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Learning to Let Go

I wrote about my difficulties struggling with depression in a previous post titled “Zombie.” From mid-March until I gave birth, I had to get weekly progesterone injections. Right around the time I started getting those shots, we received Daniel’s diagnosis. The hormones of pregnancy combined with the added progesterone and the emotional trauma of the HLHS diagnosis made for a perfect storm that rendered me lifeless.

There were days I physically couldn’t get out of bed. On the days I did get out of bed, I practically collapsed when I got home in exhaustion, unable to clean up the house, cook dinner, or deal with bedtimes, and I cried all the time. I couldn’t take anything for anxiety or depression because I was pregnant, and most of the medicines that I could take could exacerbate Daniel’s heart defect.

I remember lying in bed, hating myself. I felt like I was a failure of a mother for somehow causing Daniel’s heart defect and for being unable to care for my other children because I couldn’t get out of bed. I felt like a failure of a wife because I was not holding up my end of the bargain in keeping the house clean and preparing dinner. My poor husband was having to work all day and then get home late, cook himself dinner, and get the kids ready down while I cried in bed, feeling like I was drowning but unable to die.

Through all of that, Brian never once made me feel bad. He never once complained or snapped in anger at me. He quietly took care of all of it. I would text him telling him how sorry I was, and all he would say was, “I hate that you’re having to go through this. I love you.”

I learned quite a lot in my misery. First, I learned how real depression is. I wasn’t lying around sad all the time. Yes, I was sad, but sadness doesn’t usually completely immobilize me. There was some chemical thing happening in my brain that caused my severe, crippling depression. Second, I learned how incredible my husband is. I know for a fact that I would not have been able to show so much grace if the circumstances were switched.

The biggest thing that occurred to me was this— I felt I was only worthy of love if I was somehow proving it by pulling my weight at home. Making sure the house is clean, shopping for groceries and preparing meals, caring for the children in their nighttime routine, all of those things somehow, in my mind, made me worthy of love. When I could no longer do those things, I felt I was no longer worthy.

I realized I had made a similar mistake as a Christian. When I sin and feel extreme guilt, I feel like there is no possible way God could love me and could forgive me. After one of the times that Brian told me, “I love you. You are worth it,” I realized I didn’t fully comprehend what GRACE meant before. When I think that my sins have rendered me unworthy, it indicates that, when I view myself as morally good, I think I am worthy of God’s love. Only when I have sinned and feel worthless, only when I see Christ’s love and God’s grace in action through my husband, do I remember how incredible GOD is, not me.

It reminds me of a passage I read the other day. In Luke 7, a sinful woman washes Jesus’ feet with her tears, wipes them with her hair, and anoints them with perfumed oil. A Pharisee sees this and is aghast that Jesus would allow such a sinner near him. He addresses this Pharisee and tells him this story: “’A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?’ Simon answered, ‘The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.’ And he said to him, “You have judged rightly… I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.’” (Luke 7:41-43, 47).

The fact is all my righteous deeds are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), and “none is righteous, no, not one.” I knew that in my head, but it wasn’t until I felt completely unworthy and was shown unconditional love from my husband that I realized how much I do subconsciously try to earn God’s love.

Yesterday in my blog post (titled “What is my role in all of this?”), I wrote about submission to God’s will. For most of us, getting to the point where we completely trust God more than ourselves is a painful process. For me, realizing how sinful I am, realizing how much I screw up when I follow my own advice instead of God’s word, realizing what GRACE is as described above, was the first important step. I honestly have no idea how I would have been able to process all of what has happened with Daniel had I not learned the valuable lesson that God is sovereign, infinitely more powerful, wise, and loving than I could ever possibly be.

The disciple Peter learned a similar lesson the hard way. The Gospels portray Peter as a man of faith and conviction, but also as a man who had trouble submitting to God’s will over his own. In Matthew 16, Peter confesses that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16), and Jesus names Peter’s rock-like confession as the foundation upon which he will build his church (Matt. 16:18). Soon after this moment, Jesus starts to speak about his impending death, but Peter proclaims, “Heaven forbid, Lord…This will never happen to you!” Jesus actually says to him, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s” (Matt. 16:23).

Peter made another mistake in the garden of Gethsemane. Even after Jesus told the disciples dozens of times that he would soon be betrayed and die, Peter lashed out and cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant when Jesus was being arrested. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” (John 18:10-11). Jesus was sending a message to Peter. It was not Peter’s power, strength, or will that accomplished anything. 

Finally, when Jesus was taken before the high priest after he was arrested, Peter denied Jesus three times. He insisted he did not know Jesus, even though hours before he had confidently declared, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” I have always focused on the pain and guilt Peter must have felt, but now I recognize it for the defining moment it was. Peter had consistently struggled to put his own ego aside. There is no doubt about it— he believed wholeheartedly in Jesus, he had seen first hand the miracles and wonders Jesus had performed, and he had followed Jesus for three years and declared him as the Messiah, but he still didn’t get it. Only by failing did Peter finally understand Jesus’ message to “take up your cross daily”, to “feed (his) lambs,” and to serve.

When I start questioning why Daniel has this heart defect, when I start wishing that his swelling would go down quicker or that they would extubate today, I remember that things only happen according to God’s perfect timing and according to His will. When I start thinking that somehow I know better, that surely it can’t be good for Daniel’s life to be in danger or for him to have to struggle with this serious problem for his whole life, I remember a quote that I read from author and pastor Tim Keller, “if we knew what God knows, we would ask exactly for what he gives.”

During difficult times when someone you love isn’t living up to his/her end of the bargain, when he/she has hurt or betrayed you, when they seem unworthy, remember that your selfless love is one of the most important witnessing opportunities you have. Those whom we think already understand what the Bible says and what we know as Christians to be true still need to see Christ’s love in action. Mistakes we make, difficult times we have, struggles we face—all of these things can play a huge role in molding us to be selfless servants of our amazing and powerful God. .

Broken Things by Matthew West 

Click on the link and listen to the song above. It is one of my favorites 🙂