought that was as far as it would go for now.. boy was I wrong! A couple of day passed after seeing J and I found myself ever so excitedly sharing the news with T after pilates but little did I know that there was so much more to come! Barely a few hours after sharing with T, I met R for breakfast; it was our last session before she moved back to Perth and despite all our snotty tears, it was a well awaited celebration. We chose Emu Point and had big chats, R read my testimony and was moved to tears, we spoke about our futures and plans, and out of no where R brought up discharge. R told me that S brought up her thoughts around discharge from cmh early next year. Due to R moving back to Perth, I’ve been handed over to JL with whom S thinks I will have only a few sessions with before we transition into total discharge. R and S have expressed great excitement for the progress we have been making and couldn’t see discharge extending past February next year. It didn’t sink in for the rest of the day and by the time I saw my next team member, K, it still felt surreal. T only newly handed me over to her and on our second meeting I was almost afraid to ask about a transition to discharge; but by God’s grace He already set the foundation and she greeted me with the warmest smile, expressing great joy over the emails my team had been sending out. K was more than happy to work toward discharge, she even included this plan in her team email and a referral I asked for. K cancelled a series of appointments and spaced out the rest, her excitement for me and her encouragement was so beautiful. I can honestly only give God the glory because there are still nights that I sob from the pain of the food digesting in my stomach, days where Gollum’s voice still seeps in; but no matter what has happened, God has given me the strength to surrender all unto Him. God continues to give me what I need to get through; This goes back to the zone of proximal development.
Whilst we’re on the topic of proximal development and uni chats.. can we just take a moment to praise God for carrying me through my first semester of psych?? So many tears, so many late nights and moments where I wanted to give up entirely.. But you know what? I received my exam results and your girl passed with distinctions!! I genuinely prepared myself for the disappointment of failing, the uni coordinator for health had already pre-arranged a refund of the units for me under special circumstances if it was required, but by God’s grace it wasn’t even necessary!! The more I study and the more I learn in my recovery, the more I fall in love with God and the more God stirs within me a fire for Him.
Over and over again, God keeps blessing me with more evidence that I am exactly where He wants me. I have no doubt that He has big plans for my career. Going on from this, ever since sharing a piece of my testimony you won’t believe how many people have declared that I have a calling on my life. Many have commented on my writing and how they truly believe God has me exactly where He wants me. My writing is something that has come up in nearly every conversation but it’s something I’ve always been self conscious about, I’ve never been easily inclined to share it due to the fear and vulnerability attached. But each time I have shared something, even the smallest of things, I have been met with so much kindness and encouragement. However, as humbled as I am, I can’t take any of that credit, it’s not mine to bare. When I write, I write with God and I write led by His spirit. I’ve never wanted it to be my words, that’s too much rawness and responsibility; I’ve only ever wanted it to be God speaking through me, His words, His presence and for His glory. When I write, my souls petition is for anything that is not of God to be void and for His blessing to be upon what is of Him. I mean these things in the most authentic and sincere way, none of this is about me and no writing ever published will be about me either; it’s all about Him. I’ve sometimes worried that if people never know ‘how bad’ things were, that they’d never be able to fully understand ‘how good’ God is. But every time I gravitate towards those anxieties, God catches me and He reminds me that all I need to do is be His hands and His feet— He does the rest. By His grace I believe that I have nothing to prove, I don’t owe anybody an explanation or an apology, I don’t need validation from anybody other than God; I am safe and secure in Him. Nothing makes my heart smile more, than when people praise God and give Him the glory for what they’ve read. He is the true author, he writes my story and I truly believe that the writing He blesses, is written led by Him. The truth is, I honestly don’t think I fully grasp the gift God has blessed me with through writing, or the ways in which He plans to use my journey to reach the hearts of others; but I also think that humility and naivety is in and of itself something to value.
I think it would be naive of me to celebrate these milestones without acknowledging that I know we’ve seen hope before, I know that earlier this year I claimed to go ‘all in’ for God; I get it, there are many people in my inner and outer circles who are skeptic and to be honest, I was too. But I’m not anymore because God tells me that through Him, all things are possible. Not some thing, all things. These last 7 weeks have been monumental, I’ve never surpassed milestones like these before and I owe it all to God. I know that in reality Gollum doesn’t disappear over night, it’s not that easy. But I just wish that people could understand and see the progress that God has made. Seeing E has been hard lately. I’ve spoken to her about my faith in the past but was shut down, when I saw CA she wasn’t pleased and expressed concern about therapies overlapping, when I bravely told her about my decision not to hide my secrets anymore she shut that down too and I cried. Last week I told E about the teams talk about discharge and she again made me cry, I understand her concerns and I know she’s seen many cases in recovery but I can’t help but wish she could see what God has done. E means well, I know, but it feels like she speaks death, not life, over my recovery, planting negative seeds of doubt; I don’t really have the words to articulate all my feelings but I’m giving this to God and trusting Him in the process. Regardless of what happens going forward, I know I am not a failure and if recovery takes longer than anticpated, then that’s okay too because I trust God. I think it’s valuable for me to be able to look back over the years and humbly look at where I went wrong; this is in terms of going ‘all in’ for God, in terms of seeking out my safety and security in Him etc. I am all for learning from my mistakes, but I’m also not willing to discredit the progress made; I think it’s incredible and I honestly haven’t been more grateful for the work God has done within me and the strength He continues to give me in this fight. I trust that as He continues to move mountains, He will make Himself known to all those around me and those whom once doubted, will then see all He has done.
I remember earlier this year when God gave me a new ’19’, it was Isaiah 43:19 and God told me that He was doing a new thing, I keep seeing this verse in every area of my life and I stand as living testament to the power of God. He keeps His word and He writes Himself into every chapter of my story, into every season of my life. My God is the God of the impossible, nobody needs to understand or know the intricate details, in order to see and know that God is who He says He is. The verse tattooed on my wrist, Isaiah 41:13, tells me that I don’t need to be afraid. And you know what? I don’t need to abide in fear because I can abide in my Father, my Safe Place, my Home. Isaiah 65:24, also tattooed, reminds me that I don’t need to always know what to day, it’s not about having the right words or praying the perfect prayer; before I speak God answers me, and while I’m still speaking He hears me. God knows the desires of my heart and when my desires align with His own, when my heart pursues and seeks Him above all else, then everything falls into place for His glory.
God has a plan for my life, people have told me that over and over again over the years, but only now I am beginning to see it for myself. I don’t need to wait until I am qualified, because as cheesy as it sounds, it’s true that God qualifies those whom He calls out. God doesn’t need me to come fully equip because it’s not by my own works that God will use me, it is only through me and by His works. I am merely a vessel, I am God’s hands and His feet; He is the One who will move the mountains and bring breakthroughs from my brokenness. I don’t need to be good enough because God’s grace is abundantly enough. I don’t need to be strong because my strength comes from God and He is more powerful than we can ever comprehend. I also don’t need to know all the answers because sometimes it’s not for me to know, but simply for me to trust.
Despite what Gollum says, despite what loved ones or anyone else ever says; my Father tells me that I am beautiful and I am loved — His opinion of me is all that matters. I might not always love the girl I see in the mirror, but she will always be loved and she is learning to love herself. The childlike joy within me, leaves me absolutely besotted with my Jesus and who He is to me. The more I wade into deeper waters, the deeper my love for my Father grows and the more I yearn to be nearer to Him.
– c x (27.12.2021)