I’ve always been someone to think too much about things. I cried for hours when I had to choose between participating in cross-country and marching band in high school. I broke up with Cody once because I just couldn’t decide if I wanted to be single or be in a relationship. It takes me forever to decide if I want a hot or a cold drink at Starbucks.
You can imagine what it’s like to go shopping with me.
I didn’t struggle with real anxiety, however, until college. It slowly morphed into anxiety attacks…chest hurting, throatsqueezing, can’t-get-away-from-it kind of panic. And it was over fairly normal things…choosing a class schedule (did I want to be done early? Start late? Have class Fridays?), choosing a major, or choosing a place to live. These are normal stressors for an early twenty-something but no cause for alarm. Since I’m a pretty spiritual person, my first instinct was to pray about it. And when it still didn’t go away, I’d pray more. And if it still didn’t go away, well, then I just didn’t have enough faith.
Fast forward to now. I’m a little older, a little wiser. I’ve spoken with my doctor about some of my anxiety issues and have somewhat ironed out a bit of a plan. But since having kids, it comes and goes more often. I know this is pretty common, not just for moms but for parents in general. There’s always a certain level of anxiety that comes with your kid trying new things (monkey bars, anyone?), first few days of school (watching closely for fevers or icky tummies, asking if they made new friends, were there any bullies), long car trips (carsick), doctors visits, swimming in the deep end for the first time, and the list never ends. Keeping my anxiety in check with very small kids is sometimes a challenge (anyone out there with me?).
Then a few weeks ago, all hell seemed to break loose around the world. ISIS. Ebola. War. Rumors of war. On and on and on. I had to stop watching the news because when I hear stories like that, I don’t think of them as a whole. I think of them through the eyes of a mother. And the thought that my kid could just as easily be subjected to anything that happens to anyone else is nearly to much to bear. I tried to pray anytime I thought about those things and felt fear inside. I tried to understand why God would let these things happen. I wanted to know how I could trust God to provide for my every need, which the bible tells me to do, yet these people clearly could not. Because God DID NOT. Or at least He didn’t seem to.
This is my biggest crisis of faith. Sometimes I can forget about it, but it’s been stirred up again recently. I’m not sure I’ll ever fully have my answer. I cannot wrap my mind around what I see and hear in this world, and what I’ve been told all my life…trust God.
So I began reading a book called, “God on Mute: Engaging the Silence of Unanswered Prayer” by Pete Greig. I highly recommend it. If you’ve ever wondered what I’ve wondered two paragraphs above, you need to read it.
This particular quote describes me exactly:
“What happened to those normal, excited parents who were expecting the imminent arrival of their second child? Life no longer felt safe. In fact, it felt dangerous. How do you relax once you discover that the human body is a time bomb waiting to explode? Slowly, it was dawning on me that, in my early thirties, I would never again feel immune or immortal or invincible – which is to say that I would never again feel young.”
Ah. There it is. I’ll never again know what it feels like to NOT KNOW the kind of terrible things that happen in this world. I watch my girl play, and she has no clue. The world is a beautiful place designed for her every whim and playful pleasure. She has that peaceful feeling every day and snuggles up in her blankets at night, asleep in peace. But how do we get it as adults when we know how bad things can go and how fast it can happen?
Well, I have no answers for you. But I will tell you something Heidi said I will never forget. One night I was putting her to bed. We read a book, a bible story and said our prayers. As I left, we blew kisses back and forth (this takes a while because its like a game…how many kisses can we both throw and catch? I try to walk down the hallway and she keeps blowing kisses and then I feel bad so I go back and by the time you know it, like like 9pm! Smart girl! Ha).
I told her to have good dreams (poor thing gets night terrors). And she said, “And I won’t be scared, mom, know why? ‘Cause Jesus is big and He is right here in my heart.”
It was such a sweet moment, but also very telling. She didn’t say Jesus would keep the bad dreams away. She said Jesus was right there with her. No matter what happened.
Maybe that’s something we would do well do understand. Jesus said to have faith like a child. And while I feel like my faith just gets weaker as I get older, maybe God’s just trying to get me to have a different kind of faith. One that trusts in who I am, where I’ve been placed, and how close God really is to me at all times…and how I can use all that to bless others.
Since God tells us to be like children, I decided to watch Heidi and follow suit. When I get stressed, I do what she does. I try to remember how God made me and I just do that. He made me to love the outdoors, love movement, love my family. So I decided to fill myself up that way. I go for long, lazy runs just to feel myself move, regardless of staying fit, losing weight, etc. Sometimes I need to open a window at night to feel small again, to feel connected to the sky. Hear the crickets, smell the breeze, and not feel like I am cut off from the world in my little house. Sometimes I need to take in a big blue sky…or a sunrise or sunset. Sometimes I need to scan a towering tree line, watching the tops sway. I need good books, particularly real life ones about noble people, reading not only about their heroic deeds but about their every day triumphs and failures and quirks. Sometimes I need to just look at the faces of those I love. Put the phone down and really look at their eyes, their smiles, and notice what makes them happy. Sometimes I need to open the windows when I’m driving, even if it’s cold. I need to create things, surprise people, and get back in touch with things that stir me.
I truly think if we do more of the things that bring us joy, we can trust that our true selves will be resurrected and so will our faith. If we focus more on the things that go right…the things that are beautiful and awesome and that bless us, we might fare a little better. Focus on why we are here, the work God has made just for us. Yes, there’s lots that can go wrong. Lots that goes wrong every single day. But if we sit and stare at those things, and if we sit and try to dissect how this could all possibly happen, then fear begins to drive us. At least it can drive me anyways.
I think that’s why God left us with this:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” ~Philippians 4:8-9
So make like a child and trust…it’s all gonna be ok. (Easier said than done, of course…)
“The revelation of God’s love—the tears in His eyes—may not solve any of our intellectual questions about why He leaves a particular prayer unanswered. But it does touch an emotional need within us that is perhaps even deeper than an intellectual one: the need to know that what we are going through and the way we are feeling matters; the need to know that our requests have been heard; the need to know that God—in whom we have placed all our hope—is near and truly cares.”
-Pete Grieg, God On Mute
Alright. Enough deep stuff. Next week it’s back to our regularly scheduled “my kids are whack” blog posts.