So last Monday (sorry it's been a while!) I arrived home to find someone's pet bird perched on my doorstep. Literally. A bird. Perched. On the little sliver of step right in front of my door. I mean, I know what to do with a stray dog, but a stray bird? So being the genius I am, I got a handful of birdseed (yes, the comments are now open for mocking) and tried to get near it. Needless to say, that idea was a complete bust. So after chasing it around the yard for a few minutes, I finally threw my scarf over it so it couldn't flutter away, and gently picked it up and returned it to the owners.
As I held the little bird, though, I couldn't help noticing that I could see its tiny little heart pounding away in its chest as if the heart were about to explode. I felt a little sorry for the bird because being lost with your wings clipped has to be a terrifying ordeal. Then he started trying to peck me through the scarf and I didn't feel so sorry for him anymore.
Lately, though, I have felt so much like that bird. Except that instead of exploding out of my chest, my entire ribcage seems to constrict until I feel like I can't breathe, and I want to have a panic attack because I have papers to grade or laundry to fold. Add to that a layer of guilt for all the phone calls I haven't made or the notes I haven't written or the nice things I haven't done for people, and some days I can hardly get out of bed. It is very not rational. So don't try to explain it away. I'm nuts.
And so I find myself praying for help to grade papers and for five minutes to make a phone call or just for the motivation to get out of bed. So while I would happily live without the anxiety, I am learning the meaning of dependency and strength. I'm learning that being strong is not about riding an emotional high from good things going on in your life, but slowly and graciously doing whatever is in front of you at the moment. I'm learning that dependency, when wrongly placed, leads to all kinds of grief, but when rightly placed leads to joy. I'm learning that sometimes the hardest thing we can do is to walk through life with eyes wide open to God's truth about ourselves and this world.
And the Lord pours out his mercy in unexpected ways. I find that when I wake up and pray because I can't make myself get out of bed, I soon hear the footsteps of a sweet boy who woke up an hour early and brings me a book on dinosaurs to read. The simple obedient faith that makes me get in the car to go to work is rewarded with new mercies and a sense of peace to replace my dread. And by sitting down to write when I'd rather hide in a corner or play games on my phone, I find healing and understanding.
The way the Lord has answered me, not by making things easier or relieving me of responsibilities or even by taking away my anxiety, but just by being present in the midst of my struggle. That presence makes me cherish my savior in ways I never thought possible. If I had stayed in bed or quit, how much of Christ would I have missed? It makes me wonder about the mercies I have already missed because I have been too weary or afraid to take the next step, and that thought encourages me to keep going.
I've been working on memorizing Hebrews 12. Don't be too impressed, in a month, I've done maybe five verses, so this is going to take me a couple years. But one prayer I have been praying over and over for myself is from Hebrews 12:1, to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles so that I may run with perseverance the race marked out for me. Right now I feel like I'm wading through sludge, or maybe quicksand, but maybe one day it will feel like running.