I’ve had no success finding journals from these years—–I’ve found before and after, but I’ll keep looking. Maybe one will turn up 🙂
That hellish time of my life to which I was referring was the years from about 2006 to about 2009. My first two kids were very little.
Now we can say, oh, you had 2 little kids, of course it was hellish.
But that’s not it. For example, I don’t remember being that fatigued actually. We all slept together on our big mattress on the floor, so I wasn’t waking up in the nights, etc.
I’ll tell you why it was horrible.
I pretty much was sinning every waking hour of my kids’ lives. My motherhood and all its inherent responsibilities constantly provoked me, irritated, chafed my spiritual skin. Rubbed me sore and bleeding.
- I hated the constant lack of privacy.
- The constant irritation of two little children who were ever-immature, from whom I could not, should not, expect maturity.
- The dreadful incessancy of fixing food.
- Of cleaning and re-cleaning.
- Of constantly failing in my interactions with my kids. I was often angry. That’s the outstanding emotion I have from those days. That was the worst. (And I want to insert here how thankful to God I am that I had special births, breastfed generously, and slept with my kids—these things were helping me hold our relationships together when I kept failing at patience and gentleness in correcting and teaching and just living with them. )
These were dark days. I actually sometimes wondered if I could even be a Christian if I kept sinning like this.
And it went on for years. Years! I almost ceased to pray. I didn’t know what to say anymore. I felt empty. I printed out some old prayers so I could have words to put before God. Because I just felt empty.
We lived near the big mall we live near now. Vitaliy was very generous letting me go out for an hour or two to sit, drink cappuchino, and read my Bible and journal.
I wrote a lot. It’s sad to read. Endless frustration with myself. Lists of how and what I desperately needed to change. Asking forgiveness for my anger, etc. I would have some wonderful times reading the Bible and praying—God gave me those oases.
But I always felt like I was failing, because I was failing, in many ways. And I would go home, no matter the nice, “spiritual” time I’d just had, and start it all. over. again.
I read, then stopped reading, the Christian books for women. They told me what to do, but I had no power to do it. I was only condemned by them then, in myself.
At some point, in all this, I realized that the reason I was so unhappy with myself was because I couldn’t live up to my own expectations of myself. I wanted to see myself as a godly mom. But it was too hard for me to actually BE that. I couldn’t be be the mom of my *good* aspirations.
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith has a paragraph in it that I love. It brings me to tears even now.
“The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruptions of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself; and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for other just and holy ends. So that whatsoever befalls any of his elect is by his appointment, for his glory, and their good.”
God lets His children be captives of their own sinfulness for a time to humble them.
Humbling. One golden lesson God showed me: That failing to live up to my own good opinion of myself was what was bothering me so much, not my un-godliness. It wasn’t that I really wanted to be like Christ. … Think about that. I mean, ew. The Man rarely had a moment to Himself, and He would actually stay up nights to pray. … He was always serving mostly ungrateful people who didn’t even notice or understand the significance of His whole existence. … Did I really want that?
I was willing to settle for just being a relatively calm Christian-type person rather than . . . well, who knows what would be asked of me if I really sought to be like Christ.
So when God showed me this, I confessed my fake desire for Christlikeness and asked Him to help me really want to be like Christ. And He does create in us the will and the doing of His good pleasure.
And the scary thing about that is how much it opened up the range of possibilities of what my life and my self would then look like. Maybe me really being like Christ wouldn’t look like the image that I read about in Christian books for women? Who knows?
Around 2009, I think, Vitaliy took a decided-at-the-last-minute-trip to a week-long evangelism training. I didn’t know it when I told him, “yes, of course you need to go! It’s you!” that our whole lives were about to change.
Vitaliy didn’t learn anything “revolutionary” at the conference; he just memorized a one-page explanation of the Gospel.
(Insert starting to cry.)
And as he repeated that Gospel over and over to people, he began to spend hours by himself, overwhelmed, crying, realizing all that God did for us in Christ. That salvation and righteousness really is a free gift. …. Deep things that I can’t put it into words. The Holy Spirit has to open it in a person’s heart.
That’s when he started reading Martin Luther’s “Concerning Christian Liberty” [liberty from the Law for salvation and sanctification], and he gave it to me to read. And he talked to me for hours and hours about grace, about Christ having already lived perfectness for us.
And I started reading Luther. Actually, I sucked it up like starved vacuum, is more like it. And one day, the key to the door of God’s way of freedom for Anne Sokol came:
Christ already was the perfect mom for me.
Christ already was the perfect mom for me!
Christ already was the perfect mom FOR ME!!!!!
JESUS CHRIST was THE.PERFECT. mom. FOR ME!!!!!
The ground of my prison began to shake. A light began to glimmer.
The walls of the dark, hopeless prison of my own good opinion of myself, my own standards, my expectations of somehow achieving real goodness one day ……. the walls fell down.
I walked out of prison. The prison of trying to achieve my own sanctification. There was a moment when God gave me this thought:
I will not share the glory of your sanctification with you.
Christ lived every day fulfilling the 10 commandments. And He was always patient, kind, gentle, joyful, full of love, self-controlled. All things I longed to be. He lived out every minute everything that Anne Sokol can’t live out no matter how hard she tries. He did it.
And now … now. The glory of my sanctification is all His. I follow Him. Isn’t that a hopeful word? A child’s word? To follow? I’m behind Him, so I LOOK AT HIM. LOOK AT HOW PERFECT HE IS. WATCH what He does!
This is when I began to eat up the Gospels, enjoying them for the first time in my life. I wasn’t weirded out by seeing Jesus actually alive and interacting anymore. Not that I consciously thought that before. But … His mysterious answers to our questions, his nomad life, His non-accumulation of wealth, His sinlessness that went unnoticed and unapplauded, His temptations, His followers, His friends, His enemies. It was all OK now. I just want to see Him, to see how He lived out God’s expectations, God’s will, every single day.
Now I didn’t have to lower God’s standards of perfection to make them keep-able. They were kept for me already. They were already reached for me.
And I just need to look—and I mean a working type of looking, a God-powered looking, gazing, pondering, a FOLLOWING and IMITATING type of looking.
A stumbling, starting, peaceful, prayerful, God-waiting Looking,-For-The-Purpose-Of-Imitating looking. A longing looking. An imitative looking.
Today, well, sure, I’m far from perfect. But I’m less consumed by myself and my failures. And I’m honestly not failing like I was. … How did God do it? I’m still scratching my head.
Scratching my head, and smiling at what’s to come.
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