Crying, so much crying. Me, the girls, occasionally the boys. This was supposed to be the best summer. We had a bucket list and everything. We were crossing stuff off every week and I thought it was supposed to be fun.
But the tears said it was not. It just felt like so much failure. Normally things crossed off the list meant success, but me and my list both knew there were more important things to life and those were not being achieved. There was connection and security, gratitude and joy and all those seemed to be slipping away more and more with each week.
I’ve never been great at knowing my own feelings right away. Turns out I can be slow to process and quick to try to fix, which is not terribly helpful. It was bound to end in catastrophe eventually.
My emotional fragility was so frustrating because I knew I was supposed to be the one helping everyone regulate and I couldn’t even keep myself together. I was yelling more. Every disagreement felt like it was ending with bigger feelings and larger outbursts. I was losing control of the situation and myself. My goal was connection and to protect against the trigger of rejection, but most arguments had some version of, “I need to leave this conversation/confrontation before I say something that has lasting damage.” And it felt like failure because it would exacerbate the already hurt feelings of fear and rejection and lead to bigger behavior, louder yelling, and longer tantrums. And if this is 8 years old, how are 13 and 15 and 18 going to be? Things were not looking good!
How did we get here? How did we spiral so far down? How did I become the people I judged? How have I become this sad, despondent, hopeless version of myself?
“It’s their fault,” I kept telling myself. I just wanted to be fun and make good memories and they are never satisfied. Every tick off the list was met with complaint or critique. Why? Why do I even try to give them good things if they are just going to ruin it with their attitudes?
I don’t know who sets the emotional atmosphere in your home, but we typically have two kids who dominate. You think fighting over the thermostat in the house is hard, try managing one that is invisible and resides in the soul of a human.
We were praying and reading books. It just felt like it was getting worse. Everyone was on edge, and we had to try to put on happy faces for public but not even that was working. Arguments happened the minute the third person woke up. It didn’t even matter which 3 were awake. I was not doing well.
I know God is good. He has proven it over and over. I know life is hard, he has told us repeatedly in his word. I know that we need him, but somewhere, some how it felt harder and harder to believe these things and remind myself of them.
We needed more help. We needed fresh fighters who could join us in the spiritual battle, praying on our behalf, reminding us of truth that I was having a hard time grasping. Thank God for his church and their willingness to join us and speak up.
This is why we need godly community: To say the truth we can’t say ourselves. To fight the fight that we have become weary of fighting. To call us out and up.
I didn’t completely appreciate it at first. When Gunnar prayed for the spirit of defeat and hopelessness and melancholy to leave our house, I felt offended. If he wanted me and my attitude to take a hike, he could have paid for a weekend away!
But the truth of the matter was that it was exactly what we needed. Not a weekend away (though I am totally open to it and heard of a nice spa to visit), but a spiritual transformation. And by God’s grace it came. The next morning while reading through the kids devotional the lesson was on honoring your father and mother (Ephesians 6:1-3). God came and spoke to my kids in a way they could not hear from me. Of course babygirl spilled her cereal bowl half way though and there was sticky milk all over the counter and floor and the clean up took longer than the reading itself. But God was there and the kids were convicted and repented in a real way, and mostly I felt like God came and fought for me where I had no fight left. It felt like hope.
And Gunn kept praying prayers that felt slightly offensive. A few nights later as he prayed, he led me through the timeline of the summer and when things started going down hill. We learned almost a decade ago when people are annoying and frustrating, we have to go back to the original offense and forgive there and every time after it to find true healing and freedom… and not hold onto unforgiveness and resentment that leads to death. At first I didn’t see what I had to forgive because I didn’t see any obvious offenses.
But as he prayed and as we reviewed the summer, it became crystal clear that there had been so many wounds that I tried to say didn’t hurt or bother me. You cannot forgive an offense you refuse to recognize. You can harbor a lot of resentment if you wont admit an offense. In my effort to be a fun, good mom/woman/friend I somehow let my pride hijack my ability to be honest with myself and in turn God. In my pride, I didn’t want to be the be the needy or petty people I had judged. It turns out my terrible summer wasn’t their fault. The enemy is a liar and I had assumed the worst buying into all kinds of lies about myself and those I loved. We all had a part to play in the storm of sin, shame and blame, but no one more than me.
The truth is that there was an accumulation of hurt and offense, and the original offense led me to interpret other slights with deeper meaning than ever intended. Telling me that she wanted to stay with another family said that she did not care about the sacrifices I’ve made in my heart, home and life for her. It was the rejection I try so hard to protect her from. The hurt I felt at cancelled plans told me that I wasn’t important enough to prioritize. The greediness of my kids always wanting more translated into accusations of never giving enough. In the jealously of other friends doing things together, I heard that I was unwanted. All the times the enemy whispered to my fear that I am only valued for what I can do or give but not at all for who I am. So many hurts, some real, some only perceived, but pain all the same.
And in the confession came a flood of tears, but this time with relief. I didn’t have to let these wounds determine my life anymore. My pride had held me hostage in this tower of offense and in confessing it all God tore down the walls and his streams of mercy came.
God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6). Without realizing I had lifted myself, my role of good mom high, only to be trapped by my own sin and despair. And since sin leads to death, it was easy to believe the lies that I made up about people’s motives and feelings toward me. But God, in his grace, brought humility in confession and rescued me by his truth.
My heart was hurt and there was a lot to forgive. In my confession, there was a lot to repent. In the exercise of repentance and forgiveness, the dark, dreary cloud that had been covering my heart and mind seemed to dissipate. I slept good and hard for the first time in weeks.
The next morning I felt like my old self again… the one who could see the hard and remember that in this life there will be trouble, but I could take heart because he overcomes the world. My unresolved aching had blinded me to the good and beautiful that had transpired over summer. I let the heaviness of failure and defeat have the louder word in the narrative of my heart and had blatantly disregarded the the joy and healing that had been achieved. Just like my kids, I had let what was lacking be bigger than what was provided and in due course lived in a spirit of scarcity and anger instead of gratitude and joy.
There are still difficult days and there are still tantrums and hurtful words, but now I can identify them more easily, acknowledge the pain and deal with the forgiveness promptly. I didn’t like to admit that you could hurt me. I thought it would give you too much power, but now I see in not doing so, I’m giving the enemy power over my heart and mind.
So here’s to being honest, to learning more humility, to processing with the One who knows it all. The truth is that some of the summer was rough, but it was also had sweet and fun too. In the end I can honestly say I learned some of the best lessons.