When your husband calls you “a shell of a woman”


For months this spring I felt like a shell of a woman. I was empty and didn’t have anything to give. Oh, I was still doing all the “right” things. I was still getting up most mornings attempting to connect with God, and I was still relatively consistent with my commitment to exercise.  But I felt dead inside and couldn’t figure out why.

My husband noticed. Where before him once stood life and life abundant, he now saw a shell of a woman. He even suggested another round of counseling. I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do about it or even what it was. I was unhappy in life and unmotivated in work. Was it depression? Burnout? What???

I felt especially dead at church. That was a strange feeling, because corporate worship has always quenched my thirst and nourished my soul and made my spirit come alive. But I just buried that newly incongruous feeling and ignored it. I tuned it out and refused to listen to it. I ran to the nearest screen and numbed out on TV and Facebook and solitaire games instead.

There were so many times I wanted to go forward at church during prayer time and tell people I wasn’t OK. But how could I ask for help, when I didn’t even know what wasn’t OK? And besides, I told myself, people were watching. As part of the leadership team, I imagined all eyes trained on me, as though I couldn’t make a mistake, couldn’t make an admission of need.

Those thoughts are ridiculous, I know. Yet how many times have I done this to myself? Struggled in silence, forgetting to ask for spiritual help, forgetting to confess my spiritual neediness? Too many times. I hate the Christian practice of confession. I hate confessing my needs, my sins, my shortcomings. It’s embarrassing. It’s uncomfortable. And I avoid it if at all possible.

confessionBut I am here today to tell you that confession leads to spiritual breakthrough. That’s the very reason James and John instruct us to do it. And this photo from a recent women’s event is how I know it’s true.

I love that picture. Not because it’s a beautiful photo or because I look particularly beautiful in it (I don’t), but because of the beautiful moment it represents.  It’s a moment I got really brave and stood up and acknowledged my gaping need. It’s a moment I publicly confessed I wasn’t OK on the inside, no matter what I may have wanted others to see on the outside.

When the speaker asked people to stand in response to God’s call on their hearts, I knew I needed to. It was almost like God had backed me into a corner. He knew I’d been hiding, and this was my moment to step into the light and admit I didn’t have my spiritual act together.

Oh sure, I admit all the time online the ways I don’t measure up, the ways I’m lacking, the ways I’m seeking. But I can carefully control both the wording of my shared needs and the timing in which I share them (preferably with those needs and struggles in the past, so I can share victory, not process). The photo above shows a break from tradition for me.

When I opened my eyes, I found that every single woman at my table had stood up with me. They were admitting their own need along with me. We stood in a united request for supernatural aid. We stood with unified intention to reorient and rededicate ourselves to God. We held hands and prayed. It was a holy moment, and I almost missed it.

I could have let the call to public confession slide. I could have disobeyed God and pretended, in real time, that I had it all together. But I would have missed out on the bonding among women drawing near to God. I would have missed out on some much-needed humility. And I would have missed out on some desperately needed prayers for spiritual restoration. I’m glad I didn’t miss it, though, because right there in that moment, right there in that terrifying admission of need, is when the shell started cracking for me. 

We weren’t designed to walk around as dead, empty shells. We were made to live, to dwell, to thrive even. So if you are walking around like a shell today, remember that God has provided a cure for our communal deadness: it’s called confession. Confession is what makes space for God’s love, joy, and peace to entwine itself in our hearts. It’s what allows real life, true life, life abundant, to grow inside us. So let us confess our neediness, our brokenness, our spiritual barrenness. It might just save our lives.

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Elizabeth Trotter

Elizabeth lived in Southeast Asia for 8 years and fell in love. Then covid happened and brought her back to the States, where she is currently figuring out how to do life in America again. Before moving to Asia, Elizabeth worked in youth ministry for ten years. She and her husband co-wrote "Serving Well: Help for the Wannabe, Newbie, or Weary Cross-cultural Christian Worker." Find her on the web at www.trotters41.com.

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