Last night I was having a sad night. Not really bad, and not really depression. Just a lingering sense of sadness. My boyfriend took me out to eat. We sat in a booth and held hands. I rested my head on his shoulder and felt his head rest on mine. He prayed before we ate and I couldn’t hear a word he said for the noise around me. It didn’t matter though. I could feel the prayer. It wasn’t to me anyway…
It still catches me off guard when I feel. After a life of hardening my heart and protecting myself, emotions can still feel like the enemy. It feels like a red flag. Like something is desperately wrong and out of control.
A couple of years ago, my emotions had made a peak in intensity. I still remember the night that still feels so raw and so sacred. The night I drove home and for the first time I could ever remember, I cried uncontrollably in my car. Barely being able to pull in my driveway for the tears in my eyes and my body shaking. And how that night sparked a whole mess that I had kept locked inside. How ultimately God was faithful to allow that to happen. But how that began the process of me falling apart. Of really losing everything.
Coming soon will be the two year anniversary of when things were the worst of the worst. Moving in with a friend for over a month because I wasn’t trusted to be on my own. Meeting with counselors and a psychologist. Being placed on multiple medications. Withdrawing from classes, because for the first time in my life I just couldn’t do life. It was too much. Feeling the weight of my control that I thought I had over my life crumble.
Having conversation after conversation where the people who loved me the most, cried their eyes out seeing where I was. Continuing to slip further and further down than I ever thought could ever be possible. Feeling the panic as the reputation I thought I had built over the years was being torn down. People knew I wasn’t okay. I wasn’t perfect. But still desperately trying to hide where my life had gotten to. Fighting so much against the people who were trying to help.
Being encouraged to let the smile go. Those who knew me the most had learned the fake smile. The smile that always came. The one that protected me. I could shut down my emotions and smile. The one that didn’t mean joy. The one that hid the pain. The counterfeit. The mask. The one that sucked the life from me with the energy it took to keep it there. And I didn’t even realized I was doing it any more.
That time seems so far from where I am now, but at the same time not so long ago. So much has happened. So much.
Yesterday I was hanging out with a couple of my closest teenagers. I had just finished lunch with my boyfriend at church and was waiting on one the classes to get out. We were being all kinds of silly and I laughed until I had tears in my eyes. Throwing oyster crackers at each other’s mouths. Again laughing about how I prove to the kids over and over again how I have the worst ever throwing ability. Trying to be as quiet as possible so the adults wouldn’t hear us in the auditorium. But I always quickly forget to be mindful of the noise and am usually louder than the kids. Haha.
One of the boys ended up finding a felt tip pen and started drawing on his hand. He wrote freedom. I commented on how much I loved how it looked and asked him to draw one on my hand. He wanted to write something different. I didn’t care what. I just like words. He got super excited and asked if he could write “gaudium”. At first I hesitated. I had no idea what that meant. He said it meant joy in Latin. Hmm. That would work.
After the class finished we went to my boyfriend’s house to let his dog out. As we drove I could feel my mood shifting. Not all consuming, but a subtle feeling.
We got back to the church and I headed into service. I walked in a little late and sat in the back. And I could again feel the weight settling a bit more this time. Sadness. I looked down.
Gaudium. I had forgotten about it written on my hand. I had went about my day. I had washed my hands. It was coming off. It was forgotten and faded.
The poetry of the moment hit me. Isn’t that life? We forget our joy so easily. And honestly it’s not even our fault. There are things that we have to do. Work to be done. And work is hard. We sweat, we get dirty. Things come off. They fade.
But it’s a miracle that we even receive joy in the first place. It’s amazing that a 13 year old boy would even know the Latin word for joy. It’s incredible that he would chose the EXACT word that I needed in that moment. And the exact word that would lead me to this moment hours later.
Moments like this blow me away. It builds a faith in me for much bigger things. A faith that every little detail of my life is taken care of.
Last night as I sat in the booth next to my boyfriend, holding his hand, I heard the smallest whisper. “I only allow you to feel the sadness when I know you are safe.” God was protecting me. I was safe. And honestly I could feel the peace. That peace that surpasses all understanding.
Later as I was home alone before bed, I felt all this swimming around in my head. The lingering sadness. The strange peace and contentment.
I opened my computer and read a message that a woman had sent me. Sweet, sweet words of encouragement. Words that hit my heart in way that was so wonderful and intimate.
That morning I smiled at her and her husband as I walked past them at church. It was a brief moment, but seeing her just made me happy.
It was a good morning. I felt light and joyful. So many faces of so many people I really genuinely loved. I talked to dear friends. I laughed and smiled until my face hurt. I told stories from the week and listened as friends shared theirs.
I took a phone call from a friend in a hard spot. We talked about hard things. My heart swelled with the love that I felt for her. I told her how proud I was of her. I told her that she was really living life. That there are times of suffering and pain, that I don’t understand. And I don’t need to. Because I know my God who has lead me through so much. And I know He loves her more than either of us could ever comprehend. And even when we don’t believe, it is still enough.
One line in particular from the message I had received hit me to my core. She mentioned seeing my sweet smile and how it helped her through a difficult morning.
Sitting here now, the weight of so much coming together feels beyond my comprehension. This is redemption. This is living a new life. I am filled with a thankfulness I cannot express. I didn’t do any of this on my own. I have no idea how I got here. But I would not trade any of it for anything.
I am thankful that I let go of the fake smile. I am so thankful that my heart is being healed. I don’t have to fake it. I don’t have to protect myself. I will feel pain. I will go through hard times and suffering. And I will not always understand it. And I will not be perfect, or always get it right.
But moments like this are enough. Being able to live life with the people around me. Having a depth of joy. Experiencing joy that would not exist without the hard times. Without feeling the emotions that make me uneasy. That came from letting go of the old life and learning to have faith for the new one.
Joy may feel like it has faded at times. Sadness may feel stronger. But this joy I have wasn’t written with a felt tip pen. It wasn’t written on skin. It was written with love. It was written on my heart.
Two years ago I did lose everything. But it was only so that I could gain everything.