I’ve always had this general notion that parenting is hard work. I’ve known this all along, so it isn’t a huge shock by any means to find myself overwhelmed from time to time. I often tell people who ask that I turned 40 and 5 days later had my first baby. I waited for a reason and now I find myself living out all the worst and best parts of parenthood. I wouldn’t change a thing, let’s get that much straight. But some days, I just really honestly cannot change a diaper without wanting to weep. Or do the laundry. Or use the dustbuster on the hundred o’s on the floor. And do NOT ask me to empty the dishwasher.
If you asked me five years ago (because five years ago today I would not have even met my husband yet), I would never have predicted I’d be here… with two toddlers, a teenager, and a first year college student. On any given day, my mind and heart vacillates among worrying about what the almost-two-year-old is getting into, all the pain and sorrows my girls will go through, praying for my stepson who has been through an emotional ringer for the past 7 years, and being so overjoyed with the blessings of my beautiful, sweet, hilarious daughters that I think I’m going to burst from the cuteness. That’s parenthood, really. It’s this bittersweet journey that even the toughest of us sometimes just barely sludge through.
If I’m being honest, some days, I cannot say it’s great. I’m tired. Tired of the whining, the screaming, the waking at 5 AM-ing, the constant need for hugs and affection (and not just from my husband), the constant need for food and drink (and that’s for me too), the thousandth request for Blues Clues or whatever show it is that we’re obsessed with that day.
And I have to be honest. Even amid the “billion” pics on Facebook, I have to be honest with myself and admit that I’m really trying to capture all the amazing stuff so I can better deal with the less than amazing stuff. I have to remind myself that life is really, really hard sometimes and saying otherwise is not only untrue, but damaging. to me and to others who mistakenly think I have it together. I’m not sure who that would be, but let’s just say for argument sake there is one person who thinks that.
Honesty is like a wall that we build to protect us, but ends up like a dam, trying to hold everything together without leaking. Eventually, we all need to leak. Um… really. Eventually, you come to realize we cannot hold everything together and when we aren’t being honest about it, it’s like everyone else sees the little trickle of water coming down the wall. So few will brave the conversation that goes toward more openness, afraid of the gushing streams behind the wall. But some people have learned, sometimes the hard way, that trying to hide it all only leads to more pain and loneliness. Guilt, shame, fear. All bricks in the wall we hide behind. I don’t want to admit to anything. It sounds weak and needy. I am strong. I don’t need anything.
Don’t I, though? Oh, I do.
And when I let one little crack happen, the floodgates open. It all comes crumbling down. That’s what we’re so afraid of, I think. We are left in shambles. There are no defenses and no where to hide any more. I’m left standing in the middle of the flood, waiting for relief and rescue. We hate being needy. We hate looking like damsels in distress. Our modern sensibilities demand we save ourselves, as if we are capable of it. As if only you can save you.
I look around and see all my identities – wife, mom, stepmom, daughter, friend – and I think about where my foundation lies. I’m trying to be all these things and matching up to responsibilities and expectations. But the walls around me start to break down, and that’s a good thing. I have to be honest. It’s the only way to live. I need help. I need saving. Not sometimes, all the time. And I’ll keep trying and falling apart on my own. So will you, whoever you are. You don’t have to believe me or agree with me. “My beliefs don’t require you to.”
And I’ve got this idea that when I’m honest with myself, I can be honest with others, because I’m not afraid of what they think. Usually, I’ve found, that they think a lot of the same things too. I used to be surprised when people would share things they struggled with. I used to think that I was alone. I know I’m not. Even when I start feeling like I am. In my soul, I know that so many of us are in the same boat and we just need to open the floodgates, and ride this ride together, helping each other, encouraging each other, serving and caring for everyone who needs it. And that’s everybody.
A dam is powerful. Honesty is powerful, too, when used to irrigate others, to help and ease our loneliness and turmoil. And when we’re honest with each other, we can find comfort and we can help find the way to a better place. This place gives us a new understanding of who we are, who we can be, through the One who has known all our sorrows and has experienced our loneliness and turmoil. Jesus himself was alone and felt heavy hearted so very often. We get just a glimpse of this in the gospel accounts in the Bible, but I think the day-to-day must have taken a toll on his heart. The ups and downs. People who get it. People who stop getting it. People who will never get it. He must have felt it all and in his humanness, it must have drained him terribly.
But, mystery of mysteries, in his Divinity, he pushed on to the point of it all. That is where I must go. The point. What is the point? It’s 42. No, I mean it’s the Cross. We look forward to Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. We remember the cross and we remember what our perspective of day-to-day living should be. We remember what we are taking up. We remember what we are laying down. We consider how the cross changes us, deepens us, strengthens us. We needed it then, we need it today, and we will need it tomorrow again.
And, praise to the Lord, it will always be there for those who believe.