About twenty-one Octobers ago, my husband, then-boyfriend, and I became exclusive--we said we were "together" and we said, "I love you," all in the same month. It was the month of hope, and love, and dreaming.
Now? Sitting in this October and looking back after seventeen years of marriage, and fifteen years of motherhood, I can say that hope has slipped into disappointment more often than not, and love has become entangled with expectation more often than it should. Yet, in this October, while the leaves are falling, something different is budding within me, and I can't hope or love the way I used to anymore.
Forty has been a rough age so far. When you reach these soul-shaking milestone birthdays, people often tell you to shrug it off and age doesn't mean anything. And whether it is just our imagination or the [old] mind playing tricks on us, these kinds of birthdays do change you--even if it's in some weird self-fulfilling mental lapse kind of way.
Needless to say, I've not enjoyed forty-year-old Angie at all.
On the outside looking in, you see a newly published author, a proud mama of four kids, a wife of a super-hero kinda dad, and a woman who really shouldn't complain.
But on the inside...
It's been pretty void. I feel like my insides are a vacuum, and everything in my brain has been screaming, "ME", and everything in my heart has been shouting, "Get OUT".
It's like that commercial where the person unzips their current body and a whole different person is inside. You know what I'm talking about?
Well, if forty year old Angie had a choice, she'd unzip this person and escape the mess inside. How many times have I told my husband that I just want to crawl out of my skin? How many times have I said I just want to run away? How many times have I absorbed my children's bickering and melted into despair? How many times have I taken that sock lying on the floor so personally, that it makes me send the kids to bed without a kiss goodnight? How many times have I fought for something stupid like a clean kitchen and ruined the chance to have family time because Mama ain't happy?
Somewhere along the way, I've fallen for the lie that it's all about me and what I control. Somewhere along the way, I've become a consumer of my family, and my church, and my world.
And the vacuum inside me just sucks up the justification, the proven points, and the reprimands, and I realize that I have nothing but the crappy broken threads that wrap around the vacuum roller and eventually stop the whole thing from working.
Those broken threads are heartstrings that I've shunned, shamed, shut out from tangling with my own. It's all about me, and I'm just too busy trying to clean up messes without stopping and trying to mend what's going to break.
Well, I was the broken one. And I had wanted change for so long, but I just couldn't unwind those stupid messy strings from the roller. I was stuck.
I was the one who was sitting in a dark pit of despair, feeling hopeless and alone in this whole thing we call life.
So, one day at the beginning of October, I started to listen. I thought, "Maybe I should look for something different." When life feels completely stale and not worth trying for anymore, something different seems like a good change. And I took this tiny little step.
And something amazing happened.
That step took me outside of myself. SERIOUSLY. Like, the little step had me sit in a church I'd hardly ever been and listen to a speaker I'd hardly ever heard. And even though the sermon was hardly something to blow me away, a whisper within the sermon knocked the wind out of me.
And that's the beginning.
Over the next few weeks, EVERYWHERE I turn--whether it be my church services, my Bible study, a conference call for work, a parents' gathering for my son's youth group...EVERYWHERE that I am expectant for God's wisdom...about SEVEN DIFFERENT PEOPLE so far...some who are connected, some who don't even know each other...EVERYWHERE I TURNED GOD SAID THE SAME THING TO ME.
For someone who WAS hopeless, and self-centered, and trying to take control to a point of destruction, I was slowly aroused from my darkest slumber by these three concepts that each of the seven encounters have mentioned and centered their messages on:
Coincidence? Go ahead, call it that. There's no special liturgical calendar the seven encounters were using to guide their messages to me. But, I am here to tell you, that the mess deep down inside me is so ministered by the resonance of each encounter speaking the SAME wisdom to me, in such a personal way--meeting me where I'm at--that I can't even begin to deconstruct my experiences and find a way to attribute it to my [old] mind playing tricks on me.
Something inside me woke up...and it wasn't a noisy vacuum. It was a flood of sweet repentance for my inward focus, and a swishing revival of faith--smaller than a mustard seed--but a faith that promises hope again.
This October, I am becoming again. I am not finished in this growing up business...forty really is just a number. I am still figuring this all out. And I am seeing myself outside myself again...but I'm not trying to run away. I'm outside looking further outside--at those I love, at this chance I get to commune with a God who put up with me in the mess, and still sits with me there when I inevitably stumble back again. I can actually see hope in the next step, when before, all I could see was the tangled mess.
October. A month I once fell in love--for the final time. And a month I once gave birth to a son. October. A month filled with changing color. And a month of changing me.
Here are a few of the people who've spoken God's words to me. By no doing of my own, except saying yes to the environment they met me at. Completely organic. But completely ordained:
James MacDonald (study, Think Differently)
Greg Hawkins (actually heard him on a conference call, then was led to this book--More)
Andy Stanley (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMpj0cXldnk&feature=youtu.be)
(and....sermons on Hope at Lutheran Church of Hope, and on Solitude and Servitude at Meredith Drive Reformed Church...um...and I just realized, I named this post, "Becoming"...and that's the name of the sermon series at my church...BUT IT'S TRUE FOR ME TOO).