This is probably going to be the most unusual post I’ve published so far for several reasons. One, it will expose my human side, a side no one other than my husband knows about. To show one’s vulnerability and human frailties goes against the most basic tendency of self protection and preservation. Let’s face it, pride is a hard beast to slay. Secondly, to show one’s inner self, the secret thoughts and imaginings of oneself is risky. It could cause those of you who care for me to change your opinion of me. That is a real risk, and one that frankly, I was never willing to take – until now. Thirdly, it will give those who already hold disdain for me more arrows to place in their quiver that will eventually be shot my way.
I’ve given you the reasons why I shouldn’t write this post. Now let me tell you why I should. Too often in our spiritual journey we fall into a fake type of existance that becomes rote for us. We smile, we chat, we say “hello,” and seldom scratch below the surface of a superficial existence. We go to church, we share “acceptable” prayer requests, we greet others, ask them how they are, and what do we always hear? “I’m fine.” Right? I long to have the freedom of reaching beyond the usual platitudes. I fantasize about talking the afternoon away with another kind hearted brother or sister in Christ and tell them of my fears, sadness and disappointments. Actually, I could name you a dozen people right now that I could call that would be right there for me. I’ve actually gone down the list a dozen times in my mind.
So why didn’t I call any of them for encouragement? I’ve learned to keep the negativity hidden. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been cautioned to present a good face, to let the glory of God shine through regardless of circumstances. I agree with that to a point. Our God is great and we ought to show the world that His presence in our lives makes us different from others, complete and able to withstand anything Satan throws at us. Another reason, though it may seem invalid to others, is still a reality to those who have lived the life that I have. I’m a “fixer.” I’m the one who figures things out, supplies the needs, and searches for the answer that will make things right again. I’m the one that others come to for help or support. How does one show weakness when you’re the one expected to hold everyone else up? If you’re like me, your validation comes from how useful and helpful you are to others. If I become the one who needs help, how can I be of use to others? Whether that thinking is faulty or not, it’s still a reality to people who consider themselves “the strong ones.” There is no room for weakness – none at all.
But what about those times that we need someone to tell us it’s going to be OK? How does our support system know that we need someone to share our burdens with if we never speak of them? God says to “bear one another’s burdens,” but we must show our vulnerability in order to share our burdens. It’s our humaness that causes us to connect with others. I am tired of and determined to figure out how to leave off the facade. I know, I know, no one is perfect, but we surely do try to present ourselves that way – we try to hide our imperfections and doubts from others as some sort of twisted self preservation. And to add to that, for some reason we have this crazy notion that if we are to represent Christ, we must present ourselves as having it all together all of the time.
To some extent I have broken my own rules in this regard a few times this past year. I had to make a conscious effort to seek counsel. We were up to our eyeballs with some of our kids’ problems that we had no idea what to do about it. It was very difficult because it meant I had to choose wisely my confidant because they had to be completely trustworthy and knowledgeable at the same time. [Remember, we have to keep our mouth shut, no good Christian complained about another Christian in any way or you are not a good Christian any more, and who would risk that? Certainly not a good Christian!] Fortunately I DID choose wisely and God used these folks in a mighty way to help us to make wise decisions and survive it all. But it’s a little easier seeking counsel over what to do with someone else’s troubles. To seek it over my own was near impossible!
News flash! Everyone struggles. Everyone fails. Everyone doubts and gets discouraged. Just because you don’t see it doesn’t meant it isn’t true. This story needs to be told. Perhaps if others see my past struggles, they might think theirs are not unique. Perhaps I might encourage someone along the way. I surely hope so. It is my purpose in life – to encourage others, to make another person’s journey better. Perhaps when I tell you how God pulled me out of my tail spin you’ll see how one kind word or deed can make a difference.
It started a few months ago – Satan’s whisperings, his suggestions, the accusations. (No, I wasn’t hearing voices.) Some of you will remember that for months I was asking God for several miracles in my life. Most of them had to do with my kids. My friends faithfully prayed without details. What a blessing that was. It kept me going. From trial to trial, God showed Himself faithful, renewing and strengthening my faith.
But then I suffered a couple of personal blows. Someone that I had confidence in disappointed me. My cornerstone seemed to have moved. I lost my direction. Then came the subtle whisperings to my heart. Satan the great accuser took advantage of my worn out state. We’d had so many struggles in such a short time that he obviously felt it was time to start attacking me inward. He saved his best for last. He began his final attack by bringing a disappointment that really threw me off my game. I felt as though I was adrift without anything to hold on to. Now you can get spiritual on me and say, “Well, she just needed to focus on Christ.” Yes, that’s true, but it’s the blessings He gives us that help us make it through our days, especially when those days are dark and dreary. What do we do when those blessings seem to fall away?
I had experienced so much loss and disappointment that I was empty. I don’t mean spiritually empty, for I was in the Word and experiencing a great relationship with my Lord. I was finding out so much about Him and enjoying our time together. But I was emotionally drained from multiple trials and the last straw came – and out of the blue nothing made sense. That is the point at which Satan began whispering. Any time that happens we ought to be aware that we are in for a battle. Looking back, I believe God allowed that time of testing to give me new insight, but at the time it threatened my very being.
Satan was whispering in my ear hourly, sometimes by the minute, “Don’t you think everyone would be happier and much better off without you?” I argued. I pushed. I felt like I was all alone, that God was turning a deaf ear. Even though I knew it was just for a season and that God truly did still love me and would eventually bring me out of it, I knew I had to battle those whisperings day in and day out, hour by hour and it went on for weeks and weeks! I purposely reminded myself that Jesus was tempted and it didn’t mean that He was sinning. It only meant that Satan was testing Him, wanting to find a point where he could claim victory. Even though I was determined not to let him win, I still had to endure the endless tauntings – tauntings that I actually had come to believe were true.
Of course I knew I had God’s power behind me to overcome it, but for some reason He would not take it away. I carried around a dark feeling that pervaded my every waking moment. No one knew. I shared it with no one. For many weeks I battled it. I was tired of fighting with kids to get them to do right. I was tired of hearing about gossip and lies that were being told about me or members of my family. I was tired of being beat over the head. I was tired of losing hope and being disappointed by those who were supposed to love me. I was tired of being afraid. I was tired of being told that many of my kids cared not one wit about me. It seemed nothing would ever be right. I was tired of losing my kids to the world. I was just plain tired.
I decided I was going to get an honest opinion from someone. When Jillian came home from college I decided I was just going to come out and ask her, “Isn’t it true that life would be easier for everyone if I just wasn’t around?” I knew it was a bold question but I just had to know. Several times the first week I started to ask it, but couldn’t bring myself to verbalize it. I’d start out with, “Do you think…” then I’d say, “Never mind.”
She’d ask me, “What?” but I’d always say, “Nothing.” At the same time, I knew that if I didn’t deal with Satan’s whisperings, they’d continue. I felt very fortunate that I had the Word of God to back me up and keep me on track, but at the same time it was very discouraging and painful to hear Satan’s constant accusations. I actually believed what he was saying was true, but the Spirit living within me flatly refused to let me give in to it.
When I finally blurted it out, “Jillian, do you think that everything would be much easier for everyone if I wasn’t around?” She looked at me and without batting an eye said, “There are times when I’m at school that I’m so lonely I can barely stand it. I miss you and Dad so much.” I think it was the lack of hesitation that caused me to believe her without question. That was the beginning of my making my way back. From that point on it was like God decided to lift my cloud and let me see light again. Right after that, an adoptive parent I was encouraging, SueAnn, emailed me thanking me for giving her back her light – that I’d helped lift her dark cloud that had been over her for so long. Right after that my grandson told me dozens of times that he loved me and missed me when we were apart. Then Jillian’s young man came for a visit. During the five days he was at our house visiting we went to look at engagement rings and wedding dresses and talked about their future together. I watched him give her my promise ring. Being welcomed into the middle of their relationship brought more hope back into my life. I believe that it was after those five days God released me. It was a “night and day” experience.
Looking back, I now realize God gave me that time as a gift. I have experienced something that many people experience but seldom speak of. I know I was allowed to go through the dark time of doubt to broaden my compassion for others who may be suffering in the same way. Toward the end of those weeks of personal darkness, someone I knew took their own life. When someone told me they couldn’t believe a person could be that selfish, inwardly I understood very well what he was thinking because I had been contemplating my own value to others. I can’t really tell you why God saw fit to hold on to me during it all, to bring me through it when that other person wasn’t able to, but I am very glad I’m now on the other side. He was deafeningly silent but I was aware of his presence all the way through. He kept me day by day, letting me suffer, but all the while also reminding me that He would one day restore my peace. I truly had an advantage. I knew God was there watching.
In retrospect, I am thankful I have experienced the darkness that blots out all light. I was led out of that darkness by positive interraction with others when God felt it was enough – enough to open my eyes to others and their sufferings. I needed to truly understand. And most assuredly, I must use that experience to lead others out.