Thursday, April 24, 2014

Please Hold My Hand

    I've heard it so many times. Self-esteem is wicked, because don't you know your heart is desperately wicked.
    Don't trust yourself. Don't you dare.
    So whom do I trust when God is silent? And how can I be certain if God speaks, anyway? Because what if it's just, you know, my desperately wicked heart deceiving me? How do I know?
    I fear myself.
    The solution? I know. Trust God more.
    Read the Bible more. Read to the point you obsessively make sure you know every word - if you can't define it, you have to look it up and freaking read more and more.
     Pray more. Make sure you get on your knees and repeat the Lord's Prayer, in a closed room exactly as Jesus said. (Because, taking the Bible literally). Make prayer lists that grow ever longer. Beg and scream and negotiate and sob and throw the list away.
     Soon you can't stop obsessing. Over your dilapidated spiritual state - there's aways room for growth, so keep it up! Keep seeking! Don't rest for one second!
    Over your work. In school, in lab. Something's bound to go wrong and then it's time to freak out.
    Over your relationships. School and relationships are important, you know, and how else do you show the depths of care besides worry?
    OMG are you getting fat? Why do you eat so much? You dream about your family rejecting you because you're fat and so you awake with a new sense of purpose: losing those damn pounds.
    And you can't stop. Your mind keeps finding something to fear, even when you feel a fleeting hope for peace.
    Oh God, I'm so nasty, so worthless, a tangle of insecurities and panic attacks and fear, fear, fear.
    Wait - did I just take Your name in vain???!!!
    So, whom do I trust when God is silent?
    Culture tells us we're all good people, that we should tap into self-esteem and ignore our darker thoughts. Anxiety means you're busy, like you're actually making yourself useful. If your anxiety gets too much, you're weak. Grow up and talk to a professional, because you're making me uncomfortable. And we have no time for discomfort.
     The church says you're a worthless sinner. Your anxiety is from your inherent wickedness, which keeps you from trusting God enough. Although the word "enough" was rarely, if ever, spoken (because we're not about works-based salvation, oh no), it was always implied. Trust is partially a decision, yes, but when you're overly anxious, your ability to make decisions becomes nigh impossible.
    Funny how the church is supposed to be a safe place for the weak.
    When you're caught in the claws of anxiety (don't know why I just pictured an oversized spider here), cliches like "No Jesus, no peace; know Jesus, know peace!" are more harmful than helpful.
    Funny how that classic Bible verse: "Be anxious for nothing" was written as an encouragement - like, look people of Philippi, God loves you and He's got this! - yet now it's used to condemn. Encouragement has been amputated into another commandment.
    Don't you know that anxiety is a sin? He commands it in Philippians.
    Trust God more and yourself less!
    Doing more doesn't work for me, not when performance is my number one source of stress. I'm saturated with tries. Praying and trusting become just another item on my list of stuff I'm screwing up.
     What helps me, in the end, is friends and family and a professional who listen. They don't condemn you, tell you to grow up, tell you to just choose better. They listen, they affirm your worth as a human being with feelings and thoughts, made in the image of God. They hold your hand and hug you and send you an encouraging kitten video over Facebook.
     And perhaps, the healing begins not through your own strength but through relationships.
     Funny how I've heard God's into relationships, too.


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