I wrote it down that same day because I did not want to forget. The cost of forgetting was too high.
She was in the bathtub playing. She splashed her brother standing nearby and he slipped and fell, hurt and crying. And I yelled. I drove daggers in with my words and it was fierce. I’d felt it again, that gripping combination of frustration and panic, and my mama heart gasped for air beneath the force of it.
The verbal storm calmed and I looked at her there, soul-hurt and sobbing, and I knew. Kneeling there by the tub on that old tile floor, looking at my still-small girl, I knew it with that down in the bones certainty reserved for the most important moments in life.
I could either get help or destroy her with my words.
No matter what anyone thought, no matter the blow to my pride, even if no one understood why. It was my responsibility. I was not going to get this one wrong.
It’s funny how pride can rule even when you’ve been crushed low, even when you’re creeping army style, bruised and battered, face so near the ground you can feel the gravel brush your cheek. It’s funny how the Gospel that embraces the weak with sure hands, that binds up brokenness and grants access to the Holy One without a secret password, can be twisted into religion that claims weakness as lack of faith.
I thought that was it. I was doing it all wrong. I’d prayed and prayed and prayed, but could not dig up the answer. I’d asked God through earnest tears to help me fix myself. It took me years to understand the irony.
The day after the worst of the worst was when I finally dared make the appointment. I’d lost my head again, locked myself in the bathroom to keep my three small children from witnessing the freak show I saw in the mirror. Who was I? Where was it coming from, this tightening in my chest, my arms, my legs, my mind? Why would it not stop? It was my body, after all; why could I not make it stop?
I breathed fast and cried hard. I gripped the cabinet with white knuckles. I stared, terrified, in that mirror. I searched the blue walls and high ceilings for help. I recognized my house. I recognized my face. But what was happening inside them was not me.
And so I went. Two weeks later I dropped my blonde-haired boys off at school just like any other Monday, and I drove a half hour in silence and prayer to a windowless waiting room. Two hours passed and when it was over, I finally felt hope.
I felt understood. What was happening to me had a name; I could call it out.
I felt validated. Life had dealt ten gut punches in a row, he said. How had I managed it so long?
And I felt so, so relieved.
I did love my children. I had not ruined it all. I was not losing my mind, not losing my family or my life. I was getting them back.
I opened the paper bag right there in the parking lot, in the driver’s seat of my mini-van. I took the lid off the small plastic bottle and tapped its opening on the palm of my hand until a solitary pill fell out. I stared at it a while. Then I broke it in half, just like I’d been told.
Breaking that little white pill was like taking communion to me. Bringing it to my lips, eyes closed, I could hear Christ himself say, “Take, eat.” It was the voice of God Made Man, the One who’d heard all my desperate pleas. He was whispering, “This is my body, broken for you.” The mercy was almost audible and I took it in.
My faith has not cured my weakness. My prayers have not magically made me a better mother. But both give me the daily dose of courage I need to enter in, to dip bare feet into my brokenness and stand still on the shore of it, letting the water hug my ankles and breathing in the salt air. It’s there in the realness of my need that I see more clearly.
Healing does not mean what I thought it did. Grace goes much deeper than I thought it could. The gospel can look like a little white pill. Taking it was one of the most loving things I have ever done for my children, for my family, for my self.