I’ve been writing letters to my daughter since she was born. They are in a nicely-bound book on a shelf, ready for her to read one day when she is much older and will appreciate the open window into her mother’s mind. Most of them are private, but a few have made it to my blog for one reason or another. I am sharing this one because I have a strong leading that someone – another mama, perhaps, or maybe another daughter – needs to read it, too.
My dear, sweet girl,
There are so many things I want to tell you today. You are so little…so young and innocent to the ways of the world….and I can’t possibly pour everything out for you to understand now.
I need you to understand the painful reality that your mama is, in simple terms, in a battle. This isn’t like anything that will ever make it into the news that we try to shield you from seeing. Unfortunately, sweetie, the world would rather talk about the horrible things going on out there in the world than it would about the horrible things that so, so many people deal with on the inside.
I’m fighting, honey. When you walk into a room and find me staring into space, blinking and breathing deeply and forcing a smile, I am fighting. When you glance over and see me sitting with my eyes closed for no apparent reason, I’m fighting. When I disappear into my bedroom with my Bible and iPod, I am fighting. When Daddy tells you that “Mommy needs some time to herself,” know this: MOMMY IS FIGHTING. I am fighting for my life against a villain that I can’t see but can feel with incredible intensity.
It’s sadness and worry and fear, but it’s a kind of numbness, too. It’s the urgency of the world pressing in on my mind and my heart, but it’s the complete inability and unwillingness to face any of it. It’s panic, but at the same time, it is the complete lack of feeling. It’s so many things, and while I long to be able to explain it to you, I hope with all of my being that you will never, ever, ever know what it feels like. I am fully aware that I am not the first female in your lineage to feel all of these things, and my prayer is that you will somehow escape this suffering.
I scares me to think that you will have this as a part of your story. It scares me more, though, to think that you will somehow internalize my struggle, believing somehow that my struggle is your fault. Sweetheart, none of what I am dealing with on the inside is your fault. You are to blame for nothing. I know you receive the brunt of my mood swings. I know that to you, it must seem that I am angry or disappointed with you. My tears probably scare you, and you must think sometimes that you’re the one who made me feel badly enough to make me cry. Even though I try so hard not to throw all of this on you, I know you see it, and I know you can’t understand.
Sweet girl, please. Please believe me when I say that you have been a greater source of strength to me that anything else in this world. You have made me strong. You have made me get up out of bed and keep going. You have made me swallow the lump in my throat and get on with my day when all I wanted to do was curl up and let time pass me by. You have given me reason to hold the tears back and fake it until I make it. You, sweetheart, have been a kind of lifeline to me. It’s probably not healthy and I’m sure that counselors and therapists would have something to say about that. I don’t think I am relying on you to make me well. Rather, I think you have given me a reason to be well. Honestly, in this kind of battle, sometimes that’s all I need.
But honey, I need you to know that as strong as you have made me, that is nothing compared to what Jesus is doing in me every single day. There is more to this struggle against depression and anxiety and panic and fear than I even know to tell you, but in all of it…before you were born and since you were born and forever into my future….it is God who is working with this in me. I don’t understand it. I don’t particularly like it. I have asked and begged and pleaded with Him to take this from me – to somehow strip this sadness and pain away so that I can function like everybody else in this world seems to. I hate this. I hate living like this. I hate being so up and down…so at the mercy of whatever it is inside me that makes me like this. I don’t want to do this.
BUT I know that somehow, this is God’s plan for me. It is not His will that I suffer like this. I don’t believe that. I do think, though, that He allows me to continue under this burden because He knows this is how He’ll get through to me. God can use anything – and He WILL use anything – for His glory to be seen in our lives. I know that with every ounce of my being. I know it in my head because His Word says so, but more importantly, I know it in my heart. I’ve seen Him do it. I feel Him doing it every day. Even when my soul feels numb, I can still feel the tugging from God’s heart to mine. I know His hand is on me, and I know He’s working in all of my sadness. He’ll use this to draw me closer to Himself, and if I let Him, He’ll reveal Himself to others through it.
I believe all of this. I have to. I believe that God loves me and will use all of my tears to grow something beautiful in this world. That’s what He does. It’s just what He does.
There are so many things I would love to pass on to you, sweetheart. Good things, like my bullheaded pursuit of goals, or my crazy sense of humor that most people, honestly, don’t quite understand. There are so many things I hope genetics have stretched from me to you, and there are many things that I hope you learn from me.
It seems, though, that legacy may not be something we can totally control. You may receive some of the less-than-desirable traits from me, too. You may have inherited our family’s depressive and anxious tendencies, and I suppose that’s okay. I would rather you suffer with something that I understand and can help you with, than see you struggle with something that my age and experience and wisdom cannot speak to. If your story contains echoes of this same song, I promise you that I will stand with you and fight for you.
Of all the things I want you to learn from me, though, I pray that you learn strength, wisdom, and courage in the face of whatever your story contains. I pray that you never, ever expect those things to come from within yourself, but that you will have learned from watching me in my own struggle that our God overflows with those things and more. I pray that you learn from my struggle that when we have absolutely nothing left to give, God is everything. I pray that you remember that your mama fought every single day of her life, but that ultimately, it was not up to her to do the fighting. I want you to know that Jesus has fought this fight for me, and that in whatever God permits your struggle to be, Jesus will be fighting for you as well.
I want this to end. Even more than that, though, I want to point you to Christ. I know that God can use this to show Himself to you and to everyone else who witnesses this ongoing battle in me. That awareness alone is enough to keep me going. I will keep getting up every morning, and I will continue to lean on the only One who is strong enough to carry me through this. I will not give up. Keep watching, sweetie. Keep watching this, and you’ll see Christ. That’s my prayer, and because I know the God we worship, I know it is true.
Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9)
I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
Be strong, courageous, and firm. Fear not, nor be in terror before them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6)
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)
With all the love I have to give,