This post is going to be quite different than what I usually write about. It’s not going to be about running, food, or places I’ve been. It’s going to be about God. I sincerely apoligize if parts of this seem vague or totally confusing, I have these things in my mind that are so clear to me, but are difficult to articulate. I’ll do the best I can to make sense, but honestly more than anything I’m writing this for myself. If anyone can benefit from my words than that would be amazing.
I’m a christian and it really seems like maybe this is something that should come up more often than it does. I’ve been a christian pretty much my entire life and yet it’s something I rarely talk about to most people. I couldn’t exactly tell you why that is, but I think partially it’s because for me it can be very personal, especially in this case. I normally don’t like to expose that much of myself to people, I really dislike people knowing anything about me that could make me feel vulnerable and this seems to be one of those things for me. Another thing I especially don’t like to talk about are the things that scare me – my fears. I don’t generally think there are many things that I’m genuinely afraid of, I’m afraid of drowning (but I can swim), I’m afraid of falling (I rock climb and fall all the time), and various things like that. In the grand scheme of things, fears like that are fairly innocuous. However, there was a fear that I had since early in my teens. It wasn’t a fear of anything physical, but really more of a spiritual/mental/emotional thing. I won’t bother mentioning what it was because I don’t think it would make sense to most people and I also don’t think it necessarily matters. What does matter, though, is that this fear was absolutely paralyzing to me. I don’t consider myself to be overly dramatic, but just the thought of this thing could send me into an immediate panic attack, it felt crushing and suffocating. The only thing I could do was try my best to distract myself from thinking of it. Like I said this started early in my teens, I think I was maybe 13 or 14. I didn’t talk to anyone about it until I was 17 and I finally told my parents because I felt like it was going to completely break me if I didn’t at least try to do something about it. Obviously my parents said what they could to comfort me and prayed for me, but it still haunted me for years.
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you” Isiah 41:10-13
Now this wasn’t a constant things, it would wax and wane on how often it really bothered me. For days at a time it would torment me and then for several weeks I might not even think about it. Some time when I was in college, I was 19 or 20 I think, I had talked to my mom about it and somewhere between my own prayer and hers, I felt like I was freed from that fear. It was amazing, for the first time in years I didn’t feel like I was going to break down at the simple thought of something.
Then sometime in the last couple of years, though, it began to come back. It was an insidious onset (the terms used to define a lot of the pathologies I’ve studied in school and a fitting term in this case). I couldn’t tell you when or how it started again, but it was back. Again I didn’t say anything about it to anyone for a long time. Some people cope with things through support from others, I prefer to deal with things on my own, even when I really can’t handle it by myself.
This summer I hadn’t been going to church because I was too lazy to find one in Flagstaff. I also hadn’t been reading my bible very consistently and by the end of the summer I was seriously struggling. Struggling with feeling lost, ashamed, and scared. So when I got back home I was actually looking forward to being back in church. In the past couple of weeks the pastor’s sermons had really been speaking to me, things I know I was meant to hear. First there was a guest speaker/pastor who spoke about coming out of exhile, I’ve felt like I’ve been living outside of where I should be and I knew now that I was time to return to the path that God has placed me on. Then one of the things our pastor had talked about was knowing and believing that God isn’t angry at you and that we put guilt and shame on ourselves that God never intended for us to take upon ourselves. I had definitely been doing a lot of this for a long time. Like I said, I’ve basically been a christian my entire life but I feel like I’ve spent more time doing the wrong things, things that I knew I shouldn’t be doing, than time spent doing the right things. Because of that I’ve been feeling completely ashamed of who I’ve been, especially since I knew better. I was still struggling to accept that these words were really for me, though. I mean those things can apply to so many people, I thought maybe I just happened to be there and maybe God didn’t really care to speak to me specifially. Then the same day that pastor had talked about God not being angry at us I was reading a devotional that I had been going through. I had been reading a devotional by Joyce Meyer that I really liked and that night when I read it and it said the same thing the pastor had been saying, God isn’t angry with you! It was like God saying “Hey Clara, do I need to keep convincing you?” and I finally got it. I usually talk to my mom about most things, including God, and I felt like I should tell her about that experience, but for a week I didn’t. A couple of times I had thought about it, but just didn’t say anything because it seemed like an odd time or whatever it was.
The entire week and really for the last several weeks I had again been struggling with this intense fear again and just trying to cope in whatever way I could. This usually meant that I read that days devotional as fast as possible and praying for about 2 seconds before having to distract myself with facebook or twitter or something. Well last week I was in the car with my mom and sister driving home from church and we were talking about church and then I finally mentioned how things had matched up between what the pastor had preached on the last week and what I read in my devotional. Immediately after I said this my mom told me that there was a bible verse that she had read and felt like it was for me but just hadn’t told me yet. Of course this was bringing up this huge fear that I had and I started to panic. Of course my mom being the wonderful mom and woman of God that she is, continued to tell me about what God had shown her about it (for me) and prayed for me (along with my sister). By the way we were in a parking lot outside of Pizza Hut, so seriously things can happen anywhere. After that I finally felt released from this fear. This fear, this, awful torment that had a grip on my heart and mind for years felt like it had finally been shaken free. It came suddenly, but there were also steps that had to be taken to get to that point, things that God had strategically been putting together. Even when I had been thinking that maybe I was just going to be left with no hope, all along things had been falling into place to bring about that deliverance from fear.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end” Ecclesiastes 3:11
That had such an impact on me, not only did God change things in my life but it had been laid out even when I didn’t know it. It wasn’t just an afterthought that suddenly came to be, it was something that had been orchestrated prior. I will never live a perfect life, but I know that the fear that plagued me for years isn’t a part of me anymore. I know that God has a plan for my life and I also know that at times I’m going to screw it up. God won’t abandon me though and I feel like I’m finally not afraid anymore. Again, I apolize if this was confusing and made no sense, but the only way I felt like I could write this was to just let it overflow out of me, and this is what it was.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13