Hurt & Faith

all I ever have to be

Library of Congress, Dorthea Lange, 1939

I really am deeply grateful for my life. But there are moments, seasons when discouragement gets the upper hand.

Frankly, I’m amazed at how quickly and easily I am discouraged.

I’m more fragile than I would like to think.

I started out the morning feeling sorry for myself. Sorry about myself.

A look in the mirror, a step on the scale, a careless word remembered, the pile of books and laundry and things I should do that fills the chair I love but haven’t sat in for weeks,  failure to meet a registration deadline . . .

I am learning to do battle against discouragement with gratitude . . .

Thank You God that my husband loves You so much. That he works hard to provide for our family. That he fought hard against addiction and defeated it with Your help.

Thank You for four healthy, beautiful children who have blessed our life.

Thank You for a loving extended family. For precious friends.

Thank You for my cottage near the sea, in spite of the tiny living room, mossy roof, musty carpet and sulphery water.

Thank You for the sun burning through the marine layer, reminding me of the hour and that it’s time to go to work. Thank You that I have a job to help supplement during these stressful economic times.

Thank you that we have food to eat, gas in the cars, a roof over our heads and clothes to wear.

Thank you for fresh strawberries, and homemade ice cream . . .

So much to be grateful for.  

But I’m hardly ever — maybe never — grateful for me.

For who I am. For where I am.

I am impatient with my own imperfection.

I want to clean myself up before people see me.

I beat myself up for being socially awkward. For not sharing more of my life with others. For being a self-absorbed parent. For the thirty pounds I’ve put on in the past four years. For not calling. Not inviting. Not going. Not being.

This morning, it’s that.

There are days when the years creep back in.

The days, the months, the years I should have been . . . patient with a child, encouraging to my husband, reaching out to a friend or loved one, inviting people to come over, writing a book, exercising, eating right, keeping up photo albums, paying off debt, saving for a house of our own . . .

I’m pretty sure discouragement is what keeps an addict in addiction.

Shouting down the internal voices that call you out on every mistake . . .

The past weighs heavy.

It’s easier to not try to change at all.

Bend down, O Lord, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need Your help . . .
Give me happiness, O Lord, for I give myself to You . . .
Teach me Your ways . ..
Grant me purity of heart . . .
. . . for Your love for me is very great . . .
Give Your servant strength . . .
Send me a sign of Your favor . . .
Psalm 86

Today, after I read the Psalms and pray, it’s an old song that lifts my spirits . . .

. . . a song I’ve known since I was a teenager trying to figure out who I was and where I was going.

Like Sue Heck on The Middle, I was the girl who enthusiastically tried everything and failed — cheerleading,volleyball, the hurdles, choir, piano — you name it.

I lost that courage somewhere along the road of life.

At some point along the way I realized I was totally uncoordinated. That I had no sense of rhythm. That my heart felt like it would explode and I would pass out if I had to play the piano in public. That I couldn’t carry the harmony unless my friend Angie was standing next to me . . .

And then I grew up. Got married. Had children. And settled into a habit of comparison: If only I was . . .

Today, I woke up doubting. And it’s taken two hours to pray, read, and write out my feelings. To greet the day with joy.

I will make a new list of gratitudes. Not of what is on the outside, but on the inside. What God is doing in my heart.

I know I’m growing. I can’t give up just because I haven’t arrived.

So the song. The one I’m singing this morning:

All I ever have to be
Is what you’ve made me.
Any more or less would be a step
Out of your plan.
As you daily recreate me,
Help me always keep in mind
That I only have to do
What I can find.
And all I ever have to be
All I have to be
All I ever have to be
Is what you’ve made me.

— Amy Grant

Everyone, no matter how old or how accomplished, battles seasons of discouragement. How about you?