I had all my kids really close together, avalanche-style.
My life was hard. People constantly told me so. I couldn’t leave the house without someone commenting on how full my hands were, and it was true.
I had a 2 ½ year old, a 15 month old, and a newborn. Then, our youngest son joined us after a miscarriage and we had four kids under the age of five. And we started homeschooling.
Strangers looked at me with pity and bewilderment, saying they could never do what I was doing.
Well, I couldn’t either.
I was sleep-deprived, we had moved in with my very gracious parents for financial reasons, and I was a mess in every sense of the word.
I had a husband who loved me, a beautiful family, and a supportive church. But things weren’t perfect, and that consummed my thoughts.
Combine this with me being an undisciplined perfectionist and you can start to get the picture. I had no energy, no good habits, and felt nothing but desperation as I watched my perfectly good life slip imperfectly through my fingers day by day.
My Authentic Self
I’ve never been great at the “grin and bear it” plan. In fact, I specifically had an aversion to it.
Oh, I might bear it, but I definitely wouldn’t be grinning. A well-placed “So how are you doing?” dissolved all poise. I saw only the dark side of things and I couldn’t keep it inside. More authentically, I didn’t see the point.
As a result, I was stuck for many years with a lousy attitude. I say stuck because I was deeply committed to having it.
Things were not going the way I felt they should be and I was angry at God.
My heart was filled with discontent, envy, and self-pity. Being the authentic, fully-disclosing person that I was, this meant that every conversation contained a complaint. I was being what I thought was my authentic self.
I had a well-worn path straight to despair. Even when I lifted my eyes to God, I found my gaze quickly returning to the ways my life was hard. It felt way more appropriate to be discouraged. This phenomenon was something that really bothered me, deep down.
Was discouragement and bleak acceptance my authentic self?
That was merely my familiar self—the one I recognized as me.
As disciples of Jesus, we are all in the process of embracing a different self. A new one.
In Ephesians, Paul tells the church that they “must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds.” (Eph. 4:17) He goes on:
“But that is not the way you learned in Christ!—assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”Ephesians 4:20-24
Some days, I would wake up in a world where everything depended on me, where my weaknesses seemed so untameable and my failures so devastating.
But I’ve learned to recognize my tangle of despair for what it is: a corrupt leftover lie from my old self. It doesn’t belong anymore.
Take a Moment
Through all phases of my life, even to this day, my default mode when life feels overwhelming is to just take a moment and escape. (You can read all about it in last week’s post, Why Living on a Mountain-Top Isn’t God’s Plan for My Life.)
As a mom of young kids, I was seldom alone, but I craved it like a drug. The problem was, my moments of escape tended to make things worse. They would open up the floodgates. Time alone with my thoughts wasn’t helpful because my thought life was a nightmare.
All I had was a faint sense that there was something I should be remembering to remember. Something true that would turn everything right-side-up again. It was like having a glimmer of doubt about the authenticity of my despair. Maybe you can relate.
So here are the big questions:
How do we get ahold of ourselves when we feel like we are losing our footing and spiraling out of control? How do we put on the new self and get our heads on straight?
It has nothing to do with pretending things are fine. We need to develop a practice of remembering things are fine.
We stop and remember the truest things.
We all know how to take a moment to escape our reality, but it takes practice and discipline to take a moment for the purpose of remembering truth.
God’s Word calls into our darkness, beckoning us to look beyond what we see. We need to know the truth in order to remember it and that’s a great place to start. (I have a post about it called Confessions of a Thought Addict.)
Talk to someone who you know has their head on straight. Ask them to tell you true things.
(Or tell it to yourself, like I’m doing!)
The truest thing about you
There is something more true about you than the Mom Fail you replay in your head. More true than your bank balance. More true than a verdict or a diagnosis. More true than the despair you feel over that sinful habit you can’t seem to master.
Those things might be true, but they are not the truest things. Your most authentic reality isn’t visible, but it is bedrock solid.
Your life is anchored in God. He is in you, behind you, before you, and beside you.
You are seen, you are known, and you are loved by a God who holds the world.
You belong to Him and there is nothing in heaven or on earth that can separate you from His love.
He is working on you and He’s not going to give up. Period. Paragraph.
These core truths about you are untouchable, unshakeable, and secure.
This is who you really are—your actual authentic self, in Christ.
God’s truth about us sets us free to be okay, no matter what. It releases us to offer our imperfect selves to Him to use for His glory. It makes room in our hearts for contentment, freeing us to enjoy the beautiful blessings He’s given to us.
One day, we won’t need to practice putting on our new selves. We will be made entirely new, inside and out, free from the old self for eternity. It will be truly a glorious day.
In the meantime, we fight. We practice. We, moment by moment, push through the default thought patterns our earthly minds present as true, and fix our eyes on Jesus.
We face life with a steady heart, knowing that the One who holds it is faithful to see us through.