My everyday life consists of things that sixteen-year-old Kaitlin would’ve found scary – speaking in front of a classroom, driving on big highways, and paying bills. But the one fear that seems timeless is sharing a struggle. When we open up and share in deep ways, there’s room for hurt or rejection. But the fear and the struggle are important parts of the story. The scary stuff leaves room for growth. If the metanarrative of our lives echoes that of the Bible (and I think it does), in terms of the creation-fall-redemption-restoration story, I think the struggle finds us somewhere near restoration where we are being made holy. For me, the struggle looks the thing that I’m being refined through as part of the redemptive movements of grace. It’s not always creation-fall-redemption then happily ever after. There’s hard and holy work being done over and over, both in us and through us. If we only ever share creation-fall-redemption parts of our stories, we’re missing out on a beautifully important part of the big picture – the part where we are restored to God. And in an effort to make my whole story known, here’s a little bit of what that scary struggle looks like for me right now:
I felt it moving in subtle ways at the beginning – small insecurities I thought were buried came back to life suddenly; relationships that felt easy hit a few snags; self-doubt crept in slowly at first and then all at once. The fear was back, and I only just put a name to it after struggling my way through the past couple of months. You would think that walking through the wilderness a time or two before would help me recognize it again, but the trick is that it looks different every time. Before, it looked bleak and felt like being trapped. Now it looks more fuzzy and feels like not being enough and, simultaneously, being too much (if that doesn’t make sense to you, just ask any woman who has been described as being “strong” and she’ll tell you).
What caught me most off guard is that instead of feeling far from God, I feel far from myself. My Bible is laying on the kitchen island instead of only seeing the inside of a nightstand, and I actually feel excited about the things I’m learning from my church and my community. The disconnect is between my head and my heart, I think. I can’t reconcile what I feel with what I know. And what makes it more difficult is that I can’t even adequately voice what I need. My sweet husband with the heart of a helper is pulling out all sorts of ways to make me feel loved and reassured, but I still can’t quite bring myself to take it all in. I mourn all the ways I’m hurting and all the things that I’m not doing right. I’ve become fragile and needy and completely resentful towards how that makes me feel. I want to walk around apologizing for all of my rough edges and the copious amounts of affirmation I crave. The downswing of a mobile self-worth is a scary beast, and I’ve lost confidence in my ability to walk through it gracefully. If there was a sidewalk for managing my fear, I lost sight of it. I haven’t seen trail markers in a couple of weeks. I’m scared of returning to that wilderness. I only just survived it.
If this is all I’ve got, this fear, then it feels paralyzing. But in the context of the bigger story, the story of me and the story of God, there is so much more. While there’s surely heartache and brokenness here, there’s beauty, too. And in the midst of fear and self-doubt, the metanarrative declares: