The woman stands in my dining room, swinging the baby cradled in her arms back and forth. Cooing at his chubby, round face, she begins to reminisce. She was too young when she had her first, she tells me—just out of high school.
She's a grandma now. Her eyes glaze over, though, as she describes the terror of telling her parents all those years ago. Run away. Change names. She would have done anything not to have to face them with the news.
“I used to knead my stomach with my fists,” she recalls, “Maybe the baby would go away. I couldn’t believe I’d let myself get pregnant.” She catches herself right then, a look of horror spreading across her face.
She was holding my newborn son. And those aren’t the kinds of feelings you admit to your eldest daughter postpartum.
I don’t share such personal stories very often, but I’ll venture with you to an intimate place this week for good reason.
October 10th was World Mental Health Day. You may have noticed men and women’s calls for support splashed across your social media news feed. As for my family, we’re acquainted with the consequences of secrets left to fester and grow in the dark. We’ve faced the ugliness of addiction, depression, disordered eating, and others.
I got to know the woman from the story, my birth mom, in intermittent spurts while growing up. My dad and stepmom raised me primarily. I realized at a young age that people are never one thing—all good or completely rotten.
We're complicated, an ever-changing sea of beliefs and relationships. My parents never had to fall from a pedestal. God used their loving and messy takes on family to strengthen me in the faith.
My birth mom remains as one of the more interesting people I know. She's creative, persistent, kind, and operates with an ever-spinning mind. I spent most of my youth piecing together any information I could about her. I needed to figure out where I fit in, desperate to make sense of my life.
We all derive a sense of identity from the people who raised us. Later on and should we choose it, spiritually mature thinking can replace old wounds. For me, the journey to healing began the day the pieces of the puzzle clicked. Mom gave me a peek into her mind. An avid “pro-lifer," she made a statement during a conversation that I'll never forget:
“Meg, sometimes you have to save people from themselves, even when they don't understand they need saving.”
Remorse and redemption. She’d told me all I’d needed to know without going into any further detail. I suspect she suffered from postpartum depression back then. Her stories and a desire to “save others from themselves” provide clues to the issues she faced.
It was 1982. The difficulty of a young mom to bond and care for a newborn baby, while living in a tiny, Christian, farming community, was taboo at best. I can imagine the brokenness that must have set in as she navigated the realities in her mind.
“But, those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud."
Those are the words of Eugene Peterson in his poetic interpretation of Romans 8:1-6.
Today my birth mom, advancing in age and loving to the best of her ability, no longer lives under a low-lying black cloud. In the New Living Translation of the Bible, the sentence reads:
Now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
The condemning stopped, but it didn’t happen overnight. It's been a gradual healing for both of us, the kind that happens within a purposed community. We each had consistent support, great church families, and God’s timely words of promise. She has since added to my extended family, blessing me with two beautiful half-sisters.
In acknowledgement of World Mental Health Day, I want you to know that it is well in my soul. And it can be well with you too. Our relationships are in constant progress—stages of healing and letting go. In some instances we’ve been the perpetrators, and in others, the slighted. Either way, we have choices to make. Will we allow others into our lives to help?
To the collective Church, I urge you. Pay attention to the issues affecting women in your congregations. We're the primary caregivers to the next generation and our health determines their someday-healing. Preach about these issues. Tell women that, in Jesus, we find the power to overcome. Invite us to share our testimonies and create support programs to obliterate the stigma.
We can’t rely on government institutions or community agencies to be all things to all people anymore. Mental health funding cuts have been heinous as of late. People fighting mental illness need support networks, and we, Church, commune with them at ground zero.
We're raised by them. Married to them. Live next door to them.
We ARE them.
The list below includes topics I’ve discussed with women in counseling over the past few years--not a single one uncommon.
Worthlessness and Self-Harm
Body Image and Confidence Issues
Physical, Emotional, and Spiritual Abuse
Abandonment, Isolation, and Loss
Addiction – Chemical and Food, especially
Depression, Anxiety, and Suicide
Even before His ultimate sacrifice on the cross, people came to know a compassionate Healer. His name was, is, and always will be Jesus.
Word spreads fast as we meet people at the crux of their pain.
For more information, visit the Resource Page and feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.
Do you have a story of healing to share? Tell us below.
With you and for you,
With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.
God went for the jugular when he sent his own Son. He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In his Son, Jesus, he personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. (Romans 8:1-7, Msg.)
Photo Cred: Dakota Corbin
Believer. Wife. Mom. Writer. Marriage and Family Therapist. Accidental Speaker. Crossfitter and Total Book Nerd.
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Juli Slattery at Authentic Intimacy
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Holley Gerth's #CoffeeForYourHeart
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Jennifer Duke Lee's #TellHisStory
Susan Mead's #DanceWithJesus