I’ve spent the last year essentially dismantling my life.
The shimmering mirage of who I was a year ago has calcified and cracked. And here I am. Quite honestly, I am not sure where “here” is most days. But I know it’s better than where I was. Still, I’m aching with the stretch of vulnerability—vulnerability I never knew I had, or needed. And can I be honest? It hurts.
It hurts to see old photographs and hear innocuous comments that paralyze my mental faculties. It hurts to know this is good even while it feels “bad.” I keep wondering: How does one go from seemingly successful to utterly humbled? The answer, as I’m beginning to accept, is grace.
I used to consider spiritual and emotional growth as a gardening metaphor. We’re like cute little seeds that germinate and bloom into marvelous flowers. That would be quaint, right? But the truth is much grittier. For me, growth looks a lot like that damp piece of bread we experimented on in ninth-grade biology.
Here’s the thing though: being a moldy piece of Dave’s killer Bread is both sucky and embarrassing. And it doesn’t end at that. Many times, the embarrassment leads to isolation which leads to a greater struggle, which leads to shame. And then, before you know it, you’re curled up in bed with the serenading ooze of a depressing playlist to keep you company.
Can you tell I speak from experience?
See, I’d like to say I’m up and over this hurdle. That I’m good now—a gainfully employed, successful woman who spends her free time praying, mentoring others, and playing in a handbell choir (those things always seemed cool). But I’m compelled (with appropriate discretion) to share the honest struggle. As a friend in recovery recently commented, “Didn’t you think we would be out of the crap by now?” Uh, yeah. It was supposed to get easier.
I thought things were supposed to get easier by now. But “easy” is relative and healing isn’t linear.Tweet
But “easy” is relative and healing isn’t linear, so here I am and things still feel hard. Easier in some respects, yes; harder in others. That is very humbling indeed. It’s also grace in motion—progress flipped upside down and shoved into a lineup so that it looks ugly and out of place and entirely-un-progressive. And yet, it still is. Because I never had it together, and neither did you. So, messily moving forward is how it usually works.
Unfortunately, people don’t often share the tough stuff—certainly not in the midst of it. So the tundra of vulnerability is pretty lonely.
It’s also necessary.
I wholeheartedly believe that it is only when we receive the blessing of the dismantling that we can step into the process of rebuilding—in the mud and mire and crazy-cool ashes of what was. C.S Lewis says it well:
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”
I’m not saying God is causing your life to fall apart. I’m also not saying He is punishing you. That’s your prayer point. What I do know is that growth is almost always painful, messy, and takes longer than we think it should.
What if we embrace it? There’s plenty of room for hopeful vulnerability within trusted spaces, and the community of faith ought to be one such space.
Let me be the first to say that if you are struggling right now, you aren’t alone. You aren’t “behind” in life, forgotten, or washed up. You’re human. You’re hurting. You’re a castle-in-the-making and the process isn’t always pretty. Friend, that doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. Frankly, that probably means you’re doing it right—doing it for real. The effort is worth it, you are worth it, and you’re going to make it.
From one struggler to another: keep going. Shame will act as quicksand if we let it—if we don’t fight. That’s why vulnerability is crucial; why I’m choosing to share the muddy middle for the sake of His glory and others’ good. We need to know that no one has it together and that demolishing what’s harmful is something to be incredibly proud of.
Life is really hard right now, but it’s life and I wouldn’t trade that for anything. So I will keep building as God leads and I pray you will as well. As Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, “I am confident that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion.”
One response to “You’re Not Alone: I’m Struggling Forward Too”
I am sorry dear friend, you are still a shimmering mirage to me 🙂