As my birthday rapidly approaches, I become increasingly aware that I’m yet another year older than my mom was when she passed away. It’s so surreal, and also strange to me, because I don’t feel the age I am, and I haven’t fully concluded if that’s a good or bad thing. This birthday will officially put me in my “mid thirties”, and that term always reminds me of being a teenager and thinking that meant you were getting old. I suppose age is truly a condition of the heart, in which case I’ll be forever young since by the time I’d feel my age, I’ll likely have more grandkids than I know what to do with! And before I go much further, I have to apologize if this post seems all over the place. When I write at night, or the early part of the morning, my brain is usually scattered with all the things I want to say and it doesn’t always come out as put together as I’d like. Hopefully it adds character to my posts and makes me a little more relatable.
I have to be honest and admit that I almost feel like the older I get, the more immature I feel to some degree. Maybe it’s because I spent the last of my teen years and my entire twenties being a wife and stay-at-home mom. And though I felt ready, I think rushing into such great responsibility caused me to suppress the growing up I so desperately needed because my focus was taken completely off myself and onto my family. I never “discovered” who I was or focused on my own needs, I guess I thought I didn’t have any or that they weren’t as important. I was the epitome of a selfless person because I knew that’s what my family needed, but no one ever told me that one day it would come back to bite me in the butt, big time.
The more I discover about myself, the more afraid I am to dig deeper. Certain situations reveal a selfishness I never knew existed, and to be quite frank, it scares me to death. I don’t like thinking that underneath all those selfless acts was just a selfish person trying to get to people to like her. Isn’t that the epitome of manipulation? Though, if I’m being honest, it stems from more of a self-protective stance and not outright self-centeredness or to be self-serving. I know as a Christian I’m supposed to be selfless and put others first, but sometimes, I just don’t want to. I think part of me wants to be taken care of the way I always took care of everyone else. And I know that’s not inherently a bad thing, but when you neglect your responsibilities while waiting for it to happen, it can spiral out of control. I catch myself off guard at times because I’ll think or feel something and I’m surprised at my automatic response. I’ll ask myself, “why do I feel this way; why was that my immediate reaction”? I can sometimes trace it back to the root cause, but other times I’m left to wonder. Is it all of the trauma/drama I’ve encountered in my life? Is it the way I’ve been treated and my walls are up? Is it just my hormones settling down after spending so much of my life being pregnant? How do I fix it? (I’m sure I’ve mentioned I’m a fixer, self-helper kind of person) Maybe I’ve always been a selfish person and I was too afraid people wouldn’t like me so I became a people pleaser. I know I didn’t like people to be upset with me, and I never understood why some people just didn’t like me, I’ve always been nice…I thought? But I read a quote a while back that pretty much summed up what I needed to hear. It said, “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place”. It brought clarity to my thoughts and helped me realize that I was always afraid to disappoint people, and I constantly worried I would do or say something that would make people not like me. Being at the age I am now, when my whole life is supposed to all be “coming together”, I feel like I’m just beginning. The only reason this upsets me is because, as a perfectionist, and someone who likes things to be the way they’re “supposed to be” as opposed to how they actually are, I feel like I’ve failed at something monumental. I know everyone’s life looks different, but I’ve spent so much time trying to be “normal” and so far, I’m still not…maybe God’s trying to tell me something?
Toward the end of last year I began feeling like I was on the precipice of a huge change in my life. It was a feeling tinged with sadness, but I wasn’t sure why, I didn’t want to imagine anything bad happening. The mom’s group I was going to was coming to an end for the semester and I was feeling like I may not come back-which was crazy since I’d only missed one day of the almost two years I attended. Some other things happened and I could see my relationship with God taking a backseat in my daily routine, and though it frustrated me, I almost felt helpless to change it. The new year came and went as I wrote about in my last blog, and I just felt like part of me was changing, but not in a good way. I still prayed, but I wasn’t making God a priority or spending the time I needed to keep myself away from the depression I can often feel creep in when I isolate myself from the world. I know I need my solitude, but I could see the walls going up again and honestly, I just didn’t care. Things were happening that made me frustrated with God because I’d spent so much time praying about those exact things that were falling apart. Why would He allow something to fall apart that I knew in my heart He’d ordained? If you’ve ever been mad at God, you totally relate to my inquisitiveness. It just didn’t make sense so I withdrew from Him. As childish as it is, I felt like if He wasn’t going to fix the problems, I wasn’t going to come to Him with them anymore-that would show Him! (haha) Do you ever sit and laugh at yourself for being like the children you’re raising? It is so funny to me that, as an adult, I can be just as immature and self-centered as my kids who don’t know any better.
I think the hardest thing about convictions is that once it’s brought to your attention, you have no choice but to fix the issue. As much as a self-helper I am, I like to be the one to choose to change, not have my flaws pointed out to me, that’s a huge hit to the ego. And I know God isn’t sitting there saying, “I told you so”, it’s more like, “are you ready now”? And my response isn’t much better than what I get from my kids when they realize I was right. I wonder if God ever chuckles at us and our desire to control things beyond our capabilities. There’s a fine line between self-sufficience and relying completely on God. I know that’s ultimately my problem, I haven’t found that delicate balance. (As much as I’ve talked about knowing this, you’d think I’d have it figured out by now, right?) Because just when I think I’ve surrendered control, I want to take it back thinking it’s what I’m supposed to do. God isn’t going to run my life for me, there are things He wants me to do, but I feel like I’m always failing at my part and I hate that. I know I’m harder on myself than anyone else, that’s a hard habit to break and certainly doesn’t benefit anything.
There’s a new song out by Francesca Battastelli called “If We’re Honest” that completely broke my heart the first time I heard it. She says:
Truth is harder than a lie The dark seems safer than the light and everyone has a heart that loves to hide. I’m a mess and so are you, we’ve built walls nobody can get through Yeah, it may be hard, but the best thing we could ever do, ever do
Bring your brokenness, and I’ll bring mine, ‘Cause love can heal what hurt divides, and mercy’s waiting on the other side, if we’re honest.
All I could think about was how that’s totally me! I don’t want people to see my flaws, because sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who struggles with them (even though I know that’s totally not true). I feel like if I’m not “perfect”, then people won’t depend on me or ask for help with their issues. When I say it out loud, I know it’s crazy, but it’s hard not to put on a smile and pretend to have it all together when it’s my instinct. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who know my every flaw, but those are people who either live with me or whom I trust to help me with love and complete honesty. I’ve realized that my instinctive reaction is to put up walls so I don’t get hurt. And then if people disappoint me, it’s easier to get over because I never really let them in anyway. I know that’s no way to live, and it’s certainly something I’m recognizing and attempting to work on. It’s most definitely not easy, and I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near where I want to be. But they say the first step to fixing a problem is to acknowledge there is one, so that’s a step in the right direction. I was just telling my husband that I’m tired of my automatic responses, especially when it’s directed at him. I know it’s a reflection of my heart, I’ve just felt so weighted down and in a rut and hadn’t had the strength or desire to work on it.
Ultimately we’re all imperfect and flawed, we all have pain and hidden parts of our heart we don’t want anyone to see because it’s vulnerability and it’s uncomfortable, I know for me it is anyway. I wrote a blog last July about how I’d acknowledged fear for the first time in my life. It was consuming me and I didn’t even know it! I’ve talked about how I’ve always had this outward confidence, and that I didn’t care what people thought of me. (Maybe it’s because I never knew what people thought of me?) Maybe this realization was because every bad thing that ever happened in my life was beginning to surface as problems I needed to face and it scared me. Maybe all the things I’d gone through created this tough outer shell as protection from facing pain as it hit me. There’s no maybe, that’s exactly what was happening. Every tear, every heartbreak, every time someone ”proved me right”, built this wall I thought was protecting my heart, but in reality, it was keeping everyone out. It was just the beginning of the journey God was preparing me for. Realizing I was actually scared to death was what I needed to break down that wall and move deeper into my pain. So many times I’ve wanted to just wallow in my self-pity, pretend that there wasn’t anything actually wrong with me, but God is relentless in case you didn’t know. I kept coming across things that said, “don’t quit, your destiny is on the other side of fear”, or, “God gives his hardest battles to His strongest soldiers”, you know, inspirational things no one wants to hear when they want to be a defeatist.
A couple of weeks ago God put something on my heart that I didn’t realize I was holding on to, not as tightly as I was anyway. He’s since given me the closure I needed to put it behind me and let go completely, it’s always through music too, it never fails. The song is, “Tell Your Heart To Beat Again”, and the verse that got me says:
Beginning, just let that word wash over you, it’s alright now, love’s healing hands will pull you through. So take one step, look back up, see the rise and feel the sun because your story’s far from over and your journey’s just begun
I, of course, cried as I always do, but my mind began racing with thoughts and questions. “Beginning? Beginning of what? I thought I was past that? Past being afraid of trusting God with my future? What? What is going on, God’?? Have you ever been so afraid of something but you didn’t know why? Or knew it was an irrational fear but it somehow had a grip on you anyway? That’s where I was in that moment. It’s where I still kind of am because even though I know He has a far better plan for me than anything I could ever do on my own, or even hope for myself, there’s still this little girl inside who’s so afraid of being hurt and thinking of all that could go wrong. Yes friends, somehow afraid that the Creator of the world, and me, is going to hurt me. Ugh, just admitting that breaks my heart. But it also allows me the freedom to be vulnerable and admit that it’s a struggle, whew!
I guess I am at the beginning of a new journey, one that’s paved with freedom and true contentment, the ability to trust the process and know that the best days of my life are a combination of things I’ve been through and things I’ve yet to experience (like being the mother of the bride 3 times!) It’s time to let go of all the expectations I’ve put on myself over the course of my life, to stop waiting on the end result and enjoy the process of life. To realize God’s time frame isn’t my own. And even though I felt like I was over all this junk, He knew I wasn’t and is teaching me to embrace the messy parts of life, as uncomfortable as it is. To know that though growth is difficult and incredibly painful, it produces something beautiful. To know that every single trial I’ve been through is being used to refine my character always makes me think of Isaiah 61:3…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…”. Knowing that God is the only one who can take someone so broken, something so tragic, even when it’s self-inflicted, and turn it into something amazing is truly humbling, this beauty from the ashes of past pain. To be able to let go of a burden that was never mine to carry is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders, my soul feels lighter.
It’s exciting to think about what He has planned for me as I take this step into the unknown, learning to let go of all the things that were holding me down, one obstacle at a time. And I hope to continue to use my life’s experiences as tools to help others where they are, especially my own children.