A friend sent me an email yesterday with the simple question, “How are you?” and I realized my honest answer to that question was, Hmmm. I don’t know!
A busy week with lots of errands and appointments and projects kept me well occupied. But as I lay in bed last night, thinking over what I wanted to share with you today, I realized some of that busyness has masked an underlying anxiety. The more I kept myself occupied, the less I noticed it. But as I lay in bed last night in the stillness, that anxiety gurgled and punched its way to the surface.
I’ve been telling you about this animal creature that’s cropped up in my prayer life lately. It’s a strange-looking creature — half mole, actually, and with a long, thick body — and I’ve known from the start that it was an image of myself in my current healing journey. I’ve watched that creature progress from cowering alone in a corner to connecting in meaningful ways out in the open with Jesus. Of late, it has taken to resting in the arms of Jesus.
But last night, as I entered the image of that animal creature again, I saw it moving back and forth at the feet of Jesus in a state of restlessness. Of anxiety.
What was that anxiety about?
In my therapy work the last few months, I’ve been coming to see that I have a very strong denial muscle. The incident that took me back into therapy in the first place several months ago concerns an even that happened about 19 years ago. It’s taken me 19 years to see that event for what it really is. Denial has been strong.
And then there’s other places I’ve come to see denial at work — the way it can take years for me to realize anything’s wrong in a relationship, the way I keep plugging, denying any hard truths I might feel, believing myself capable of handling more than I really can, giving credit where credit may not, in fact, be due.
Denial is strong in me sometimes.
And so, right now, I am learning how to see what’s really true and to let myself voice that truth. When it comes to situations or even my own feelings, I’m finding this really hard. As I edge closer to breaking that pattern, especially in certain contexts, the anxiety starts up. I feel my heart race and my breath grow short.
This work has everything to do with beginning to believe my real thoughts and feelings are legitimate. It has to do with learning my voice is equal. It has to do with learning it’s okay to have needs and to ask something of the people in relationship with me.
This is hard work, and it’s scary. But I know it’s the most important work right now. I know it’s the essential growing edge.
Thankfully, the image of this animal creature in the presence of Jesus continues to be a saving grace. I see the way Jesus looks at me, pitiful animal creature that I am, and I start to believe I matter. I see the way he keeps his attention on me and doesn’t look away. I see the way he lets me do and say whatever I need to do and say. I see the way he wants to hear my truth. I experience the way he never pressures me. I feel him never shame me.
Are there ways you, too, are learning to be with what’s true right now?