I’ve been struggling with anxiety attacks since the summer and it’s been dawning on me that perhaps the reason I am going through this now is because I was more of a control freak than I ever thought. I tend to be the kind of person who is really low-maintenance, I prefer staying in to going out, I’d rather talk to someone than sit next to them during a movie where no one can say anything, things like that. I always considered myself to be very mellow. However I do think with some of the damage I’ve experienced in relationships whether romantic or platonic, and just the stresses of family and life that I learned to be overly self-sufficient. To give a few examples of what I mean:
Growing up in school I remember drowning myself if homework to avoid the noise of my parents fighting. If I could immerse myself in that I could maintain an alternate focus and not be consumed with what was happening at home.
In my longest relationship (6 years) if I could keep thinking of ways to be a better girlfriend I could save myself from a breakup, he would stop cheating on me, if only I was better. If I was better this wouldn’t be happening.
At work when I am cursed at or told problems are happening with my clients and am told I must be lazy or I must not be doing enough I would try to come in earlier, stay later, work from home when I was sick, or bring work home on the weekends to reassure myself that there was nothing more I could be doing. That their negative opinions of me were just wrong because look at everything I was doing right?
I think for most of my 20’s (as I mentioned in a previous post) I have been pruned. But you know what? Maybe it wasn’t always so melodramatic. It’s true that sometimes pruning involves cutting off perfectly good growth in order to create more of a harvest, but I think if we’re honest more often than not it’s more like we’re being uncluttered from weeds that were never meant to grow around and inside of us. I actually Googled why weeds are so bad when it comes to plants and Ask.com was pretty awesome at explaining this:
Weeds affect plant growth as they compete with the plant, eventually depriving the plant of its nutrients, food and water and in some cases light. Some weeds also harbour pests and diseases, which they transmit to plants. Some types of weeds are larger than the host plants, grow faster and spread rapidly.
That’s pretty deep when you pick it apart. Weeds compete with the plant, weeds starve the plant, weeds deprive the plan of light and can also carry disease and bugs. When I think of myself as a plant this makes perfect sense. In my life where there were many hurts and feelings of inadequacy or shame I allowed the weeds to grow. When I chose to occupy my heart and mind with things that are temporary and not a reflection of my worth as a person i.e. relationships, jobs, people’s opinions of me, etc I allow my growth to be starved, I allow them to take root, and I let them control me. To take up real estate in the soil that was meant for beautiful things.
This actually reminds me of a random Facebook message I got from someone I met in college. I met this wonderful guy because he was married to my roommate’s best friend and as a couple they are an awesome reflection of a great Christian marriage. I’ve saved it ever since I got it last April. Disclaimer: if I know you and you say something personal but beautiful in my presence I can and will use it #sorrynotsorry:
I was sitting in church this morning, and you popped into my mind to pray for So I asked God for something for you, and I actually got a picture in my mind. So here it goes I got this picture of a flower. Just a single flower. I saw it was drooping, but not in that dying flower kinda way. It wasn’t from not being watered but because it was sad. It was depressed. It was beautiful, yes; as beautiful as a flower can be. I feel like maybe the best way to describe it is to a sad looking person, with shoulders hunched and stuff. You can read it all over someone’s body – it was like that with this flower; like, its shoulders were slumped (if a flower can do such a thing). …Then I asked God why the flower was sad, and He showed me that it was because the flower didn’t think it was lovely. It had looked into the mirror, and didn’t think it was beautiful enough. THEN, I saw that the mirror wasn’t a mirror at all, but all the other flowers around it. It looked for it’s beauty and worth derived from the beauty of others; and saw other flowers that were taller, more colorful, more CONFIDENT, more curvy leafy thingys, etc… the flower was beautiful, but it didn’t think it was. It wasn’t even that the other flowers were bullying up on it – it just compared itself to them, their looks, their fragrance, their beauty; and thought itself not-beautiful because it wasn’t one of them… …Then he showed me that it was all because the other flowers weren’t supposed to act as the mirror that the flower viewed itself through…It was supposed to be the GARDENER! The PLANTER! HE, was supposed to be the mirror by which the flower saw itself. He planted it for such a good reason. He thought that it was beautiful. And yes, there might have been other flowers, but they were all different than it was – but IT WAS SPECIAL!!! It was a flower set apart, designed to be different. There was ravishing beauty in the difference!! …So when that flower decided to see itself the way that the one who planted it saw it; it stood up and beamed, it reached it’s leafy arms out a basked in the sun. And oooohhh my goodness, did that make the gardener happy
I feel like – and totally tell me if this holds true, that maybe you’ve had examples of people in your life – good people even, people that you respect and look up to – that you maybe have compared yourself to, and have graded yourself as lesser than they. Whether by success in career, or looks, or personality, or popularity; I feel there’s been this pressure to have to become like them before you can blossom. Like, it was a prerequisite of fulfillment. But I just want to encourage you that if you push into God – into Daddy – that He’ll give you the standard by which you should be measuring yourself. He is sooo well pleased with you and wants to change nothing about you, your personality, and spirit is just as He designed…and any of those those ‘faults’ that popped into your head, I assure you, that THAT is not how Daddy sees you – just how you see you. He has seperated all the faults, and mistakes, and ‘bad habits’ and all your other baggage from YOU; from how He sees YOU!! The measure that He holds you to is to the tune of Jesus, having redeemed you. You are gold. You are! Gold is gold. Gold is gold before it is refined, just as much as it is after. The refining process isn’t turning coal into gold…what’s that?! That’s not refining, that’s alchemy!! You are not coal, waiting to be turned into gold!…The ALCHEMY, happened at the cross… Refining, is merely removing any and all impurity from the gold, and thus purifying it. It’s removing the dross. It’s separating that which stains you and marks who you are – from WHAT YOU REALLY ARE!!!
So yea, Daddy, thank you for Jess. Thank you for this unique, special person who you knit together and unwrapped into this young adult named Jess. God, will you continue to show her, and keep revealing to her just, how, SPECIAL she is to you. To YOU, the maker of her. The lover of her. That you would show her … haha, that’s funny, I just lost the words, and got this uber feeling of ”it’s ok, I’ll tell her. There are some things that I want to tell her that only she hears…” so I’ll leave you with that. You’re in good hands.
I mean really? Are you kidding that that amazing vision? Even re-reading that fills my eyes with tears. I think often it’s easy to think “oh no I’ve been saved my entire life” or “I’ve surrendered everything there is nothing I’ve left out” and yet I’m trying even if through gritted teeth to see this season as being not only pruned but de-weeded? Is that a word? Maybe the anxiety I’m facing is the very fact that guess what? I’m finally free. There is nothing left to pluck out. Jesus is finally allowed fully to have everything I thought was mine. Things that helped pacify me when I felt unlovely, unworthy, or unsuccessful.
Hebrews 12:1 says “let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely”. Let us allow ourselves to be unburdened even if the weeds that strangled us left us weak and in need of reviving. I pray this even now over my own life after an anxiety attack just this morning.
Jesus, just as your word says “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” – Philippians 4 (ESV) 12-13. I relinquish control, I allow you to alter what you see unhealthy in my heart and mind and delete what you see fit. Teach me to receive more and more of your peace and to trust you in all challenges no matter what I face knowing you guard my heart and mind.