Last summer, I was in my backyard planting flowers. I knew exactly where I wanted them, so I began digging. The ground was hard, and difficult to budge. I chipped away a few pieces of dirt at a time, but little progress was made.
My past year represents that dirt. I’ve been buried in the dirt, and God is chipping away at me chiseling His masterpiece, one painful chip at a time. I don’t know about you, but dirt and pain have never really been my thing. But in order for me to grow, I first have to sit in the dirt.
This past year, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my childhood; a time in my life that I pushed down deep, and buried. Some memories I cherish, but others are clouded with emotional pain. This time of my life was an eternity ago. So I thought just bury the hatchet, move on and learn to tell a different story. But it’s part of me. And without grieving what I lost, I can’t heal. I can’t keep running from the grief.
I grew up believing my worth was in being who others thought I should be. Quiet and not chatty, obedient and never questioning, strong and never crying, and needing to make others happy. Most often, no matter what I did, it was never good enough. I felt I was too much or too little of who anyone needed me to be. This is the dirt.
My parents separated when I was eight and divorced four years later. It caused me to lose all of the good memories I had with my parents because they were shared with a family unit that was torn apart; one that no longer existed. There were moments of laughter...of togetherness that seemed so important, so real, so unshakable. Yes, they happened. Yes, they will always exist, but I can’t share them with my parents anymore. This loss is evident every time I’m with them. This loss began a dangerous narrative of who I began to tell myself I was. The years of ugly fighting, the years of me feeling like a pawn in their anger-filled narrative took its toll. Instead of being able to grieve the breaking up of my family, I became what my parents needed. My mom needed me to be her number one supporter and counselor. My dad needed me to be his affirmer, to see no fault in him. This was exhausting and very much unachievable. I was never enough for them... or at least that was the story I told myself.
Throughout my childhood, I always had this lonely feeling, like something was missing, like I had lost something. I just could never put my finger on it. Here in the dirt, I can see it now. Brene Brown says it well in her book Rising Strong. “Grief seems to create losses within us that reach beyond our awareness-we feel as if we are missing something that was invisible and unknown to us while we had it, but is now painfully gone.”
As we wait for this year's garden, it looks empty and bare. The dirt feels lonely, cold, and dark. It takes forever to push through the dirt and grow. Before it’s tall and beautiful, a plant must grow roots to be firmly planted. A garden is a process that we only see as it emerges from the dirt and grows. It needs pruning and clearing of weeds and things that don't belong. My dirt season is the same way. I can’t see the entire masterpiece that God is creating. With each cod of dirt chipped away, I can clearly see the lies that I grew up believing crushed under His truth of who He says I am. The fears that have held me captive are beginning to have a quieter voice. God promises to finish what He starts. Even though I can only see one step at a time, I choose to trust Him in the process. I choose to trust Him in who He says I am. Each time I am able to talk back to that little girl’s lies and fears, I am able to grow as I push through the dirt one tiny bit at a time.
A wise and very dear friend said to me once, “The place in the dirt is so hard. But it’s just the spot that Jesus sits and doodles next to you letting you know he has no other place to be but here with you.” He knows the outcome; He’s here in the dirt with me. He doesn’t have to be, but He is. I just need to believe and trust Him in the process, even through the pain.
I am learning to face the grief caused by my parents divorce. My parents weren’t perfect, they are human after all. And I’m beginning to trust they loved me the best they knew how.
I don’t know what your garden looks like or what dirt you might be sitting in. I do know that the One who created you sits with you. He quietly speaks truth to you as you grow, and pushes you forward into who He created you to be. Just push through and rise through your dirt. It’s worth it.
Written by Laura Ricks