I can’t do this. It’s way over my head.
I was rocking back and forth in my therapists office, uncontrollably, as if my guts were going into convulsions. This began happening to me when all of the truth about my marriage started coming to light, and the reality was not what I had been telling myself in my head for so long. I would have a physical reaction like my insides were trying to spew out this horrible pain.
It was never going to be the fairy tale I imagined.
And not only was he not a knight in shining armor, I actually needed to defend myself against him! He was unsafe – he wasn’t interested in looking out for me. He was bent on destroying me because of his own disease. And there was no reasoning, no rationalizing, no over the top demonstration of love that was going to alter this.
I could not change him.
I had to take my two boys and rebuild a life, while fending off his attacks.
Like I said, I was in way over my head.
But as the anxiety would grow, and the weight of all of the things I needed to do would start to suffocate me, and the spasms would start to cause me to rock back and forth – my therapist would say: Who are you looking at right now?
I would pause and think about it and sure enough, I had taken my eyes off of my perfect Provider – God – and put them back on me and all of my inadequacies.
The truth was I didn’t have the knowledge, the strength, the foresight and the money to do any of what needed to be done.
I had to work, go to college, manage the house, raise the boys, and try to navigate the dark murky and ever changing waters of a relationship with an angry man who had Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
It was way more than I could handle.
I felt as if I was being closed in on, in the heat of the battle, flailing my sword in every direction but knowing that I couldn’t keep it up much longer and it was more an act of desperation than fight.
But this battle was not too much for my loving Father.
I love the scene in Lord of the Rings when Gandalf tells his companions he will not abandon them. “Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East.” And at that moment, in the most desperate part of the battle, he shows up. They look up to the mountain and see the reinforcements that would annihilate their enemies. He came through.
I needed reinforcements.
So I learned to be brutally honest with God during those days.
I would cry out, beat on His chest, call Him out, speak to him without any pretense but simply lay out my heart, raw and pulsating and bleeding. Take it from here – I’m done.
And you know what?
Every single time.
He met me in my misery, or in my paralyzing fear, or in my overwhelm, and He brought the peace and the strength that I needed.
Through a hundred little daily beautiful reminders – from family and friends, readings, radio talk shows (now called podcasts), and my amazing therapist – I was gently encouraged to keep my eyes on Him and NOT on myself.
Look to him. Raise your eyes from the battle.
When I didn’t dwell on myself, I was able to get over all of my shortcomings and learn to trust that He would bring what was needed.
If I needed a car that would run then I trusted He would provide. Money to pay the rent, clothes for the boys, medical insurance, grants for school…I brought it all to Him.
If I needed confidence to stand my ground, clarity to pass a test, patience to stay up late and help with homework, insight to navigate the divorce – then I asked Him for it.
Cause honestly, I didn’t have it.
There was no way I was going to do all of this day in and day out and not fall apart.
I couldn’t sustain it – it was too much and I was an emotional wasteland.
And EVERYTIME – I was amazed. He came through.
I would look back and, like the poem says, I would see one set of footprints in the sand because He was carrying me.
He carried me through my undergrad, landing my first teaching job, earning two masters degrees, learning to have a healthy marriage with a wonderful man, integrating our 5 boys into a blended family, 3 moves, season changes, losses and new beginnings. He continues to amaze me.
Who are you looking at?
When we have a challenge that seems to be more than we can handle with our finite resources we are tempted to give up. Or freak out. Or hide behind our inadequacies. But instead, we need to shift our gaze from the mirror to the sky and see the infinite strength and goodness of the Creator.
His unflinching determination.
His fierce protection and love.
He fights for us and with us.
And in us. You see, once you open yourself up to Him and fight daily to stay aware of His presence and power – it will become part of you. He generously gives to all who ask. His power became my own. His strength was passed on to me. I inherited His peace in my storm.
His job is the fight. Mine is to trust, and out of that trust to step forward in faith.
This changes everything.
The simple act of shifting my eyes to someone who will never let me down, never stop loving me, never abandon me…turns it all upside down. Or rather right-side up.
I kept verses plastered around the apartment and in my car and in my pockets during those days – they helped me to turn my eyes back to the REAL source of my strength: never myself, but the One who gave me courage, energy, insight and hope.
I kept a little stone with the word HOPE engraved on it in my pocket, so that at various times during the day whenever I slid my hand into my pocket I would instantly be reminded that things weren’t as bad as they might seem. I had hope.
Again and again over the years I have learned to face the overwhelm in my life by asking myself that simple question – who are you looking at?
If I am hyperventilating in a state of anxiety, it’s usually because I am yet again looking to myself to have it all together. And I still come up short.
And that’s OK.
We weren’t meant to conquer the world on our own.
We were meant to partner with the beautiful force that causes all things to move and live.
With Him we can conquer first our fears, and then our battles. He fights for us!
We are never left with the person in the mirror as our only hope.
The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him. Psalm 37
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isaiah 46