Muddy-Handed Hope

He’s seven now. But I often remember him as the two-year-old who looked into my catatonic eyes. I have a hard time forgetting what this little one must have felt when I went crazy.

Because Grace is real and memory imperfect, his little mind has no recollection of when I had to enter the mental ward four and a half, or even three and a half years ago.

But I remember.

I keep waiting to forget, or at least, to be able to relax my hands from their white-knuckle grip on the guilt of a mother who deserted her children.

I’ve sought hope in my mental illness and am beginning to lead others to do the same. I have seen God heal my traumatized mind and give me strength to live — really live. In mind, body, heart and soul I have stabilized. I do not fear what each day may bring me with the symptoms of my diagnosis, bipolar disorder.

But there are days I will never get back. There is the healing process which has taken years and left me too tired too many times to be with my kids. There is all that I hoped for my kids before I became a mom and all that I have not been able to give.

The remembrance brings the sorrow and the grief. How can sad things be good? More, how can the waiting in the pain possibly be good?

But what if I am not supposed to forget? What if there is a purpose in remembering? 

“The creation groans . . . we who have the first fruits of the Spirit groan . . . for in this hope we were saved.” (Romans 8:22-24)

Is it true that in hope we groan? 

Hope can be like this bright, shiny diamond we hold up and gasp, “How beautiful!” It’s like we are in the palace of things-going-well and the glittery things are all around us. Hope is the stars in our eyes and it sincerely is a good place to be.

But I have begun to be dissatisfied with a hope which isn’t somehow messy. 

If we really, truly live in this world, our hope doesn’t come to us in a palace. It’s more like a miry bog,  and the diamond is buried somewhere in the muck. 

And so, I am embracing that I must go down into the darkness, into the unbelievably messy realities of my pain. I need to learn to breathe, in and out. And when that moment is done, breathe again. And I need to look for the one who is with us: Emmanuel.

Then the picture changes. There’s Jesus and he’s holding my hand. We’re still in the muck and mire, but he’s always wading into it with me. He’s always going into it deeper. He’s making a way for me to go further, too. He’s promising that if it kills anyone it will be him. And it has.

So, with my seven-year-old, I am learning to hold onto the pain of my past. I can’t get those days back when I feel like I deserted him. But I can breathe in and out this day, and comb his hair out of his face as I let him read to me. I can let those days four years ago give greater meaning to the moments of today.

I can find that glittery diamond called hope and lift it up with a muddy hand. 

Abby Alleman
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