I wrote this New Year’s Day 2015. I was sitting at the kitchen table early that morning looking back on the previous year, and I felt completely lost and hopeless. I regretted almost every decision I had ever made. In an attempt to pick myself up, I decided to dig down and try to write about the good things that had happened that year. This is what came out, and it is truly the heart of my heart, the most raw and vulnerable I have ever been. I only share it because I believe it might help someone else. If you’ve ever been in a pit of despair, I’ve been there too, and I promise there is a way out.
“2014 was probably the hardest year I’ve ever been through. It’s hard to compare, but I feel like my heart was broken into little pieces over and over again. Not to mention all the beloved hearts I was breaking of those around me. I want to understand it and put all the broken pieces back in the right place, but I can’t. I know things will never fit together in quite the same way again. Brokenness is something I’ve been afraid of my whole life. Brokenness is messy and imperfect and it doesn’t have a pretty face and it doesn’t know all the answers. People don’t feel comfortable around brokenness. They like clean, organized, have-your-shit-together people. But this brokenness has changed my life. When you’re so broken you don’t even feel like a whole person anymore and the world and those you love see it, you can’t run. You can’t hide that kind of brokenness. You can’t mask it with a pretty smile. I was as low as I could get, and in that place I found an amazing thing: peace. Peace in knowing I was at my worst and if everyone around me left me, I would still not be alone. For the first time I was the prostitute, the beggar, the murderer, the leper, and the sparrow. With every fiber in my being I am thankful that God comes down to the lowly. He meets us in the pit and He brings His all-encompassing love and peace and forgiveness. When you feel like your sin has stained you, you have no choice but to present it to the Lord. My brokenness was met with love and a resounding “I love you.” My wounds were bandaged and are slowly healing.
My head sometimes tells me I don’t deserve this, I’m permanently broken, I am destined to keep hurting the people I love. But this is not true. This lie from the enemy would have me wearing a scarlet letter on my chest for the rest of my life. When we see what we’re capable of, what damage our own little hands can do to others, it’s tempting to retreat and accept defeat. “How can I ever not be this person? How can I ever be strong enough to not do it again?” The answer that I still struggle with daily is that we aren’t strong enough. We won’t succeed on our own. Our strength is pretty useless against the lies and darkness in this world. We can’t win. I keep trying to muster up enough strength inside myself to be good, be loving, be happy, be perfect. But my strength fails me. It is only God’s strength in me that will bring me any amount of success. I am weak. I am broken and lowly. But I am fiercely loved by a God of strength and compassion.
In that pit I recognized this, that I can’t do it on my own. I hate that it took such devastation to teach me this. I hate that pit. I hate that I broke others in the process of breaking myself. And the hardest thing to bear, to wrap my head around, is that I can’t fix their brokenness. I can’t make it better or make it hurt less. The terrifying thing about suffering is that most of the time you just have to get through it. You suffer the pain. There is unimaginable beauty in suffering, but it is still suffering nonetheless. I can’t fix it now. I know I’ve tried my hardest to paint the prettiest picture and stay inside the lines and maybe then my perfect portrait will make it all okay, will make everyone hurt less and put me back in their good graces. But I fail. At the end of the day each person has to bear their own pain. We may be surrounded and encouraged by those who love us, but sorting through the mess is our job alone. We have The Comforter to guide us, and He is ready to catch us when we fall, because we will fall again.
I know all I can do is encourage the one I love, stay by his side and hold his hand through the pain. In a way we can help bear the burden with others. I think of the few gracious people who have shown me unconditional love. They have lightened the load, even if just for a moment. The sweet texts, a listening ear across the table, a genuine smile that holds no judgement, an act of kindness when you feel so undeserving of kindness in any form. I think of the women who came alongside me and helped me sort through my mess. They speak truth to the lies and pour love over the brutal truths. Sitting outside for hours, smoking cigarettes, encouraging me to accept the rebel inside me and see it as a good thing. These women see me. They aren’t scared away by the dirt on my face. These women carried my burden and gave me much needed rest. Rest in my spirit and in my mind. This is what the Lord does, this is how the body works together. I hope to be that for others. I hope to be a salve for their wounds and not an irritant or a bandaid. I hope to do this for the one I love, to ease his pain. It’s a scary thing to help heal the wound that you caused. It’s frightening to look it head on and see the damage you did. But there is something beautiful in getting in the mess, the dirt, the pain with others. It’s life changing, soul saving stuff. Jesus didn’t shy away from the pain in others. He walked right into the pain and understood it, ministered to it, and comforted it.
I can choose to stay stuck in my pit. It would be easy and I’m getting comfortable here now. But it’s a waste of the endless amounts of love and grace I’ve been given. The thing about forgiveness is that you have to accept it. You have to take hold and claim it as your own. Shame feels good to those who know they have done wrong. Forgiveness feels unnatural, undeserved. “Let me stay here, in my pit with my friend shame for a little while longer. Maybe when I come out everything will be okay.” Some people even encourage you to stay there, to carry that mantle of shame a little while longer, but shame begets guilt and hopelessness, and hopelessness spurs us toward sin. We need to be courageous, summon that rebel in us all and grab onto that forgiveness that feels so foreign and undeserved. “But what if they don’t see how sorry I am? What if they don’t believe me ?” I don’t know. I have a hunch, though, that even while walking in forgiveness, those that matter will see the repentance on your face and the sorrow that still lingers in your eyes. It doesn’t feel like enough. And that man I love might still doubt it. It takes courage to believe in forgiveness. It takes work to claim it every day.
Each person is fighting their own battle: to feel loved, to love well, to be strong, to be humble, to trust God or to even believe in Him, to be a good mom or wife or husband or father. To not kill or cheat or not do that thing again. We are all soldiers and we are fighting in messy battles. We all feel pain and we are all searching for someone to understand it, accept it, and fix it. If we could only be more gentle, spend more time on the uncomfortable topics, spend time letting others talk about themselves. Our pain is our own, but by the grace of God we have those angels in our lives who aren’t scared of it. I still get lost sometimes. I can’t find a way out of the pain. I look back and all the good things are hazy, hidden. Maybe I’m just talking to myself right now, but you aren’t alone. You are not the only one who has thought that thought or committed that action. You are forgiven. Really. Every nook and cranny of your sin is forgiven, wiped clean. Don’t stay in the pit. Don’t live there. Don’t pitch a tent and settle in. A wise woman told me once to try to get to a bench overlooking the pit, and take it from there. It takes strength, courage, and hope to get out of the pit, and that’s when I rely on my rebel. Listen to that voice inside, trust in those safe people around you, and try. Try a little bit even when you feel like you have no strength, even to raise a needy hand out of the pit. The Lord knows this struggle. It is part of the human experience, and thank God, He knows what it means to be human. There is beauty everywhere. Even in the pit, in the sin, in the sickness and in the pain. I want to find that beauty and be someone who can help others see it too.
I can’t make empty promises to myself this year. I can’t resolve to make myself better or spout off trite platitudes in hopes that it will make a difference. What I can do is pray; pray for strength to stay out of the pit, all the while knowing life will inevitably put me there again. Maybe this year my goal is to do it well, the rising and falling; to learn, observe, struggle, and rest. We aren’t alone, and for that I am so grateful. We have a wonderful shepherd who knows the terrain we will walk. We still fall, and sometimes we will stay down longer than we should. But I hope to grow and learn to love myself and others on the journey.”