Awhile back, I told you about my desire to be braver in my writing. I had barely put the finishing touches on that post when I received an email from my pastor asking me to speak in church about a time in my life when God came close.
My first thought (once I got over some initial resistance to the whole idea) was to share something sort of “devotionally.” But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had just been given an opportunity to practice being more transparent and vulnerable—not just in my writing, but out loud.
Can I just pause right here and say that is NOT what I had in mind when I wrote that post? But I couldn’t escape the timing. God had opened the door, and I had to go through it.
Here’s an edited version of what I shared in church a few weeks ago.
• • • • •
When my daughter Lilly turned three, she began having terrible fits, particularly upon rousing from her long afternoon naps. She’d wake up yelling, crying and sometimes even throwing herself down the hallway.
Nothing I tried helped her snap out of these episodes, so I finally decided she just needed to work through them herself.
I told her I’d be in the living room when she was ready to come to me. Then I sat there and waited as the drama continued, sometimes for 20 minutes or more.
She’d eventually make her way to the living room, and then to where I was, and then to my lap, where I just held her as she cried herself over it.
This was tough. I often wanted to jump out the window to escape the noise. But no matter what Lilly did or said, it didn’t change my love for her one bit. She was acting in accordance with her maturity level—and, I realized later, probably her need for a large afternoon snack—and as much as it frustrated me at times, as her mom, I understood that.
This reminds me of Psalm 103:13-14, which says, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him; for He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.”
Thankfully, Lilly outgrew her after-nap fits. And in the coming years, I was the one who began to experience firsthand what a difference it can make to understand that God knows how we are formed and remembers that we are dust.
As you may know, infertility led us to adopt Lilly and her younger sister, an obvious case of good coming from bad. God answered our prayers for a family in a wonderful way, but the mess inside of me did not go away when I became a mother.
It got worse.
Over the course of several years, out-of-whack hormones took me on a roller-coaster ride of emotional and mental symptoms. Sometimes, I was perfectly fine. But other times I was anxious. Depressed. Irritable. I had difficulty seeing things as they really were. I was exhausted and overwhelmed—a lot.
All these symptoms were internal. They weren’t necessarily obvious to anyone else, besides those in my house. As far as external circumstances were concerned, there were lots of happy times, many good memories. My family was an anchor.
But there was also a lot of change. Big change.
Logistically, practically everything about where we lived and what I was doing had changed since the days when I would wait for Lilly to arrive in the living room. And many of these things didn’t just change once!
Change is not my favorite under ideal circumstances, and the internal struggles didn’t help at all.
I didn’t always handle things well. I didn’t always respond well to those I love the most.
I’m not making excuses. I was responsible for my reactions and actions, but during that season of my life, I was powerless to eliminate the problem.
I think of this time as my “long drought of the soul.”
During those years, I found hope in the Psalm I mentioned earlier. The fact of the matter is that God made me so He knows my physical weaknesses. He also understands my limitations and my finite understanding of what’s going on around me and in me.
Yes, He wants me to trust Him completely. And yes, He’s saddened when I don’t. But in His grace and mercy, my heavenly Father has compassion on me when I start acting like a spiritual preschooler. Or when the circumstances of my life get to be almost more than I think I can stand.
Knowing that gave me comfort.
Through these years, I prayed a lot. I have files and files where I poured out my heart to God on the computer. Despite the dryness, despite my inability to write much of anything else, I kept up the discipline of prayer. Going through the motions is not a negative thing—sometimes it’s the only thing.
I prayed often to be healed. That God would take away this thorn in my flesh. Balance things inside. Jesus had done it for the woman who touched the hem of His garment; He could do it for me.
But He didn’t. At least not then or in that way. He did something else.
He drew me close.
I don’t think He allowed me to struggle because He wanted to see how tough or self reliant I am.
Because I’m not. I’m weak. I’m nothing. I’m dust.
I don’t know why I went through that wilderness. But I believe there was a reason for it. It would go against God’s character for it to be otherwise.
I’m not a perfect parent, by any stretch. But I would never intentionally inflict pain on my children or make them struggle just for the sake of doing it.
Neither would God, who IS the perfect, loving parent, ever jerk His children around just for the fun of it or just to torture them. Everything He does, everything He allows, has a point. It may not be obvious at the time, or ever, but it has a point.
My journey, however much my faith has grown over the past few years, rests solidly on that truth.
In hindsight, now that my struggles are much less, I can see the value of what I went through. When I felt all alone, like I was going crazy, like I was the only one my age to ever experience this, God became enough.
He always had been enough. Through this, I started to understand that for myself.