So how was YOUR weekend? Care to be real? I’d certainly love to hear someone in cyberspace admit if theirs was an emotional disaster like mine! Misery loves company. But I don’t want to start my week miserably so I’m looking for voices who speak beyond miserable, for eyes that see beyond failure and giving up and accepting our lot. I refuse to let an emotional landslide permanently cover me in mud, snuffing out my life, my joy. But let’s deal with the real first. Don’t know about you, but for me, I don’t get God till I get real.
So my weekend found me reeling, really. A family visit transported me back in time to a place where I felt horrible—weak, voiceless, competed with, paralyzed, and just a tad crazy. When you’re told growing up that you’re loved and then treated repeatedly in ways that feel far from loving, it can create just a bit of confusion. Massive understatement.
I could tell from my intense emotional reaction—all internal—that I had just re-experienced unhealed times with my mother and the force that struck me was nothing short of a tsunami. I didn’t see it coming until it was already upon me. I went from feeling calm and joy-filled at the beginning of the week to tense and anxiety-filled faster than I thought possible.
Memories are powerful, taking us back, threatening to pull us under in their riptide current, drowning us. I felt sucked in and pulled down straight. And what made matters worse is that I don’t think my family member intended for this to happen at all! She didn’t do this damage to me. My memories did! Even though I could rationalize, I couldn’t seem to synthesize past and present, then and now. Suddenly, I was the same 12 year old I was back then, done in, feeling like a failure emotionally. Didn’t I know better? Couldn’t I cope better? God knows I’ve worked hard at growing and overcoming!
The problem with growing up in a painful family is that certain personality traits and patterns of relating are often repeated, infused into the next generation. Try as I do to leave childhood memories of pain, they coming knocking sometimes, like a water wall hitting hard from behind, making me lose my footing, my balance.
What’s surprising is how surprised I am every time I get knocked over by a rogue wave and find myself scrambling for the safety of shore. Why is that? Often old pain buries itself in the recesses of our unconscious minds, only surfacing when triggered by something that looks, feels, sounds similar to what we’ve experienced before. And then the reaction doesn’t fit the current moment and we wonder why we’re reacting so strongly. Time to do some digging to find the source of the pain. And that can be a painful process in itself, but a necessary one if we want God to heal. And sometimes—let’s be honest—there’s no time to process in the moment and the immediate dictates and I find myself floundering. Ugh! Is there any hope? I’m a mess. But I’m a mess in the hands of a loving God. I can hear it faintly as I flounder.
So here I was on Friday, spewing out too much suffocating water swallowed, gasping for breath, flat out on the beach by deep emotional waters, and I still had to get up and live. I felt like I needed an emotional intensive care unit but instead, I needed to deal with immediate family issues.
That Friday afternoon, our almost 22 year old daughter, designated as a cognitively disabled adult, trying to live on her own with our assistance for two years, was done. She was done with even semi-independent living. Stress had taken its toll. Headaches pained and unhappiness shrouded. She asked to come home the week before—and to never have to leave again. We had talked about her feelings, her needs, her desires, and came up with a plan.
How the weather of one week can turn! Early on, I found myself sailing on waters calm. But by Friday I found myself right in the middle of a perfect storm, unable to manage. Hit from behind by a painful past, hit from in front by an uncertain future, with daily demands not stopping and life-altering changes beginning, down I went in a whirlpool, a cesspool. My dog-paddling attempts to keep nose above water failed and I got sucked down scared.
The slightest thing set me off on Saturday morning. I asked our daughter to please start unpacking and putting away her clothes she had moved back, randomly thrown into white garbage bags strewn about, and she calmly told me to “Chill!”
Chill, I did not. I fired back, “Do not tell me to ‘chill’ when you have no idea the kind of stress I’m under right now.” And our daughter who loves to banter with me kept it up, looking like she had not a care in the world now that she was back in her carefree cocoon. And I walked off sick and tired. And with every stomp up the stairs, the hot air of my soul rose with me. I had had it. Life was too much—all in one week. God was asking too much! And I just couldn’t cope one—more—minute! As if that weren’t bad enough, I wanted to cry but couldn’t. The pressure cooker top was welded shut, unable to open.
So after I had left the house, pulling off the back door knob and muttering desperate, “I can’t even open a door right!” my dear, calm, quiet husband came looking and found me sobbing on an Adirondack chair by the fire pit, slightly smoking from a brittle twig and leaf combination placed in the middle. I was one with the leaf and twig—brittle, withered, and more than slightly smoking! He listened. And he let me start talking but it took a few minutes.
Where does one begin when there is just—too—much? How does one tell of the layers and layers of years and years—many he’s experienced himself right along with me?
Does it matter?
What matters is having a heart hold you while you just start somewhere—anywhere. And I did. I started talking about Mom, gone 11 years now, and how we ended well, thankfully. Though I know, deep down, she loved, a lot of her ways hurt. I was deeply, profoundly wounded—more than I thought.
And I thought I had healed. I have. Really. Praise God! I’ve come a long, long way from the suffocated, pneumonia-prone, voiceless, migraine-plagued, insecure, emotionally paralyzed soul I once was, all sugar-coated and fooling most all who knew me, because—after all—I was stage-trained. The stage taught me that the show must go on even if it means you create a persona and live it.
Therapy helped. God and His word helped me get real. But deep places of wounding don’t necessarily disappear completely and sometimes, the most unsuspecting situations and people can trigger chain reactions. Down into the pit of guilt and shame and wanting to just give up on myself I went on Saturday—till I was done talking—done venting—and able to open my eyes and see God in it all—to see God working in my life—in me—imperfect, wounded, still-healing—me.
I’m not perfect. I fall. And sometimes I fall hard, cutting both knees bad, scraping both hands sore. And sometimes it’s even worse. I need an ICU with people who care and refuse—to—judge—because they just—don’t—know—the circumstances and all they want to do is help, by letting God breathe through them, whether they know what’s happening or not.
With the help of Good Samaritans—the best being my husband—and the God who sends them, I’m helped to stand again. In times after a fall, God reminds me more of who He is that what I think I am. He is the one who loves me true. He is the one who binds my wounds. He is the one who picks me up when I fall apart and scrape myself raw. He heals me, often progressively, because most healing is a process, not an event.
Today is a new day and I am back on track with God and His people. Perfect, I’m not. I’m an imperfect pilgrim, a wounded soul, on my way home to the perfect God. I must keep my eyes on Him. But even when I don’t—even when I fail and fall—He’s there to help me up, to bind my wounds, to keep me stepping forward, even if He has to carry me.
Sometimes I wish I never fell. Wouldn’t it be nice if we never fell? Wouldn’t it be nice if I were such a strong believer that all could look at my life and see strength and success always? Wouldn’t it be nice, at the end of my life, for others to say what an incredible walk I walked with God?
No. Not in the way many think.
What use would I be to a wobbling, falling, cut-up world? How could I understand what it feels like to feel shame so deep you run for cover and don’t want to come out from behind the fig leaves of life? How could I whisper encouragement that we have a God who doesn’t care how far we’ve fallen—how cut-up we are, how brittle and withered our twig-leaf souls have become? How could I tell truth that God seeks the broken and the lost and the hurting and the brittle and the withered if I refuse to ever admit I visit these places myself—that I’ve been there as recently as yesterday and yet, my God never abandons me, never forsakes me, never, ever, gives up on me. And He NEVER looks upon me with disgust. He loves me true.
And He loves you true. Knowing—in places deeper than your pain—that God loves you true no matter how wounded, no matter how pained, no matter how broken and flat out gasping for air, no matter what kind of a failure you feel like—this, my friends, is the key that unlocks TRUE LIFE WITH GOD—truly living free—truly living joy. Because living free and living joy only come from hearts that have hope. Our souls find rest in God alone. He IS our true hope.
So memories are memories and I’ve put them in God’s care, once again. And daughters are daughters, wherever they live the rest of their lives with whatever they can and can’t do. Because, after all, life is not about what we can or can’t do. Life is about what HE can do through us, broken as we are. And NOTHING is impossible, with God.
So if you’ve felt knocked down and discouraged by life recently . . .
So this morning, I went for a walk on our 44 acres and I want to share God’s glory. God soothed me with Himself this morning and I completed my simple, 20-minute hike, refreshed, renewed, ready to face the day, the week, the life God has ordained for me to live—to truly live—in Him. All these photos? He blessed me with His creation. I pray He blesses YOU!
I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah. Answer me quickly, O LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:6-8