My heart ached as I said goodbye to my family, and they shut the door behind them. I would be home alone that night, missing yet another gathering. While I needed this space for my weak emotional and physical condition, I hated missing out again. I’d had a panic attack a couple weeks before and my body was still recovering.
Due to a medication injury, my central nervous system does not function normally. Any bit of stress still triggers terrible bodily sensations that I experienced all throughout a long and terrible medication taper almost 2 years before. This panic attack sent me reeling for weeks.
This season has been a “dark night of the soul,” one of sickness and loss, division and broken dreams, effort and little return, loneliness, and a refining fire.
Just days ago, my spiritual director finished our Zoom session with her hands folded in a pleading prayer position, and kindly said, “Be gentle with yourself!”
I’ve been anything but gentle with myself in this season, and it’s time I ‘fess up. If I were my friend going through this, I would give her a lot more grace. But because it’s me? And because my situation isn’t easily understood? It’s anything but easy to be kind to myself.
Currently I live in America, the land of independent, strong, and productive people. Even though I lived in The Balkans for 2 ½ years, where relationships are of utmost importance, I have easily reverted back to the “productivity first” mindset since returning stateside. And in the physical and emotional weakness of this season, I can feel like I am failing every step of the way. If I am not attending all the gatherings I am invited to, holding at least a part-time job, or keeping my house clean and dust-free, then I am not actually living.
I know these to be lies, but far too easily I yield to the temptation these thoughts give that I am not good enough.
We had been full of energy and life as we embarked on our “business as mission” venture in The Balkans, now almost a decade ago. But just 2 years in, we came against a wall we couldn’t scale. The business was failing and our bodies and souls were broken after working so hard in a corrupt environment. We returned to the States, fully believing we would return just as soon as we got rested and recovered.
Five + years later, we’re still stateside. We’re still recovering.
And not only are we recovering from that experience, but also from a myriad of things that have not gone the way we expected.
Re-entry was rocky at best and then we lost our 3rd baby at 17 weeks of pregnancy.
This is when I got on medication that helped me in the short-term but hurt me in the long-term. It took over a year to taper from and I learned that I would need to heal from it like I would a brain injury.
I was beginning to experience increasing benefits of being off the medication when I developed all the classic symptoms of Covid-19.
At that same time, we were cautiously excited to see a positive pregnancy test. But in the week that followed, my fallopian tube burst, causing me to need emergency surgery for an ectopic pregnancy, and we lost the fresh dream of another baby.
Slowly we realized that the breathing complications associated with Covid-19 weren’t going away. To date, rarely a day goes by that I do not have to extend extra effort to get complete breaths. I can no longer read aloud, run, or sing for long periods of time before becoming winded.
These are indeed valid reasons to be “kind to myself.”
God isn’t rushing me to ‘get better,’ ‘push through’ or ‘move on,’ even though I feel this pressure from the culture. Instead of asking for strength I cannot give, God asks me to receive grace.
Recently some mentors spoke into my life, saying they see God doing something in me, that I am growing, and that I can hear God’s voice.These words mean the world to me because instead of seeing failure, they see God forming me into someone new and refined.
I have worth beyond productivity and strength. Because of God’s doing, I am seen as important in the Kingdom of God, whose ideals are within reach, even in weakness.
When I can see myself with God’s eyes, my kindness for myself grows.
Though I still grieve many losses, I am grateful my eyes have opened to some light in the “dark night of the soul.” I have increased clarity, joy, and a deeper knowing of what God has called me to. When I have these eyes, I can not only extend kindness to myself, but I also see opportunities open up to minister to others in ways I could’ve never dreamed.
Even if I have to stay home for another string of weeks, I know, somehow, God is not hindered.
And in this my heart gives its deepest thanks.
Is it difficult for you to show yourself kindness? How have you been refined in the midst of a dark night of the soul?