As mentioned in my last post, I was truly overwhelmed by the emotional depth of the Random Writers posts last week. For those of us behind the keyboards, this process of weekly writing on random topics is forcing us to evaluate our inner most beings in areas we don’t generally spend much time, and I’m so excited that this weeks topic carries us even further on the journey of self exploration in our seventh week.
Our topic this week explores ways in which we have allowed fear to build walls that imprison us; keeping us from exploring the outside boundaries of our own personal prisons. For years, I’ve referred to this as the box. The box where my life was safe, comfy and cozy. Gil touched on many of the same fears I have faced in his post on Monday, but for me, the fear that kept me constrained in my box, or my personal prison as it were, from the ages of 18 to 31, was the fear that I was not able, however, I have been able to overcome that issue.
My childhood was the perfect breeding ground for the “I love my box” lifestyle I led for my entire early adulthood. As far as I knew, money grew on trees, white picket fences were freely given and if you followed a certain set of “Christian” guidelines, life in the box required little to no maintenance.
I’d traveled more than most as a teen on mission trips and with my family and had done local service work with my church youth group and had a fairly decent view of what life looked like outside of my families lifestyle, but I did not know that the walls of said box could quickly fall and that I better be prepared to stand on my own if and when that were to happen. These kind of things didn’t happen to PLU’s, better known as “people like us”, so there was no need for me to prepare myself.
But it did happen. At age 18, the four walls of my box collapsed, just as I was entering a new phase in my life. My parents split up two weeks after I started college at a pretty crusty, small, private girls school. I was surrounded by privilege, and with my foundation collapsing I no longer felt the least bit comfortable.
With two households to now support and me at a pricey school, money was suddenly not falling from the trees that shaded our lovely home. I sucked at school from the time I was a young child, so the fact that that was where my attention was supposed to be didn’t help matters. I wasn’t able to be good in school, I wasn’t able to have my family intact, and as I look back now, I see that I wasn’t able to think for myself. At all. All I could do was go with the flow. So, I did.
When my roommate and security blanket decided to transfer out of state after our sophomore year, so did I. I remember her calling a month after we left school for the summer, talking to her in my bedroom, hanging up the phone and walking in to the kitchen to tell my mom I wasn’t going back to that school. It was devastating, to both of us, but I already didn’t want to go back and without Courtney, I knew that I wouldn’t go back to Salem.
For the years that followed, finishing school at my local school with my mom replacing Courtney as my cozy blanket, my Dad calling me to wake me up for 8:00 a.m. classes, and then a marriage that was safe and secure, I lived in a box with four walls built solely on a foundation of co-dependency.
Under the surface lurked an awareness that I could do nothing on my own. I needed my friends and parents to get through me school. I needed my then husband’s support to survive while I worked low paying jobs in the non-profit sector in order to live the lifestyle we were accustomed to. I wasn’t the scholastic type or the career driven type. I was a middle of the roader and had yet to find myself any sort of niche in which I could thrive on my own.
I wasn’t able to do any of it on my own.
When our marriage fell apart, though I had a good paying full time job and was successful at it, I seriously did not believe that I could afford to live on my own. I knew I couldn’t afford to live in our house, so I gave it back to my ex and for months I lived in a co-workers dark and dingy in law suite while I “got on my feet”. While the first months of our marriage crisis and subsequent separation were horrible, I look back and now see that those months in the apartment without a kitchen sink were the darkest moments of my life because I restrained myself in a prison named, “I’m not able”.
It was in that apartment where I was broken. Broken of the feeling that I should be able. God didn’t expect me to be able, though our world and everyone in my life, including myself, would tell me that I should be. As a child of God, my strength was irrelevant when His was free for the taking. If I would just look up and accept His hands. Sadly, even with this new found knowledge, it took me a while to give in, knowing that it would be His way rather than my way, the rest of the way. It would no longer be about me, but rather about about what He wanted from me.
After the longest and hardest months of my life, I recognized that this was the only way I could break out of the prison I had built around myself, and on my knees, I finally cried out to God to show me the way.
I wholeheartedly knew that I wasn’t able, but that He was. That I didn’t need to be able, because He was fully able. I knew that He had brought me on this journey for a reason and that somehow, in His good time, that He was the only way that could redeem all that I had lost.
We’re going on 3 years now, and I can proudly say that, most days, I’m completely comfortable outside of that prison. Are there times when I long for my family and my married life to be back intact, and wish for nothing more than to know the security of at least one of those comfort zones? Yes. Hell yes. However, the peace and security I have found in accepting my weakness as a benefit eventually always takes back over.
I am weak, but He is strong. I’m not able, but He is more than able.