“I’m afraid I might hurt them…I’m so scared…maybe if you tie our ankles together while we sleep it will help me feel safe…” I said in a barely voice. A cracked voice whispering through the effects of dehydration and an all consuming anxiety that had left me 11 pounds less than me in 11 days. For the past few months I had been fighting. Fighting hard. Fighting for peace. Fighting for joy. Fighting for happiness. Fighting to please. Fighting to keep the girl, the wife, the mama. If I could just keep her alive I wouldn’t sink into it all, I wouldn’t lose everything I counted as gain. My husband would stay. My friends would still look up to me. My kids wouldn’t lose their mom to a psych ward. I waved the white flag and collapsed.
As a young wife and mom, I was in a place I never thought I would fit. I loved it. I loved who I had become. I was married to a man born out of pride and responsibility and he was safe. He bought me a home and then a bigger home. We gave our kids lessons, and love and prettied up pieces of broken. I saw him and knew I would marry him. He told me he would marry me on our third alcohol slushed day together. I walked into his arms and fell into his bed in a haze of brandy and cokes. By a righteous outstretched arm over us and a stitching of holiness we’re still here minus the haze. I was jagged, raw-edged, skin-stretched before my time. I had a list of erased names belonging to men. I had cigarette breath and alcohol veins. I gave off an aroma of pride mingled with shame and the scent of a God who gave up. I didnt’ even know I ran from the God who hounded, wildly…furiously. I stood with mockers and ran into a darkness that would continue its fight for me. I bared it all because I had nothing to lose and the eyes of strange men saw everything..
Seven years old held a heart written with new words of life, breathed on by Spirit, awakened to grace. I loved my Jesus and desired to do everything He wanted me to do. I was a good girl on the outside. I loved to read and get good grades and please my parents, but inside rebellion ran deep and I didn’t just dip my toes in it, I played the game of who can touch the bottom first and I won every time. I drank from a mason jar something that burned my throat when I was 14, and though I hated the taste I loved the euphoria.
I had somehow found myself the mother of three and I heard the Voice without sound whisper into hungover ears one Sunday, “take them to church” and we drove until we stumbled in, and I remembered Jesus. There were fresh tears and new hope and Jesus said He had always been there and I believed Him and wanted to tell my babes everything I knew to be true of Him and all of the beautiful new things He was teaching me. There were conversations about God and heaven between toddlers and mama… and angels stooped low to listen. I memorized scripture while they napped, lungs filled with worship, that burst through deaf tones, and I didn’t care that I couldn’t match a note to a scale, I was sure the sound of angels joining in my chorus drowned out my flats and sharps. And this is the way it went. God blessed and I stayed home and cooked and baked and attended bible studies and learned to pray on a floor and get intestine honest with God. At first I was afraid to have my bible out in front of my husband, but after a while I didn’t care. I ate and stayed hungry. I thirsted and stayed thirsty. I read everything I could on godly marriages and grace-filled parenting. I studied each child’s love language and spoke in each of their tongues. I was pretty sure I was doing it all right and God was pleased.
It was in the middle of my right where everything turned sideways and wouldn’t stand straight again. Even me, sideways in bed. I couldn’t get up. Something hit me so hard one day it knocked air from my lungs and I literally couldn’t breathe. I struggled for every breath. Food became my enemy. I couldn’t swallow because my throat always felt like it was closing in on anything I would try and eat or drink. I trembled violently each time I brought fork to mouth. I feared the worst. I feared they would lock me away and I would never see my children again. just when I thought I couldn’t fear anything else, the images came. I was afraid I would lose my mind all together and hurt my own children. I closed my eyes tight and commanded them to leave in Jesus name. I tried to chase them out with scriptures on peace and resisting the devil. They fearlessly stared back at me. It’s as if my fear strengthened them. I called my husband home from work and dissolved into his arms on the hull of our garage. I wept and felt his chest heave in unison with mine as he wiped his own tears before they wet my hair. I feared losing my children. He feared losing me. We were both losing. I went to bed and didn’t get up. For days. He brought me half turkey sandwiches and pressed them to my lips, while he whispered in close “please eat, baby…” He got low and prayed. He offered, “I’m here, baby” and reached for my hand in my terror filled sleepless nights. He brought me xanax and sleeping pills. He tied our ankles together each night with the belt of my robe so I wouldn’t wander. He searched for me in the pitch of night and found me on the floor of my middle daughter’s room trying to be as near to her as possible in hopes that the nearness would grant me – me back….I was a good mom! But the images had lied to me. He reached into me where I was so lost, took my hand and said, “c’mon baby, lets go back to bed, she knows you love her.”…more words would come, “c’mon baby, get in the shower, I’ll go with you.” He led me to the bathroom while bones through skin shook and I couldn’t look up. I steadied myself on the bathroom counter and looked into hallow eyes. Someone was in the mirror staring back at me, but it wasn’t me. Where did I go?! I screamed from inside. I can’t find her! I got into the shower and held one trembling hand toward heaven and begged God to take my life and stop my racing heart. I wanted to die but was too afraid to take my own life. I couldn’t face another day. But God breathed a silent no over me and I groped for Him but couldn’t find Him. I opened my Bible and stared at black words against thin white and yelled at God. My mind so distracted I couldn’t read one verse. I pressed my bible into my chest hoping it would save me from the cancer-fluid of self filling my lungs. I asked God to breathe for me. My friends were afraid of me, like Job. In a daze of staring at empty words in between leather binding, I yelled, “if this is what it means to be a Christian, I don’t want any of it!” and a tiny stream of light broke through into my solitary hell. I showered and put on mascara and lip gloss. Still weak, I walked into my husband’s office and tears fell out of his eyes onto his suit. He took my hand and we walked outside and he said he’d never seen anything more beautiful. The healing had started, but the wounds still raw…
I opened up Beth Moore’s breaking free and God spoke to me about everything He had shattered in the breaking so that I might be free. He said I had to forget who I was, so that I would always remember who I was in Him. He taught me who He was and who I was as His beloved and we danced. Oh, I was still afraid to dance, clumsy and weak, but He led and we swayed together under heaven’s orchestra, my head to His heart. He breathed for me and I inhaled Him. I stopped shaking and fighting images. I started to sleep. I remembered how to laugh. I remembered God. And I begged Him again. This time I begged Him never to take me back there. Each time I looked back in fear, Jesus gently took my chin and tenderly turned my gaze toward Him. He became my life, my treasure, my love, my joy. I had a new understanding that even the flames of hell are free to singe me in His sovereignty, but their licks can only reach so far. That even the image of my sweet husband tying our ankles together so I wouldn’t wander alone in the dark, reminded me that nothing would separate me from Christ and His love and I began to trust. I learned that I had an identity so steeped in being the good wife, the best mom…because that’s what Christian women do, and it somehow cleaned up my past. At least that’s what I had believed. But he took those false beliefs and showed me truth and showed me that He not only runs to the broken but He breaks those who think they’re shatter-proof. He showed me the cross again and this time I saw real blood and wanted to taste it. I drank His blood and let Him wash me in it anew. I let His mercy scrub me raw. I wet His feet with tears and snot again and again and again in more gratitude in groans than words in voice. He showed me how to cling to the cross and believe down to my toes that I couldn’t earn His approval through righteous works and obedience to my role as a wife and mother. I could never be perfect enough, He was the perfect one! In His severest of mercies He let me crumble in a heap unable to distinguish reality from insanity and sang to me there. And then one day He whispered, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along. For behold, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers have already appeared in the land; the time has arrived for pruning the vines, and the voice of the turtledove has been heard in our land. The fig tree has ripened its figs and the vines in blossom have given forth their fragrance. Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come along!” (Song of Solomon 2:10-13). He kissed me and tied Himself to me and I was no longer afraid.