The other day I fell into a pit of despair. Okay, honestly, I didn't fall. I wasn't even pushed. I flung myself in! I had been wrestling for weeks over a decision about co-curricular activities for one of my kids, and before I knew it I had reached the end of my emotional rope. So, I jumped, headlong, into the rocky pit of despair, and had a nice little breakdown. It wasn't so much the circumstances as the feeling they were causing me to have that threw me over the brink; feelings of inadequacy, feelings of having failed my child, and that meaning that as a mom I was worthless. A total wash up. In the midst of my carrying on, the Holy Spirit visited me with a word picture.
He brought to my mind a game I used to play with the kids when we lived Berkeley, CA. During those years, while driving the kids to school, we would drive over the crest of Albany Hill where for a few seconds we could see the Golden Gate Bridge about ten miles out across San Francisco Bay. As we drove up the hill, the kids and I would guess what color the bridge would be that day. Our game may sound funny to you, because if you know anything about the Golden Gate Bridge, you probably know it is fire engine red. So why would we be guessing its color?
Well, from across San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge very rarely looked red. In fact, its appearance changed by the hour. Two factors were involved. One was the weather, and the other was the angle of the sun. If there was any fog or clouds between the bridge and us, it could appear to be pinkish or even purple with the sun shining on it in the morning. If the sky was clear blue in the morning, we would see the bridge as it truly was and celebrate a rare, "Bright Red Bridge" day. When we drove home in the later part of day, the sun was behind the bridge, and it always appeared as a silhouette in some shade of black, gray, blue, or purple depending, again, on the weather conditions. Some days we couldn't see the bridge at all because of the thick fog.
As I lie there, wallowing in my pit of despair, the Holy Spirit seemed to be saying that my emotions were acting on me just like the weather and the sun acted upon the appearance of the Golden Gate Bridge. My emotions were causing me to experience feelings that did not reflect reality.
I climbed out, and sat on the edge of my pit. "No matter how it appears from a distance, the Golden Gate Bridge is bright, fire engine red," I reassured myself. And the truth was that my child was fine! I was fine. We were experiencing some challenges in the coordination of co-curricular activities, but I had allowed my emotions to color over the situation to the point of believing that not only had I failed my child, but that I, personally, was a failure. My emotions had completely blocked out reality.
With great relief I straighten up and walked away from my pit (okay, it was really just my bed, pillows being easier on my head than a rocks). The bright red reality of which I was reminded with the Golden Gate Bridge game is that when things don't work out just right or even if they go terribly wrong in our lives, it does not mean that we, personally, are failures. We are created in God's image; woman and men for whom Jesus came to earth, died, and rose again. Tomorrow will bring new challenges and more emotions trying to color over, minimize, or completely block out our identity and self-worth in Christ. But remembering the true, fire engine red color of the Golden Gate Bridge can remind us that no matter how real or intense they appear, our emotions don't always reflect reality.