When Despair Comes Calling

Christmas season is upon us yet again. The tree is up, lights are twinkling, every commercial is throwing Christmas magic in our faces. And yet, no matter how much I want to, I cannot feel the magic.

Depression creeps in so very slowly, like a glacier growing at an undetectable pace, until before you know it, you are under the ice. The sky may be beautifully blue above, but you cannot see it through the cold, thick layer that covers you. Next thing you know, you realize you are frozen in place, trying to find a way to chip away at the ice that has you bound.

The last couple months have been riddled with storms of change, and although they haven’t seemed too far from the normal patterns, as I reflect back I see them with more gravity. My son became a teenager, and even my daughter, as she approaches middle school, has joined him in pulling away from me. There’s a relief in the freedom at first, a rejoice in their independence (no more butt-wiping, hooray!!!) but then the realization…your babies are growing up. It’s both an amazing blessing to watch and a grieving for the childhood giggles and innocence of the past. All of a sudden there’s no talk of the Easter Bunny, you have to bribe them to dress up for Halloween, and no one wonders if Santa Claus coming to town. You’re no longer wiping tears and patching up boo-boos, you’ve become a full-time Uber driver and screen-time police and social coordinator. The pounding of little footprints that greeted you way too early on a Saturday morning have been replaced with shouts at them to wake up because it’s almost lunch time. The Wheels on the Bus is now music that you’re not sure is appropriate for their little ears…but then you realize they aren’t so little anymore.

Amid the realization that my role of motherhood is quickly changing, my grandmother also passed away very recently. She had lived a long, healthy life, but it still hit hard. She was such a constant in our lives that was now gone. A stark reminder that life moves on, that time does not stop, that loss is a certainty. The hope of Heaven is assuring, but it still doesn’t stop the pain of our grieving.

I saw so much of myself in her, in her calm, stoic mannerisms…I couldn’t help but wonder if she had longings for more as I often do. Did she have more to say beneath her quiet demeanor? Was she so accommodating and easy that she denied herself fulfillment of her dreams? It seems unkind to ponder these things now that she’s gone, but it also comes at me like an opportunity or a calling. My grandmother always recognized and encouraged my creative gifts…and it’s clear more than ever that her visions for me were partly an extension of her own dreams. I found myself thinking more and more about the twilight of my own life. Would I be haunted by unfulfilled dreams? By talents unused and taken for granted? Within the sadness of my grandmothers passing is the hidden gift of conviction and clarity; this is our one and only life.

Oh, 43 years. Right smack in the middle of life. A place that is settling yet terrifying at the same time. More sure of who I am, but unsure of where I’m going. Feeling right on time yet past due. Grasping for a changing purpose, constantly reminding myself to yield to the change and not fight it. Not to strive but to surrender. But the ice feels oh so thick.

My anxiety has climbed back into the front seat of my life, despite my attempts to banish it. I’ve found myself doubting my capability, especially when driving. Almost daily I find myself paralyzed behind the wheel, wondering how I can make it down the street. The discouragement, shame and anger that follows has slowly led me to a place of dispair. The voices of defeat have been so, so loud. You are not capable of driving without fear, so how can you be a good parent? How will you keep your family safe? How will you function? How will you hide this from people? How can you live like this???

Oh that last question. That last one is where the despair rings loudest.

Most discouraging is that I have seen victory over all this. I have done the work, years and years of counseling and medication and spiritual warfare have led me to the mountaintop, but I was so wrapped up in celebrating that I didn’t even notice all the other mountains surrounding me. Just because you reach victory doesn’t mean you won’t ever set foot in the valley again.

But I’ve beat this! I’ve fixed it! I’ve learned to control it! I’ve tamed the monster!

But I…but I…me, me, me.

How foolish to think that I alone can control this life. That I’m immune to suffering and change. How much I’ve been clinging to victory that pride had unknowingly taken the place of gratefulness. How hard I’ve been on myself lately to think that this means I’ve failed at life and there’s no way out. Despair came calling and I just let it right in, self-pity wrapped me up and carried me right off…feeling unloved, unneeded, incapable. Like there is only one choice…victory or nothing.

But grace.

Sometimes we spend so much time fighting that we forget how beloved we are. We are battered and bruised and covered in scars. We find ourselves weary and tired, just needing to be held. Needing complete rest. So we put down our weapons for a bit and decide to crawl up into the loving arms of our Savior. We let the tears flow and find the permission to let it all go. It’s okay, sweet child…it’s okay. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are capable. You are never alone.

Oh beautiful, sweet grace.

We fall short and we underperform and doubt and fear and fail over and over again. And despite it all, we are utterly and completely loved.

Lord, forgive me. For I have put my ways before yours. I’ve given the enemy a foothold in my life that isn’t deserved. I’ve forgotten your truths about me, forgotten my position in the kingdom. I’ve forgotten my posture of surrender. Remind me who I am. Remind me of my belovedness. Amen.

I hear the ice start to crack, the sunlight peeking through with radiant warmth. Droplets of water slowly form, melting ever so slowly, but with oh so much promise.

Love never fails.

One thought on “When Despair Comes Calling

  • Heather, God has gifted you with so many gifts! You are an amazing mother, a lovely singer, and a truly talented writer. I look forward to reading anything you write. Mimi and all of us are all so proud of you whether you’re having a great day or not. You are a fighter and an Overcomer because you know Who fights your battles. You are greatly loved by me, your family, and the God of the universe who loved you and created you.

    Like

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