I let my kids see me cry.
It happened again on one of our daily family walks during the fourth week of quarantine. In these confining times, fresh air and moving our bodies is one way we keep tethering ourselves to hope and the gift of each other. My husband and I walked ahead as our three sons trailed behind us finding the best sticks and planning their next Minecraft building adventure.
The sky was a breathtaking blue. Glorious white cumulous clouds puffed in happy bunches above. I smiled at my boys’ cheerful chatting, yet my heart ached with each step. Tears lingered at the edges.
We passed a house with a gorgeous Japanese maple. Her delicate crimson leaves are my favorite. My husband talked about the workbench he was building and when we might get our stimulus check. The air was perfectly crisp and clean. But it was hard for me to breathe.
Finally, I softly spoke aloud what my body was screaming.
“My anxiety is flaring up again. It’s actually been pretty awful for the past week. I’m constantly on the verge of crying. I could unravel at any moment.” Saying it opened the dam. The tears fell fast.
“Even in moments like this where I’m happy to be with the family and grateful for the beauty around us, there’s this weight I can’t shake. I hate feeling like this.”
My husband just listened, as he usually does when I talk about feelings and experiences he can’t relate to.
We walked along the upper fence line that borders the local middle school. I gazed out on the track, smoother from fewer feet treading it, the inner grass greener than the days my oldest boy played soccer on it. Beyond the track sat the Little League baseball fields. Freshly raked dirt, untouched. Carefully groomed greens now growing longer. My boys should be swinging their hearts out at home plate. I should be sitting in those metal stands cheering and eating Red Vines.
I close my eyes and pretend to smell the famous thick-cut French fries in the snack shack window. I imagine the crack of the bat and kids chanting in the dugout.
I let the tears keep falling.
The boys catch up to us. Playing their favorite game of stepping only on the cracks, they weave in and out of us on their imperfect path. Elias, nine, catches my hand, gives it a squeeze before bounding to the next crack. Noah, eleven, noticed my tears. “What’s wrong, Mom?” he asked.
“Oh, I don’t know. I just have a lot of feelings right now. I guess I’m crying because I’m really grateful for our family, yet I’m also really sad for all the hard things going on in this world. I don’t know. My anxiety is back and it’s just a bunch of different things I can’t really explain.”
Jude, my seven-year-old, came up and wrapped his little arm around my back.
“It’s okay, Mom. You’re just really emotional. I get that way sometimes too. Sometimes I need to cry even if I don’t know why. I’ll just walk with you, okay?”
“Okay,” I said. “I would like that.” Then more tears fell. My aching heart was full of more love than sorrow. Or perhaps the added love made space for the sorrow to be seen, to breathe.
Jude and I walked arms wrapped around each other for quite a while. He gently rubbed my back and asked what we would have for lunch and if I wanted to take a nap. “You can sleep with Gray Bear if you want to.” Gray Bear is my stuffy-loving boy’s favorite friend.
This precious moment made my heart nearly burst. And I nearly missed it.
It’s not easy to be vulnerable in front of anyone, including our children. I’m prone to stuff the feelings I can’t name or explain. Plus, I want to be strong for my family and friends — a reliable source of support, a rock they can lean on. And if I’m really honest, I’m also afraid of how my un-fine places will be received. Will someone be okay to just be with me?
Without realizing it, I can build the same well-meaning walls and hold onto the same fears with God. I don’t always want Him to see my tangled feelings, anxiety, and overwhelm. But the truth is He already sees it all — and He loves me through it.
The day after my tearful walk I woke up early and put pen to paper. I journal-prayed every thought and emotion. I asked God to meet me in the unraveling of my knotted mind and heart. I told God how I really felt. No filters. And He met me there.
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Psalm 62:8 (NIV)
If you’re feeling tangled or weepy today . . .
If anxiety is thrumming in your chest or fear is knotting up your neck . . .
I encourage you to tell someone. If there’s a hand you can grab, grab it. If there’s a shoulder you can cry on, lean in. But mostly? Mostly tell God how you really feel. Let Him carry the weight of your burden. Let Him catch your falling tears. When we take our struggles out of the darkness of isolation, the Light comes in.
If you need more reminders that God sees you and is with you in the thick of it, sign up for Becky’s brand new, free 5-day Devotional from YouVersion. Click here to get started! Or open your Bible App and search “No Better Mom” in the Reading Plans.
The truth is God already sees all my tangled feelings, anxiety, and overwhelm — and He loves me through it. -@BeckyKeife: Click To Tweet