We love to hear success stories and read self-help books written by people who have “made it through” something difficult, but it’s hard to write about something when you feel like you’re still in the middle of it. However, I know I’ve gained so much from people who let me see them in the middle of their “mess,” so I hope my story is helpful for you.
Who Is She?
Hey, I’m Sarah. I’m a creative weirdo who was homeschooled, went to Shawnee College, then SIU, and now does creative work for a church! My story isn’t extravagant. Here are some bullet points: I’m in my upper-twenties. I’m single. I lived alone for the first major part of the pandemic. That’s the background info you need before we start this story.
Grown-Up Book-It Challenge
Every year, I use an app called GoodReads to set a reading goal. For 2020, I set a goal of 50 books. I read 20 books in the first two months, so I was excited to hit and exceed my goal! (Can you tell I was homeschooled? Also, I LOVED the Pizza Hut Book-It reading reward program!)
…But then in March…some things happened…and I suddenly had so much free time! Surely I blasted through my reading goal, right?
In March 2020, I had that running total of 20 books. By the end of the year, I had only added 9 more titles to that.
So what did I do during the pandemic? Honestly, I’m not sure. Basically, I think my brain shut down into survival mode. I was still working from home. I watched Tiger King. I took some long walks in my neighborhood. I dealt with the deepest loneliness I have ever experienced. It was kinda a dark time.
A major turning point happened in a conversation with a friend. God spoke to me through my friend, Dustin, who looked me in the eyes and carefully spoke to one of my deep wounds: “It seems like you feel really alone. You need to know that’s not true.”
When he said that, I felt something unravel in me. A string that had been tied tightly around part of my heart loosened, allowing me to feel loved and seen and to see how that lie had shaped so much of my perspective and actions.
Here’s the thing – I have a solid Christian community around me. I have many good connections with people. I just wasn’t careful or intentional about guarding my thoughts when I was alone almost all day, every day for months during the first part of the pandemic. I already deal with lies that echo in my head – that I’m alone on this journey, I’m not peoples’ first choice of friend, I’ll never find a husband, I’m not doing well with my life – this list goes on and on. So a global pandemic was really the perfect thing to bring this all to a boil.
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
Many of us have so many things tied up in our hearts and minds. Whether it’s baggage from childhood, a hurtful comment from a friend, or some misconception we have about ourselves – we need to bring it to God. We need to invite him to work on our deep wounds. He knows our hearts, but we often pretend there are parts that only we know or ignore parts we just don’t want to deal with or have parts that we don’t even fully know are wounded.
Recently, someone shared a song that has really blessed me: “Unraveling” by Cory Asbury. (**WARNING** DO NOT listen to this if you’re not in a spot where you’re comfortable with crying. I literally put this song on if I kind of feel like I might need to let some tears out. It’s so good.)
For me, this idea of “unraveling” has two facets. There’s the bad unraveling (where you just feel like you’re falling apart) and the good unraveling (where you sense God unraveling bad thoughts/habits/beliefs from your brain and heart). The good unraveling is loving and tender. Yes, it can still hurt and drain you, but there’s a profound hope in it.
Again, I’m still in the middle of all this. I’m learning more and more every day how to deal with these lies in my brain. I’m thankful for friends who process deep thoughts with me. I love that there are a lot of resources online that explain how our brains work and how to counteract the negative thoughts. I’m looking into counseling/therapy because life is hard and sometimes brain chemicals are not quite right or our thought patterns have been shaped by the world or our experiences have warped our perspectives. I’m learning to be more honest and open with other people, God, and myself.
If you’re in the middle of a mess, I encourage you to ask God what lies you’re letting into your brain. Ask Him to work on your deep wounds. If you have someone in your life who seems like they’re in the middle of a mess, ask God to give you the words to say to them or a way to show them that they’re loved and seen.
P.S. Sometimes God answers prayers in ways you don’t expect. In the midst of working through my pandemic loneliness and praying for fulfilling friendships, God brought a fantastic roommate and her wonderful corgi into my house. We barely knew each other beforehand, but quickly formed a strong sister-bond that is a major blessing in my life. (Plus the corgi is ridiculously cute and loving too.)