Erica Note! This is a guest post from Krista O’Reilly-Davi-Digui, joyful living educator and writer of A Life In Progress. What I love about Krista is how willing she is to get vulnerable with her readers, and this post is no exception. Enjoy.
I sat on the cold rental chair in my tub, naked, barely holding back my tears. My husband had rushed home from work on his lunch break to help me bathe and dress. Simple tasks I was unable to perform by myself in this season.
At the age of 41, I had recently undergone a total hip replacement, a challenging surgery and, in my case, recovery. My leg was twisted and lengthened slightly, a metal pin pounded into the bone while I lay, cognizant of what was happening. A muscle tore the day after I was released from the hospital and the oxycodone and ice barely touched the fire in my leg.
Not even in the throes of birthing my babies, surrounded by strangers in sterile gowns, had I felt this naked. Soul laid bare.
And as my husband passed me the shower-head that morning so I could wash my bruised and swollen body, he looked me straight in the eyes and told me I was beautiful.
I was beautiful.
In the middle of one of my deepest valleys his words pierced deep and straight to the core of all my insecurity and shame. To the long-held belief that I was a failure. More trouble than I was worth. Undeserving of love or goodness or faithful companionship.
And I began to be changed that day. By overflowing, abundant grace.
The truth is my husband and I both came into our marriage, 23 years ago, carrying loads of fear and insecurity. It has taken us years to learn vulnerability with each other. Probably 15 years passed before I began to trust that a fight did not mean divorce. That my husband would not leave me.
He loved me when I was at my heaviest weight and still binge eating. He would hold my hand when we first met, carrying part of my weight because I lived in chronic pain and already knew I needed a hip replacement. He stood by me when we lost my mom and my world fell apart. When I sometimes spilled rage all over my family because my anxiety was so intense and I had not yet learned to ask for help.
And yet, I just didn’t believe that his love would persist. How can you truly receive the love of another if you don’t actually love yourself?
Things got worse before they got better. As soon as my surgeon gave me permission I set off every 6 weeks or so to see my dad who was dying of cancer. I’d stop my minivan each hour to get out and walk a few minutes, cane in hand, lest a blood clot develop. I wasn’t ready to lose a second parent. But we buried three family members that year.
And after we buried my dad I crumbled. I had tried to be strong as long as I could but now, weak and weary, tumbled head long into a place that was dark and deep and I was not even sure I wanted to come up out again.
I felt like I was drowning in a lifetime of pain and rage and fear. I was letting everyone down. My beautiful kids. My husband. But what I couldn’t see is that what I thought would be the death of me was the messy, scary process of healing and letting go.
Sometimes deep wounds must be opened up so they can be cleaned out once and for all.
I was learning that I didn’t have to earn my keep or prove my worth. That yes, I was a little cracked and broken but that was not the fullness of my story. I slowly came to see that life can be both imperfect and awe-inspiringly beautiful. I began to release fear and open up to love and possibility.
I was being changed. By quiet, persistent grace.
I won’t pretend that I emerged from that season of loss and pain without scars; I’ve never really been the same since. But what I have lost in stamina or energy to keep up, I’ve gained in a deeply rooted belief that I am worthy of love and compassion. Broken but beautiful, as my husband affirmed that difficult day five years ago. That I am enough.
I have been changed by grace.