[Guest Post by Addie Zierman] – I turned 20 on a warm day in July, and then, two weeks later, I got married.
There was pink tulle everywhere and 200 roses that we ordered online and arranged into bouquets in the church basement. During the ceremony, two of my best friends from high school sang “Be Thou My Vision,” and their voices filled the room, haunting and sweet.
This is how I began my 20s: eyes closed, heart raised.
I was full to the brim with love and with Jesus, surrounded by all of my closest friends who felt the exact same way. From that alter, the future looked sparkling smooth.
I said “I do,” and dove all the way in.
When I think of my 20s, I think of our tiny apartment in married housing filled with garage sale furniture and wedding crystal.
I think of the cornflake chicken that I made from my Betty Crocker cookbook for our first grown-up house guests. I think of sitting up late at our garage-sale kitchen table, writing slow deliberate essays for my senior capstone.
And then I think about packing it all up, moving to China.
I felt brave as I made lists and stocked up on tampons, but the year wore on in that little gray factory town, and I felt less brave every day. How can I think of my 20s without thinking of those dark-haired students with their quick smiles? How can I think about it remembering loneliness ripping through me like a cold wind?
I think, then, of coming back to America. Of all the starting over. I think of that little apartment that we found with the fireplace and the walking paths, how it felt so much like a gift. Andrew got a job first, and I spent the entire day before my first job interview in the back corner of Barnes and Noble, reading a book on interviewing technique cover-to-cover.
The 20s were a gray cubicle that I gradually filled with photos, a bottom desk drawer that I filled with chocolate.
It was gaining weight from all of those little Milky Way Minis and starting a Serious Diet for the first time. It was learning to run on the treadmill, feeling strong on my own legs.
The 20s were a string of churches, none of which felt like Our Church.
A string of Christians who never really felt like My People. I spent much of those early years reaching for the God that I knew and loved and understood, and coming up empty every time.
And so when I think of my mid-20s, I think of Darkness pulled slowly over my heart.
I think of the claustrophobia of Depression, and the things that I did to feel it less. I think of margaritas and that quick, inevitable turn from tipsy to drunk.
I think of the boy at the coffee shop. The one who was not my husband. The one who smelled it on me, this loneliness, this desperation. I think about how I should have run away so much faster than I did.
I think of my beautiful, high-school friends who crashed into their own crises. They were used by boys or hurt by insensitive Christians or just beat up by the hard edges of life. We started to talk about God differently; some of us stopped talking about him at all.
And so when I say that I survived my 20s, I mean that I dove into my future, and it was filled with so much that I could not see.
The rocks and the rapids, the sadness, the fear. I mean that for a little while in there, I gave up. I stopped trying to swim, gave myself up to the wild river, and still, somehow I found myself waterlogged but alive. Safe on the Rock.
When I say that I survived my 20s, what I’m really saying is grace.
When I think of my late 20s, I think about the long hard work of healing.
I think about my dark haired therapist. I think of our new puppy and the long winter walks where I re-learned to pray. I think about the antidepressants, and I think about that good day when I no longer needed them so much.
I think about the new house, the one with the pond and the deck. I think about hope.
I think about the pregnancy tests that said Positive, the rounding belly, the baby fingers spread small against my chest.
I am 29 years old now, and when I say I’ve survived my 20s, it’s because there are dishes and laundry.
Eric Carle books to read to the babies. Writing to do. There are backgammon games with my husband at the kitchen counter, wine in moderation, chocolate always.
There are all of these broken, beautiful and imperfect people, and some of them are Church People, and I am learning to love them again.
I have survived, will continue to survive, only because He is. His love rises sure as the morning. His grace is saving me every single day.