I was curled up in the basement closet, my earphones playing Anchor over and over again. Tears were spilling out of my eyes way too fast and the empty ache in my heart only grew more and more by the second. I was hiding, hoping that no one would ever find me because I couldn’t fake happiness anymore. I was done. I was done hurting, done praying, done crying, and done feeling alone and empty. Upstairs, my brothers and Yoveil chased each other around, shouting and screaming. Jehosheba sat dismally in front of her computer. And Mama? She had locked herself in her room where she was struggling against her own depression and fighting the lies that fought to have control over her.
I knew that eventually I’d have to emerge from my hiding place and go back upstairs to keep my siblings from destroying the house. But I couldn’t stop the flood of tears. I wanted everything in my little life to be okay again. I wanted God to immediately take away all of the hurt and all of the fear of the unknown. I wanted him to wave his hand and make my mama all better again; make me better again. But he said to wait and trust him. And I was angry because that didn’t feel fair.
At last, shaking because I’d barely eaten all week, I stood up and crept up the stairs, hoping that no one noticed my wet eyelashes. And it was in that moment, that something inside of turned to steel. I decided that I didn’t need anyone anymore. I decided to become stone so that nothing could ever come near me or break me. So that nothing could ever hurt me again.
Weeks slipped by and I was thankful not to have to be in charge of the house, yet fearful that at any moment, I would have to step in as caretaker for my siblings. I became strong on the outside, trying to carry everyone’s sorrow and pain; trying to keep everyone happy so that my parents wouldn’t have to. But the stone in my heart stayed with me. I can’t tell you how many nights I lay in bed, silently screaming against God. I stopped really talking to my pen pals and my family. I would still chat about random stuff, but when they asked how I was doing, I would quickly respond that I was just great and change the subject. I wasn’t fine, but I couldn’t risk sharing my heart with someone. I was too scared that they would leave me in a moment. A lot of the time, I just wanted to cut off all communication with everyone. So I survived alone, holding onto music as my one lifeline.
During church services, on the outside, I’d smile and nod, but inside I was angry and contradicting everything that the pastor would say.
“God cares about you.”
Oh yeah, really? Then why is there so much pain in the world?
“God loves you.”
Then why doesn’t he save his children right away?
“God has a plan and a purpose for your life.”
Ridiculous! There is no plan in pain. Pain hurts and that’s the end! Why would God let bad things happen all around the world? Why all the floods and fires? What plan is there when innocent children are killed all around the world? What plan is there when people starve to death? How is any of this fair?
God said, “Life isn’t about whether something is fair or not. It’s about you trusting that I have a plan in everything.” (And I was very unhappy to hear that.)
More time slipped by and slowly I began to let myself trust people again; trust that maybe they wouldn’t leave me all alone. But I was still so angry. I was angry with God for allowing pain at all. And I was angry with myself for failing my family. I hated who I was and punished myself for not being in control of everything (or anything, really).
And then it happened again. More struggles on the part of my mama and my sister. And more hidden anger, rage and fear on my part. I hated myself for letting any part of my heart be vulnerable with anyone. Sometimes I’d stalk around the house, ready to fight anyone who came near me and ready to push away anyone who tried to touch me. I knew that I had to be strong still; I had to keep everyone happy or we would all break. But I was exhausted with trying and failing. So I withdrew and hid behind my computer, pretending to be very busy, when in reality I was just playing Spider Solitaire for hours. In everything, I clung to two of three of my very best friends, hoping beyond hope that they would get me out of the blackness. I didn’t really tell them that I was struggling, but just held onto them.
I told myself that the only way I would survive was if I could harden my heart against the pain of other people. And that’s when I stopped caring. Somehow, I was able to steel my heart enough so that it didn’t matter when other people felt pain. I would walk by people and I would see that they were hurting. Casual observers wouldn’t have noticed, but I knew. Before, I would have ached for them and longed to reach out and hug them. But instead, I still saw their pain, but I walked by, angry at the God who let them hurt. When my siblings were sad, I’d shrug and keep going. When I saw sadness and frustration building up in my parents (especially Mama), I’d just bury myself out of sight and remind myself, “You’ll only survive if you don’t feel anything.”
I’d put on a good act and pretend to be well and fine. I’d smile at all of the right times, laugh at the right moments and then rage against God in the darkness of the night.
I wish that I could say that I’ve overcome all of this. I wish that I could say that all my problems are gone and that I always care about people and that I’ve stopped being angry. I wish I could say that the stone inside of me is completely gone and that I can share my heart again. But being vulnerable is a process. Writing and actually posting this was incredibly hard because I hate for people to see the real person behind the smiling mask. Overcoming anger is a process. Being real is a process. But God is working, even though the ways he’s working aren’t always obvious as they are happening. Philippians 1:6 says, “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
My wish this New Year is that God will take away the anger that I’ve had for so long and that he’ll replace it with love and hope. And that he’ll use my life to touch someone else and to bring them hope.
Happy last day of 2019, friends! May 2020 bring healing to the broken and may hope and joy rain down upon us all. 🙃🙂😘