If I had a dollar for every time someone said those words to me…”You’re so strong…I don’t know how you do it…I could never be that strong…” and countless variations of the same thing. Six months ago, I would inwardly cringe everytime I heard someone say that.
I am NOT strong. I want to cry. I want to curl up in my bed, under my covers and never come out. I cry myself to sleep. Every night. I cry out to God and ask Him, how much more do You think I can take? I yell at my kids because I’m angry at my husband…at this so-called life we have. I can’t sleep at night. I eat until I’m sick because I don’t know how to deal with this life. I cry. Every. Night. I cry. At work, with my door shut. I cry, driving to work…driving home from work. I cry in the bathroom so my girls don’t see the tears…And sometimes I cry in front of them because I need them to know it’s okay for them to cry too…
I’m not strong. Yes, I have learned over the years how to put on this face. I have learned that people don’t want to be around someone who is sad all the time…People don’t want to be around someone who talks about how hard their life is all the time…Because everyone has their own problems to deal with…and mine are not worse than theirs.
I have the smile down. I have the upbeat tone of voice down. I can look you in the eye and tell you I’m great 🙂 Things are great! And I promise you won’t be able to tell…Because you won’t look closely enough…you want to see happiness…you want to think that things are good…
I’ve gotten close to you…Close enough that I think I can tell you how life really is…inside the walls of our home…I think you really want to know…I think, this is a person I can be myself with. I can break down in front of…because being strong in front of everyone, all the time…is exhausting. So I start to share with you…Just a brief snapshot of how my yesterday was. You don’t turn away. You don’t get that pitied look on your face. You don’t look around nervously for someone to come and rescue you from this conversation.
So I tell you more…Not that first time…Not that day…or even that week…Because trust is a precious thing…My life…my secrets…they are not for everyone’s ears…I need to know that you will guard them as I have guarded them.
And you do…and slowly…I am able to (finally) tell you my story. I don’t hold back. I don’t sugar coat the details that I am ashamed of. When you say, “I’m so sorry”…I don’t say “It’s ok”…I don’t say that, because it’s not…So I say “Thank you…” thank you for listening…thank you for…well, not for understanding, because you haven’t lived this…but thank you for hearing me…for not judging me…for allowing me to be open without the fears that have kept me closed for so long.
I don’t tell you things about my husband to make you hate him…I used to do that…with other people…because I needed someone to be on my side. I used to think that I wanted people to feel sorry for me…to know that I was the injured party…but not with you.
I tell you things because sometimes I feel like I’m going crazy…and I need to get the feelings out…get the words out…Because they spin around in my head, over and over…and they haunt my thoughts…so I give those words to you…and you take them.
I know you hurt for me. I know you would do anything for me not to go through all of this. I know you love me, with all of my brokenness and my faults and my messed up way of thinking…You give me acceptance.
And you steer me…I know that God has placed you in my life, because you steer me back towards Him. When I am feeling like God has abandoned me…when I cry out in anger at Him for putting me through all of this…for putting my girls through all of this…You gently turn me back towards Him.
You listen to the pleas I should be presenting in prayer, but I’m too angry, so I come to you. You don’t judge me. You don’t tell me “If only you would pray more…If only you were a better person…” You only listen…and tell me you love me.
You tell me I’m strong. Those words sound different to me now. Coming from you. I did not see the strength that God had given me during those years. All I saw was me, breaking down…crying…feeling like I couldn’t take one more thing…one more day…But I see it now. I see that I am strong. Not because of who I am…but because God was carrying me all this time…He gave me strength that I rejected. Strength that I threw away instead of being thankful for.
I worry sometimes that I have told you too much. I worry that now that my husband is sober…now that I have forgiven him and we are rebuilding our life…I worry that you will not be able to forgive him…You, the one who walked beside me for all of these years…
So I tell you the good things…the healing…the affection…the love…the forgiveness. And yet, I can also be honest with you about the arguments…the little spats or disagreements…I don’t hide anything from you. I assume you have forgiven him too…because I have…and then I realize it isn’t as easy for you. And it’s important to me. It’s important that you get there.
Because I love him. I love him even though I told you many times I didn’t think I would ever love him again. I love this second chance we have been given. I even love the bad years…because when we talk about them…when we work through them…that brings us closer.
And I need you to know that I do love him. I need you to know that it’s ok to forgive him. I need you to know that I believe with all my heart that God has given us this story for a purpose. I believe that He is going to use us to help other people…Couples just like us…couples that other people can’t reach, because they haven’t walked this path.
And I’m ok with that. I’m more than ok with it. I am humbled and overwhelmed, knowing that God has trusted my husband and I with a story…a journey…a testimony to share with people who are still in the middle of their struggle. To be hope to someone…It is an awesome gift we have been given. One that we don’t intend to keep for ourselves. One that, if we don’t share, may spoil…or disappear.
So I will be strong. I will be brave and tell my story. I won’t hold back. I won’t let my pride color my story in a brighter light.
Because someone needs to hear this. And I am ready to share. Because I am strong. Because you showed me I was strong…You were my courage, my belief, my hope when I was ready to give up.
And it is my deepest desire to give back what you have given me…So that someone…someday…will be strong enough…brave enough…courageous enough…to share their story…with the person God has placed in their life to walk beside them.
I was not looking for a friend like you. I don’t think I even believed a friendship like ours was possible…not for me…and there, right in the middle of me not looking…you showed up.
And now, you are part of my story, just as you have been a part of my journey.
“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.” Ecclesiastes 4:9 (NLT)