Oh Right… Jesus…
As you might know, I’ve been having a lot of problems with anxiety over the last few months. Well, I think I might have discovered that “thing” that was missing from my life and contributing to my anxiety issues. For me, that missing “thing” is religion. And since I’m talking openly about anything and everything, this post had to happen eventually. (Disclaimer: I’m not trying to force my beliefs on anyone, this is just my experience. By all means believe what you believe, I wouldn’t suggest anything less!)
Okay, let’s get right into it.
Growing up, my parents used to force me and my 3 siblings to go to church. We are Lutherans, which falls under the wider category of “Christianity”. Well, they all hated it, and would openly mock the people there as well as their beliefs. When my sister and I were sent to a week-long Christian summer camp, I never had the guts to tell her that I actually loved it. I liked the singing, the sense of belonging, the possibility that there is someone out there keeping you safe and looking out for you. I found it humbling.
At around 16, though, my parents stopped forcing us to go to church with them. I love sleeping in, so when I was no longer forced to go, I just stopped going. And although we always go on Christmas Eve, I didn’t really notice whether or not it made a difference in my life. I still held my beliefs, but was no longer expressing them openly because people stopped asking me questions or telling me what to believe.
Now that I’m on my own, though, I came to a desperate place within myself. I was so anxious I was afraid of going to work. I would dwell on things I had to do weeks in advance, worrying myself literally sick. I was scared of the next attack, and didn’t know when it would come. And although I’ve started going to anxiety group therapy, I still felt a sense of unease. I was sick of feeling sick.
That was why I made a resolution for the new year that I would take up yoga, and that I would start going to church again. My theory was that the only way to help my anxiety would be to relax the body, and relax the mind. Well, I’ll admit that it hasn’t been easy for me. I’ve been standing there in church, even more anxious than before. I almost didn’t go that first time, because I was afraid. What if I wasn’t welcome? What if God was mad at me for not keeping him in my life? Was this some sort of punishment?
That first day that I went to church, I was more anxious than I had felt in a while. About 20 minutes into the service, though, I started to relax. I remembered to breathe. And I felt this sudden sense of relief wash over me. It was so powerful that I felt my eyes welling with tears as I begged God for forgiveness, and begged him to help me. I didn’t know where else to turn.
My prayer was answered that day. I felt that same sudden surge of relief again a few days later. I was driving, and as I went over a hill and got a good view of the beautiful trees, again my eyes welled up, and I felt at peace within myself.
My anxiety isn’t gone, not by a long shot. But it’s getting better. I can go to work and do my job without having an anxiety attack. I can go to my classes, learn what I need to, and handle the stresses of living on my own. I feel like I belong to a congregation now, and the 20-somethings had a dinner and movie night that I went to and really enjoyed. I am going to bust out my sax in a couple of weeks for a special rendition of “Shine Jesus Shine” with the other musicians.
And on the days that I feel like there is just too much I can’t control and I don’t know where to turn, I think back to that sense of peace I felt, and I say to myself…
“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
…and I know that I’m going to be okay.