I am failing.
Every. Single. Day.
My heart is not pure. My mind is worse. My flesh is torn with old scars and I have no problem slashing them open again and again with a knife of longing for something I lost. I have a quick-tempered tongue, and a wayward tendency to always want something else.
I am not in the Word – not as much as I could be. My history distracts me from believing that I can involve myself in more than what immediately satisfies me. A learned behavior pattern from my youth, but it wasn’t always this hard…
When I was a small child, I remember vividly having a fire for the Lord. I did. It was important to me. It mattered. I shared it with my friends. I sat at my father’s feet and listened to him and my mother recite scripture and then explain its application to our young lives. I believed in God not as a supernatural being but as a tangible friend in my heart.
I lost this. Some time ago. With age comes a million wide roads, and I had no problem walking those instead of the narrow path that drew me close to God.
Sometimes, I think about this – I remember a skinny brown-eyed-girl with long legs and a brave, pleasing heart – I remember her and I weep. I remember that God sewn in my spirit an evangelical gift and I shared my faith with people confidently. A child, with little exposure to a world beyond Vancouver Washington… I wanted to share what I knew to be true, with no fear. I had purpose. I had knowledge of who I was, and who I wanted to be… I just needed stability, and people to believe in me, and keep showing me the way.
What happened to me? Where did that child go?
In the time since my childhood I’ve seen my parent’s divorce when I was in 5th grade because my mom wanted to be someone else, with someone else. I looked around me and from what was a family with two parents and their five children in one home, I could not recognize the two new lives they both led, and watched the utter abandonment of my parents to their children as they themselves tried to reconcile this new experience.
With this came me seeking approval and love outside of my two homes and halfway through my adolescence I found comfort in the arms of way too many boys. Sexual promiscuity became my identity, under an easily penetrable guise of self-confidence – my parents weren’t watching so they missed it entirely; I was lost, completely, and wanted love so badly that I reached for it wherever I could grasp, at the incredibly devastating expense of my self-worth – though I hid that part deep inside.
From that, I obviously struggled in school… It was my last priority, but deeper than this, nobody noticed how I was struggling. They just … did not care. I think about this now and I have begun in this moment to tear up. I was still a child – their child – God’s child… But I felt nothing but alone. I remember a counselor pulling me aside in 11th grade. He asked me what my plan was to recover my GPA so that I could graduate. I just started crying because he was literally the first person to notice. I went home that day and tried to talk to my mom but instead of help me, she got angry – I guess because I was a disappointment taking the same path she and my father did. That was the first time I was kicked out of my house…
After the first semester of my senior year, it was clear I could not recover and instead of fight for me, and try and figure it out, my mom walked into my high school and withdrew me. Against the advise of the principal, and counselors literally shaking their heads at her. I walked around school that day, my last day, with hidden tears and a smile as I said goodbye to my friends. My gosh I still cry even now, in this moment, because I remember it so well. The humiliation. The devastation. The feeling that I had failed and it was all my fault. I feel anger now because I think of Layla – she is struggling right now in 2nd grade. She is in several programs, counseling, and we hired a tutor. Because that’s what you do – you, the parents, don’t stand back and watch your child fail – I would never allow that, and I am still not sure why my parents did. This part of my history I don’t talk about, and few people actually know this, because I have spent all this time feeling so ashamed of this, but the older I get, and as I mother my own children, I realize it was NOT my fault – not entirely. I could have went the other way and buckled down in school, I know that, but all around me at home it just didn’t matter – nobody showed me it was worth it. At least not until it was too late and I was made to feel like a failure…
Shortly after my last day of high school, I got my first job working at Papa Murphy’s Pizza. I moved out on my own, and life moved on… Entirely different from how I had long imagined it would. Three years after this I said goodbye to my mother at the age of 39 because alcohol is a cruel beast and she could no longer fight it off… One month after that day, I boarded a plane and left everything I knew behind. Devastated. Lost, entirely. The man I moved to I barely knew, we met barely a month before my mom died, and my heart still loved another with everything I had, but I left anyway – I had no other choice.
Through all of this time, I can remember periods of time I would feel God pulling on my heart. I would know it was Him – with certainty – but I ignored it. I had failed. In countless ways. The little girl I had been was lost underneath the weight of my guilt and disappointment and sadness. I was more angry than faithful… How could He let all of this happen, hadn’t I once served Him, even in my childlike innocence and lack of knowledge of the world He put me into?
I am almost 33 now. Twice divorced, two of my children have different last names from each other and from me. Three daughters that call me Mama, and it is my charge from God to lead them, to guide them to Truth. To dedicate myself to them, entirely, but I fear this more than I fear much else: that I am failing them.
I fear… That is my first mistake. That I am nothing more than who I have been; all these years of history still tarnish my spirit, and I cannot rise above feeling less-than who I was meant to be. How can I lead them, how can I teach them truth, when I don’t hear it for myself?
So many “wiser people” have tried to counsel me that it is as simple as being in God’s word. That, if I do this … If I pray more, if I seek fellowship more than seeking solitude, if I stop living in the past or the future but live right now, if I… If I… If I… Then I would finally “get it”, and God would flood my heart with meaning and purpose again, and I would be redeemed. I’ve even been told my crippling anxiety is not so much a mental disorder but its satan, and I can fight it if only I were just a better Christ-follower.
I’ve heard it all. I’ve told myself maybe they are right, and so I try it. For a while. I read scripture more, and really meditate on it and apply it to my life practically. I pray, sometimes with many of my breathes directed straight to God, and then I listen, patiently. I fellowship with those wiser people, and I listen as they tell me how THEY “hear God”, and I try not to feel their superiority over me, because I just don’t seem to hear God talking to me at all, and so I must be doing it wrong.
When I became a mother, that covenant God made with me was to raise them with truth and purpose greater than my own – it was set ablaze in my soul. I look at them and sometimes, to be honest, the way that I love them – how deep that goes – it rushes to the surface and I feel this overwhelming and intense flood of tangible, fierce loyalty and devotion to them that I could literally scream as loud as I can – because it has to come out of me (I guess that’s a hard one to adequately explain…) My face flushes, my heart beats fast, and I tremble with love.
The purpose of being their mother is the greatest I have known, and I fear too often that I will let my past failures convince me that I am not going to be good at this. I hear my father tumble out of my mouth when I am impatient for no good reason, or when they spill the milk and I just can’t take such an offense. I hear my mother spill off my tongue when I snap at them to hurry up because I am late for this or that, and of course I make it their fault. I hear that little voice, so cunning, sneak into my thoughts and it whispers so cleverly disguised as the inevitable that I am going to fail anyway, so why even try to do better next time? It uses my history – it uses my shame, and regret, and pain – and it knows just how to grip me, stop me dead in my tracks…
It keeps me from picking up the Bible, because I’ve tried that, and I didn’t stick to it, because Christina never sticks to ANYTHING. It keeps me from all the good I could be doing, instead distracting me with meaningless tasks that don’t root my heart, or theirs, in truth and purpose.
I guess all of this – these thoughts pouring from me now – this trip down memory lane, it might seem like an excuse, but it is so much more honest than that. I come to terms with what cripples me here, and name it, and face it, and I think THAT is brave.
But it is what I do now. It is where I go from here…
I picked up the Bible this morning and read some of the Psalms. Delaney was restless and done with her cereal so I got her out of the high chair and together we trekked up the stairs. On the crook of our staircase the banister jets out oddly and I accidentally hit her head into it, leaving a little knot and her tears painfully soaking her face. I immediately prayed to God to take her pain away, and to forgive me for hurting my precious baby girl. It was immediately apparent to me that I was praying because I didn’t panic and cower underneath self-loathing, which is my typical pattern whenever I do anything wrong. I think it was that I sought God, intentionally, that my mind was able to go THERE instead of where it normally would go…
Perhaps there is hope for me yet?
I desire a child-like faith. The kind of relationship with God that I can write about, the kind that defines my life, starting in these frail moments when I am still floundering, and growing into something that permeates every avenue of my life, and my children’s lives. I want this so badly, and I am so tired of convincing myself, and letting the enemy convince me, that I cannot do it. That my history proves I will fail, because I always failed.
My spirit knows there is God, I was born knowing this, and for some reason, He made me especially aware of it and able to share it as a small child. I see this in my children, and I dream for them the kind of upbringing where that is fostered and grown and nurtured, and they see it from me – they model it from me.
I’ve got to stop ripping open my heart and seeing only the parts of me that have failed.
I want to be vulnerable to something more. I want to be the kind of person who doesn’t hide from who she was, and has the strength to admit where I went wrong, but then lay that down – that is the part that I don’t do well. I can’t seem to let go of how easily I fall apart in the name of who I’ve been and what I’ve been through.
My eyes want to be stuck on the cross, and see the world as I did when I was a child.
I want to give my daughters the kind of example worth having – one of perseverance where they have seen me fall but I got back up, and I tried again, in spite of the difficulty of fearing I will fail. I want them to see that this IS worth coming back to, again and again, and that I will support them as they navigate this world, and I will be there – no matter what.
I look at my history and see that everything I’ve gone through has equipped me to be a pretty darn good mother… Because I’ve experienced almost every avenue of where NOT to go, and what NOT to do. And I know with certainty I won’t just stand back and let their life happen in front of me without helping to guide them to truth.
The truth is, as I see it, is that God is still here, inside of me. I cling to that. I unbury that truth with these tears on my cheeks because I am so grateful. I am so grateful that I can be who I have been, and to Him I am still that child on her knees, sharing Jesus with her Kindergarten class – I can be that girl again, because she never left me. She just got lost to this world, but not to Him.
I will hold onto that, and try this yet again… I will fail, but I will not give up, and I think that is one of the gifts He gave me. One I saw in myself as a child. Something I see in my own children. I cannot wait to see where God takes us now.