I squint one eye and tilt my head back. Off in the distance a large mound rises from the surprisingly lush Texas greenery. The discount baby carrier I literally just bought digs into my shoulders. Enchanted Rock looks a bit more forbidding than I had imagined silhouetted against the deep blue sky, and I’m not really prepared for this.
I look down at my shoes, mint blue Target oxfords. I am so not prepared for this.
But we’ve come all this way and it’s been 10 years since I’ve even been in Texas. Who knows when we’ll be here again. We follow the signs for the trail, telling ourselves we’ll at least get close to it.
The words of the reviews I read hours earlier ring in my ears as we pick our way along the gravel path, “discourage non-hikers.” I’m pretty sure that’s me. I really enjoy the idea of hiking. It’s just that when it comes to the actual hiking, I’m really more there for the conversation, the beautiful scenery, or let’s be honest, the picnic lunch. I’m a non-hiker.
Shouldn’t be here. Can’t cut it. Not prepared.
I’m sitting comfortably in my bed after deciding to turn in for the night a full hour earlier than I normally do. This is how I will get the news. This is where I will hear the words that will knock the breath out of me, send me reeling. I am not prepared for this.
My breath starts to catch in my chest and the walls feel like they are closing in, narrowing. The terror that gripped my heart when those words were spoken snakes it’s icy hand around my body and shakes. I feel like I’m dying. I was not prepared for this.
The panic rises and rises and with it my blood pressure. It’s like I’m tipping my head back to get a look at that looming rock, only there is no top. I can’t take it in. It is overwhelming. The further I tip my head, the more insurmountable it seems and I eventually collapse, exhausted. I am not prepared for this.
I put one foot in front of the other. I have passed the baby and the discount baby carrier to my husband and for some reason swapped shoes with him, and I’m determined to climb this thing, non-hiker that I am.
I climb until I have to bend over on all fours to continue, and there’s no sense looking further than a few inches ahead of me. I’ve decided. I’m going to the top.
I gasp for breath and rip my clothes. I am astonished at the flood of cursing that pours from my mouth. I knew I felt helpless, but hopeless? A new terror grips me. This is where it ends. We’ve been hanging on for dear life for too long. How do we make it past this?
I have just clawed my way out of 7 grueling months of postpartum depression in a new state with few friends and a husband whose job knows no boundaries, whispering “next year, next year” to myself like a mantra, and now that job has been taken from us, and we are adrift, with three tiny mouths to feed.
This seems to be taking a long time and I’m terrified of heights. I look no further than my immediate five inch radius, willing myself to make it. Refusing to add another failure to the list. Eventually, within my view are shallow ponds, flowers, grasses dancing in the whipping wind. I made it. A laugh parts my dry lips and I open my eyes wide to take in the magnificent view, feel the wind whip my hair. Tears fill my eyes. I made it. I made it. I made it. This is a metaphor. Everything is going to be okay. Next year. Next year. Next year.
Nothing will ever be okay again. Next year? Deep tremors resound through my mind and body. How do you come back from this? How do you keep going?
I turn my eyes to that five inch radius, and I see them. Those three sweet faces turned up to mine, ready to listen, quick to forgive, eager to laugh. His rough hand around mine, tired eyes closed, head leaned back. Tiny gray hairs evidence of the strain of this year. These words posted in my kitchen altar, a space for truth when the lies assault, “Whenever our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and (this part comes like an earnest whisper) he knows everything.”
That night I lay my head on the pillow and tears stream from my eyes. I don’t know how we will make it but I know we will make it. I don’t even know what “making it” will look like, but I will learn to be okay with that. One day, I will be okay with that.
I am seen and known and embraced. Right here. Right now. With the grit and the faith of a determined non-hiker and the despair and sorrow of an exhausted momma with postpartum depression and a precarious future. I don’t have to be perfect to be loved perfectly.
God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.