(originally written Nov 1, 2018)
Yesterday I was having a conversation with Shawn about a particular situation we have been working through that went something like this:
Shawn: “How are you feeling?”
Me: “I feel good. Like, I actually don’t have any anxiety. I feel like God truly is going to work this out in a way that tangibly us shows his love for us and he will get the glory. This is a strange feeling..” (Long pause, overthinking, deep gulp of breath) “And now I have anxiety about not having anxiety!”
Oh, Heather of little faith.
I can chuckle about the whole conversation, but the truth is that it really isn’t funny to be that familiar with stress and so unfamiliar with the peace of laying that at His feet. I was (over) thinking about it again later and had to start really ask my self some hard questions. How did that brief moment of peace feel, and why is it so foreign to me ? Why is it so uncommon and momentous that I want to write about it?
Let’s be real for a minute here. Having a moment of panic or anxiety pop up is NOT a sin. It is a natural by-product of our new selves in Him constantly fighting our old selves of the flesh. Add to that the brokenness of this hurting, chaotic world and we are bound to have it attack us sometimes. I am also not talking about an anxiety that requires medication. There have been times that I have been on meds for these types of things. The only thing wrong in that case is feeling too embarrassed or weak to seek out help because of it. Those are lies. However, with the daily, normal stress of everyday there is a problem with allowing oneself to wallow in it, or to jump in head first and whole-heartedly because it feels familiar and – dare I say – safe. It is easier than the fight. It is “normal.”
This is where I know some of you are saying, “But what about…” or “You have no idea…”
I understand, friends. I truly do.
You can see from my opening conversation how “normal” anxiety is for me. As a matter of fact, many counselors all over the world could retire from what my family alone pays in counseling services. I second guess myself and my decisions about every little thing. I remember once when I was pregnant for Andrew I had debate within my mind over whether it would be better for our family to have another girl or another boy to add to the crew. I got seriously stressed over it, feeling on the verge of a panic attack before allowing the Spirit to actually breakthrough and give me His peace about the fact that I had ZERO control over the whole situation anyway and – oh yeah – if the God of the universe, who created every single person and family was in control, then maybe it was ok for me to trust him rather than waste precious sleep time having that debate.
I’m a mess.
I’ve experienced panic attacks in the car on a regular basis since I was a child. I can think of probable reasons for this beginning, but after 40+ years I somehow had talked myself into believing that this was just who I am and I gave up hope of ever feeling victorious over it. I made myself believe it is just a part of who I am.
Then I watched my youngest suffer through debilitating panic attacks. The kind where there is no reasoning, no talking, no loving that can bring him out of it until he is removed from the situation that brought him into it in the first place. My maternal instincts kicked into overdrive and I started to do everything I could to help him overcome and find peace. My hope and celebrations for RJ as I see victories, and the soul-crushing hopelessness that comes when it often seems more like one step forward, two steps back drove me deep into the Father’s arms in ways I had given up on for me. My glimpses of peace made me long for that for my little boy – and for me, and a new type of war began.
Today as I sat in the counselor’s office she was asking me about this very thing. She mentioned that when you live with something for so long in your life, you don’t know what to do without it and even welcome it back. I told her about my conversation with Shawn, and she smiled knowingly. Suddenly I felt a sense of freedom the promise that I am not the only one dealing with this, as well as the reminder that it is not something I always have to hold on to and be “ok” with. I will do what it takes to be free – whatever that is. Freedom comes in different ways for each of us, and in each situation. There is no shame in that.
So today I begin again.
“I’m no longer a slave to fear. I am a child of God.”