It happened last week. On a bench at dusk, I realized that I was no longer afraid of my thoughts.
That night, I was walking a tree lined neighborhood in my borrowed town of the summer. I spent the last month interning hours from home, abiding in various host homes, walking various wooded avenues and avoiding various thoughts that I had not allowed to penetrate my boarded up mind.
Looking back, the last 6 months have been rough. Spring was a marathon. Confronting anxiety for the first time in my 20 years, I was the victim more often than not. There were days that I feared everything from late mornings to my own shadow, and everything in between. Running from God, doubting His goodness, for the first time in my life I struggled to praise Him. I struggled to even think of Him. Day by day, I watched the makings of my mind disintegrate into a puddle of distrust and instability. Lacking reliance on God, my thoughts became scary and unsettling. I didn’t trust them. I didn’t trust myself with them.
And so I packed every anxious thought into drawers and placed them far back in my mind.
And that’s how I began my summer. Running from the very things that encompass my every moment of every day. Teaching myself how to numb my mind and close those drawers so that I could ignore the frightening thoughts I once had.
But it wasn’t easy. No matter what, I knew that my closed drawers needed to be dealt with, not ignored. At the beginning of the summer, I tried music, thinking maybe it would distract me. Maybe if I was simply never in a quiet room, then I would never have to be alone with my thoughts. Perhaps if I just read my Bible without praying, then I wouldn’t have to go through the mental agony of figuring my life out before the Almighty God. Maybe if I stayed loud long enough, I would never have to face up to how far I have allowed my steady thoughts to run from me.
I knew I needed to let God see them, but I never had the courage. Somehow, I just knew that I would crack under His gaze, and there never seemed a good time to begin cracking.
And so I sat, drawers tightly closed.
But God wasn’t going to let me get away that easy, and His pursuit of me became strong.
May and June were funny months. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t run from the quiet. I didn’t want the quiet. I was afraid of the quiet. But it chased me time and time again. Because of my internship, I had never been so alone in my life, and there was nothing I could do about it. My job was quiet. My host homes were quiet. I couldn’t beat it, couldn’t run from it. No close friends were nearby to talk to.
There was nothing I could do about it. I was living in a quiet world.
Soon, God began to open painful drawer after painful drawer. Months after the fact, He had me reopen drawers I feared the most. Pain. Anxiety. Doubt. In the silence I felt them all. Day by day, prayer by prayer, God made me work through every emotion I had been avoiding. He had already taken away all distractions, placed me in a quiet month, and had every intention of getting my attention.
And so I lived it. I relived every emotion that I had stored away. However, this time I knew there were no drawers left. As much as if frightened me, God and I were going to look every thought in the eye and deal with them.
And it terrified me.
Not because I didn’t think I could live through the emotions. I had done that before, I could do them again. What I feared the most was the thought that maybe God really wasn’t the answer. Maybe, put under heat, His promises and His Bible that I had spent my whole life relying on wouldn’t stand. That, more than the deepest drawer in the farthest depths of my mind, terrified me the most.
And yet, I can write this post because of what actually happened. God opened those drawers, and with every one He spoke a promise into my heart. With every week He eased my fears of being open before Him. He gave me permission to stop numbing myself and gave me the freedom to feel.
Because He can stand up to it. He can handle any drawer in any part of my mind.
And last week, during my evening stroll, I ended up near a park and sat down on a bench. The sun was setting, and the fireflies were waking up. It was absolutely still, and with a start I realized that it was the exact scenario I would have avoided like the plague a month ago.
There were no distractions, and I could hear my thoughts loud and clear. And yet, it was that exact moment that I realized I was no longer afraid. God had already opened every drawer and cleaned out every unsettled thought. The process was long and painful, and oh so beautiful.
What a freeing reality to realize that God has the answer to every anxious thought we can muster up. How incredible to know that we can lean on Him in every situation. How hopeful to remember that a relationship with Him is a no-drawers-needed kind of life.
The kind of life that leads you to quiet parks and allows you to smile at the stillness of both the night and your soul.