And the worst part was that I couldn't just deal with these things on their own--I had other things like a move and job changes and life changes all happening at the same time. For a few months it seemed like my world turned upside down and shook me until all of my loose change fell out.
I crept into my mind and pulled the covers over my face and tried to block out the increasingly demanding voices. The ones that reminded me over and over how I wasn't good enough, I wasn't strong enough, I didn't have any right to feel the way I felt, and I was just a pretty terrible person.
Mental and physical exhaustion can do a number on your spiritual and emotional well-being.
I also found myself in the quietest place on earth. There aren't any noises around here at night--with the exception of an occasional owl, bat, or the wind chimes (all sort of creepy sounds). So many sleepless nights I would find myself awake in the deathly quiet--with the voices in my head being all too loud because nothing competed for their attention.
I didn't have many local friends, either. Not many friends that knew everything and could understand what I was saying when I didn't want to say anything at all. I had to keep a lot of my thoughts and struggles close to my chest. I carried my issues like a shy kid hugs her binder on her chest for dear life. It felt wrong if I let them out in conversation or here on my blog.
I felt like my entire life was being taken away from me one layer at a time. I didn't like what each layer exposed in my soul. I found things that I had tried to cover with pretty bows and paper and accolades and service and titles and deeds.
And the reality was still peeking through it all.
I spent many days feeling the increasing loneliness and I grew resentful of what I was living through. I was jealous of those walking through life with less cares and I remembered fondly when I walked like them. I mourned my life and resented it all at the same time.
But, with my life as I knew it taken away, I had to begin to believe Truth for myself. The Truth that I always accepted for others, but never really applied to my life. I finally understood how the Lord allows us to walk through death and devastation in order to teach us all how to live. Sometimes it's a physical death--other times it's the end of a time or relationship or career or the end of self. I always believed that the Lord gives and takes away--but I believed it in a very finite way.
And when you see the Lord take things away, it can cause immense fear because you recognize you no longer have control. I really have no say so in how things are going to happen--and oh, the uneasiness that can bring to my life. I have questioned and gotten angry and hid and exposed and still wrestle with this process. Trusting, that whatever comes, He will see me through--it's not always an easy pill to swallow.
I like to think our minds are full of paths in a grassy field. Over time, if one walks or drives over the same path every day, the path becomes permanent. The grass will not grow and the path becomes grooved and is plain to see. My mind had deeply worn paths of Fear and Anxiety and Pride--but I left the paths of Love, Peace, and Joy unattended and the grass began to grow back. If someone looked hard enough, they might find evidence of them, but it was almost like they were special paths only to be taken when I felt safe (which was rare).
My familiar paths were short cuts. They were trusted because I was the one in charge of them. I knew how to react to situations with anxiety. I knew how to worry. I knew how to protect my bruised pride. I knew how to fear. I knew how to hide. When faced with tough situations, I allowed my mind to go into autopilot. The voices quickly led me to the shortest paths, rather than allowing Truth to take my hand and lead me down the paths of Grace and Mercy.
One day, I finally sat down in the middle of all of my paths and cried. I cried with bitter and angry and lost and sad and hopeful tears. I surrendered it all to Him--the bitterness, the thoughts, the worries, the fears, and the pride. I handed all of my mess to Him and gave Him the rights to deal with it. I asked for forgiveness, I pleaded for mercy, and I took His hand. And slowly, we have meandered down the paths of Restoration together.
There are still times when I look over my shoulder and see what could be lurking in the shadows. I still feel the need to occasionally walk on my familiar paths of yesterday, but I can see the grass slowly covering the dirt. I have a feeling that the old beaten paths will always be visible. A lifetime can never really be erased. I wear painful reminders of where I've been, but I also know that my pain reminds me of why I need to cling to His hands and Love when I'm feeling lost.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own insight.6
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6 RSV