I stopped counting the days since our stay-at-home mandate in California was put in place. It has been for many days. Throughout the past few weeks, I’ve experienced a wide range of emotions: shame, anxiety, guilt, and even apathy. I’ve screamed at children, cried in the shower, and had a million dance parties. I’ve cried over viral videos on YouTube and lost my cool when I couldn’t keep up with the laundry. Overall, I’d say there is one residual feeling: fear. When will this all be over? What does this mean for my kids’ schooling? Will my husband still have a job? Fear. Fear. Fear.
When fear pops up, I defend or attack it. I feed my fear with Google searches, worst-case scenarios, WebMD, and Dateline. I constantly fear “the bad thing” happening one day in my life. I fear pain, emotional separation, or being controlled by others. I fear my husband dying and my kids getting hurt or not following Jesus. I fear the spread of this virus. I fear not being good enough or letting people down. I worry about a shooter walking into our church sanctuary. I don’t like surprises or when the weather changes unexpectedly. I have a fear of rodents and plane crashes and the sounds outside my window.
My anxiety churns over in my stomach like a wave tumbling and toppling on the shore. When I look at God, others, or myself with eyes of fear, my only responses are to flee, fight, or freeze. I rarely feed my fear with the promises that God is deeply abiding with me, loving me no matter what the circumstances are. I don’t dwell on the truth of God’s provision over my life and my loved ones. But when I see the world with eyes of love, everything is a request for or an offer of love. Love transforms everything into a gift to give or to receive.
At the table of my soul are many voices. Some voices scream while others are hushed. Some of the voices are kind, slow, and observant; others are suspicious, harsh, incriminating, and mean. Most of my life I’ve let the loudest voices have the most power. Voices of people who don’t like me, fear, responsibility, sadness, critical, and self-hating voices are really loud at my table. Quiet voices are grace, anger, love, doubt, confidence, and forgiveness. My fear voice has been so loud for so long, and I’ve fed it with more fear. It’s like my voices of fear and distrust huddle at one end of the table, scheming something awful into happening.
But not anymore. I’m taking the mic back. It’s not good for my soul to let fear have the final say. I’m learning a new way.
Instead of the loudest voices dominating my thoughts, I’m learning to let Jesus and I co-lead the conversation. Every emotion is welcome at the table of my soul, even the most uncomfortable ones. But no one takes over being the boss. No single voice dominates, pushes, or murders another voice. Jesus always gets veto power. He sees the whole picture, my entire purpose, and the path I’m being led on. All the other voices have a secret motive or are shortsighted, but God’s perspective isn’t bound by time and space but by eternity. He is the One guiding the conversation; His voice is the only one that feeds me with love. Every voice is met with love. At the table of my soul, God draws me back together. All of me is welcome, whole, and at home.
When I stay with all of me at the table, the war within me settles. There is a way through fear that doesn’t require me to get rid of it. The goal is never to overcome fear, silence fear, or dominate fear. The goal is to be with my fear with Jesus. This is the only way.
On the next countless day of coronavirus, I let my fear surface. I let it drift in and out of my soul. I don’t shirk it off or push it down. I pull out a chair and stay right there. The process won’t always be pretty. It won’t go perfectly, but I will be with the One who is perfect, and this is good. At the table of my soul, there is love.
The goal is never to overcome fear, silence fear, or dominate fear. The goal is to be with my fear with Jesus. -Anjuli Paschall: Click To Tweet