Anxiety, my old friend.

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I rub my eyes and blink around the room. The stillness of the morning engulfs me and I sip my coffee nervously. It’s happened again.

My mind can barely can do the very thing it’s gotten up to do–pray. Just six hours earlier, I fell asleep restless and jumpy, the sort of half-commitment you make to shut your brain off and go to sleep when you’re anxious.

Anxiety. I could feel the beast purring next to me as I tried to formulate coherent thoughts.

But I can’t pray– I’ve subconsciously made the decision to fix all my problems before bringing them before God. Anxiety hums on happily beside me.

I’ve found myself fighting and feeding the beast of anxiety almost daily this past year. He’s a natural companion to shifts in stability, change and the dawn of something new. My life has been full of newness this year. Good new, wonderful new, the best– yet vulnerable to the batting, tormenting paws of Anxiety.

I scan the pages of my Bible as more of a formality this morning. Unable to quiet my thoughts long enough to even utter one prayer under my breath.

Out the window morning sun dances through, warming as it falls on my legs and arms. Birds chirp on, unaware of the battle for serenity raging inside me.

My eyes flit back to the page and catch these words: “To you, O LORD, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.”

Pit. Pit resonates. I read on.

“Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I left up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.”

I follow this litany of pleas until the Psalmist takes a turn for the schizophrenic. This can’t be the same Psalm, I scan back down the page. But it is.

“Blessed be the LORD! for he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”

I’m shocked. Anxiety stops its steady roar and looks up at me in alarm.

The Psalmist praises God for answering his prayer– in the same breath as asking him to hear it. I’m shocked and yet it makes sense. It challengs everything I profess to be true. If I really believe God is everything he says he is, then of course it makes sense to transition straight into praise. The birds outside chirp on cheerfully.

He has heard my prayer. He has inclined his ear. He has already provided a way. I need only trust. I could feel the challenge swell in my heart, could I praise God in faith for answered prayer before it’s answered?

Anxiety and I look at each other. He is fading before my eyes. My heart takes a timid step toward courage.

Isn’t this the definition of complete faith in a God who professes to be wholly faithful?

Obedience to step out in faith seems unattainable. And yet, it’s okay to step out completely terrified,  hopeful.

So this morning, I finished my coffee and stepped out into today.

Praise him for all that’s yet to come.

Taxi cabs, Ginny and marriage counseling



He’s an unusual counselor. Unlike the polished Dr. Phil, his greasy hair is slicked back over his balding head and comes down just above his shoulders. Instead of an office with a couch, he has a taxi cab— and I’m in it.

“What brings you to New York?” his loud and rough voice makes the question feel intrusive, I feel compelled to reply.

“I was visiting my fiancé,” I respond noncommittally. After bidding a weepy “good-bye” to my husband-to-be I’m not feeling conversational, yet he persists.

“Ahh… so it’s a long distance relationship,” he states knowingly. Something reassuring in his tone makes me look over at him. Most of all I can see is his tattoo covered arms peeking out beneath a filthy white shirt.

I wait and he continues, “You know, I’ve been married 42 years now, and I tell ya’! Relationships are hard.”

I’m impressed. 42 years is a long time. I say so.

“Yeah I met Ginny when we was 18. Married ‘er before heading out to Vietnam. We spent a few nights together in a hotel and then I left the country. When I returned I was a goddam husband and father!”

That’s an adjustment!” I forget about my tears for a bit.

“Yup, I came home from war to see my first child be born and then headed back to Vietnam right after! When I came back I became a cop and Ginny (that’s short for “Virginia”, but I never her call her that, unless I’m mad a’course!) became a school teacher. We had three kids, and they’re damn good kids too. Got six grandbabies now! Yeah it’s all a bit of a white-picket-fence story…”

“Most people don’t make it that long. Honestly, some of my friends have told me they don’t believe in marriage anymore. That I’m too young,” I confide in him.

“That’s because they don’ even try!” he slaps his hand down on the wheel. “If I could tell kids anything about marriage these days I’d say you gotta talk it out. Whatever it is, however you feel, just sit down and talk about it. After 42 years I’ve learned to come into those conversations saying ‘What can I do for you baby?’ When she says ‘jump’ I jump! That woman knows me better than any human being alive. She knows my likes and dislikes, my fears– she’s my goddam best friend.”

I listen, and he continues.

“I give her a hard time and tell her she’s a pain sometimes, but she knows I don’ mean it. I love that woman. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her. But you know, we came from a different generation, where when you married someone, you stayed married no matter what! People just don’t think like that these days.”

I agreed with him, relationships are no walk in the park. Just that weekend, my fiancé and I had bickered over how to get to Central Park; who was being less helpful navigating our way around the New York; he had scolded me (rightfully!) for being whiny; I had been cross and irritated; he was difficult; and we were short with each other a random points throughout the week.

And yet despite it all, the day we said “goodbye” I struggled to hold back tears and dug my fingernails possessively into his arm as if somehow that would keep us longer in our last few moments together.

Increasingly, our times together are a glorious cocktail of love and elation mixed with raw vulnerability and the worst sides of our characters…

“It’s about give and take!” My thoughts are interrupted by another slap on the steering wheel. He pushes his stringy hair from his face. “People think they gotta give nothing! But it’s not like that. I take my wife shoppin’. And I don’ complain, whine or hurry her along. I just go with her. And she comes with me to my football and baseball games– I know she don’ wanna!”

I am all ears now.

“But ya’ know what? That’s what relationships are about. Asking yourself what you can give, not what can ya get?”

It strikes me Jesus says similar things about marriage, and love in general. Did not he himself do this very thing? Gave up his own rights to tend to our desperate need for a Savior? Isn’t that the very definition of love: to lay oneself down for the ultimate good of the other? Maybe the more we learn to give up our selfish pride and abandon our “right” to happiness in pursuit of Jesus, the more joy we encounter in the loss.

“She’s stubborn and strong-willed like me,” he continues. “But mostly she’s just wonderful and loving. Marriage is a wonderful institution.”

It’s no wonder God uses marriage as a way to teach us the painful surrender of ourselves. There’s a beauty in the pain that ultimately harvests joy and a deeper appreciation for this person you’ve stuck through life and hell with.

I play with my engagement ring thoughtfully and smile.

We arrive at Newark. I’m sorry to leave this marriage counseling session, but happy to have had it.

I realize now I don’t know his name. The whole conversation he never mentioned it– though he mentioned Ginny’s non-stop. Perhaps that’s the biggest wonder of all, that we lose our desperate need to make ourselves known altogether. There is rest in making much of the One who fully knows and loves us and spares no cost to claim us.

"Good feeling" addicts anonymous

gfaa Normally I don't write the title of the blog before I write it. Usually a title comes to me towards the end. But today I know what I want to write about.

Recently I went to Cru's Life Options conference in Minneapolis. It's a conference for upper classmen designed to help them discern God's will post-college. Our speaker was Roger Hershey and the last day of the conference he offered to have breakfast for anyone who wanted to get up early and join him. So I and a few other students went and got to ask him questions directly. One thing that he said that morning (and throughout the conference) is that my feelings are not God.

I have two things to say in this blog. This is the first: as an extremely feeling-based person, this has been hard for me to wrestle with. I have been guilty of saying things like "Well I just don't feel peace about it" or "I feel like God is telling me...."

Last year I realized something, that most of the time when I made statements or claims like that, it often had more to do with what I personally felt about a situation than some voice from heaven dictating how I should feel about it.

Now before I go on let me say this: are feelings legitimate. I believe that we were created with them. And because we were created in the image of God, I believe that God has feelings too. They are good and they are God-given.

But my problem is that I place too much stock in my feelings. Often in my life they have acted as the voice of God, guiding me, making decisions and telling me what to do. And while I believe that God shapes our desires and feelings about things we encounter in life, ultimately they are not him. They can be truth, but they can also be false. (The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?- Jeremiah 17:9)

To be perfectly honest this has thrown my personal faith for a loop. I rely so heavily on feelings in my relationship with Jesus, in my quiet times with him, when I pray, worship to music, write-- everything! And in some ways I think this just how God created me. This semester I have wrestled with my feelings-based faith a lot. It has caused a lot of doubt to creep into my mind. It has caused me to despair because I know nothing else. But God has been faithful to lovingly lead me through.

The second thing I am learning about feelings is something Hershey said at breakfast that morning: I am good-feelings addict. I chase them, pursue them and when I don't have them, I assume something is wrong with my faith, my relationships life (paraphrased). The reality is that God doesn't promise us that we will always "feel good" about the things we encounter in life. We won't always be on top of Mount Sinai.

Sometimes, we can start to pursue and worship the way God makes us feel, rather than God-himself.

So some of you feel-y people may be relating to this post a lot and feel trapped. I know I certainly have wrestled with feeling lost in how to navigate through what feelings are God-given, what are my own and what are some sanctifying mixture of the two. Let me tell you how I have been dealing with these things and maybe it will help you too.

Compare your feelings with the truths revealed in God's Word. 

Sometimes the things we feel are clearly wrong (lust, pride, conceit) and we can find Biblical evidence to back that up. But I believe that we can use the Bible to guide the rest of our less-clear feelings too. For me a big one has been what I "feel" like I should do with my future. Well, I know what God's will is for those who believe in him (Matthew 28:16-20), I know how he feels about me ("...for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God." - John 16:27) and I know how he wants me to feel about other people ("You shall love your neighbor as yourself. - Matthew 22:39).

The Bible says a lot about how we should feel in certain circumstances. If you are like me (a sinner and constantly not feeling what I should...) there is hope for that too.

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."-Romans 8:26-27

One verse that I love because it shows that God understands that most of the time we are afraid, cowardly and unable to do his will without the Spirit pioneering for us is in Joshua. My dear friend Corinne wrote this one out for me before I left for Seattle this summer and God has brought it to my mind consistently since then.

"Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” -Joshua 1:6-9

So whatever you feel today (I know I personally feel cozy since I am at Indie Coffee), know that there is a God who is bigger than your feelings and desires for you to feel things deeply as you live your life for him.