Which might seem strange if you’ve talked to me in the last month, due to the fact that I rarely say that during a conversation. In fact, when I’m around people, I’m generally perfectly chipper. A great smile, shoulders held high, confident laugh.
I know. I’m great at fooling people. Unfortunately, I’m also great at fooling myself.
I’ve fooled myself so well that I don’t even know why I’ve fooled myself. Why do I want to start pitying myself for things that don’t even deserve to be pitied because they are my fault? Why do I realize that and then want to hate myself instead? Why do I try to run away from problems? Or am I trying to face them?
I don’t know.
Who am I?
I don’t know.
And that’s what scares me.
Because who I am—that’s who I have to live with right now, and two hours from now, and tomorrow, and a year from now, and a lifetime from now.
Am I the confident, happy person that shows her face to the world, or am I the black hole that swallows me when I’m alone? Am I the one who has legitimate medical anxiety issues or am I the one invents these problems for herself to get attention? Am I broken or am I my own fault?
And if I don’t know who I am… how do I know what I’m going to do? What choices I will make? How will I ever be happy or free if I live in constant fear of what might happen, of what I don’t understand?
I can’t be. And that scares me.
I have been like this for a month. Anxious. Afraid. Alone. Confused. Depressed. Asking too many questions with answers I deny, avoid, reject, fool myself into believing, or that don’t even exist.
I don’t know why this started, or how, or what’s so wrong with my life—or, worse, ME—that is making my mental, emotional, and spiritual state such a huge problem. My outward life is fine. I’m busy, I have friends, I work hard…
Before, when this whole thing started, I started having some insomnia. I lost control of something and it was scary. But something about it I want back.
And I think that is the knowledge, for sure for sure, that something was wrong. Now that I’m sleeping better… it could all just be in my head. Me, terrorizing myself. I look like I have it all in control, and maybe I do, but I feel like I don’t. Because my knowledge is gone. My power is gone.
I can’t see into the future. I can’t know what decisions I will make. Who will like me and who will hate me. I can’t see my failures. I can’t see what to do to avoid them.
But what scares me most is that right now, I don’t really, truly feel like I can see Jesus. After all, I’m still stuck in my fear. Would I be afraid if I could see Jesus’ healing hand?
Then I feel guilty. I must be doing something wrong if I can’t see Jesus. I must not be praying right. I must be avoiding the answers. I must not be reading the Bible enough or in the right places. I must be focusing on something other than him.
And I am. ME. I am focusing on ME. And I am also focusing on what I SHOULD BE DOING.
And when I’m alone and unoccupied, it swallows me. And then I’m just standing there, stuck. No distractions. No idea of what to do. No plan. No knowledge. No control.
And I wish I could be asleep so I don’t have to face me. I wish I could float on a sea of dreams that don’t matter so that no failure costs anything… so that I don’t lose anyone… so I don’t sink…
“Cast your nets into the deep.” Throw yourself into trusting God, into huge risk, into giving it all up–
But what if I lose it all?
What if I lose me?
Is God big enough to transcend losing me?
I’m scared. I’m scared that he’s not able to transcend losing me because he’s expecting me to do something. Save myself. But either I don’t know how or I am avoiding an answer that is right in front of me.
What is wrong with me in the first place?
I’m a sinner. I make mistakes. I fail. I don’t always want to do the right thing. I hurt others. I hurt myself. I give up hope. I don’t focus on God. I try to control my own life and future instead.
People seem to brush those things off so that they don’t feel guilt. They say, well, it’s okay if you don’t focus on God all the time—now that would be impossible and anyway you’d never have any FUN in your life….
Yeah, because FUN is what matters.
No, JESUS is what matters, and his FREEDOM is what matters, because fun disappears pretty quickly—it walks out, breaks, fades, molds, gets lost, or ends. Then you die. And that’s it. No more fun. No more you.
THAT is why we need Jesus. We need Jesus because otherwise—the fun ends and we die. Awesome. Great. Sounds like a plan.
I don’t think so.
We need Jesus… and then once we have Jesus, I feel like—now, I don’t know if this is truth, I don’t know WHAT is truth, but—there’s this expectation that we have to be radically changed. We shouldn’t want to sin. We should be focused on God all the time. We shouldn’t be depressed.
Believing that and then looking at myself tells me that something is wrong, because none of those statements apply to me. Not even the “radically changed”. Because I was saved when I was four and I have no idea what I was like before that. And now, getting to know Jesus better, everything sometimes just seems harder and darker and scarier. It’s like everything I do matters so much more and that scares me, and then I live in fear so that I won’t mess up.
And that seems like a bad change to me.
As soon as I started believing that everything in this world and whatever I did that affected it mattered more than—more than—I don’t even know, grace? Freedom? Jesus?—I became afraid.
And then the darkness crushed me, and I just wanted to escape, and life seemed so much easier without Jesus—but I knew if I gave him up, then I would shrivel and ultimately die.
And it seemed like the only thing I could see around me was death. Dying. Dead.
No way out.
And I like to control things. I want things to be under my control so I can dictate their timing, their effect on me and others. But this I couldn’t control. Death was out of my control. It was the final destination, and it felt like what I was living right now. A dying, shriveling heart, consumed by the black flames of fear.
And I want to know that that fire is under control. That death is under control. I want that so much so that the burden on my shoulders will disappear and I can be carefree again, like I was before growing up, before Jesus.
And that sounds horrible, but inside me that is where I am broken. Inside me, faith means fear. And that’s not Jesus’ fault.
It’s mine. And it’s the world’s.
It’s the expectation that they have set on my shoulders. You have to do enough. Be enough. All the time. Never mess up. Promise that you won’t mess up today or fifty years from now. You have to know the future; you have to know your plans; you have to know who you are so you can be free from all doubt and fear and depression…
What a load of bullcrap.
Oops. Bad words.
Failure again. What does that make me? Since I don’t know who I am and I just failed again? Well, I think it stamps my identity once more, bright red and dripping in my blood:
And I loathe failure. Thus… I loathe myself.
And I can’t loathe myself, since I am who I have to live with until I die and beyond that if I stick with Jesus (which I must and will). So, what do I do?
Stop being a failure.
And how do I do that?
Be better. That means find something to DO that makes me good. That distracts me for a little while, gives me some peace with myself.
Me. Myself. Me. Myself. Over and over and over and over, and that’s a load of BLEEPcrap too, because I’m not a failure, and I’m not good either. Because it is just plain NOT. About. Me.
And I am missing that, and I am dragging myself down, and that is what is wrong.
And then I feel like I have to do something—ANYTHING—to stop.
And IT’S NOT ABOUT ME DOING SOMETHING—ANYTHING—EITHER! Ding ding ding! You have the right answer: it’s about what Jesus did on the cross! Fantastic! Awesome! Let’s all be happy!
Ummm… is something wrong with that picture to you?
It IS about what Jesus did on the cross, and that is awesome and amazing and I am so, so thankful because otherwise I would end up dead—but right now, in this moment, I still feel dead.
Okay, and here my mind goes back to what I want, which, I think, has a certain amount of value. I want to be carefree. Like a little kid, you know? No worries, no responsibilities. Confident in who they are because they aren’t facing a future, they’re just facing this moment and they know they’re safe. Or they believe they are.
But then they see other kids die and they grow up. The burden rolls onto their back… and they accept it. Because, obviously, somebody has to be enough.
And Jesus is enough, and we know that, and we hear it all the time—but in truth, we look at the world and people still die. We still fail. We can’t save them and Jesus isn’t saving them either.
Why? Why, Jesus? How come sometimes following you—means death?
And then I go back to a question on my mind. What am I afraid of losing by following Jesus?
What I think is best for me and my future and my friends?
Things I can see and enjoy right now (since I struggle so much with not seeing Jesus)?
My “good” image?
It seems to me I can’t have both control and freedom, and I want them both: thus my heart ends up in a violent, life-or-death tug-of-war.
I want control and order. And I want freedom.
I’m afraid to lose my “perfect world”… but right now, without freedom, I’m losing myself. There is so much fear in my heart that it is becoming my identity. That it is swallowing me alive.
Because I am not trusting Jesus. Because I just don’t want to lose my dreams, my image of how things should be.
And I know that his image is different. That scares me. Because if I give up my dreams to him—they will be gone, and who knows what he will bring?
Christians say we should be excited for the future, having God in it and knowing he will bring us blessing—but I want him to give me the blessings that I want for me and I want them to be better than his plans. I am just so scared.
I am scared of death. Death of dreams. Death of friends. Death of myself. Death is a scary word. It is so final, and sitting there on the page it seems so strong.
But they say Jesus brings to life, that death has no sting, that we in Jesus have the victory—and that if we die in his name, then we live in his name.
My dreams have to die so that his can live… so that I can have the victory.
How do I let go? Does it come back to DOing again? What if I fail? What if someday I change my mind, turn my back on God, and lose my life?
I am so scared.
Does it really come down to trusting God with this moment? How can you trust? Trust is so intangible, just a breath of wind that floats away as soon as you try to grasp it—and can I really hang my dreams, my being, my life—on something that fragile? Not even fragile, just… invisible. Seemingly impossible.
I don’t know. But if I don’t want my heart to be consumed—and it is being consumed right now, and I feel it, and it is killing me—then I have to. If I want to be free—I have to let go.
I don’t want to let go!
That exclamation point doesn’t even explain the emotion that rises up in me at that statement. I don’t want to let go. Fear. I don’t want to let go. Selfishness. I don’t want to let go. Death.
Life. Do I really believe in life? Life only comes through Jesus.
So do I believe in life?
I have to, otherwise I am nothing… just a hollow shell, consumed by blackness.
And if I believe in life, it seems I must DO again… I must let go. But maybe that’s the act of not doing. Maybe it’s waiting. But what do I do while I wait?
Seek God, right? Stop seeking me? Perhaps I have to stop seeking my identity in every crevice, every nook and cranny. Perhaps I have to live in this moment and feel the breeze of trust… know that I am safe, and that God’s plans are best, even if it means death for some… and that he has promised me victory over death… and that means right now, I am ALIVE… the deepest part of me, the part that is meant to be the way I am, that was fashioned by God, that sees, that loves, that seeks… that part, fear cannot touch.
If I seek him in the moment… what do I have to be afraid of? Not finding him? Sometimes it takes belief, and belief is scary, but it’s the only way to life… freedom… hope.
Death is scary, but is trust really scarier? Letting go of my dreams hurts, but won’t death and hurt and an identity of FAILURE hurt more?
It does. It hurts so much right now that sometimes I think it will kill me. So if I let go, what do I have to lose?
Nothing, because I believe in Jesus.
I believe in Jesus. Okay, that’s giving myself and my dreams to him and trusting that he will take care of me…
But what if he doesn’t? What if he doesn’t exist?
We have to ask the question. It’s scary to ask, but, if we don’t ask hard questions, will we really get meaningful answers?
Sometimes I wish there was an easy answer to finding freedom in Jesus. But if there was an easy answer, would we really continue to seek him our whole lives with our whole beings?
We can’t be scared to ask questions. If we don’t, our hearts will continue to be secretly consumed by fear, and that is not how God wants us to live. If we believe he has the answers, it shouldn’t be so hard to ask questions. Sure, sometimes trust means not having the answer. Quite often that is what it means. But there’s still an answer out there, isn’t there?
Or maybe there isn’t. But if there isn’t, if there isn’t a Jesus who has all the answers, there isn’t a Jesus who gives life either.
And I know there is something more to all of this, to everything in this world, to everything inside of me. I am thirsting for life, and how can you thirst for something that doesn’t exist? I don’t know. That’s kind of a weird, wacky, way-out-there question.
But I more than just thirst for Jesus—I need Jesus.
Do we really know who Jesus is? I don’t. If I really, truly knew who Jesus was, my life would be a life of freedom. And right now, it’s not.
That’s why I need Jesus. That’s why I have to seek him. And when I catch a glimpse of him—I have to worship him for it, because worship brings life and wholeness and joy.
“So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.[...] You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.
“[...] You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love….So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:1,4-6,13,16.
The answer sounds easy, but living by a usually intangible Spirit is hard. However, living by the Spirit is the only way to life and freedom.
And we have faith in the Spirit and the only thing we DO that counts is faith being carried out through love.
We live—we DO—in love, for the glory of God, because we believe. That’s what the Bible is saying.
So… so what if you spend your whole life doing that, and it’s still not enough? Not true?
I don’t know the answer. But is it worth continuing to live in fear? I think it would be much better to seek God because he promises that whoever seeks him will find him, and we can hold him to his promises because he is a God of truth.
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8
But you have to turn to him—away from your disbelief and the life you are building for yourself—and seek with your whole heart.
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty…
‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.’” Psalm 91:1,14-15
Maybe it’s worth seeking. Maybe it’s worth giving up your whole life so that you can find a real Jesus and a real freedom.
For me, it is worth giving up everything, because like I said before: without trusting him, I am already dead inside. And I’m ready for new life. A life of worship that comes from trust, freedom that comes from trust, and love that comes from trust. Because faith does not bring fear.