I have a friend who chooses 1 word each year. This is a word that is going to define who she is and what her year will be about. It is not just a hip word that sounds cool, but rather a word that she feels God has given to her. From both my experience and from talking to the people around me, this word is often a hard and painful thing because it really touches the core of who you are and moves to change it to who God wants you to be.
Last year I picked freedom. Should be easy enough right? I already hate shoes, and from what I've heard from less than reliable sources, that is the peak of freedom anyways.
I chose freedom in the height of a very painful time in my little world.
My senior year of high school, I had horrible anxiety. An earthquake, a few shaky plane rides, and heart palpitations were the perfect storm that catapulted a series of panic attacks that soon dictated how I lived my life. I went to counseling and was fully healed from my fear.
I know what it is like to be afraid, and I know what it is like to live in freedom after. That is why it was so confusing to me when my fear came back towards the end of my first year of marriage. Life was good, I was happy, I didn't have any reason to freak the heck out, but still that's what I did day after day.
I was constantly scared. I checked behind the shower curtains multiple times to make sure there were no bad guys behind them. I have no earthly idea what I would have done if there was actually someone behind it, but it seemed comforting at the time. I would clearly be that girl in horror movies who goes looking for what made the noise and dies first.
I have always had super vivid dreams, even as a little girl. Add fear to the mix, and I had horrible and realistic dreams almost every night that I would remember fully the next day.
The beginning of last year was the height of it all. I was living my life as though I was depressed. I preferred sleeping because even with my dreams, it beat the constant fear that I had. The worst part of it all is that I believed the lie that it was all spiritual and that I was not trying hard enough, trusting hard enough, or praying hard enough to make it go away.
I begged God daily to take away my fear; to let me just live in the freedom I had once known. And I was pretty heated about his response, which seemed to always be nothing. There was one night specifically that I remember right before I finally got help. I had just had a complete and total emotional breakdown with my sweet husband. I freaked the freak out about something, and even during it I could hear myself in the back of my head saying, "Jess this is irrational, just stop. You're going to be okay." But I couldn't stop. When I was coming back down, I walked into my bathroom and tried to breathe for a minute. I looked at myself in the mirror, unsure of what was happening to me, and in the moment I heard God simply say,
I was both comforted and heated by that. Over the next few weeks I finally made the steps to get the help I thought that I needed. I went to my sweet mom who was a counselor and begged for any and everything she had. She kindly refused. Thanks mom.
She did however inform me that she thought that my issue was chemical. You see I had started birth control a few months before I got married. The first kind I tried went horribly wrong, so when I got on the second one it seemed better and so I assumed it was fine. False. I went to my gynecologist who was less than kind and super unhelpful. Sweet Matt had come with me to the appointment and on the ride home while I was bawling in the passenger seat he said something about God, and I flipped. I screamed that He hadn't shown up so far despite my desperate prayers so what good was he going to be now.
I stopped taking birth control that day and my world changed. I realized that for the last year and a half I had been nauseous. I had also been tired all the time. Come to find out my "fight or flight response" was always on, which wears down the body and immune system which in turn is part of why I was also sick all the time. And pretty quickly, my fear began to diminish.
I don't say all of this to say the birth control is the devil. It actually helped Matt and I win bets against pretty much all of our family who swore we would have a sweet little human in the first year of marriage. For some people it works perfectly, for others like myself, I was taking my poison every day. If you are on it and are having issues in life, I would like to inform you that you might not be crazy. I know after I started talking about this, some of my friends found freedom in their lives and marriages as well.
The biggest thing I had to work through was my anger toward God. I felt that he had given me many promises about what my life would be and some things I would do, and then took my hopes of it away. At the core of it all, I dealt with the goodness of God. I knew he was able, I just stopped believing he would. This past year I walked through learning that God's goodness is often way bigger than my little world, but even in my little world, He is still good. I can look back in the midst of some of those moments and still see God's kind goodness and tender heart for me as he groaned in pain for me, "My child."
So naturally the logical thing to do next was get a tattoo. (You would think I would write "sorry mom" here, but she cheered me on. Sorry dad.) This past year I learned what it was to live in freedom once again; freedom instead of crippling fear. I learned that God is good and God's plans for my life were not hindered. God was not sitting on his thrown freaking out, unsure of what to do next. He doesn't fall off his thrown. He was crying along with me, eager and excited for the days when I would fly in freedom, days that he knew then were soon to come, days I am now living in.