For almost 5 years now, I have been thinking about you. From the moment that the life as I knew it collapsed around me, I began wondering what I would say to you. The hardest part about trying to have this conversation, is that I so badly wanted to be okay when we had it.
I’m used to being the “beauty from ashes” girl, but I like to be on the “beauty” side of things. It was so much easier to share from the place of familiarity, forward movement, wisdom, and obedience. I could say, “I am messy, but I am overcoming. I am beat down, but I am not out. I am a warrior.”
I’ve put off having this conversation with you, because I don’t even know yet what it’s about. Sometimes I think it’s about the death of a dream; the dream of who I thought I was and who I would become.
While these things are true., I think that what I need most, is to simply answer the question, “What happens when we don’t? When we don’t do the right thing as believers? What happens when we do succumb to despair and hopelessness? What happens when we tell God “no?” What happens when we run? (even as we glance back desperate to see Him chasing.) These were the answers that I needed. I’ve felt so alone in this, that I feel compelled to speak to it now, but what do I say?
I so desperately wanted to believe that my faith held the power to control the journey before me. My story was one of brokenness and chaos, and my deepest desire for my children, was that theirs would not be. Pain and loss are inevitable, but if stability could protect them, then I’d die trying to provide it.
I sit here now, remarried to an incredible man, in my new house, with my five beautiful kids, knowing that God has blessed me in this mess I’ve made of me, but I feel like such a failure that my heart still won’t receive any of it with the joy that it should. What was taken from me should have been the platform from which I catapulted. It could have been a beautiful marker of when I truly chose to trust the Lord’s faithfulness and plans for my life, but it was not. I did not, and now I am haunted by who I really am. I can visually see the evidence of the Lord’s grace and mercy surrounding me, but my heart murders me each and every day.
I have so much to say to you; to ramble on and on about, but like me, maybe you’ve been running in circles for so long that you aren’t looking for another maze of chaos to follow into nowhere. I know that in order to speak honestly with you, that I must leave my pride at the door. Every time that I speak openly about where I am now, the voice of pride screams for me to also let you know from where I came, so that you will see more than the weakness before you. “I wasn’t always this way,” my flesh screams; wants to lie to you; wants to believe.
The truth of the matter, is that circumstances only revealed what lay hidden away beneath the comfort. I have never thought myself strong, but I did believe my faith and obedience to be. I would often envision myself losing what I held so close, but in these fantasies I never ran. I had thrown everything I had into making this new life a sowing and reaping of “YES!” to Jesus. When I laid my head down on my pillow every night though, I was still me. I still wrestled with fear, depression, anxiety, addiction, and trauma. I’d press in hard to Jesus, but I’d always wonder how a person trying so very hard to be a warrior could hardly get out of bed some days. All I wanted was to be as close to the Lord as possible; to love more, obey more, to serve more, more, more…perfection, perfection, perfection… but like a sneaky thief in the night, an honest, pure prayer was turned in to an expectation I could never live up to.
Without even realizing it, I began to perceive my circumstances as evidence of His love and faithfulness. Though my prayer had been conceived in love, it ultimately gave birth to fear. Before I had desperately wanted to live for Him, but now I had to—I must! Or I’d risk losing it all! And I did.
I desperately tried to lean and trust as my family crumbled around me. I exhausted myself fighting to stand firm and to believe Truth over emotion. “If You love me, then why is this happening?” my heart would accuse day after day.
Eventually, my feelings won. I succumbed to the pain. I sought temporary comfort in whatever was immediately available to me. I was devoured by shame. I became disillusioned with myself and with God. I stopped praying with expectancy, I stopped going to church, I stopped reaching, and I stopped sharing.
Instead, I kept things light and surface. though I am anything but light and surface. My waters run deep and when I tread them alone, I drown. I cared more about what people thought than I did about my own heart, and I’ve paid dearly for it. For me, THIS is freedom. I must get this out of me if I’m ever going to get back to me. Understand that you are free to leave, but I am not.
The other night, I was so angry at my heart. I began talking to God, and I said, “You see me drowning! You know I’m gasping for air! It’s not like there isn’t a lifeguard here. Why won’t you just throw me a life preserver?!?”
I wasn’t really expecting Him to answer, but I was prepared to argue back if He did. From within the quiet rest of rage exhausted, He says to me, “Because you can swim!!” I laughed out loud at this. What a kind way to call me out. He knew what my heart was insinuating about His character, and instead of telling me to slow my roll, He told me to REMEMBER.
That’s the thing about depression; it steals what you know. It steals the Truth. It is a liar, and a good one at that.
“I cannot do this!” I screamed back to Him, “I’m too tired from treading water!” But He does not forget that I can swim. He won’t give up on me even when I want Him to.
I think about how as a parent, you can see how capable your children are even when they can’t. I cannot tell you how many times one of my children has cried out to me, “I can’t do this!” the moment just before they did it. I am never surprised, because I already knew it was in them. It is so hard to not just take over and do it for them, or to throw them the “life preserver.” If I did this though, how would they know what was in them? Still, sometimes I’d like some floaties AT LEAST. Instead, I try to hold on to sticks and an occasional log to stay afloat, but rarely in this season do I swim. THIS is me swimming.
God calls the Psalmist, David, “a man after My own heart.” This was a man who emptied himself out for us page after page. Generations later, these words still bring us comfort in even our weakest and darkest moments. If King David, and more importantly God, believe in the importance of shared pain, then how on earth did I ever convince myself that it was not okay for myself? If there is even one person who needs to hear, “me too,” then I have accomplished what I have set out to do.
I am a Christian. I am whole, but I am so very broken, and I’m done waiting to look pretty again before I say “yes.”