Anxious people hide

We didn’t get to church this morning because I was so paralysed by the things I felt I had to do, but didn’t think I would be able to do well enough.

So, I did nothing, we stayed home. It is/was perfectly ridiculous.

What were the things I was worried about? You’ll laugh – or you’ll march over here and give me a good talking to. Before I proceed fellow Christians at our church and all other churches, this is not a reflection on you. You have not ever made me feel that what I did wasn’t good enough – I have.

Anne - with an 'e'Today I stayed home, in bed in the “depths of despair ” – very Anne-ish of me, because I forgot to get something for morning tea (again) and I wasn’t organised for fellowship lunch (again).

I have noticed that there is an abundance of food provided at morning tea time. In fact number one son, after the first Sunday, informed me that he hoped this was the church we’d be going to now; “did you see the morning tea?”

But today I stayed away – I hid if you will – why?  I keep forgetting to get organised, to  bring something for morning tea. The perfectionist in my head tells me that if I’m going to take something, a packet of whatever we have in the fridge or pantry isn’t good enough – it should be something I’ve made. Why? I’m not sure because that perfectionist also instantly throws up the thought “If you do make something, it is unlikely that it will be good enough”.

And that’s just the monologue about morning tea! We then move onto fellowship lunch. Fellowship lunch sounds like a nice thing, right? I’m sure it is, though I can’t tell you for sure. Why? We’ve never been. Why? The inner dialogue:

“You’ve forgotten to prepare something – again! You can’t turn up empty handed”.
“Ok, I’ll whip something up”.
“Well, if you do whip something up, what makes you think it will be good enough? Imagine if no one wants to eat the mess you’ve provided or worse still, imagine if someone manages to look past the mess (it would have to be one of those people who believes beauty is on the inside) eats it and ends up with food poisoning!”

Yes, that one actually went though my head this morning. Logic would ask the question, in all your years of cooking how many people are you aware of who have received food poisoning as a result of your cooking? Think about it. It’s irrational. And it has PRIDE stamped all over it.
And so every month when fellowship lunch comes around (and I remember) – I think of taking something and in the next second the potential failures of this thing become insurmountable. So, I chose to hide instead.

I hope that there are others out there who relate to this – actually I hope there aren’t. Can I blame instagram and Facebook? I’d like to be able to blame our fascination with parading our successes and hiding our failures. So in an attempt to break that pattern today, in your eyes, I’m parading, or a least openly examining a failure of mine .. well a few really! Courageous right? That’s what some of you have said to me. How courageous it is to be open. I’ve tried to hide it folks but it just isn’t paying off for me!  Maybe one of you can relate to this – maybe my open discussion here helps you. Maybe you hide away sometimes too. Maybe you are exhausted with feeling like you’re not good enough.

So that’s where I was this morning – trying to out think and out manoeuvre myself. Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? It is ridiculous, and exhausting.

Fortunately I have someone with me – who seems to be able to halt the flow of negativity for a few moments. My wonderful husband enters the picture …
“Good enough for whom?”
“Me..?
“Who is your worst critic, Anne?”
“Me..?”

He tells me that he thinks part of the goal for the enemy of my soul is to render me inactive, to have me so overwhelmed with all I’m not. So overwhelmed in fact, that I do nothing.
Okay so I think I have a pretty clear picture of what is going on in my mind and heart – I’m pretty easy for the enemy to play – all he need do is question my ability to be perfect and he’s done. He can take me out for a few hours – quite easily.

One thing, we did do this morning was watch another of Max Lucado’s podcasts in the series on anxiety. I’ve included some of the highlights below that I related to, today.
What I found especially helpful were the thoughts he shared about one of the possible sources of anxiety being guilt. Not always, obviously, but sometimes.

Guilt is a seed out of which the weed of anxiety grows.
Max Lucado

Also instructive was his examination of the incredibly ineffective ways we deal with guilt. I spotted myself fairly quickly. Maybe you can spot yourself in there too.

How we deal with guilt

Deny it – we lie …
Minimize it – we didn’t sin we lost our way, we had a lapse in judgement
Denounce the existence of it – there is no sin – there is no standard… there is no truth …
Bury it – beneath a mound of work and a calendar of appointments, the busier we stay, the less time we have to spend with the person we have come to dislike – ourselves.
Punish it – hurt ourselves, make rules, more prayer, more Bible reading, stay up later, work harder etc …. we pay a painful penance.
Numb it – guilt disappears during happy hour, right?
Avoid the mention of it – certain topics are off limit, we live life on the surface and pray that the Loch Ness monster doesn’t wake up.
Redirect it – take it out on everybody. We begin to hate ourselves so much that we don’t let others love us for fear that they will find out who we really are and then hate us.
Offset it – resolve to never make another mistake – we will be perfect. Pursue perfection – be the perfect Christian – everything must be perfect, ever in control, no foul ups.
Embody it – we didn’t mess up – we are a walking mess-up, we are destined to be bad ….

My anxiety this morning has at its heart a seed of guilt. The guilt in this whole situation is tied to something that could be perceived as spiritual, it’s not, but it could be perceived that way, which is perhaps why I have allowed it to flourish for over 20 years.

My anxiety and guilt are tied together to one question. “What will people think of Him as a result of me…?” If someone asks me how I am and I answer good, I’ve forgotten that the Bible tells me that “there is no one good no not one”  (thanks for that one Grandma.) My mind is under the impression that there is an appropriate way to answer that question and even answering that one question wrong causes others to view me as less of a Christian.  Which then reflects upon Him. A little grandiose, right? Once again it appears to stem from the sin of pride and works. So some of us look for a formula to follow that enables others to let us know we are on the right track to being a good Christian.  There’s a right answer for a Christian to give to “How are you?” It is “Well thanks.” But what if I say “Well, thanks” when I’m not well ? Is that lie ok to tell – as long as I don’t say I’m good?  A good Christian would know. A good Christian would not bring a packet of store bought biscuits to a morning tea- especially not if they were bought on a Sunday. What will people think of your Christianity if you can’t go out of your way to serve others by making a stunning array of 5-8 slices to choose from? 

My mindset should actually be the polar opposite of what will people think of Him as a result of me? Maybe what will people think of me as a result of Him, is a better question?  Although maybe even that’s a dangerous one. Why should people matter ? My question should be … what does God think of when He looks at me? The answer – well, when He looks at me, He sees the perfect work of His son. And so Grandma, if that’s the truth then I guess maybe, without too much of a stretch, I could be good? Why? Because He chooses to look at me with grace. Grace – it’s something I’ve always struggled with. Max went on to explain the idea of grace more.

If guilt causes anxiety then … Peace comes when we discover the grace that is greater than our sin.
Grace erases guilt

Unresolved guilt will turn you into a weary, angry, stressed out, fretful soul. Guilt sucks the life out of our souls. But grace …

Grace restores joy.
Grace calms the anxious soul.
Grace creates confidence. 
Grace gives courage.
Grace points to perfect love which casts out fear.

The happy, peace-filled tranquil saint is the one who is at once aware of the severity of sin, and the immensity of grace.

Maybe you’ve always wondered why you are a troubled soul – you can’t be at peace when deep down you wonder; have I done enough? And if I have done enough – have I really done enough?
Salvation is not up to you; salvation is the work of a Saviour, redemption is the work of a Redeemer, you don’t need rules and regulations you need a Messiah, Someone to save you.

… and that my friends is just why this perfectionist needs to be reminded of the gospel. What it is, what it means for me.
It means I get to church next Sunday – whether I’ve remembered to grab an extra packet of biscuits at the grocery store or not.
It means – I get to the next fellowship lunch – even if I bring a frozen garlic bread to cook.
It means I stop making excuses.
It means I stop trying to be perfect, everyone else can see that I’m not!

It means I take another step in the direction away from anxiety.

Remember grace gives courage and peace.
You are a recipient of grace, live like it!

Grace

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