I slipped and fell one day. It was a windy, icy day in Chicagoland. I had a 4 year old by my side. On one arm, I held a diaper bag, and my brand new foster baby in a car seat carrier. In my other hand was a heavy bag of books and leftover craft supplies from a Children’s Church lesson I had taught. I walked out the church door, smiled at a group of ladies gathered in the drive, and stepped right onto the black ice coating the parking lot.
I had a business decision to make
As milliseconds slowed, everything went up before it came down. Do I rescue the bag, the baby, or my dignity? Baby it was. In the wake of the impact, the quick check to make sure baby was unphased, and the scramble to retrieve the contents of my bag, I heard something that stung a lot more than the body parts that just met the blacktop.
In a glance, I realized that the 4 women standing in the drive were laughing at my fall. I heard a cutting remark about how I’d learn my lesson about trying to look cute in my heeled boots. More laughter. Not any ladies. Leading ladies of my new church. A church I was excited to be a part of. Women I was sure I would look up to, and learn about life from. Women I would have assumed would have run to help, check on the baby, comfort my young child, and maybe even carry one of my heavy bags as I limped to my car. I don’t think any of them knew that I heard them. I’m pretty sure by the way they smiled, asked how I was doing and offered advice for the next 7 years, that they had no idea how they had hurt me.
To be fair, I never told them.
I took a deep breath when I saw them coming, set my mask, and vowed they’d never get close enough to hurt me again. I have a wonderful support system of loving, genuine people in my life, but I allowed that incident to affirm the lies that my insecure heart had been murmuring for years. “Protect yourself. Stand tall. Don’t ask for help.”
I don’t need you.
It would be years before I allowed anyone new to break through the crust of my self sufficiency. Years that jaded my heart, my tongue, and my perspective. Years that kept me in internal isolation. I was lonely, but never alone. Always helping, but always guarded. Leary of everything, and weary inside.
Pain enslaved me, then pain broke me free.
Laughter ringing across that frozen blacktop activated an even colder heart and an icy grip of control. I would be stuck for a while. But then, this whisper I write about began to bring a thaw. 3 years ago, an unexpected crack revealed some ignored pain, and began a journey to process some lifetime lies I didn’t even know I was building my identity upon. 2 years ago, another crack, and disturbing circumstances revealed the toxic “security” we were clinging to. We took a breath of hope, and plunged into the frigid waters below…surrendering everything and swamming into the unknown. This year, as we thought we had finally emerged, gasping, we crawled to the solid ground only to find myself in physical pain and today’s chronic disability that keeps me from caring for myself in some of the most basic ways.
It may seem that much has been lost.
Yet, there is springtime in my heart. Each crack has brought an opportunity of healing, and finally opened warm hands to genuine freedom. Weakness has brought a trust rooted in something my self-sufficiency could never deliver. It has shown me that I need you. In fact, you have shaped me. You have held me. You have said hard things and pointed me to the One I was resisting. You are the reason I’m on this earth. When I leave this earth, you are all I take with me, and all I leave behind. There are so many of you. Some of you are no longer here. Some of you I’ll never see again. Some of you are standing with me today and some of you I’ve yet to meet. I can’t wait.
I need you.