My name is Lynne and I’m a believer in Jesus Christ who struggles with co-dependency and pride issues.
I was raised in the perfect family. My mom and dad were kind and loving. I don’t remember my parents ever fighting or even raising their voices much. We learned to work hard, but we worked together. We were in the hay field together, the kitchen canning beans and freezing corn together and in church together. I used to tell people, I was born on a Sunday and in church the next. We weren’t the kind of family who stayed home just because one of us had a cold. In fact, I remember one year when we kids took turns with the measles, mumps and chicken pocks, the kids who were well would go to church with one parent and the other would stay home with the sick kids. As I grew older, I was always active in youth group and went to an altar and gave my life to Christ when I was about 15.
There was only one problem with my fairy tale life . . . it was a fairy tale life. Oh, it was all true on the surface, but there were some lessons I learned from that fairy tale life that weren’t true. I had this idea that because my parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were going to heaven, I was automatically on my way. I learned that following the rules was the most important thing, and if I followed the rules life would be good. I think I really believed that nothing bad could happen to me. And in the midst of my fairy tale life, I also learned that everything always has to be perfect.
I think the only house cleaner than ours was my aunt’s. I am a fourth generation perfectionist. And not just the things I do, my whole life needs to be perfect. This means I learned to never let anyone know that there was ever anything wrong in my life. Hiding the faults and covering mistakes became natural to me, after all, the mistakes we made were so minor compared to most of the world. Those little faux pas didn’t really matter. So when I became pregnant at age 17 before I got married, my world began to fall apart. This was a mistake I was not going to be able to hide.
Steve and I got married right away and moved into a 22 foot camping trailer. My perfect world was shattering more and more everyday. I almost immediately quit going to church, I was so ashamed. And while I’m sure they didn’t mean to, the church I was attending at the time reinforced my feelings when no one called or contacted me after I quit attending. I knew I didn’t deserve to be in church, and the fact that no one called just confirmed it.
Between the hormones of pregnancy and the feelings of failure, I cried a lot (and I’m not really a crier – because crying would mean that there was something wrong and everything was perfect, remember). I also discovered quickly, I’m not necessarily a great housekeeper. I worked hard to keep everything tidy and nearly always failed. The girl’s toys all had to be put back in the same box they came in and the towels folded with the matching washcloth inside it. The plates and glasses that matched had to be lined up in the cupboard perfectly, and as I began to have a family, the girls themselves had to be perfect. I couldn’t do it. It was impossible, but I kept trying and trying. Now that I think about it, I was living the definition of insanity.
Despite all that was going on, I still tried to put up a perfect front. More and more I needed people to like me, and I needed approval. I couldn’t tell anyone “no” because they might get angry or think badly of me. (probably part of what led me to become pregnant in the first place). And as you can imagine, I constantly worried about what everyone thought about me and my family.
Six years after I had my first baby and six weeks after I’d had my third, my perfect world came crashing in again when my parent’s marriage fell apart. I built up resentment towards my dad for causing the divorce and even more for his wife for betraying my friendship and, in my mind, stealing my family. Not only did I blame my dad for the divorce, but I started blaming him that I never had braces and we never took vacations. I put the blame on him for never pushing me toward college and the blame and resentment built for some time.
By this time I had started going back to church because I was convinced that even if I didn’t deserve to be in church, my daughters did. And that’s when my denial kicked into full gear. Steve didn’t go to church with me then. And when people would ask where he was, I always had lovely excuses for him. Perfection was still my goal.
When I couldn’t do it perfect I didn’t do it at all. I exaggerated nearly every story or incident because I had to be the best, and if I couldn’t be the best, then I didn’t mind being the worst. There was always a reason for the things I couldn’t do perfect. I wasn’t even sure what was real because reality in my mind was the perfection I’d come to believe in. My life was falling apart, but I was sure if I could just make it a little more perfect, everything would be all right.
Steve has shared with you that he has anger issues. And this just fueled my flame. Looking back, I remember one my first instances of denial in connection with his anger. At a place we both worked, a woman about my mom’s age asked me one day, “Are you afraid of him?” I don’t know what I’d been acting like, but I must have given some indication that I didn’t want to make Steve mad. The funny thing (or maybe not so funny thing) is I really didn’t think I was afraid of him. He’s never hit me or the girls, so I wasn’t afraid of him in the physical sense. However, my need to have my world perfect forced me to consider every person’s reaction. If something would make Steve mad or grumpy, it couldn’t happen because that would mess up my fairy tale.
When my oldest was three, I started going back to church, and shortly after that Steve joined the Air Force. It was there on base that I began to meet with other woman who showed me what a relationship with Jesus Christ really was. Even though I’d been in church all my life, I felt like I saw for the very first time people who were sincere in their faith and free to be who Christ created them to be. I really wanted what they had. But even after being with them weekly for a couple of years, I still didn’t have it figured out. I was miserable. I kept thinking the next new “thing” would make me happy. I kept up the perfect front, but deep inside I knew there was more and I wanted it.
I thought if we had more money or less bills, if we moved home, if. . . if . . . if . . . I was sure that one of those “ifs” would be the answer to my misery. Steve did get out of the Air Force, and we moved home almost exactly six months after my dad had left my mom, so my dream and my “if” were shattered. The perfect home I’d known as a child didn’t exist anymore. Yet, as we settled in to life back in Jefferson County, for a while, the deep despair I’d felt wasn’t quite so bad. I thought maybe I had finally reached the “Happy and perfect” I’d been looking for.
But it didn’t take long for it to resurface. Even as I grew in Christ, I still worked hard at my perfect exterior. I started singing in churches and reading my Bible regularly. I lead and went to Bible Studies all the time. I loved hearing about Christ and learning how I could get closer to Him.
Within the first few months after getting out of the Air Force, Steve accepted Christ as his Savior, so I was sure that would make all the difference in my life. But the hard work and Steve’s salvation didn’t fix the dents in my not so picture perfect world. I became really depressed and started having a hard time getting out of bed. At least once every six months or so, I’d spend the entire day lying in bed crying. One time, Steve and I and the girls drove to the church for a covered dish dinner, and I couldn’t get out of the car. I made him leave. We turned around, went home and ate, and the fact I’d let them down by not showing up, put another load on my already heavy burden of imperfection.
But not one person outside my house knew what was going on in my life. The girls were in school by now, so I’d gotten a job to help with bills. I know that everyone there and at my next job thought my life was grand. I was a model employee they could count on. I’d work late and didn’t mind doing someone else’s work too when necessary. To most of the world, I had the perfect marriage with the perfect children. But I was miserable. My working late would often make Steve mad. So, I’d be at work like it didn’t matter if I got home late, and then I’d worry all the way home about Steve being upset when I got home. I felt like my whole life was a lie. I was a Christian, leading others to Christ without really knowing all the freedom that can be found in Him.
But I did begin to find that freedom. The process began when I learned one simple word that is a big part of two of our steps. I admitted . . . I admitted to God that I couldn’t do it anymore. Just that one thing was immensely freeing for me. As I stepped out of denial in my own life and began to understand that my life wasn’t supposed to be perfect, only Christ was perfect, I began to feel free. I began to really focus on pleasing God instead of pleasing others and things began to change. I started to meditate on Psalm 46:10 “Be Still and Know that I am God.” I just started allowing God to be God in my life.
And then I admitted to another person. Even though I’d admitted to God that life was unmanageable, I still hadn’t admitted my faults to anyone else. I don’t know if even my girls had ever heard me tell them I was sorry for anything. If I’d said those words to Steve, it was probably more to keep him from getting to angry rather than admit life was less than perfect. The exterior of my perfect world was still pretty solid. So, no one outside my house knew about my depression. I’m not sure that Steve even knew exactly how deep it went.
On my way home from a women’s conference one evening, there was a little snow alongside the road. I’d slept on the floor the night before because I’d had a lot of pain in my arm and didn’t want to disturb my friend I’d been sharing a bed with. It was cold, and I was exhausted. And this night, with driving in the dark and cold and the lack of sleep, the depression kicked in big time. It was a two, maybe two and a half hour drive home, and I was in tears for at least the last hour of it. I just wanted to pull over at a phone and call Steve to come and get me. I finally got home and collapsed. I was a total wreck.
I was a wreck enough that I talked about it to that friend who I’d worked hard not to wake up when my arm hurt and I couldn’t sleep. It’s hard to believe my friend and the other two girls in my room hadn’t known I’d slept on the floor, but I was still working to not bother anyone with my imperfect pain. I told her I’d slept on the floor, and I told her about my depression. And just those two admissions pushed me further toward freedom. There was something about bringing the truth into the light that gave me peace and began to set me free from the depression.
It didn’t happen overnight. But admitting kick started my recovery. They gave me the power and permission to not be perfect. The more I focused and still focus on Christ, the more I’m able to let go of the need to be perfect and please everyone. As my need for perfection has lessened, the ability to admit my flaws, faults and mistakes has increased. I’m still finding places in my life where I need to make amends and say I’m sorry, but now I’m able to do admit my faults much more easily.
It’s still very difficult for me to talk about the less than perfect areas of my life. But each time God reveals to me another area of my life that’s keeping me from being all I can be in Him, I discover again that the “admitting” is still where my freedom begins.
I’ve learned to be more open and hide less of my life. I don’t need to exaggerate anymore, I’m comfortable with who I am, all my flaws and imperfections. I don’t need to make excuses for things I do or my family does.
I’ve learned that I’m not letting someone down when I say no. My “no” actually opens the door for someone else to serve Christ. I’m calmer, more patient and I have more joy. I don’t have to follow the rules to be loved, I am loved. I don’t need to worry about messing up now because I’ve learned that Romans 8:28 is at work in my life. Because “Christ works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose,” I don’t have to worry about messing up, I just have to work on loving Christ as much as possible.
I’ve learned that true freedom is not just getting past the depression, the need for perfection and the crash of my family. True freedom is about being to talk about it now without the pain. True freedom is being able to tell you about all of this without fear that you’ll think badly of me.
True freedom doesn’t happen overnight, but it can happen. As I work the steps and live out the principles in my life, it’s like getting a whole new life. Each one brings more freedom. My life is so different now, sometimes when I share about some of my past experiences it doesn’t even feel like it was really my life.
My relationship with Christ is deeper and more passionate than it ever has been before. I’m able to focus on Him instead of the rules, and I know that life without Him in the center is really no life at all. I still have days when I feel alone and depressed, but the battle to get out of bed because of depression is gone. I still face those co-dependent traits of wanting to please others and my pride tries to make me worry about what others think, but when those things happen, I just have to refocus on what would please Jesus and what He thinks about me.
Jesus Christ has opened the door for me to share my freedom in more ways than I can imagine. The music I write has changed into songs of worship and praise. I have opportunities to share what I’ve learned online and in person right here in this church.
Working the steps is just that, it’s work. And as I find new areas in my life that are holding me back, I have to start over with admitting again and work my way toward freedom. But the good news is each time I begin again the road seems a bit shorter. I guess because now it’s a more familiar journey . . . now I know the way.