It is 2016. In November of this year, I will have been writing online, in some form or fashion, for eleven years. Honestly, that doesn't even seem possible, but its true: I grew up here. I graduated from high school, moved off to college, had my heart broken, lost friends to cancer, found and married the love of my life, started taking medication for depression and paralyzing anxiety, and most recently moved to South Carolina to pursue a life in ministry with my husband. All of that happened here in this space. I've barely known anything different. This space was born out of my need for a place to come undone. It has always been a sanctuary.
A look in my prayer journal as of late would reveal my hot pursuit of wisdom in regard to community, and in a deeper sense, an overwhelming longing for home. I think that perhaps that's just part of growing up -- maybe at some point we all lose our idealistic views of what home is, and the truth is, we have to mourn that loss.
Judging by most standards, I had an idyllic upbringing, but at 14, the cosmos of my life shifted. Our family had recently moved, my mother had started a new job, and I was in the beginning of my freshman year of high school. We were always in church -- every single time the doors were open. On the outside, we looked great. But behind closed doors, my parents were seeing our pastor for marriage counseling. I began to struggle with depression. I can't say that I wanted to die, but I just had this overwhelming feeling that the world would be better off without me, and I didn't know where to put that kind of pain. At the least, I didn't think anyone would really notice I was gone. Now, I mentor a group of young girls through our church, and the idea of one of them secretly carrying that kind of pain is unimaginably difficult for me.
I remember the night I called the hotline because I couldn't see any way out, I remember how the line rang and rang and eventually I hung up. I tried to talk to my mom, but she seemed to have other things on her mind. I remember telling her that something was very, very wrong, but no help came. Eventually, she walked away from our family. What's more, when she left, she told me that I was the weak one.
At this point, I've struggled with depression for almost half of my life. And most people still don’t really talk about mama’s who leave.
I don't talk about my mom much -- and it has been a year since I have seen or spoken to her (I feel like I should note here that this has not been my choice). Our relationship has been sporadic at best, but mostly nonexistent. I avoided talking about her because I never wanted to be seen as someone who would leave. I treated slipping out the back door like it could be passed down through DNA, like eye-color or the dimple in my chin, or hereditary disease.
But our wounds stick with us. In the words of Donald Miller, we learn if we are lovable or unlovable from other people, and in that moment, I allowed my mother to hand me an identity of not strong enough, and the brokenness in my home to name me broken.
I've borne the weight of those banners for more than a decade, and I've bled from the shame of them. Even though the scars have faded, they still feel fresh on most days, and I'm always only one lie away. Love has always been something that I've had to fight for, rather than something that has already been won on my behalf.
So I did everything I could: I served dinner to sick friends, did all the peer counseling I possibly could, wrote letters, volunteered with the elderly, and invited people over every chance I got, hoping that people would be impressed by how well I could show up and show love. My heart was in the right place, but my motivation was almost always twisted, at best. I hoped that if I did enough things right, you would always answer when I called, that you would bring donuts and say all the right things to set my fragile, tilted orbit right side up again.
I put my hope in broken people, who even on their best days, could never save me or offer me the kind of love I was truly after. I let people break me, and I'm sure that in my own brokenness, I have hurt other people.
The only place I wasn't taking my cup to was the very place that I needed to go the most: the feet of Jesus.
I won't tell you that I get it all right nowadays, because that would be a lie. I fall flat on my face all the time. But my life is starting to look a lot different. I'm starting to rethink the questions I'm asking -- praying that I would be open to whatever it is God wants to teach me in these seasons marred by so much shame and loneliness. I'm making room for God, and I have found him trustworthy and more than loving enough to hand me a new identity: that of being beloved.
A Love letter to the hurting
Dear friend, I won't presume to know exactly what you face today. I won't storm in like that. But I want you to know that you are far too beautiful to be standing under the banners of broken and not enough and unwanted and unqualified.
I believe that there is a God who invited you first, a Jesus who made room for all of you: your dreams and your doubts and your quirks and your passions and your fears. I believe that you are fully known and deeply loved, but I know that those are easy words to say and hard words to live. But believe me, that first step is so, so sweet.
He answers when you call. He will fill you. He will lead you. You are already found.
I was graciously given a sneak peek at Lysa TerKeurst's latest book, Uninvited: Living Loved when You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely. I was not required to write a review, however, I cannot recommend enough that you purchase this book. In fact, I cannot recommend highly enough that you purchase an entire case and hand one out to every woman you know. Not very many women have impacted my faith the way that Lysa has, and I am so grateful that the Lord led her to write this book for such a time as this. Click here to pre-order your copy of Uninvited., which will officially hit bookshelves near you on August 9th.