I was the child in grade school who would cower when the teacher raised her voice at the class. Once we were standing in line and a few kids were chatting when my teacher chastised us loudly, made us sit at our desk to put our heads down. She didn’t see the tears stream down my face smearing my classwork. I didn’t know then what I susceptible to– anxiety and the crippling fear of failure.I internalized all criticism and as I grew became a vessel of fear and doubt. When I was in 11th grade the vessel cracked, spilling my confidence, stripping the wealth of friendship and sending me into a spiral of depression I– very thankfully– haven’t known since. Anxiety is a vacuum that sucks joy from your soul– a vacuum that slowly– sneakily–meticulously–maliciously– devours hope. This summer when I visited Germany, my very wise friend called me out in the customs line. She noticed a change in my demeanor and said to me, “Why are you so nervous?” as I stood fanning myself rapidly as the line crept at a sloth-like pace. “The plane is not going to leave without you. Relax. You’re not in control.”
Over the years I lost, regained, lost, regained, and shifted perspective. Even if I covered it well, I was still hiding those grievous wounds of failure– failed sports try outs, failed college applications, failed driving tests (all three of them), failed SATs to failed GREs, failed diets, failed disciplines and habits, failed to meet others’ expectations, failed to fit into those size 4 jeans from college, failed to live up to my potential, failed as a housekeeper, a gardener, a business owner, a cook, a teacher– (there were too many days of this to count)–and the worst of all– as a daughter, sister, wife, and friend.
But today in church was funny.
My pastor said something to the effect of, “With your own self-discipline, you will fail. In your own will power, you will fail. Victory is not found in self-discipline, self-reliance or will power.” Victory is found in the ironclad strength of God when you surrender to Him. Yes– me– Anne– she will fail eventually in her own strength. Her will power will give out, her talent will run out, her temper will flare out, her patience will drain out. But in God, with God, through God– there is victory over anxiety and there is forgiveness for failure, when my spirit is willing but my body is weak.
Anxiety is real and I believe some people are more prone to it than others, whether it be through genetics or circumstances. To think of the sparrows, though– “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
There is forgiveness for failure and an anecdote for fear. Remind yourself daily, arm yourself in the Light of His promises– I have to.
Thank goodness we were never and are never alone.