God is a safe place to hide,
ready to help when we need him.
We stand fearless at the cliff-edge of doom,
courageous in seastorm and earthquake,
Before the rush and roar of oceans,
the tremors that shift mountains.
Psalm 46: 1-3
My four-year-old is a great swimmer. He knows to stay by the number three. So when he jumps in, he can either swim, or put his feet down and walk back to the steps.
But sometimes, he forgets.
Just like the dog in this video forgot he could stand, too:
Last week when we were swimming, it was me with both of the kids. I tended to little sister, when my son jumped in and panicked. The terrified look in his eyes, screamed, “Save me, Mama!”
But I couldn’t. I had Cara, two years younger than her older brother.
I reminded him to either swim back to the steps or put his feet down, because he could touch. Thankfully, he followed directions, put his feet down, realized he could touch, and immediately calmed down. He resumed playing with pool toys and having a great time.
Anxiety often feels like the deep end of the pool, and I feel like a brand-new swimmer. In the moment, I forget my options — a place to set my feet — and my current emotional state isn’t a death sentence.
When my self-doubt suffocates me, I ask God to remind me of what He thinks of me. By inviting God into my shame storm, He almost immediately neutralizes my fear. I may not start thinking positive, happy thoughts right away, but at least I am not on my own in the middle of uncertainty and pain.
Another way I ground myself is simple breathing techniques. When I feel as if I’m caught up in a whirlwind, I do my best to focus only on my breath for a few moments. Deep, slow breaths. Count to four as I inhale, hold it for four seconds, and exhale on a four-count. Simple and effective.
When someone passes me in the hallway at work, someone I am in relationship with, who can be trusted, and they ask how I am doing, I tell the truth. I don’t have to give a pat church answer, “Too blessed to be stressed,” or “Blessed and highly favored,” or the real Southern charmer, “Fine as frog hair split two ways.” If I am not fine, I tell the truth and ask for a hug or a prayer.
It took me a long time to learn this:
My anxiety doesn’t decrease the authenticity of my faith.
It’s not one or the other. It is both/and. Yes, I am still surrounded by water, but I continue to ask God to show me His ways, remembering He walks upon the waves.
Being a person of faith is a balancing act. When anxiety constricts around my neck or the warm wash of shame pours over me, I cannot ignore it. I am an emotional being. I feel things. Sometimes I even feel hopeless. But the balance, remembering the Truth says I am not without Hope.
The scary spot is when you feel like you cannot get out of the pool. Like you are literally drowning. That’s when you have to reach out, reach up and ask for help. When you can no longer encourage yourself, you’ve got to speak to the One who calms the seas. You’ve got to listen to others who have been there, done that, and gained some hard-won wisdom.
Just like my little boy, when I think I am drowning, instead of gasping and grasping for help, sometimes the bravest thing I do is put my feet on the ground.My anxiety doesn't decrease the authenticity of my faith.Click To Tweet
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