Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Of Anxiety Attacks and Striving

In the moments before I found myself literally lying on the kitchen floor, water still running in the sink and my oldest shouting for his dad, I remember agitation.

The day has been good but so stressful, the chaos of dinner and dishes coupled with relentless humidity. Those kids, they weren't listening. I was so tired of them not freakin' listening that I yelled loud even though the windows were open and the neighbors could surely hear. Like a drill sergeant, shouting out commands, my kids scattering. And then, that breathless feeling. A pulse, then crushing pain shooting up my neck. The dizzy off balance sway, the heartbeat hammering and finally my legs turning to jelly. The pan I had been scrubbing slipped from my hands and I grasped nothing but suds.

Oh no. Oh no. Help. The words slipped out like a whisper and the floor met me. 

He found me face down on the kitchen floor in a puddle of tears, gasping like a fish out of water. 

It isn't the first time anxiety has claimed me as a victim. Not the first time my life has overwhelmed me to the point of physical symptoms. Once we took a few deep breaths and confirmed all was well, after I drank a glass of water and sat quietly on the couch for a bit, I found my way back. Finishing up the dishes, I considered. What is this worth? 

The striving. The constant doing. The rushing and the stress. All of the things I invited upon myself until I could literally take no more. What are they worth? 

See, when you shoulder your own burdens they can pull you right down in front of your kids. When you hold all the fear and stress, when you convince yourself "I've got this" despite signs and signals to stop, you're heading for disaster. 

I've been thinking a lot about God's provision lately, and I'm realizing that believing on that is the antidote to striving. What if instead of worrying about 

Kids, finances, trips, marriage, dishes, cleaning, horrors on the news

I claimed His provision over those things instead? What if my choked off cry for help happened before disaster struck?

Sometimes a little reminder that motherhood does not equal omnipotence is warranted. Sometimes we just keep rushing and churning and pushing and burning. That kind of overuse of a simple human can land you in an emergency room - or worse. Becoming a Mother does not turn you into some sort of goddess without basic human needs. We forget that because we get so good at living on the brink, edging just a little bit closer with every additional thing we take on - until one little nudge is all it takes to send us toppling straight down.

Dear Mamas, do not forget to love you. Do not forget to mother yourself. Do not get so caught up in striving to ensure everyone else in your family comfortable and nurtured and well rested and fed that you forget all about yourself.

You are not God. It's not all up to you. There's a certain sort of pride we enjoy, a certain bit of honor that we like the feel of. When our kids are matching and neat in the church pew. When our husbands come home to a clean calm home with supper waiting. When we lose the last bit of baby weight. As is often the case, there is nothing wrong with any of those things on their own. Indeed, they can be a wonderful expression of a life full of grace, happiness, hard work and love. But if you're pushing yourself to accomplish these things to the point where your very mental, physical and emotional health is being put at risk, you are crossing a line.

A line of spiritual significance.

When I strive at any cost, I place stress, anxiety and fear on a pedestal - and knock the truth of God's provision, mercy and grace to the floor.

When I refuse the gift of rest, I say "No" to God's plan for me.

When I push myself beyond reasonable limits, I am guilty of using someone made in God's image to bolster my pride.

When I allow myself to become the whipping boy for guilt and shame and mistakes and false starts, I refuse to acknowledge the life Christ died to give me - the gift of a clean slate and a burdenless soul.

Not all anxiety comes from stress. Not all exhaustion comes from lack of sleep. Not every problem can be solved by being more gentle with yourself.

But when I start there, really look at how I've been treating myself, I can see much to repent of. Many ways I could be more gentle with myself. Most of all, I see someone who God loves with a depth I cannot begin to comprehend. Someone I need to treat with every bit of charity, grace and love that I possess.

Mothers are people too.

Treat yourself like someone God loves, and hand him all the rest.

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