I couldn’t recognize the person in the mirror from the person I had been two years prior. Life, trials, and tribulations can have that effect on us. They shape us and change us for better or worse. God intends for trials to conform and transform us into His likeness but the enemy intends to use the same trials to destroy us.
Two years ago my husband took on a job that requires extended periods of travel. I started this challenging season full of faith and even anticipation. I didn’t expect the season to last even 6 months. It’s easy to hold on to hope when you are so full of expectation that the challenge won’t last. A year into the season and the burden of solo parenting and managing a household began to take its toll on my weary soul. Emotionally I was depleted. Physically I was exhausted and I became ill.
I wish I could say that I held steadfast to my faith and that I drew from the Lord’s strength – but I didn’t.
I’d start out right. On my knees, in a posture of humility, I would pray and cast my cares at the throne of grace. Then I would say Amen, pick my load back up and carry on with my day. The new days load of burdens would be added to the one that was already wearing me down. And every day I would repeat the practice. Casting my burdens unto Him only to take them back from Him.
I strived and tried in my own power in my roles as wife and mother to be a source of support for my family physically, emotionally and spiritually. But there is only so much I could do in my own strength.
It is very hard to maintain relational intimacy with a spouse that is frequently away. So, of course, that suffered. And it can be quite challenging to keep your joy while burning the candle at both ends with very active children.
As I powered my way through the season I discovered that I was not living in the moment but in expectation of the end. I was perched at the edge of the season. It occurred to me at one point that for all my desire to glorify God in the season He had brought us into, I hadn’t embraced or accepted the season.
I, in effect, said to Him, “Lord, I love you and trust you. I thank you and praise you for what you will accomplish in our lives during this time. I will sit over here and wait for you to be done so I can get back to my real life.”
I did all that I could do to perform my way through it and when that didn’t work I did all I could to escape it. I had always been driven, motivated, intentional and disciplined in the pursuit of structure, order and meaning in every aspect of my life. I was always looking for ways to enhance our family experiences and life. But during this time I lost my sense of purpose and hope. I welcomed and tugged the corners of depression, around my shoulders, like a security blanket.
One day, at the pool, talking to my ‘summer friend’, I felt more alive than I had felt in a long time. I felt more like my old self. The self that is fiercely passionate and intense about living a life that glorifies God. The self that finds no greater joy than talking about my Savior and my beliefs and how they play into my everyday life. Our conversation fanned into flames the barely smoldering embers of passion in my soul. And that day I saw Him with the eyes of my heart.
God is in the business of revival and redemption and I see it now. I see His work. The source of my hope is no longer in a specific desired outcome but in the one who is Lord over all outcomes. No matter the outcome I can take my joy and comfort in who He is and not what He could do for me.
And so later that day (the day I talked with my friend), as I prayed and as I cast my burdens unto my Savior I did not pick the load back up after I said Amen. He is Lord and I am not. He can bear my load and I cannot.
So what was it that made the difference that day?
The fellowship, friendship, acceptance, and community that is found in a kindred spirit. The conversation that is framed by the gospel story. The vulnerability and authenticity in the many stories shared. What made the difference was that in every story — God was the focus of the conversation even when it wasn’t made explicit. There was no fear, no shame, not even exaggerated sympathy, platitudes or perfect Christian answers — just acceptance.
And that is exactly what my spirit needed.