I took my daughter to see Sleeping Beauty at the Opéra Bastille on Saturday night. I had reserved the tickets weeks ago, knowing that it’s a good thing to take your daughter to see the ballet and spend quality time together. It’s a good thing to take advantage of all that Paris has to offer. Plus I have this (very challenging because it means I need to leave my house) section on my blog about France and I need to find things to talk about.
As I suspected would be the case, I was extremely anxious at the thought of going. I would be driving into Paris, would need to find a place to park, and I was the only grown-up on the trip, which meant I was 100% responsible. I took a tiny white pill (prescription) to turn the crippling anxiety into something more normal. It worked, but I was still seized with panic every so often, even when there was nothing to provoke it.
It wasn’t the taxi coming straight at me at breakneck speed in the madhouse that constitutes the roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe that caused my heart to beat wildly. No, it was the thought that I might get stuck in traffic and have to go to the bathroom. That.
My anxiety is not based on logic, and logical reasoning does nothing to alleviate it.
The trip was a success and I’ll write more about it on a “France” posting day. I actually have 2 other French posts on queue because things keep cropping up to push them back. And this Thursday I’ll be co-hosting an Old School Blogging linkup with Elaine, so the French stuff will have to wait until next week.
But the trip into Paris was not the only source of my anxiety. Today everything starts up again. My husband is busy and back at work, my kids are back in school, I start teaching again, the children’s activities start up again . . . I was really enjoying not having all the extra chaos during the holidays. I’m anxious because I have to start leaving the house again.
And all the good efforts from our fast were sort of wiped away by the holidays. I keep meaning to continue putting some of the good things into practice, but when I get stressed out – and a morning where I have to walk the dog, run errands and bring cupcakes to school for my son’s birthday, plan an English lesson, and get caught up online, all of which constitutes a stressful day for me – I don’t want to be reasonable with food.
I think it’s my own general feelings of sadness and worry – mainly from my habitual lack of discipline and fear of failure – which are projected on to others when they suffer too. It’s like I’m convinced that everything and everyone is under a grey cloud with no hope in sight.
And right now I have quite a few friends who are suffering. Without giving any specifics, they are suffering from blows to their loved ones, to their own lives, to their livelihoods, to their lodgings. There is everything at stake, and it’s so hard to watch and know that there’s nothing I can do.
“God, how can you sit there idly and not lift a finger to help them? Can you not see them suffering?” I demand of God. But the only sounds I hear are my feet crunching on the pavement, the dog rustling in the leaves, birds cooing in the bushes. God is silent, but he can handle my reproach.
And then I remember the Scripture in Matthew 25:24-27
“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?
This Scripture? It rebukes me.
No, my God does not sit idly by while people suffer. He knows what they’re going through and he knows what he’s asking of them. He’s working in ways I cannot even see. Mine is not a hard God, harvesting where he has not sown and gathering where he has not scattered seed.
I stop accusing him. I can handle his reproach as well.
I am afraid all of the time. I will force myself to do things and to conquer things, but I live in a constant state of fear. The only time I’m not afraid is when I have my whole family under my roof and we don’t have to go anywhere – or when we’re all involved in our routine. But the fear? I’m afraid of bad things happening in my own life and in my precious inner circle; and I am afraid of bad things happening to those I love. Suffering in this world is very real, which is why I’m afraid.
But as pain is real, so is God’s love:
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)
When I’m afraid, it’s because I feel like I deserve to be punished. I deserve to have all the bad things happen. I forget that the punishment was already meted out. It was Jesus who drank the cup of God’s wrath. He was able to handle what I could not, and it’s in strength and complete confidence in a good God that Jesus turns to us and says,
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31)
I need to hear these words. I am made in such a way that I am deeply sensitive to the hurts in other people’s lives. I am also made in such a way that anxiety, fear and depression can completely cripple me. That’s who I am – who I’ve always been. But I don’t have to live in a state of fear because God has absolutely everything under control. Even the very hairs on my head are numbered, and even the sparrows live until God says otherwise.
And I am worth more than many sparrows.
I recognise the hardships around me. I see what some of my friends are going through. And I see the battles that loom ahead of me in the new year, even if they are easier to bear right now than for some others. They’re still my battles.
I see all these things . . . but I won’t be afraid.
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.
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