They say that marriage will reveal how selfish you truly are, but there’s nothing that parrots the condition of your own soul back to you quite like having children. Those early days of motherhood and marriage were equally blissful and devastatingly difficult, and my walk with the Lord suffered for it.
I felt immense, self-imposed pressure to be the perfect wife, mother, and, of course, Christian. To keep our home clean, plan and cook all the meals, and have perfectly-behaved children as a testimony to our competent parenting skills. To wake up before dawn to spend time in bible study and prayer, checking off the appropriate boxes on my bible reading plan in a timely manner. From the outside, it seemed as though every other young mother I knew was doing just that.
The only thing is, my life defiantly refused to fit into any of these cookie cutter molds. I had some children who failed to acquiesce to my idols of appearance, convenience, and ease, especially in the checkout lane at the grocery store. The only time I had the motivation to deep-clean our home was when I was furious about something, which we laughingly refer to now as “rage cleaning.” My husband joked for years that if he managed to tick me off about once a month, our house would be immaculate. I’d slam cupboards and take out all my pent up frustration on the living room carpet with each swipe of the vacuum.
I didn’t want anyone to know about the struggles in my marriage. I didn’t want anyone to know about the behavioral issues with my children or that I was drowning and overwhelmed in this life full of abundant blessings. I didn’t dare share that I had trouble reading my bible consistently and remembering to pray, or that I had difficulty hearing the still small voice over the belligerent thoughts reminding me of all the ways I didn’t measure up. Because if they knew what I was really like, what would they think of me then?
So I kept it all in, put a smile on my face, and withered inside.
That fall I attended our annual women’s retreat out of habit, and I decided I needed to honestly share what was going on in my life with one person. Just one. Because if I didn’t speak it, if I didn’t bring it out into the light, I was afraid the darkness would win, and the thought of that terrified me even more than this numb existence. During free time we walked around the grounds, her pushing her two-year-old tagalong in a stroller and quietly listening, me spilling the deepest struggles of my soul and crying.
As we walked the dirt paths just wide enough for the two of us, I told her I couldn’t do it anymore: jump through all of these hoops. I wasn’t the perfect wife. Sometimes I was a terrible mother to my children. And most days, I was a downright crappy Christian. And I just couldn’t perform for God anymore because I suck at it. That was the truth.
But I’ve also been around church long enough that I know how to fake it. I can show up on Sundays with a smile on my face. I’ll assure everyone that it’s fine. That I’m fine. I’ll go through the motions, give the right answers, and no one will know the difference. Deep down I didn’t want that, though, and I knew it, which is why I gave my struggles a voice. I just didn’t know what to do about it or how to change it. And I was sick of trying.
She didn’t have the answers for me, nor would I have expected her to. We should both spend some time reading the truth in God’s word and go from there, we decided. And we left it at that.
This post is part of a series I’m writing for the month of October called, 31 Ways God Paved the Road to Urban Missions. If you’re interested in the reading the rest of the series, you can find it here. To receive these posts directly in your inbox every week, subscribe below!