“Something’s about to happen, something bad. I don’t know what it is, but it’s coming.”
Those words, spoken in passing to my husband, expressed the premonition that tugged at my soul. My heart was restless, my body on edge. Sleepless nights spent caring for a baby and a bed wetter with night terrors made for long, exhausting days. A fog presided over my mind. Joy was a distant memory. I grasped at survival – just trying to make it through another day.
Our marriage was struggling. I had found the man of my dreams. We were in church ministry together. Things looked good from the outside. But after three kids and seven exhausted years, our dreams were far from reality. Sin struggles, misunderstandings and apathy had sidetracked our hearts. We were hanging on by a thread.
I couldn’t keep up – with anything. My house, my family’s needs, church responsibilities, my own expectations of how to make God happy.
Who am I? I wondered. I had always thought of myself as a “good girl.” A good mom. A good wife. A good Christian.
But I felt like none of those things now. The good girl life I’d meticulously maintained was steadily unraveling before my eyes. And bigger crises were yet to come.
I woke up the Monday before Thanksgiving and pushed through the first half of the morning. Then I crashed as my husband prepared to leave for work. I couldn’t face the day ahead alone. I collapsed to the floor of our room and began to sob uncontrollably. After several minutes my husband came in and convinced me to go back to bed. He would clear his morning schedule and stay with the kids so I could sleep.
A nap. That’s all I need. I’ll sleep for a few hours and be good to go.
When he woke me two hours later, however, I could hardly think straight. My arms barely had the strength to hold our baby and I realized I couldn’t care for our kids that day.
My husband cancelled his appointments for the rest of the day and I went back to bed, sleeping nearly the whole day and all through the night. Yet I awoke the next morning just as exhausted, just as unable to function.
Lack of sleep and stress had brought my life to a complete standstill. It would take months to fully recover.
A dark cloud settled over my soul. Depression plagued me. Panic attacks paralyzed me.
Do good girls have nervous breakdowns and panic attacks? I wondered. Is depression a sign of spiritual inadequacy?
Next came the most dramatic life crisis. A major Christian leader, whose teachings had shaped much of my faith and practice, was publicly accused of over thirty cases of sexual misconduct. One of his victims was my close friend.
I felt betrayed, mislead, confused. My entire faith began to implode – like a house crumbling into a million pieces around me. What was truth? Could I hold onto anything I had believed?
There I stood, bare and broken surrounded by the shambles of my faith, my whole life really. There was no hiding, no retreating, no pulling myself out or putting on a good face. I had come to the end of my good girl self.
Yet one part of that house of faith remained intact – the foundation had not crumbled. Though I questioned everything else, I was certain of my salvation through Jesus Christ and confident in the truth of His Word. With those two beliefs unshaken, I knew God could rebuild my faith.
I offered Him every broken thing I had left – the remains of a self-righteous life, shattered dreams and a feeble faith. I hid nothing from the eyes that see everything.
Instead of condemning my lack of faith or goodness, Jesus enveloped me with astonishing grace. He dazzled me with Himself. He wasn’t the frowning, perpetually-disappointed Judge I’d believed Him to be. My sins were no impediment to His love.
In my broken state, I found a tender-hearted Daddy, longing to be close to His daughter and I realized that was what He wanted all along – not my checked-off list of spiritual disciplines, not a host of good deeds done in His name. Just me, without all the striving, without any pretense.
From that pile of rubble, He began rebuilding my life. But it was different this time. No longer was I the good girl with much to offer God. Instead, my life became a mosaic of grace. All those mismatched shards took on new beauty as God shone the light of redemption into my story.
God revived our marriage by bringing mentors into both of our lives. With unconditional love, they repeatedly point us back to Jesus as the source of healing and change. As we’ve learned to let go and rest in His patient work, we’re also learning to give each other understanding and room to grow. Deep, mature love has taken root in our hearts.
In my personal life, I discovered the value of prioritizing things that feed my soul – relaxed time alone with God, a good book, time to write, coffee with a friend. I also learned that weakness is okay. In fact, God’s power in me shines the brightest where I’m the most weak. Experiencing His grace taught me to extend the same to myself and others.
It’s hard to see anything good when life falls apart. But some things must be broken before true beauty can emerge. My good girl life hindered me from knowing true grace. When it crumbled I found what I’d been seeking all along – a life of rest near the heart of God.