The Easter that Changed my Life
It's Easter Sunday, I'm in a grouchier than normal mood and I have to go to my in-laws for a family meal. I have already decided I'm not going, I've told my husband to go without me. I don't have the energy or the desire to sit around in a room pretending to be happy, pretending nothing is wrong, being treated like I don't even exist. With everyone watching me, waiting for me to mess up again. The pressure to be okay is too much. Besides, they would all have a happier and more relaxed time if I wasn't there anyway. I will stay home with all my friends and the rest of them can pretend I don't exist. Nobody wants me there anyway. Through some sort of trickery, my husband convinced me to get out of bed, get dressed and go with him. He told me his parents wanted me to be there, the kids wanted me to come and watch them hunt for eggs and open their gifts. The fresh air and change of scenery would do me some good. So I begrudgingly got up, put on some clothes and got in the car. My husband promised me that his brother and wife would not be there. That made it better. We hadn't been getting along for quite some time and they liked to pretend I was invisible. I rode in the passenger seat crying silently because he was making me do something I didn't want to do. I felt like it was a trap that he and his family were scheming to do something mean to me. We drove into town and grabbed a dessert to bring with us and as we rounded to bend to get to the house my husband got a message. His brother and his family would be there after all.
That was it. I lost it. I knew it. They were tricking me, they were setting me up. He knew the whole time they would be there and he waited until the last possible second to let me know so that I couldn't back out or change my mind about going. I was fuming! I yelled, I swore, I cursed him and his family for doing this to me. I cried even harder that he would do something like this to me. He wanted me to be miserable, he wanted all of this to happen. He didn't love me at all, if he did he wouldn't be putting me through all of this. I acted like a child this day. I slumped on the couch and tried to sleep. To ignore everything and everyone. My husband told everyone I was just tired but everything was okay. Then they showed up. With their brand new baby. Everyone was so excited to see him, except me of course. The perfect little family, their perfect little life, never fighting, never upset with each other, they and everything they touched was perfect. I told my boys multiple times to stay away from the baby. He was only a few days old and I didn't want them to make him sick. Well, that was what I said. The truth was that I just didn't want to give them any more attention than they were already given. When my sister in law said it was okay they could come see him, I got mad. Mad that she over-ruled my decision as their mother, but also mad that my husband agreed with her and not me. So I got up, said if everyone was just going to act like I wasn't there and treat me with such disrespect I was leaving. I got the car keys, grabbed my coat and shoes and I flew out of there.
I went home, opened the fridge, grabbed a beer and cracked it open. You have to understand, I was a full blown alcoholic. Not that I would have said so at the time. I sat in my living room all alone crying, loud, ugly crying, yelling at myself for being so stupid, so ugly, so miserable that no one wanted to be around me, cursing my husband for never loving me, for only using me for his own benefit, that if I hadn't had kids with him he would never have stuck around, that my kids and everyone else around me would be better off if I were dead. If I just disappeared, they could all forget about me and move on to a better life. With a new mom for the boys a new wife for my husband. One he deserved. One that would treat him better. That's when I put down the beer, went to my room and packed a bag. I would leave. I would get on a plane and just go somewhere else and start over. I wouldn't tell anyone where I was going, it would be like I never existed.
So, I hit the highway. Music blasting, me crying, yelling and still putting myself down for every single thing that ever happened to me in my life. It was all my fault. If you had asked me at the time global warming was my fault, the stock market crash would have been my fault. I was finding any reason to justify what I was doing. My husband wasn't calling me to find out if I was okay so that was proof that he didn't care, no one was messaging me so that was proof that I had no friends, no one came after me which was proof that I wasn't wanted by anyone. I cursed God. If he was so good and if he loved me like the bible and the preachers told me he did then why did he let all those bad things happen to me? Whey didn't he save me from my father's abuse? From the other men that would take advantage of me as a teenager, from all the bullying I went through at school, from my own thoughts of suicide and self condemnation?
As I drove I hoped that a drunk driver would cross the yellow lines and just end it all. That I felt would be easier on my family to accept. Of course it would still be my fault, why didn't I get out of the way, why didn't I call for help and so on and so on.
It was about this point when I saw what I identified as a little white church. It was the brightest white I had seen and the fact that it was dark and raining out at the time it was the only building I had noticed the whole time I had been driving. I didn't even know where I was at the time I had been in my head so much the whole time. When I saw that church I lost all control. I couldn't stop crying, I couldn't control my words, my thoughts or actions. I pulled over on the side of the road and just broke down. I don't know how long I had been there, how many cars passed me or what I was thinking, but out of nowhere I suddenly felt a sense of calm and peace. Like nothing I had ever experience before or since. My mind cleared of thought, my eyes dried up and I just sat and breathed. Long deep breathes that warmed me from the inside out. I knew I had a decision to make. I could keep going where ever it was I was heading and start over. But I would still be there. I could go home and face my family, admit to what was going on and suffer the consequences, or I could get help.
I choose the third option.
I turned the radio off and turned my car around. I drove in silence for hours until I reached the hospital where I was to stay for the next week.
It was in all of this mess, the messiest my life had gotten where I felt the most clarity I had felt in a lifetime. It was here in this sterile environment that I started to learn why I acted out the way I did. Where I finally admitted to someone what had happened to me growing up where I felt like they didn't blame me for it. I felt no amount of judgement for it and felt that I was being heard for the first time in a long time.
Jesus met me in that place. Or should I say I met him in that place. He was always there, I just wasn't seeing him. He was there in all those places I thought he wasn't. He kept me safe, he kept me alive, he was the one that gave me rest through it all.
That Easter was 4 years ago. Easter weekend the following year I was baptized into God's family. Easter 2 years ago I started the groundwork for a recovery program at my church and last Easter we started our first step study through Celebrate Recovery.
My life is still not perfect, I still have times when I have to deal with depression, when I don't get along with people, when I get frustrated and doubt myself. But I have more times when I am happy, I have a whole new group of friends and my relationships with my family members is getting better. I lean on God when times are good and when they aren't so good. I know I can go to others for help and there isn't any shame in that. I'm not less of a person because I can't do it all. I have had to make a lot of amends, do a lot of apologizing and pray for people I never thought I would pray for. I accept things as they come, and deal with them as I can but never by myself.
I guess I say this all to say, don't let your current thoughts determine your future self. We are all far from perfect, we all need help, no one person can do it all and do it right. We are built for community.
If you are in that place where you can't get out on your own reach out, someone will take your hand and lift you higher.