As I look deeper into my past I realize that the struggle started well before then. The age of 19 seems like such a pivotal time in my memory, but so much of who I am (or better yet, believe I am) started with childhood. Things people say, things they do, stick with you as you grow. These things help shape who you see when you look in the mirror. In college I struggled with my faith and my relationship with God. I began pushing Him away. I am honestly surprised He has any patience left for me. For the past 18 years I have cried out to Him, only to push Him away again. I told myself I didn't need Him.
I tackled things on my own. I was stubborn and even when I hit rock bottom I refused to reach out to God. I'm not going to lie. It was miserable. I have been miserable for nearly 18 years. I have been clinging to things that hurt me. When people would accuse me of not giving things over to God I would get defensive. They didn't understand. They had no idea.
The truth is, it doesn't matter. They were right. I was using that hurt as a reason to keep distance between God and myself, all the while longing to be near Him, to grow spiritually and to feel that joy that I once had. I used people who had hurt me as reason to not need God in my life. They were "supposed" to be Christian but they weren't acting like it. (How dare they!)
And what was I acting like?
Most days I felt stressed, miserable, and defeated. There was no joy to be found. I learned to fake it pretty well, though. Even a week ago, I was faking it. We went to church because it was the right thing to do. I wanted my children to go to church.
I can honestly say that my closest friends probably knew. Yet, they never made me feel as if I was doing something wrong, making a mistake, or left me feeling like a bad person. They also never left me. They stuck close to me. They prayed for me. They encouraged me. When they'd say they would pray for me, I'd cringe. When they talked about God, I grew uncomfortable. I knew where I needed to be, but I refused to let go of all the pain. I would try, longing to feel that joy, but then I'd quickly take it all back like a bag lady. I had held on to it for so long that the thought of letting it go was overwhelming and just not going to happen.
There came a moment when I couldn't stand it anymore. I fell to my knees and I didn't just pray, I cried out to God. I realized I had been hoarding sin, refusing to let it go. At that moment, I let it go.
That joy that I remember has returned. That hunger and thirst to grow closer to God is back.
The smile on my face is now real.
Nichole Nordeman recently released a song entitled, "The Unmaking." It's upbeat, yet beautiful, and it illustrates a moment that every one of us must endure.
"What happens now? When all I've made is torn down? What happens next? When all of you is all that's left? This is the unmaking, the beauty in the breaking. I had to lose myself to find out who you are. Sitting in the rubble I can see the stars."
Rubble has never looked so beautiful.