Interview with Rachel Thitchener
January 25 2021
Psalm 73 mentioned. Psalm 77 read out loud.
Hello and welcome to another episode of Unsung Stories, thanks so much for joining us Rachel.
Thank you for having me.
Just so that our listeners can get to know you a little bit better. Would you mind telling us a bit about you and your family and what everyday life looks like for you?
Sure. So, my name's Rachel. I'm 28. I'm married to Bryce, and we have a little boy called Rex, and he's one heading towards one and a half. And so I'm at home with him. And then I work one day a week as a physio.
And how did you come to know Jesus?
So I grew up in a home. Well, a Christian home. Yes. And my parents are both Christians. And we grew up reading the Bible together at breakfast with the cereal and going to church every week. My family was very regular church. And actually my mom in particular, was very involved in sort of up-front ministry. So church was very much part of my life. Bible, very much part of my life. So I don't think there was a time that I didn't know of Jesus.
Yeah. Do you ever remember making a distinct choice to follow Jesus, or would you just say that it's something that you've always believed?
So I don't think I ever made a decision to not follow Him. But I can see looking back, that I definitely, I probably had my feet in both camps for a while. Particularly through my teenage years, where I felt like, "I don't totally fit at church, but I don't totally fit with, like my non-Christian friends, what do I do?" But still going along to church. And then I remember I was about 17. There was a particular sermon that I heard that just talked about every breath that we are given is a gift from the Lord and not something that's owed to you.
But your chest is rising and falling because God is allowing it to. And He can take that away at any time. And so He's sustaining you. And that's a gift. And every breath that you have is an opportunity to repent and turn to Him. And I had just never thought of that before.
I don't think I'd ever truly understood God's grace for me because I had never really understood how sinful I was and for whatever reason in that particular sermon, it just really struck me just how deep Grace was because of how big my sin was. Like, I just yeah, the two of them just really became very clear to me. And so I think from that moment is where I made a real decision to follow Jesus.
That's great. So your little boy Rex is now one and a bit. How have you found the transition to motherhood?
Well, yes, quite a transition. So, yeah, I love him so much. I didn't anticipate how much I would love him. How hard it would be to be with him all the time, but never wanting to be away from him. I feel like there's not a single part of my identity that has not been affected by becoming a mother. Like literally sometimes I can't even remember my old self like I miss her a bit.
But also like the new Rachel as well.
Yeah. I like the new me too. But yeah, it's been a pretty full-on change. Like I mean I have the same hairdo and stuff but yeah. Just like the emotional. Oh gosh. Just, it's been deep and like frightening and awesome. But just ...
So a year and a half of just going through every aspect of your brain and checking out what it actually stands for.
Yes, absolutely. It's been pretty crazy in a word.
So with that, do you feel like motherhood has been what you've expected?
I just laugh about my expectations of motherhood. Oh, so I was so convinced that I just could do it probably better than everyone. How hard could it really be? You know? Like I didn't tell anyone that, of course. But I think in my heart I probably thought that. And so like the best example of this, I was thirty-two weeks pregnant and I woke up one day, I'd been feeling like not great, but I woke up feeling really good. I'm like you know what? I gonna write myself a letter and try and give that future me. I know I'm going to get a bit wacky, so I'll just write like some tips and perspectives to just kind of like guide me along the right path.
Make sure she stays on track.
Oh, and it was like, I mean it was like good intention and it was about like, prioritize your husband and get the baby to just eat what you eat and don't fuss around with the food. And it's like it's OK if he cries a bit and get him to sleep.
Don't fuss around with all this fussing. And oh my goodness. I did tear up that paper. I just couldn't it for ages. I remember I actually knew that letter was there, and it just sat like in the cupboard, wherever I had it. Was burning this hole like, "Oh, how could I be so ignorant?"
And then, so I have felt like honestly, like I have just been on a diet of humble pie ever since I had this child. Yeah. I just never understood what just exhaustion could do to a person or just how emotionally attached I would be to this child. And what the sound of his cry would do to me physically and yeah, just like how sleep deprived I would become and how that just changes everything. Yes. So it has not been quite what I have expected.
So what has been the biggest challenge or challenges as you've wrestled with your different and unmet expectations that you've had?
Yeah, I think, as I said, if I'm really honest, I just kind of thought that if I really just believed it would happen, that I would have this very cool and friendly, relaxed, obedient child who would say please and thank you and put itself to bed and just do. Like I just thought, "Oh, that's just everyone's doing it wrong."
Like, you just like hope it happens and it just happens. If you're just chilled enough about it. No, no, no, no, no.
And so kind of reflecting on it, I see now that a lot of my hopes about how that would go is just really tied up in how I would be perceived by others. Sort of talking to people as I was pregnant and, "Oh make sure you don't do this and know you don't want to turn out like one of these moms, blah, blah, blah." So I really wanted to have this relaxed persona where I wasn't like over the top about stuff, and I was calm and always consistent, and patient and it would just work out really well for me.
And like, honestly, I don't think it was on my heart to please God. Like those things, to be calm and patient and all those things. I don't think that was from a Godly place. I do think it was really concerned with making others think I was good.
So I'd expected this child that was so polite, and I got like a pretty rude one. Instead of going to sleep, he just, he had this really shrill crying that just like I couldn't handle it. He didn't settle easily. It got to the point where he, as a one-year-old, was sleeping in increments of forty-five minutes through the night. And he's co-sleeping and I'm breastfeeding him like I'm going out of business. Like it was, I just loathed myself.
I hated myself that I'm doing all of these things that the pregnant me told me not to do. I'm just like, yeah, I really struggled with just that lack of control. And so I felt like, "OK, I can't handle the sleep, but at least he's friendly." And then he would just like cry if people looked at him. And so I just yeah, everything was, well is, out of my control. And so I really have had to surrender that idea that I could just dictate how things went. So, yes, I was pretty exhausted. I mean, I'm still pretty tired, but I was missing my husband, missing my old self. Like really grieving my old life, fully terrified of being invited to a dinner party.
So I was really scared, people were like, "Come round for dinner." And I'm like, "I don't know what to do with my baby." Like, "I don't know how to get him to sleep." And he's just crying at your house and everyone's waiting. The dinner's getting cold. I was just scared of dinner. So angry at Rex. Angry at Brice for just not knowing what to tell me to tell Rex. Angry with myself, like I said, for just not doing my dumb letter. And then just eventually just feeling really angry at God that it wasn't easing up. And like I asked Him, like, "Lord this is a bit too much for me. Can you just, like, pull up a bit?" Didn't happen.
And then times where I was just like scream crying into a pillow. Just like I can't do this anymore. And spending. Oh, I feel sick to think about how long I've spent like shushing or petting or rocking, bouncing in a room all year.
And I just felt so angry. Like swearing and I could just. Oh. Just these overflow of like ugly heart stuff. I have felt like honestly, like I have just been on a diet of humble pie. Ever since I had this child. Just exhausted and then just spiritually feeling really flat.
Really got to the end of you will.
Yeah. Yeah. And so kind of I guess as a part of that whole situation, is my sister and my parents moved five hours up the coast to help start a church. And so a pretty good chunk of my support network kind of up and left. And of course, I talked to them on the phone and stuff, but just that distance was really hard. And so there I am, just like torture level, sleep-deprived, grieving over this really big change in my family.
COVID hits and I can't meet at church anymore. I'm trying to be a good wife. I'm trying to be a good mother. I'm so sick and tired. And then I just started thinking, like, God doesn't care about me. I don't think He likes me, like, I don't like me. I hate this letter disregarding version of myself. And all I've done this year is just sin and swear and like rage. And He must just hate me. Like I'm the worst. And I kind of look back and see that I had had that same kind of train of thought of, "God doesn't really like me. He couldn't really care about me."
I mean they come up and down. But I just sort of pushed them down, but in this new spot where I was just super raw, like a dead horse getting flogged in this really vulnerable state. I just kind of sat in those thoughts in a way that I hadn't before. I think I'd always been frightened of what would happen if I thought those thoughts. So I'd ask God to help me. I remember putting Rex in the car and putting him in and he's crying and just like praying, "God, please let me figure this out. Like, give me time."
But I just felt like I was getting radio silence and just not. And so I started to doubt that He was even there. Well, yeah, that was where I was at.
That's a hard, hard spot to see it. How did you handle that doubt? Was it something that you just kept quiet, kept to yourself and stayed in it, or did you have people to share it with?
Well, I think it really just stressed me because obviously from being a child had been like a foundational part of my life. And so built my whole life on God being true and caring about me and all of this. So wasn't something I thought, "Oh, maybe God's out there and oh, well, I'll just get on with my week." Like it was quite in front of my mind. So I spoke with my husband about it quite a lot. Like I said, "Oh I'm just worried. Have you ever thought this? Are you thinking this?" And he's like, "No, I'm actually not."
But anyway, we talked about it a bit. But I was also afraid of what people would think of me, of course, and being a long-time churchgoer with parents who had been known around the place. And I was serving in church and I'm thinking I'm doubting the existence of God. Like how scandalous. I would hate for people to know about this.
So I did feel really afraid of what people would think of me. So I ended up I think God led me to this. But I ended up just sharing with a friend from church who was wiser than me, and who was really gracious. And I said, look, this is where I'm at. I'm a bit afraid to tell you, but this is what I'm thinking, and this is where I've been. And she actually shared, "You know what, I've been through the same thing. And that's a really tough spot to be." And she said, "Can I just urge you, don't look for answers like in the world, lean in to the word. Read the scriptures. There's heaps of richness there. Like, go to the Lord." And she sent me a podcast to listen to that was about doubt in particular and on Psalm 73. And so as I listened, it was kind of like I was super thirsty, you know, just getting into real good glass of water.
I'm like, oh wow. OK, right. Like I'd felt so much shame about having doubt and felt like I needed to kind of sort it out intellectually on my own in private. Because what would God think of me if He knew that I was doubting He existed. And yeah, I always find it funny that I think I can keep my thoughts private from God. Anyway. But yeah, I thought too, that it was just a cycle like if I was a better Christian, I would believe harder. I wouldn't be doubting. What kind of Christian doubts? But then here's [inaudible 00:12:57] talking about being in a really vulnerable state of doubt and saying, my feet had almost slipped and like a loss of faith. And I was amazed. Yeah, I'm sure I'd read it before, but just to see it with fresh eyes and see that I should have come to God with my doubts and process them in his presence and prayed through them.
But yeah, just tried to do the secret private working out on my own. And so just even in that circumstance where that friend spoke to me and sent through these podcasts, I just really felt overwhelmed by God's kindness to me in my doubt. I guess in my kind of running from Him, He just like extended a hand where I didn't deserve it. And so after I was reading Psalm 73, which the sermon was on, and I kind of flipped over a few pages to Psalm 77, and I just started reading through it and I just wept.
It just spoke so directly to my heart at the time, word for word, that all I could do was just cry. And as I read this Psalm, like how Christians doubted. Or have God's people doubted? Yes. Like have people felt abandoned by God? Yes, absolutely. But there was this answer there to appeal to those doubts and remember who God is and what He's done and that word, remember, I'm like, "Oh, I'd forgotten. I forgot who is." Just reading through the Psalm and then getting into the word more. I was just reminded of the richness of the scriptures and how it's living and life-giving. And so yeah, it was pretty, pretty awesome.
Hmm. That's beautiful. Rachel, would you mind us taking a minute and reading that Psalm for us?
No worries. So Psalm 77.
1 I cried out to God for help;
I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
at night I stretched out untiring hands,
and I would not be comforted.
3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
13 Your ways, God, are holy.
What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the heavens resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
It even makes me like a bit teary to read those questions about like will the Lord reject forever, has He failed for all time? And I love that line about where it talks about Him leading his people out of Egypt. Your path, led through the sea in verse 19, Your way through the muddy waters, though Your footprints were not seen. And I just oh, my goodness.
I thought, "Oh, you've been carrying me, and you've been leading me." But I've just. Yeah, you are amazing.
I found that really encouraging in that we can't stay in our own feelings. So we might feel like God isn't real or there or caring or really something to prioritise. But we have to come back to the truth, back to what God says. So that Psalm was written pre-Jesus. So for us, we've just got to go back to the Bible and God's word. And yeah, we have to come back to what does the Bible say about our doubt and our feelings.
Yeah, I can see that. Yeah. That our feelings without that appeal of remember who God is, remember what He's done, can lead us to believe that God doesn't care or that He's forgotten us, or they can be misleading.
Yeah, it makes me think of that Psalm, Psalm 42. When it's why are you downcast oh my soul? You can just see this Psalm is like feeling depressed and down. But he doesn't go, oh I feel this. So God must not be real. It's I feel this I'm going to remember the truth. But God, you are.
Yeah, put your hope in God for I will yet praise Him my saviour, my God.
Remember the truth. Remember who He is not staying in our feelings. But acknowledge that you have feelings because we are human.
So what are some practical things that have helped you as you question what your beliefs are?
I think first up, being honest with trusted friends, with Christians, being honest about where I was at was a really important thing for me. For them to be able to sort of speak in to that.
I think if I hadn't mentioned it to anyone. I'm gonna continue to try and solve it on my own. The way I was going was not headed to a healthy place. And so I think being honest and being vulnerable and kind of, you know, having to lay down that. Yeah. What other people think of me. And go if this is true, then it's more important that I sort this out and I just need be cool enough to come and say I'm really struggling with doubt. And I'm not sure that I believe this. I'm not sure that God is real. Can you help me? Where do I turn. So seek.
I would say be honest with trusted Christian friends. And ones who would push you towards the cross or towards Christ. And then I would say pressing into the word. I can see pattern. Probably if I looked at a graph of my life, of all the times that I've felt really in the desert is probably when I'm reading my Bible the least, and spending a lot of time on Netflix or whatever. Like if you're getting your wisdom from Netflix, then you will start to. Anyway so pressing into the scriptures because there like God will speak if you [inaudible 00:19:45].
And there is, I was reminded when I was reading through the Psalms just of that richness. The living nature of God's word and how it's not just stagnant, it really speaks to life. And it is quite amazing.
And then the other thing that I did try and do was just not give up with meeting, with going, with even serving. I thought, "You know what, I think this is good for me turning up. I'm really struggling. But I'm going to listen and I'm going to turn up."
You're going to press into this.
I'm going to press in. And I did. I just prayed that God would see me through the season. I did believe too that God was big enough to handle my doubt. That He wouldn't shatter because I was struggling to sort of understand who He was.
I don't think He needs my belief to keep Him powered like Santa in the sleigh or whatever. You know, He is independent of me. And so He's big enough to kill my doubt.
He has the shoulders to carry that.
Yeah. But yeah, I just really needed to press in. I think was the important thing for me.
Do you feel like you have matured or grown through this? Has this season borne any fruit for you? Or do you still feel like you're in the midst of it?
Yeah, I feel like it has definitely been a really tough season, but I'm starting to get to a point where I can look back and see what's happened. And I can see that God is kind of shaking all of the shaky foundations where I put my identity.
So, in what other people thought of me. In my standing as a part of my wider family and who they were at church, in being a wife and being a mother, all these things that aren't bad things. And I mean, I guess we find some identity, but they weren't Christ. Like I didn't have my identity in Him. And so the harder that I strive to just do better, be a better mom, be a better wife, be a better family member, be perceived better by others, like just the harder I fell and the more I struggled.
I was like I was in quicksand. And I think too, I was eating humble pie every day. But I don't know that I was like, totally learning humility. I think I was still trying to do it on my own and still really fighting them. Which is probably why it was so prolonged. But yeah, see that I just can't earn salvation. And that's only Jesus's death for me on my behalf, that I can be saved. And so I think I'm going to always struggle with wanting to please people and be worried about how they think of me.
But I do feel great. It's really hard for me to say, gosh, it has been so tough. Like I tear up just thinking about what this year has been like for me. But I do feel grateful that this hardship has caused me to reassess, to submit like a spiritual rock bottom and just have to get on my knees and seek God. So I still struggle, struggle with doubt. Like I think sometimes I sit in church and I'm like "Am I in a cult?"
I'm probably the wrong person to ask, given that we go to the same church. I don't think we are.
No, I don't think so. If so, it's a large one. But I do just pray that God will help me to seek Him and to read the word and to remember. Like that has just been the keyword for me over this season is just like remember who God is? Remember like in that Psalm which talks about Him rescuing His people from Egypt and then remember the cross, remember what He did on the cross, like His love is so clearly demonstrated there.
And then remember the times in your life where I mean, of course He's always working, but there's some key moments where you're convicted or shaped in a particular way. I need to remember those and not forget. Yeah, I see that God is not silent. He's quite loud, if I'm willing to hear, and He's quite visible if I'm willing to look. But I just need to get on my knees and seek Him.
Would you have any encouragement that you could offer to another mom who might be wrestling with what she believes?
Yes, doubting definitely is human and pretty normal. I mean, you got apostles, who doubt and their like, "I don't believe it. No way."
And Jesus says, "You of little faith."
Yes, you of little faith. And Thomas is like, "I don't believe it until I put my hand and your nail holes." And Jesus graciously allows Him to do that.
Ephesians 2:8, For it is by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not from yourselves. It is the gift from God. We only believe because God gives us the ability to.
Yeah, yeah. I think I would encourage other moms in my situation to look to the Psalms, I guess, as a way of praying through those doubts. And so having doubts is normal. But the way to rightly process them is to take them to the presence of the Lord. And process them with Him. Feel what you feel, but appeal is my Father.
The Psalm I read out, Psalm 77, verse 10. So he's asked those questions about has God gone away, vanished, does He not love me? And then he thought inverse ten to this I will appeal and speaks of the years when God has reached out his right hand, of God's deeds, of his miracles, of his mighty works, of the rescuing from Egypt. So feel the doubt, but appeal to yourself with truths about God. So lean in, open the word, pray.
And the other thing is, I think I've felt afraid of what God would think of me if He knew that I was doubting. But God knows what's on your heart. There's no hiding from Him. A broken and a contrite heart He will not despise. Remember who He is. Preach the gospel to yourself. Lean on his grace. Yeah.
Rest in that.