Load shedding is a phenomenon known to all South Africans. If you’re clued up, you plan your day around the power outages and make sure meals are prepared in advance. And, as frustrating as these power outages are, we all know that the power will return (most of the time). When the power goes out during a night time shift, I must confess that there is some sort of peace that descends not only on our household but on our small community. As our small town is plunged into darkness on the hour, the world is quiet and still. There are no lights glaring through windows and our home is lit by a single power light and the glow of candles. Unless you have a bundle of data, devices don’t connect because the Wifi is down. And unless you’re laptop has an impressive battery life, it dies an hour into the power outage. That means no devices. That means we’re forced to make decent conversation – something quite unknown in many homes. It’s a good excuse to soak in a hot bath by candlelight.
On such a night, I lay in the bath watching the flame flicker and glow as shadows flitted across the wall. And I breathed deeply. Somehow it felt that I suddenly had no demands or pressures. Nothing that had to be done. And some things couldn’t be done even if I wanted to do them. And my heart slowed from my normal on-a-mission pounding to a gentle, rhythmical and regular beat. My muscles slowly began to ease and I wondered at times gone by when the beast of technology didn’t dominate, how tranquil evenings must have been. Perhaps curled up in bed with a cup of tea and a book. Or maybe cuddled up with a loved one under a blanket by the light of a fire. Or picnicking under the stars with the family. Maybe the quality of life was better. Maybe life and relationships were that much more fulfilling. And maybe the demands made on individuals and the singleness of a selfish lifestyle were switched off or, to some degree, unknown.
I find myself in a confusing place. A place where I want more quality. A place where I am tired of technology and yet find myself picking up my phone and scrolling through random, meaningless stories on Whatsapp or mindlessly logging into Instagram. And before I know it, I’ve wasted a precious hour perched in an uncomfortable position on the edge of the bed, not talking to my husband, not reading my book and not doing all the things I really want to do but instead messing around.
And I’ve come to realise that my addiction to social media has turned me into a horrible person as I suppose any addiction does. I have become selfish, jealous, self-pitying, proud, depressed, judgmental and have lacked self-worth. These were all sins I’ve been prone to all my life but the time I’ve spent scrolling through Instagram and Facebook have called my sins to arms.
The perfection and air-brushed online world makes me think that I’m not worthy – that I’m not doing enough as a mom; that I’m not eloquent enough as a writer; that I’m not loving enough as a wife and that I just don’t have what it takes to gain a following. I’m sure there is a degree of truth in each of these things (and remember, I can put out an airbrushed, filtered image too) but then I become upset. I find myself disliking the mom who stimulates her child with homemade activities. I envy the mother who can afford to take her children to the movies or out to the aquarium every month. I am jealous of the mom blogger who gets invited to events and is paid to type her thoughts for others to read. I follow, with an obsession, the mom blogger who is bringing in an income double my husband’s but can’t stand to see her at the same time. The bitter taste of jealousy and covetousness poisons me when I see people indulging in treat food, good food and retail therapy. And then, it all overwhelms me and I feel depressed. I pity myself and think I’m hard done by. I feel like I’m not worth it and nor is my effort when my post gets 2 likes. It’s as if I’ve lost a limb if my phone is not in my hand. I am distracted, wondering if I’ve had any more hits on my blog and on my Instagram account. And I measure myself and my worth by how many followers I have and by how much attention I get online. My following on social media, ashamedly, takes more of a priority in my mind than spending time with my family.
I realised that my addiction to my phone was taking not only my attention away from enjoying this brief time at home with my girls – something I have literally longed for my entire life – but also creating a sour, discontented woman who forgot how to be a wife, a mother and a friend.
And now for the cold, hard truth. I created Instagram to increase my blog traffic so that I would get noticed and, hopefully, paid to write. I started a blog in the hopes to earn money doing something on my own terms. Yes, as much of a reason was to have an outlet to process all the unspoken trials of motherhood. Yes, to help other mothers navigate the treacherous waters of emotional and mental instability. But my hidden motive always lurked in the background. And, there is a deep-rooted pride in knowing that people enjoy my writing. It feeds my ego and fills my head with selfish arrogance. Which then leaves me bruised when no one reads. (Yes, I can see how many people read…I see if it’s a South African or a Canadian. No names though so you’re safe!)
So, as I said, I find myself in a confusing space. I am trying to feel about in the dark, hoping I’ll find who I am, who I should be and what I ought to be doing. I know who I don’t want to be. But, who I’m supposed to be is beyond the light of my candle, hidden in the shadows. Where God is leading me is on a path that feels treacherous and hard to navigate with the limited light I have. I do wish He would turn the lights on so that I could see where I was going and the way He has mapped out for me in this season of life. It frustrates me, that He is seemingly silent. And, truth be told, it sometimes angers me. Motherhood is hard. But being a salary down distorts the joys of being with my girls and twists and deforms the happiness I should feel and robs me of these sweet (not always, mind you) days of having my daughters all to myself. When I come to and realise how my worries colour my life, I am suffocated with the guilt my one-day regret will bring. It’s like trying to slap yourself awake or telling yourself that you’re in danger but your body just doesn’t respond. I know I will regret it. But I don’t know what or how to change.
And I’m trying. Trying to figure out the way forward and trying to find meaning in the dark.
And maybe that’s just it. I’ve thought that because I’m holding the candle, I can see a way to go. But God knows what is hidden beyond the glow. And although He is probably trying to coax me away from the way that seems safest, I drown out His voice with the voice of “reason”. It seems completely unreasonable to trust Him. He’s asking me to go follow Him down a rocky, narrow path, where the dangers of financial instability, self-worth and giving up my desires are too great an ask. Maybe He’s letting me block out His voice, follow my own way and try to do it on my own – because essentially that’s what I want because it’s what I’ve chosen.And maybe, I keep hitting dead ends or stumbling over the rocks in the way to prevent me from tumbling over the precipice just beyond the light. Maybe He’s standing on the way where He will keep me sure-footed just waiting. Waiting for me to hear Him calling. Patiently standing there watching me mess up until I finally turn to Him, come crawling back to Him, admitting that His way was best. And until I do that, He won’t move. He won’t force me. But I won’t move forward without because He doesn’t want me to do it alone.
So, this is my load shedding. My load is heavy. Too heavy to bear. And it’s a load no one could carry for me. Because who of you could know the weight. Who of you could bear another’s burden. But, He has said,
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Yesterday I hit breaking point. I wanted to wrap myself in darkness, Shut out the noise in my mind. Still the overwhelming thoughts that plagued me. Then, this morning, I read these verses,
“I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
12 but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.”
Then this truth has started to melt my hardened heart,
“…Even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.”
So I know I need to stop trying to find my own way in the dark. I know Jesus is standing on His path, waiting for me. The way back up the hill to Him is long. The night is dark. But I know He’s waiting there for me. I just need to take a breath, suck up my pride and turn back to Him. Where He is leading me from here I don’t know…
When I do, you’ll know.
Photo Credit: @RahulTags: arrogance, burden, candlelight, candles, dark, darkness, depression, despondent, emotional instability, Facebook, finances, followers, following, God, hard ties, heavy, Instagram, Jesus, load, load shedding, money, path, pride, psalm 139, road, self worth, social media, way