I actually thought I knew who I was. At least, I think I did. The divide between then and now feels too deep and wide for me to know for sure.
I had spent the better part of a decade going to school, finding work, landing the job and pouring my soul into a career that I fully believed in. I was proud to work in the mental health field and loved that I was able to use my voice to advocate for the youth that I interacted with on a daily basis. It gave me an identity.
I had been single the majority of my life. I had grown accustomed to my role as third wheel. As lonely as it felt at times I appreciated the opportunities it provided me with as well. I was tied to nothing. If the scent of adventure was under my nose, I followed until it delivered.
Historically if hardship arose or a feeling got too complicated it meant it was time for the bags to be packed and a car to be loaded or a plane to be boarded. Difficulty meant disappear.
Commitment was a phone plan, rules were guidelines and life was all about the story after the last drink had been served.
I was 27 when I got married. I had been living independently my entire adult life. I did what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted whenever I wanted to. I loved the notion of sharing my life with someone. I knew being a mom was in my story but I had no idea how these things would ever unravel in my life. And then, inside of two years my lifelong journey as a single gave way to marriage, leaving my career, home ownership and motherhood. Whoever I had been was flipped upside down and landed where it felt very dark.
Something inside of me broke.
Staring in the mirror I looked at the reflection staring back at me with tears stinging the wells of my eye. My body doubled in size with the birth of my first child and remained stretched after the arrival of our second. My hair tied tightly in a knot to the top of my head in a feigned effort to disguise the unwashed hair, my eyes carrying the baggage of weeks of no sleep, day old spit up on my shoulder from a shirt I was too tired to change out of and what appeared to be baby poop on the side of my pant leg from a diaper that had been changed hours ago. I smelled of sour milk and dirty laundry and the conflicted feelings of wanting to run screaming out of my filthy house to anywhere but there and dropping to my knees and thanking God for the gift of my life was nearly too much to bare.
But I swallowed it.
My husband worked 10 hour shifts on nights and attempted sleep in the hours he was home. Our boys were 2 and new born and cried without sleeping. Hour long bouts of shared screaming stole my nights and tore open my mornings. I felt alone and scared, confused and ungrateful.
But I swallowed it.
Life made room for more change and the night shift gave way to days. My body made room for a third child to grow and our lives were filled into boxes as we moved from our first house into our forever home.
Years had passed and again I caught myself staring at this stranger’s reflection staring back at me. Who was this person? Six years of treading water had left me looking worn and weathered.
The damn broke.
I needed to know who she was. She, this person staring back at me. Somehow amidst all of this life I had completely forgotten how to live. I had forgotten how to love passionately, live adventurously, laugh uncontrollably; live! Sleep was my obsession, being the wife and mother I so desperately wanted to be to my husband and children was the daily bar I couldn’t meet. My expectations were confused and coming from a place of deep insecurity, fueling my belief as a failure. I was at a complete loss.
‘Don’t disappear’ a quiet voice from somewhere deep within whispered. ‘Find your light.’
I was tired of being lost. I was tired of feeling weak. I was tired of being unsure. I was tired of this war I was in with myself! Identity can be a fickle thing if it isn’t firmly rooted in foundation. I had built my entire life on sand that would blow anywhere the wind took it. I didn’t know who I was because I was whoever I needed to be.
I was created for more than a hollow life of loss and confusion. I couldn’t let myself just disappear into circumstance.
‘You are of a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light.’
1 Peter 2:9
This isn’t a promise just for me.
This is God’s promise to all of his children.
Friends, shadows are simply a reminder that light can be found in even the darkest of spaces. Don’t disappear into the dark spaces of your life. If you find yourself trudging through and the shadows of life’s many tasks and hardships are casting fear into the shadows of your mind, remember this promise.
You are chosen, uniquely loved and need not fear any amount of dark, because of God’s marvelous light.