Recently I had the most exciting morning. As some of you know, I have now started my coursework for my Doctor of Ministry at Fuller Seminary. I enjoyed every minute of my first morning - reading articles, listening to lectures, all at my own pace. Until I turned in my first assignment.
I wasn't worried about the content for the assignment - it was more or less just a chance to share your thoughts coming into the course. But suddenly anxiety was building in me. After a lovely "first day of school" morning, I spent my last few minutes before I closed up my laptop going quickly into anxiety. I called my mom on the way home and almost started to cry. I recognize it wasn't the coursework (oh my gosh! so much fun! learning so much already!) - it was the past.
Suddenly I was back in places from my past that had created this anxiety. A place that very often left me feeling empty and discouraged. A place that told me I wasn't good enough, where I always felt defensive or the very real need to advocate for myself or others. A place that took some of the best of me and made me feel like the worst of me.
Grief comes in many forms. When we don't explore it with caution, respect, and growth (and even sometimes when we do), it can come back to bite us. We can't spend our lives holding the beach ball down to keep it from always popping us in our faces. Eventually we have to find ways to let it go, even if it hits us squarely or manages to float away.
All the openness of my new class, where I am encouraged to be creative, ask questions, have discussion - I realized my heart was longing for a place that honors that. I'm new - this was my first day - and just like a Kindergartner I don't know anyone, I am looking for a friendly face, I'm feeling a little shy. Those are all healthy and appropriate ways to feel on the first day of school. Feeling like you are unexpectedly pushed down the anxiety waterslide is not.
So, I look hard and see it for what it is. It is just the past. My fear has every reason to surface - is it trying to protect me. If I can gently say to it, "I see you. Thanks for reminding me that sometimes things don't feel safe. I know you'll be there if I need you, and I'll listen with my gut to you when I have a reason to do so. Until then, you aren't needed here."
And I count gratitude. For this opportunity. For friends and a mom who listens. For the chance to start again. For patience with myself. For the desire to learn more.
Whatever is causing you anxiety and fear today - may you be surrounded by friends, gifted with courage, filled with love, and anxious to try again. Amen.
“I survived because the fire that burned inside of me burned brighter than the fire around me.” - Unknown
“You wake up every morning to fight the same demons that left you so tired the night before, and that, my love, is bravery.” – Unknown