What I Wish Christians Understood About Anxiety

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Gentle Reader,

I suppose I’ve always been the melancholy sort. Glass half-full. Everything
that can go wrong will go wrong. Even as a child it was difficult for me to
see the bright side. Instead my eyes were drawn to unseen fears and terrors.

One moment stands out in a lifetime of moments. The night before a
standardized test, I broke out in a rash all over my body. I was so afraid
of failing. No matter what my parents did or said to reassure me, the fear
squeezed my heart tightly. Six years old and already full of dread….

My blogging buddy Anita Ojeda is hosting a series in honor of Mental Health Awareness Month. I’m over at her place today, sharing some of my experiences. Head on over to check it out – and then stay awhile. The other stories are well worth reading.

My journey to faith. (15)

Bad Reaction

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com (1)

Gentle Reader,

They don’t tell you about the book proposal.

Everyone thinks that writing a book is this glamorous thing. That’s about as far as you can get from the truth while remaining on planet Earth. Not for nothing did sportswriter Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith say, “Writing is easy. You just open a vein and bleed.”

Add in some sweat, tears and nausea and you’ve got it.

But then the thing is finally done and you feel like you’ve given birth or created a new civilization from scratch or at the very least endured the lines at Costco without threatening to hit someone. You’d think that would mean celebration, but writers are a strange sort. Completion brings with it the nearly irresistible urge to throw the manuscript in a trashcan and burn it under the light of a full moon.

If you manage to hold on, you’re faced with the fantasticness of a book proposal.

What happened to the good days when you could just send your masterpiece to a publisher? Now it’s all about agents and lists and how many followers you’ve got on social media and don’t you dare think of sending in your book without a special, gold-embossed invitation from The Person In Charge of Making Your Dreams Come True.

You have to do something like this or this. The stuff of nightmares.

When I first saw that outline, I thought, “I can’t do it.” Hot fear welled up inside my chest. Tears stung the corners of my eyes. Nobody in his right mind would read a book proposal from me and want to take on the actual book.

This isn’t actually about a book proposal at all.

My reaction, bad as it was, finds its roots in the minor-key theme of defeat that plays in my mind at all times. Can’t. Can’t. Can’t. Fail. Fail. Fail. I’ll be 32 in a few months and that music has been on repeat for I don’t know how long. So often it drowns out any new melody of hope or strength.

The intensity and immediacy of my response startled me, but not until a couple of days later. Usually takes me that long to figure out what I’m feeling. I deal in delayed understanding. It came with sudden, full-force, punch-in-the-gut, take-your-breath-away pain, the kind you feel in the center of your heart.

When you ask the Lord to shape you into the person He wants you to be, you don’t realize that an integral part of the process will be Him dredging up every nasty, stinking thing that makes its home in the dark and hollow places of your spirit. The places you don’t readily give up to Him. The places where you try to hide the things that you really feel, think and believe. Because surely He can’t see. Surely He doesn’t know.

Fellow human, we are stupid.

God can’t change us without getting rid of the junk. He starts with the big, bad habits, the stuff that everyone knows about. Then He gets a little pickier. And a little pickier. And finally so picky that He’s tearing apart your thoughts, the ones you don’t even quite know that you have. He’s convicting you and comforting you in ways that you never knew you needed to be convicted or comforted.

He’s asking me, “Why do you persist in living in defeat? Why do we come back to this same place over and over again?”

The thing with Jesus is that He’ll wait. He’ll just stand there, on that sore spot, pressing in ever-deeper until you’re finally ready to face whatever it is you need to face. There’s a lot of running that you can do. A lot of twisting and turning and avoiding. He’s still there. Still asking the question.

Why do I believe the can’t and fail instead of the will and the victory that are rightfully mine as a daughter of the living God? I could blame my family of origin or teenage experiences or physiology. And maybe some of that comes into play. But where it really lands? I make a choice. I know what I have to do to keep myself from spiraling down into the pit of despair, but I haven’t been doing it. I’ve been distracted. Worried. Wrapped up in other things.

I’ve let the music play without a fight.

I honestly sometimes wonder why God doesn’t blow me off of the map.

Maybe you’re like me today, hanging out in the By-Path Meadow, chilling with Giant Despair and his wife, Diffidence. (If you’ve not read Pilgrim’s Progress, please do). Your eyes wandered from the narrow path and you got off track. You didn’t mean to. It just sort of happened. Now everything looks dark and bleak. Get up with me, fellow traveler. Get up and let’s make our way back. Let’s sit with God in the questions and remain until the healing answers come.

Defeat is not our destination.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo Credit: Michael Rosner-Hyman

Five Minute Friday: Alone

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

‘Tis a gift, this writing life.

‘Tis a greater gift to know writers.

Kate. The scribblers, the dreamers, the thinkers and schemers. We are: alone.

Go.

And now I’m all alone again; nowhere to turn, no one to go to.

Without a home, without a friend, without a face to say “hello” to…

“On My Own” (lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer, music by Claude-Michel Schönberg)

Go.

Eponine’s famous solo from the musical Les Miserables opens with these heart-rending lines. She wanders the streets of Paris, the air thick with the electricity of impending (and doomed) revolution. Her heart aches with unrequited love for Marius (the man who stupidly falls for the vapid Cossette, for no apparent reason other than her blonde hair). Eponine pours out her anguish, her voice bouncing, echoing, off of the River Seine.

Long has this been my favorite moment.

Jean Valjean’s plaintive “Bring Him Home” never fails to stir the audience. The (spoiler alert) death scene at the very end makes me cry every time. But there’s something about Eponine. Something about this woman, to whom life has been so cruel, that pulls at my soul.

Perhaps it is because I am well-acquainted with aloneness. After being in a crowd for longer than ten minutes, I crave it. Stop the noise, the smells, the jostling. Just let me be.

Yet this can be a dangerous thing. It can be more than aloneness.

How quickly loneliness moves in.

For months now I have been slowly isolating myself. Little by little. Choice by choice. Familiar enemies, sorrow and anxiety, wrapped me tighter and tighter in the softest of blankets. Lulled me into a place of numbness – until the numbness suddenly burst into a pain too great to bear.

There were no faces to say “hello” to, for I had turned them away. Out went the plea to my friends. Please understand and accept my strangeness. Please come to my house, eat chocolate and make fun of Donald Trump. I love you even if I can’t figure out how to say so.

This is the struggle of my life. This is the double-edged sword. I’m an off-the-charts introvert and there’s no doubt I need time to myself. I need to be able to process or just stare blankly at a wall. Equally do I need time with others. I need to be amongst my people, the men and women who, though far from perfect, have laughed with me, cried with me, kept me grounded. Each one is a good gift sent from the Father above.

No woman is an island.

No woman is meant to be all alone.

Stop.

My journey to faith. (15)

I have to include a video of this gorgeous song. From the 25th anniversary concert.

In the Middle of the Bitter

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

Day 3,956 of thrush.

Okay, okay. It just feels like it’s been that long.

I’m trying to put into practice the things I’ve learned over the last year. When I feel weary physically, it’s not long before I feel weary mentally and emotionally. If I let that go on, it’s a short trip down a very dark hole. I can’t pull myself out of it. No amount of positive talk or self-love or whatever other pop psychology phrase you want to apply works. I have to turn to the Lord.

Let me tell you something: It works. Every time.

Oh, the illness doesn’t magically disappear. The sadness doesn’t evaporate forever. At this point, God has allowed the struggle. I don’t know why. I’d rather not be engaged with this. I would love a body that functions correctly. I would love to have an unclouded mind and heart. But – honestly – if it takes pain to keep me close to the Lord, then so be it.

I’m sure that sounds insane, especially if you happen to be reading this and you don’t have faith in Christ. I don’t know if I can rightly explain it. I know myself. I know how independent and self-reliant I try to be. I know how arrogant I can get. I also know that God brings the proud low. I know that He works to reveal our need for Him.

While I believe that my illnesses, physical and otherwise, are the consequences of the Curse, I also believe that God uses these things as tools to bring about a change in me. His plan is that His children grow into the likeness of Jesus (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). Jesus modeled a love for spending time with the Father during His ministry. He gave us a deep example of depending upon Him.

So if I’m too much of a spiritual idiot to figure out how to do this on my own (and trust me, I am)…then, by all means. Use this sickness and frustration and isolation and exhaustion for Your glory and my good, Lord God.

Again, I know that sounds insane. It might also sound like I’m some sort of falsely pious, fakey McFakerstein. But this is no platitude I mouth. This is no slick piece of propaganda, no bait-and-switch. I really don’t think I would have a growing relationship with God without this undeniable weakness.

There have been many, many moments when I’ve raised my figurative fist to the heavens and ranted at God. I’ve thrown fits and occasionally thrown things. Bad blood tests hit me like a brick wall, needles leave me bruised, finances are tight when I can’t make it to work, there’s always the “what next?” question looming on the horizon. I am not perfect and I do not have this faith thing down.

But as I learn to turn to God, there is a real sweetness in the middle of the bitter.

Keith Green says it better than I can. (Just started listening to his music today. I don’t know where this has been my whole life):

Let God do His work in you, my friend. Look for the light in the dark, the peace in the storm, the sigh in the scream.

Watch for it.

Hope for it.

Cling to Him.

My journey to faith. (15)