The last few days have just swallowed me up. All I’ve wanted to do is hide in my bed under the covers and close my eyes. I woke at six a.m. to nurse my sweet-face eleven-month-old, Ruby. She’s relentlessly happy to see me and greets me with her six-teeth smile, even when I’m groggy and half-asleep. I snuggled her close to me. I knew this moment with her should be sheer joy and contentment, but I found myself feeling trapped. Trapped in my own mind, my body, my house.
You see, this is often how postpartum, depression, and anxiety can feel. You certainly don’t choose them. You don’t wake up one day and decide to do an experiment with them. No. They are sneaky characters who work their way around and under and over you and you often don’t know their names until they have carried you and deserted you someplace uncharted and unwelcome. For me, postpartum and depression tend to keep me in a cycle of feeling sad, lonely, overwhelmed, and unmotivated and then the pendulum swings to feelings of failure and guilt for not getting on with it already. Lack of sleep mixes in with feelings of lack of self, all while self-confidence is deflated big-time because I may be wearing the same sweat pants, t-shirt, and pony tail four days in a row. It’s no wonder a haze of disorientation falls heavy.
By 8:30 a.m., my oldest was off to school and my five year old had found the remote. Soon, it was time for baby girl to nap. While in her room, rocking her to sleep, my mind turned to a hymn we sang in church last Sunday, “I hear the Savior say, thy strength indeed is small. Child of weakness watch and pray. Find in me thine all in all.”
So, here I was, in the tension of the mom I wanted to be: chipper, happy, endlessly patient, ready with lessons, art, and activities, and the mom I was: exhausted, sad, overwhelmed, desperately wanting my infant to take her nap while my other kid watched tv. I love my kids and I love being a mom. Yet I had no idea that it would be the most challenging job I would ever step into. In this season, my three children are in different stages and need very different things from me, often at the same time, which has me feeling thin and thread-bare and not enough.
My tear-filled eyes turned into full-on sobs as I held Ruby while pacing the wooden floor. The aching pain found release as I choked out the words, “Child of weakness watch and pray, Find in me thine all in all.” I was definitely feeling weak and watching and praying felt exhausting. My strength indeed was small and even smaller was my ability to control my shifting moods. I was trying hard to muster up happiness, muster up motivation, muster up all that I simply was not. It wasn’t working. The weight of it was more than I could bear. The lyrics kept coming back to me as a gentle tug on my heart, reminding me to lean into finding Jesus here and knowing Jesus, even in the darkness, even in the heaviness, even in the suffocating feelings.
Then, in a break of silence came a soft baby giggle. I took a deep breath; out came another sob met by another tiny giggle. Gentle mercy came in the echo of a giggle with every one of my cries. Baby girl thought I was laughing. Bless her.
That beautiful, hard, and precious time in Ruby’s nursery led me to think more about the idea of imitation. Ruby is learning so much every day by imitating what she sees. Smiling, waving hi, speaking, giggling— she’s figuring out who she is as she imitates in her own unique way what she sees us doing.
I’m figuring out who I am as I imitate my Father.
This is work. There isn’t always a formula, especially when I desperately search God’s word for changing HORMONES or POST PARTUM or DEPRESSION. Yet, we have the words of life and we have the promised Spirit and we have one another.
Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Ephesians 5:1-2 NLT
I went back to my memory of rocking Ruby and I asked Jesus to show me where he was in that darkness. Incredibly clearly, I felt that he was crying with me, swaying back and forth, and he grabbed my elbow, made eye contact, and smiled at the first recognition of Ruby’s giggle. He was with me. Even when I didn’t like myself much. Even when I felt utterly alone in my darkness. He was there and, even still, delighting with me at the simple joy of that innocent echoing giggle.
How do I imitate Him? I study His words and what matters to Him and I, very imperfectly, try to use that as the lens in which I see myself and the world around me. I believe that life with Jesus includes light from my Father that is ever redeeming me and producing what is good and right and true. Part of imitating Him, involves beginning to see myself the way He sees me. I am his dear child and I may be wired differently than those around me and that’s okay. I am his dear child when I’m thriving in my gifts and using my time to serve others well and when I’m barely holding it together trying to care for my family and my home. I am his dear child. And so are you. Dear sister, maybe it’s worth taking a moment now to say these important and true words over your life, over your areas of tension?
So, here I am. My heart is still beating and I’m choosing to believe that I am seen and known by my Father. He knows my small strength. He knows my weakness. He knows this hurting world I live in and how quickly circumstances change. He invites me to see into His eyes, to receive, to know I am loved and to keep on loving. He invites me to watch and imitate even in uncertainty, even when I don’t feel qualified. He invites me to real relationship. And the invitation stands whether I am being awesome at this relationship or whether I’m stumbling around in darkness. As his dear child, I want to meet his eyes, tilt my head back, and laugh earnestly with him. May the echo be a healing balm to all who hear.