The Year I Broke: The Unwinding

Grace is thickly counter-intuitive. It feels risky and unfair. It’s dangerous and disorderly. It wrestles control out of our hands. It is wild and unsettling. It turns everything that makes sense to us upside-down and inside-out.

-Tullian Tchividjian, Pastor

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It was a slow unraveling. Something I distinctly felt happening, like someone was pulling a bandaid off me, one hair at a time. Something I felt helpless to control or stop.

It was November 2 years ago, and I was making my biweekly trek across campus to my farthest class. It was cold and gloomy that day, adding to the cinematic drama of all that was unfolding in my heart. Emotionally, I was about as stable as melting ice. As I walked, I had my headphones in playing, “It Is Well” by Kristene DiMarco & Bethel Church.

Rummaging through my mind full of distress, I was hyper aware of my control unraveling like a ball of yarn someone tossed over the edge, still holding one end.

I was halfway to class, my face uninviting with a look of angst as a vision filled my mind: I was on a small boat in the middle of the ocean. A bloodthirsty storm cast the skies black. Waves rose and fell like mountains around me. All that was left of my sails were a few marred pieces. Water kept flooding the boat, and I was screaming, terrified. I had no lifeline. I was going to be overcome by the storm.

Then the vision was over.

It was one of the most empty, helpless feelings I have ever experienced. Often I was only able to describe it as if I was floating, unmoving near the bottom of the ocean, but I could see the surface, I could see the hope of escape. But I was too weak to try to save myself. Freedom was so close, but I could not save myself. I just had to float. Keep drowning. Keep falling apart.

I thought that if I was going to get to God, I was going to have to get myself out of that darkness, out of that ocean. But I couldn’t. Each second I was in that water meant I was one second helplessly farther from God.

The surface was grace, and I was stuck an arms length, a breath away from it. Buried beneath it.

Feeling beyond the reach of grace is a most desolate place.

My belief that my goodness = my worth was slipping, which meant I was beginning to suffocate under the weight of the sin I could not save myself from anymore. The sin, the stains of my soul I had covered with concealer for all my life, fitting the mold I was supposed to.

Slipping further into my unraveling, I remember calling my brother late one night, around 11 p.m. I walked outside to the side of my apartment building, sobbing so hard I sat down and doubled over, barely able to catch my breath. What if I can never get back to God? What if I never find my way back? 

But as I began to encounter my festering wound, I could not maintain control. It was too big a burden to be “perfect,” and I was exhausted. I was slowly losing grip, feeling as though I was slipping to what would be my moral death – and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

As my vision during the trek across campus ended, I very quietly whispered to myself through anger as tears of pain and fear forced themselves down, one after the other, I will not make it out of this storm in one piece. I am going to fall apart, and I have no idea what is on the other side or who I will be when it’s done.

I had been unwound. From chaos to calm for a small moment, I found myself in the darkened depths of my soul. Uncharted territory as I began wading, lost, through the muck.

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