BY SARAH SANDERSON
I’ve lived through a little more than four decades, and each has brought a tremendous amount of change. I began the 1980s as an infant, and ended them an adolescent. I entered the 1990s in middle school, and left a college graduate. In 2000, I received an engagement ring; by 2010, I was pregnant with my fourth child. But no decade of my life has transformed me more than the one we just wrapped up.
You might not know it to look at me. Yes, I have a few more wrinkles, a few more pounds, and a few more gray hairs—but my outward appearance hasn’t changed nearly as dramatically these past ten years as it did in the decades when I was still growing toward adulthood. On the inside, however, I am a new woman.
It has been hard-won wisdom: the 2010s were, in many ways, miserable. Right after that fourth child was born in 2011, I was hospitalized for postpartum psychosis. I endured chaotic highs and debilitating lows before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I confronted my childhood abuser. Marriage got hard. Parenting got hard. (Okay, parenting was always hard.) Right in the middle of the decade, we moved, and had to start the arduous process of community-building all over again.
God used all of that difficulty to work something new in my spirit. If I had to sum up the change in me in just one sentence, it would be this: now, I know that I am loved.
I’d been a Christian all my life, but my first thirty-two years were spent striving. I knew the Gospel, but somehow I couldn’t really believe that grace is a gift. So I worked, and worked, and worked at proving myself to God and to everyone around me. Whether I was trying to be the perfect student, the perfect employee, the perfect wife, the perfect Christian, or the perfect stay-at-home mom, my first three decades were marked by struggling for—and failing to achieve—perfection.
And then, I hit rock-bottom, which, for me, was a hospital bed in the psychiatric unit. Suddenly, I knew I wasn’t enough. Suddenly, it was obvious that I couldn’t earn anything from anyone. Suddenly, I realized: God loves me anyway.
Finding out that I am loved, no matter what, has freed me to be who I was made to be all along. In the second half of this decade, I went to graduate school to do what I had always loved but never trusted: I found my voice as a writer. I got a new job teaching writing to children. I am just putting the finishing touches on my first book. For the first time in maybe my whole life, I know the contentment of believing that I’m right where I’m supposed to be.
Maybe your life doesn’t stack up so neatly into decades one, two, three, and four. Maybe you’re still in the middle of the painful part, and you have no idea what God is teaching you or where you are headed. Maybe there is some small part of you that can believe me when I tell you: your life is going somewhere. You are becoming something. God is not done with you yet. You are loved.
When I was a little girl, my mom used to play an old Christian record on our record player. “Bullfrogs and butterflies,” the song went, “they’ve both been born again.”
I was born again when I accepted Jesus into my heart as a young child, a long, long time ago. But this past decade, I went through a metamorphosis.
Sarah L Sanderson is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, and mom of four. Find more of her work—including updates on the memoir she is currently writing about abuse, mental illness, faith, and her great-great-great-great-great-grandmother—on www.sarahlsanderson.com, or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.