I have these moments now and again where I feel drowned by the sorrow, disbelief, defeat, and embarrassment that my life has not gone anything like I pictured it would.
I wasn’t supposed to end up here.
All the people around me had so much faith in the brightness of my future. But what’s more damaging is that I did, too. I believed to my core that great things were going to spring from my life.
I was certainly never supposed to end up divorced, but it’s a part of my story now. Even though, “I did things the right way” and “’the d-word’ was not in my vocabulary,” I still ended up here.
I was absolutely never supposed to be a single mom. But here I am with people staring at my baby-carrying, ring-less hand. They think my character is less because I must have had a kid out of wedlock. I didn’t. And then I feel ashamed that I so badly want people to know I used to be married. Now I realize a man staying by my side does not say a thing about my worth or desirability. But I believed for a long time that it did.
I was never supposed to wind up financially struggling again after finally seeing some success.
I was never supposed to sink beneath depression again after “beating it.”
These things that describe me are drowning out my ability to find gratitude. It’s hard to love myself where I am and trust where things are going in the future.
I believe in Jesus, so early on in life, I made an intentional choice that I was not going to make my life about doing what I pleased. I wanted my life to be one where God had access, even the corners. There would be no part of me I wouldn’t be willing to submit to Him and allow him to influence. It was healthy, beautiful, ambitious, and came from a pure place in my heart. And it’s a value I still hold dear. But I’m learning to honor that commitment differently than in the past decades because somehow those ideas got really messed up.
Because I wanted God to have access to all of me, it took my already self-doubting and self-accusing personality type and doused it in oceans of hyper-awareness. I believed at every turn there was a direction that did align with God and one that was in the “not supposed to” category. I don’t just mean the real moments of right and wrong decisions. I felt that literally, every decision is either the right or wrong one. That I could literally be getting it wrong at any moment of the day. It felt like my life was this sequence of hurdles that I’d either just barely clear with panting agony or would flat out fail and end up somewhere “I wasn’t supposed to be.” It was crippling.
Any struggling or suffering meant I’d chose something wrong and wound up in a mess I’d made. I couldn’t process struggle as the natural ebb and flow of life. I took it all as condemnation.
This way of thinking made me even more paralyzed around making any decisions moving forward. The problem was not just the self-hate and doubt that stemmed from this way of thinking, but the flip side was that I was attributing any good in my life to my own decisions. That may not sound bad at first, but it meant I couldn’t live in gratitude believing something in the Bible that says “every good and perfect gift comes from God.” I couldn’t keep my perception of God being good clear if I was attributing it to myself and my good choices. And I couldn’t embrace the comfort of the belief I claimed to know that God is forever present in all things if I thought my struggles were because I was at odds with God’s will.
I had to find a healthier way that freed me from all that junk.
I thought I would be running an orphanage by now. Instead, I sometimes need government or church assistance to buy my own groceries.
I’m not married with my fifth kid on the way like I pictured myself at this age. Instead, I’m single, raising one kid by myself.
I’m not the adored and cherished wife of a doting, crazy hot husband. Instead, I’m in my 30s, jaded by swiping culture, wounded by all my failed “almost” love stories, and still, have never experienced being faithfully chosen unconditionally.
“Supposed-tos” are often wrapped up with a potent dose of accusation. Accusation tells me that these things are what I deserved. Accusation tells me I’m harder to love than all the other women out there. That poverty is in my bloodline and no matter my efforts, I’ll always find my way back into its grip. Accusation will grip my chin and rub my nose in my depression because of the many times it’s returned.
Primarily, accusation will have me look at what isn’t in my reality and dwell there, begging for explanations. Accusation won’t let me realize all the amazing things that are in my life and how they’ve either been birthed because of my struggles or in spite of them. It will not let me grasp the beauty that my seasons of insecurity and unforeseen dips of instability have awakened me to—the wildly providential nature of God that stretches beyond my performance. It won’t let me celebrate the fact that I have never stayed depressed forever as I’ve feared.
My life is thick with sisters who the world thinks are just my friends, who pull in tight and close to hold me together when rough waves crash down. My life is full with the support I didn’t know I’d need. My life has this sweet angel child who talks to God, and when she prays, she says God hears her.
My life has given me bonus time with the family I came from. Seasons wrapped in and reliant upon the nearness of the family I used to run from in my youth, but now find my daily belly laughs within. My life has filled up multiple passports and wrung the tears from my heart onto the soil of many nations, falling in love with humans who look and live nothing like me. My life is so much more and so much less than what I pictured. And that is not only OK, but it is also what keeps me adoring and needing God.
As faithful as the enemy has been to spin every struggle into condemnation, God has been ten times as faithful to use the storms and valleys of life to teach me what it means when the Bible says to be poor in spirit. He’s taught me to know and dwell in my dependence on him. I can choose a heart posture that turns my face, faith, and focus to God, not to my own abilities, skills, and lack thereof.
If God is who he says he is, then I cannot place so much stock in my ability to mess it up. Part of me is catching on. If I can rip from my skin the claws of “supposed-tos,” I will find trust in Him over trust in myself.
As someone said, “If you think you’re able to mess up God’s plan for you, honey, you’re not that powerful.”
The only place I was ever supposed to end up was nearer to my Father, whether in trial or in rejoicing. My only “supposed-to” is to trust Him more and more. And through every unexpected turn of my life, I can say that has ended up being the truth. I’ve seen Him in the support from dozens of loved ones when I felt alone. I’ve seen him pay for my needs when my beat-down spirit couldn’t carry the load of adulting like I felt I should have been able to. I’ve seen Him lift off the blindfold of depression when I’d thought my end had come. He’s gained my trust again and again. And for that, I’d say not a single struggle was in vain. Inside His trust is exactly where I’m supposed to be.
Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...
Where do you feel like you’re not where you’re “supposed” to be? Where does that belief come from? Why do you believe it?
Sophie identified lies she believes that accuse her and create shame. Take a few minutes to journal about yours. Where do you feel you’ve failed? What do you fear that means about you? What do you believe about yourself that hurts?
Whether you’ve ever tried before or not, take a second to think what God might be saying to you about who you are and how he sees you. Write down whatever you hear—no questioning, filtering, or editing. Write the first thing that comes to mind that God might have for you to hear.
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