anxiety

Writing on the Mirror by Michael Nichols

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A mirror is a place we use to examine ourselves to see if we're prepared to go out, to see whether or not we look decent, be sure the hair is laying right or that you don't still have tomato sauce on your face from that delectable lasagna. It's also a place where we a lot of things wrong with us, question ourselves, and often times can be a source of negative self image (or pride on the flip side, if we're unwilling to see the important flaws).

I've never really been 100% confident in the way I look. I'm always asking for advice on different clothing, different hair. It may be that way because I used to be ridiculed for my face, for my slender figure (which isn't typically a man's desire, but hey, that's the way I'm built naturally). It doesn't help that I'm susceptible to the occasional anxiety attack. I don't know whether they are a result of the ridicule or if the ridicule I used to face simply exacerbated the anxiety that may have surfaced eventually.

About a week ago, I suffered one of these attacks. This one was triggered by my tendency to base my feelings about my relationship with God on my ability to make good choices and also to abstain from sins that are particularly tempting to me. When I have an anxiety attack, the worst symptom I experience is the racing thoughts. They just don't stop. They are many. They are negative. They are violent. The are self-deprecating. They are scary. They are also false. Even if there is something wrong with you, they are false and scary because they destroy.

... But why? Why do these thoughts happen? If God is good, why do I have the spirit of fear? Either one of two things must be true: either God is not good, or someone else gave me the spirit of fear. So I remembered something that I should not have let become trapped in a dark, unregulated corner of my mind: the enemy comes to destroy. Jesus comes to give life! So I prayed, "Lord, protect me from demons, protect me from the enemy."

The racing thoughts dissipated immediately.

I'm nothing special, but sometimes, the enemy tries to put us in a place where we think we're worthless because we're sinners. Jesus begs to differ. He died and lives for us. He knows what we need when we need it, so when we as His adopted and highly dysfunctional kids are scared and need Him, He will step in and say, "Child, I love you, and I will keep you safe from the enemy." I needed to remember that. I needed to be reminded that the One who's in me is greater than the one that is in the world. At that moment, I needed a miracle, and I wanted Him, my heavenly Father, back.

So since then, I've had this thing where I write on mirrors with dry erase marker. I write my sins, insecurities, and my remedy. There's something powerful about that to me. Maybe the words over my reflection help me to see myself in the context of Christ's love and truth. By doing what He did a week ago, He gave me a reason to give back into His Spirit and fight the spirit of fear in Jesus' name, because even though I'd never lost the reasons or lost my faith, I lost my fight and gained some doubts and baggage. But praise God that He is greater than any anxiety and greater than anything I see in the mirror.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCO8XLs5TOY

Renewed Life (1): It Starts With NO by Michael Nichols

A million things vie for our attention every day, things and people that want our soul in a way that only the Lord can truly handle it. A person can become overwhelmed. Personally, I find myself extremely susceptible to this for many different reasons, but one stands out more clearly than the rest: a tendency to experience anxiety attacks.

It's one of the least enjoyable experiences I've had -- the shallow-yet-quick heart rate, the racing thoughts, the fear, the silence. To be clear, I don't have them often, and I know that people have them with greater severity than I. When they do, though, I don't really know what's happened until I've come out of it for a while. One thing I do know is that many times, for me they are self-induced.

What that looks like is that some thought will be in my head, and that will connect to another thought. That's just my nature -- super-analytical [sometimes to the extent of self-micromanagement]. The ugliness appears when one of those thoughts that my mind is tearing through, like a child through wrapping paper on his birthday gifts, leads to another that is painful, like a bad memory from elementary school, or something from home that I try to forget, or maybe some inconsiderate and heartless thing someone did to me as an adult, or maybe it was a mistake that I made that I can't seem to let myself live down... All of that to say that a lot of it is self-induced for me.

To realize that a lot of the extra pain we feel is self-induced is to accept that fact that it is our responsibility to learn the solution. If Jesus died for me, lives again for me, is headed back here for me before or after I die, then that means that He loves me -- if you took conscious effort and energy and time to make something, you probably love it -- and puts a value on me and on all of us.

If you read the last issue of "Entering Rest" (see end of this article for a link), you'll remember that the things that vie for control of our soul will weigh us down, try to make us drown, and that only by letting go and calming our mind can we be saved from ourselves and from the water and gravity. Erik wanted revenge so badly that he was willing to die to get it, but maybe he really didn't believe he'd die, not until Xavier came along and convinced him otherwise, pulling him from his demise... but Charles didn't force Erik's hand to save him. Erik had to say NO in his own mind. Say NO to immediate gratification and thereby NO to death.

In the same way, when we feel like things are out of control (which is probably honestly most times) and we are being pulled in a million directions by people and things that have no interest in us besides what we can do with/for them, including all the sins with which we all struggle, we must say NO. I am a child of the KING. I am NOT perfect. I am NOT capable of playing god in any and all aspects of my life... BUT I AM loved. I AM saved by grace through faith. Jesus did pay for my crimes against Him, others, and myself. I am free. I AM NO LONGER a slave to sin. I AM NO LONGER bound to choices that other people have made. I AM NO LONGER measuring my value by things that are temporary but by things that last forever.

So NO, you may NOT have your way with me, world. You may NOT have your way with me, my own crippled mind. You may NOT dictate my every actions, old heart. NO.

That's where it starts. It's sure to get a lot more complicated for each person. Saying NO takes on different forms for each person and what they're going through, but with Jesus, we have the power to say NO.

“See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to wreak havoc; no weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.

-- Isaiah the prophet

[CLICK HERE for the full passage.]