Last week was taxing and chaotic, and I’m grateful that it’s over. Last Wednesday I wrote this post about anxiety, and the fall-out from the week has definitely been trying on my anxiety fighting efforts.
I like to be in control of my universe. Or at least think and feel that I am. I plan ahead. I rely on my ability to be competent in all aspects of my life. I get things done. And not just done, but with a degree of excellence. I am a perfectionist. My security, I’m learning, comes from a faith that I can control my circumstances.
And then, last week, my worldview and identity came tumbling down into rubble. The water heater broke on Good Friday – flooding our basement. We then spent hours sucking up water; only to keep finding more water and mildew smells in new parts of the basement. Over the course of the week we had to rip out a section of dry wall, followed by a section of carpet padding, followed by all the carpet and all the carpet padding. We’ve yet to get around to re-doing the floor or dry wall in our once finished basement. I do not have time for this in the current whirlwind that is my life.
On top of the flooding drama, J’s car died last Tuesday. And then I made mistakes with school; I had to ask for extensions on assignments for the first time in my life, and I completely misunderstood an assignment. Also, I uploaded the wrong file for grading. Life was out of control, and I, under stress, was doing things outside of my normal operating mode.
Thursday night, amidst my chaos and failures, I found myself on the verge of a breakdown. I failed at something. I made a silly mistake. I clearly did not have my life together. I just wanted to sit and cry my eyes out. The predictable, secure universe I’d created for myself exploded.
I found myself wondering, who am I if I can’t control my universe? Who is this person who can’t get her act together? Will people still like me if they see my brokenness instead of the shiny image I’ve learned to project?
And then, a realization hit me. So, what? There’s lots of things I can’t control. I do not run the universe. I am human. Being human with human frailties is okay. Maybe I can have some compassion on myself instead of choosing to freak out? If I were looking at someone else in my shoes, I wouldn’t think less of them. And if someone does think less of me, maybe, just maybe that says more about them then it does about me.
And amidst the panic, I began to see that I was isolating myself from God’s affirmation. St Augustine, in his Confessions, writes, “Who will enable me to find rest in you? Who will grant me that you come to my heart and intoxicate it, so that I forget my evils and embrace my one and only good, yourself?” I get in my own way. Particularly when I fail at something. I fail, and then I feel unlovable. I need reminding that God loves me. God has not fled because I made a mistake at school. Or because the basement flooded. Or J’s car died. Or because I can’t carry a child to term. My security isn’t to be found in these externals. My security must be found in God’s abiding presence with me. Anything else is false comfort.
And, so this week I’ve been trying to breathe, and listening to the hymn “Abide With Me” on repeat. Thus far, it helps.
Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day,
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away
Change and decay in all around I see –
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.
In praying this, I yield control. I waive the need to fix, orchestrate or manipulate. Instead, I’m asking for the reminder of God’s presence in my situation. I’m asking that my security come from God instead of my abilities to manipulate my reality. In resting in God, let me not denigrate those abilities which God has given me, but may those talents be freed to serve God more fully instead of myself.