Last February, I got sick with the flu. Or something. It was nasty. It leveled me. And, it wouldn’t let go. For two weeks, I was in my bed, staring at our grey walls, or out the window at the grey sky. H had to work, so I was all alone in our room. All day long. For two weeks.
Then, just as that nasty bug seemed to be losing its grip on me, and just when I thought I might escape the confines of my upstairs bedroom for good, strep throat stepped in, wagged a long index finger in my face, leaned in closely and whispered to some spot between my eyes, “Not so fast, sister-girl.”
It took a long time for my body to recover from that illness. My doctor watched me closely over those long weeks. And, as hard as it was to fight that nasty virus and make my way back to physical health, that struggle didn’t hold a candle to the way that season impacted my mental well-being.
It is not good for us to be alone.
All those days and weeks, alone in my bed, with nothing to keep me company but the thoughts in my head, really did a number on me. I spiraled into a depression that was dark and relentless. For months, after my body had healed, my mind remained trapped in hopelessness and despair. I was unsure there could be any way out of the deep hole I felt I’d fallen into.
As winter gave way to spring, I fought to keep putting one foot in front of the other. I clung, unsuccessfully, to what I wanted to believe about God and faith and promises and hope. I honestly thought I might get swept away.
While all of this was happening, I was working with my editor to get the words of my book polished and shined so we could send them out into the world. She was encouraging and upbeat. I was hopeless and afraid. At one point, I sent an email to my editor, suggesting something like publishing the book under the name, “Anonymous.” I was confident my publisher must be terribly embarrassed by the book and I wanted to give them an out, to help them save face and protect their reputation. And, I wanted the same for myself — an out.
But, my editor insisted she believed in the book. She told me my little book mattered. It matters. And, when I sent that email, offering an out in the best way I knew how, she wrote back, saying, “I was just reading through your book today, and I want to share with you some words I read that might be good for you to see.” And so, she sent me words I’d written months before, but that blessed me in the moment I was in.
It was enough to keep me going for a few hours.
Here’s what I want you to know today. When you follow where God leads you (and, for me, that meant writing this little book), it sometimes means you’ll find yourself in the wilderness. But, being in the wilderness doesn’t necessarily mean you took a wrong turn.
We live our calling in the midst of real life, in a world that is messed up by sin, and in bodies that betray us. We have a real and true enemy who wants nothing more than to see us shut down and wiped out. Often, all he has to do is plant a seed of doubt or fear or condemnation in our hearts. Most of the time, he doesn’t even need to stick around to help us implode because we’ve got enough of our own mental ammunition to take care of that.
If you’re in the wilderness, I want you to know you’re not alone. God has not left you. He is not off in another place, tending to something else, while you languish without hope in the dark. I promise you that. I know from experience it is impossible to believe, but it is true. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep breathing in, and then out again. Let someone know you’re struggling, even if it means sending me an email right now.
One day in April—so many months after I’d first fallen ill, and while I was still struggling to see the light—a package arrived on my doorstep. It was a FedEx envelope, with my book inside. Well, it was a version of my book. It was a stack of 8.5″x11″ papers, with the words of Every Little Thing formatted and ready for one last read before being printed, bound, and sent to the distributors. My job was to read through the book one last time, and make sure all of the i’s were dotted and t’s crossed.
I wrapped myself in a blanket and made my way to the deck on the back of our house. I sat on the top step, in a sliver of sunlight that peeked through the rooftops around me. And, I read the entire book, from beginning to end. As I read, I laughed and I cried and I paused as I let a few words sink into my soul. It was like reading something someone else had written, and it met me right where I was, with just what I needed. When I finished reading the very last word, I said to myself, “Well, if this book does nothing else, it ministered to me today.” And, it had. It still does.
When people post their favorite lines from the book on Facebook or Instagram or on their blogs or in book reviews, I am always astounded by the way those words speak to me. Your calling is as much for you as it is for others.
Every now and then I go to Barnes and Noble, and I stand there and look at that little book on the shelf. Because of where my name falls in the alphabet, my book is always on the bottom shelf. So, I bend over, place my hand on the stack of books, and I pray Every Little Thing makes its way to the people who need the message the most. I hope it makes you laugh, and cry, and pause as the words sink into your soul. And, I pray you know God is with you, through the darkness, and into the light.