I really love to journal. Partially because I love to write, yes…but there’s this way that journaling often helps me keep a right perspective. It reminds me of where I was, good or bad…and it often reminds me of where God has shown up time and time again. And let’s be honest, we all need that in our lives. Facebook also has this funny way of doing that, oddly enough. Who saw that coming? Just yesterday I was mindlessly scrolling and an “on this day” memory popped up. A simple photo of one of my daughters playing on our living room floor, surrounded by christmas decor and a train that no longer works. The photo was paired with a caption that brought me to tears. The kind that make it hard to breath.
A year ago, I was living my “dream life’. I had just started what would’ve been, at the time, my dream job – my marriage was in a really fruitful season, and I was surrounded with some of the most amazing relationships. My life was full – Mountain top season doesn’t even begin to describe it. All at the same time I could feel the Lord showing me some things that needed attention, reminding me that the work wasn’t finished…but I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to enjoy the pause in heart surgery and take in the season of plenty. So I ignored the gentle nudges, and let them turn into full-blown attention grabbers.
“I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.”
John 14:18 NIV
Over the period of a few months I watched my PTSD flare up and knock me on my behind without any warning. Statements that took me back, photos of my abuser, people living life with him while I attempted to be “normal” On a handful of occasions I stood outside of myself, numb, and felt pain I hadn’t felt in over 10 years – as if I was feeling it for the first time. At this point PTSD was a self diagnosis, given after endless nights of “what the hell is going on with me?” all while never sharing with anyone what was happening on the inside. After random spurts of shutting down, I found myself apologizing for what could have only been perceived as “bad moods” and continued to try to rationalize my internal wrestling, without having to actually confess the turmoil that was taking place inside of me. I was avoiding God’s words to me, thinking there was a way to healing that didn’t involve his instructions.
“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.”
John. 15:4 MSG
The last year has been by far my most stretching year, often dark and full of loss. But you guys, if I could just explain to you the tangible ways that the Lord has loved on me and graciously brought me back to his feet. A year ago, I just wanted to be strong. I didn’t want another moment of tears or feelings of brokenness. I didn’t want to have to tell “my story” one more time. I wanted to revel in the fruitful things in front of me, and celebrate the normalcy that my life had stumbled upon. But, He had other plans, and the more I stuffed, the more the ugliness swallowed me. You can only compartmentalize and stack your boxes high for so long, before they come crashing down.
Many of us have these things, they’re the really ugly things or the really painful things that we have placed inside of their box and we shoved them to the back of the garage. They’re the things we explain away, or that we ignore, we refuse to open them because we are “fine” or because deep down we know the pain of feeling is far too much. So we hide them from ourselves, and we walk away. Often, we keep them in their boxes because bringing them out wouldn’t only affect just us. The light has a way of doing that, pointing out the big picture, and I have found that it can be equally painful to call it like it is where someone else is concerned.
It took lots of meetings, where I was told it was time to open up my boxes and stop making excuses for the behavior of others. It took appointments on couches with a therapist who laid all of my crap out on a table in front of me and said “This is who you are and this is why. You’re lucky to be here, but God is good that way.” It took being officially diagnosed with PTSD and adding a diagnosis of Dissociative Disorder. It took learning the parts inside of me that were dysfunctional and broken, and unintentionally hurting people who I loved very much. It took taking my idea of “normal” and throwing it in the garbage – mourning the loss of a handful of things and then handing them over to him. It took a year of feeling everything to get me here. This place of release that comes from a trip through the fire. Hard as hell, but now I am so grateful to have found myself in that place.
“Pushed to the wall, I called to God;
from the wide open spaces, he answered.”
Psalm 118:5 MSG
I felt sad yesterday for that girl, that girl from last year. The girl who was trying to hold it all together in an effort to be strong, but really had no idea what true strength looked like. The girl who didn’t truly understand that God was fighting for her healing, and his love is relentless. I felt sad that she ever believed she needed to keep it all together, and that she didn’t understand that ignoring it was a lonely place to live. There’s a lot I feel sad for, but I am grateful for the graceful way that the Lord broke her heart. She needed that, and maybe you do too.
I know a good handful of women who right this moment are standing in front of boxes that are threatening to eat them whole if they aren’t opened. Women whose broken hearts are being buried by mountains of pain, and are in need of the kind of freedom that only Jesus can bring. And if you are like them, all I can say to you is the same thing I would say to them. It is worth the pain, it’s worth all of the hard work…but it is not worth all of the loss to ignore it. If you could see what is to be gained on the other side of your valley, you wouldn’t hesitate walking through the fire, I promise you.
“The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.”
1 Peter 5:10 MSG