Well, things around here are getting interesting. My stress levels are soaring and my mental health is deteriorating, as evidenced by the following recent text message to my friend Jen:
I wasn’t jiving, either. I was so wound up that a run/jog/stomping gallop sounded like a legitimate stress reduction option, and this is so completely out of my normal response to things that I was afraid of myself.
I scared myself. Some of you may remember a post from earlier this year about how I jogged for a few minutes and thought the Lord himself was going to have to arrive on a white horse to carry my carcass away– that’s how running usually goes for me.
Here’s the thing. We’re deep into this moving situation, a situation I basically created for myself. No one else in this family can take the credit for stalking houses online for years. No one else was determined to create more financial margin. Nobody cared one whit about these things, so I only have myself to blame.
But somehow in my moving fantasies I forgot about moving realities. I conveniently disremembered things like dealing with mortgage paperwork and making sure we’re communicating everything clearly and honestly with a buyer (through two separate real estate agents, mind you. It’s not like I can call this guy and chat for hours.)
Now I’m having panic attacks about all sorts of things and then I remember that I have literally written a book about stress and I wheeze, “God, you are super funny with all your ironic life situations,” and I try to take a full breath.
Tonight I came across a powerful section in Control Girl, by Shannon Popkin. She was relating a story about a time when she had been on her way to speak to a group of women when she became convicted that she was sinning in the exact area she was about to teach on. She repented through tears, right there in the car, and this is what she writes:
I would far rather approach a group of ladies with patched makeup and a contrite spirit than with a false sense that the lesson is not for me. It’s always for me (p. 176).
This is why her book speaks so deeply to me– I know she has lived the struggle and she continues to live the struggle. I could list other favorite authors right now (Emily P. Freeman, Leanna Tankersley, Myquillin Smith, Amber Haines, Sophie Hudson) and all of them have this one thing in common– they’ve lived the struggle and they keep living it.
It keeps them humble. It makes their teaching accessible. God works through their brokenness, and we benefit from a kinder, gentler, humbler version of each of them.
Part of me wants to push this away. If I’ve written a book on stress, then most likely I should have conquered stress, right? What right do I have to speak on a topic when it’s still a daily struggle?
Paul’s words ring true for me:
So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness. So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me (2 Corinthians 12:7-9, NLT).
This continual battle with stress and anxiety is driving me to God in prayer. I’m seeking him on a hourly basis as I recognize my frail humanity over and over again, all day long.
Writing a book on stress hasn’t made me some sort of expert who floats above the mortal world– it’s dragged me right through the thick of it. I pray you, my beloved reader, will benefit.
But even more, I pray that you’ll be encouraged about your own weaknesses. Do you feel like they’re keeping you from ministry? Do you feel like you’ll have something to give or teach only after you get your life together?
Perish the thought, my friend. Join us right here in the mess of life. We need your determination to seek God in all things far more than we need your perfection.
Also, I think perfect people tend to run a lot, and we all know how I feel about running…