I spent most of my life feeling like a good person. Sure, I knew I wasn’t perfect and I did bad things from time to time, but for the most part I felt like I had it together. I was the (fairly) good girl always trying to save the bad boys, the bleeding heart who moved overseas with dreams of ending sex trafficking. For most of my life, I was never really confronted with the depth of my own depravity and need. And when life goes pretty easy on you, it’s not hard to assume that it’s because you’re doing it right.
But then I became a parent to a child with needs greater than my scope of understanding or abilities. I did everything I knew, everything I had learned in my Child and Family major, yet nothing worked for him. Life quickly became abnormal and very, very stressful as we sought out source after source for something that might help our son. In the meantime, my husband was suffering from anxiety and depression.
This was not the happy family life I had always imagined in my dreams. Yet here it was; it was my reality. What would I do with it?
Beforehand, I would have expected myself to face such hardship with courage and grace. It would be hard, sure, and I would suffer, but almost as a martyr: with purity of heart. I never could have anticipated what unfurled: the ugliest parts of myself that I had never before seen. Anger, rage, impatience, selfishness, total lack of compassion, envy, the list goes on and on. I was horrified to discover what came out of me when pressed thin out of extreme stress and sheer exhaustion.
What came out wasn’t always ugly of course, no more than it is with any human. We are all a mix of Terrible and Beautiful, and I was relieved to find a lot of goodness and strength within myself too. But those early years of parenting taught me one of the most important lessons of my life: I am just as broken and just as in need of forgiveness and unconditional love as everyone else. Miraculously, those closest to me have been able to extend those things, even when I least deserve them. My husband and son (and eventually my second son) have forgiven me time and time again, not holding a grudge against me, but choosing to believe in my love and their own every single day.
Ten years ago, I probably would have said that I believe in love because it’s the hope of the world. I certainly still believe that, but the concept of love has deepened and matured in me. It has become much more personal, and much more necessary. So today I would say that I believe in love because I have seen the worst of myself and I know: love is my only hope.