Tuesday, June 3, 2014

And now for something completely different: A note on transition and continuity

In the fall of 2012, God confronted me with these questions: "If I were to take these things away from you, would you still love me? Would you still call me good?" No surprise here but these questions continue to be huge in my life.  In the fall of 2012, I was in the midst of struggling to stay in the Master’s program due to financial struggles. I was working three jobs and barely making it. God provided for me abundantly and I was able to continue on because of His grace.

Fast forward to April/May 2014. The same fear of losing my status in the program creep up. This time it is not for financial reasons but for academic. I started to question my ability and I get into this same emotional struggle for control. God again provides for me so abundantly, giving me one of the sweetest moments of peace during my presentation before the history department. It was surreal. I had barely eaten or slept for the two weeks leading up to this thing. I had sought God but found Him to be silent at this time. He knew that my desire for control was killing me. Literally killing me. The anxiety I felt, the fear, the depression was so great that I couldn’t stand it. I prayed for death more in those two weeks than I had in the years I have struggled with depression altogether. It was ridiculous.

So at this point in the story, some people might talk about how their lives have improved or how their struggles have ended in this area. That is not how my story has gone. I have always struggled with the concept of control and letting God have control of my life. I love controlling every aspect of my life. I do this a number of ways, whether it is by planning my weeks out in detail or thinking about different scenarios that may happen in the day and planning various responses. When things do not match my expectations, I tend to feel lost or confused. This has definitely improved over the course of time but I still struggle to some extent.

After finishing my presentation, I experienced extreme relief. I still am currently working on edits to my paper so that I can advance to candidacy, but I have not had the time to think about it lately. I am currently preparing for summer teaching job with the Institute of Reading Development. In this new job, I will be creating a positive association with reading for students ranging in ages from 4 through adults. The training has been crazy and demanding, but I have found so much joy in preparing for this job.

The first phase of training produced a lot of anxiety that I was not expecting. I had anxiety over ruining children’s lives, having my students hate me, and being an ineffective teacher. I also began to feel the need for community more than ever. Spending close to ten hours a day in front of a computer with no social interaction nearly killed me (or at least it felt like I was dying). As I felt alone, I began to realize that the source of my anxiety shifted. I am starting to see that my anxiety is the result of a time of transition. I have been in this period for some time, but the reality of it has just now begun to manifest itself fully.

I am in limbo. I do not have a set next step. I still have things to accomplish, to be sure, but I am in a state of waiting. I am in a place of not knowing what exactly comes next. This may be ok for some but I think the majority of the human population can relate to feeling some sort of sorrow or brokenness during these periods of change. 

But it is not an anxiety that is foreign to me. This is just another aspect of my struggle to control. I argue with God constantly, stating that if He let’s me in on what is next, I will be content. But He doesn’t want to let me in just yet. He wants my trust. He is more than deserving. Looking over the past years of my blog and notes, I can clearly see that He is active and He is providing. But I still want control. What is worse is that I am beginning to realize that I project this anxiety into my life and my relationships. I feel like I am constantly losing ground each day and that I am no better than where I started.

My supervisor for the summer has been extremely helpful in directing me to truth. In one of our first conversations about these anxious feelings he told me I was normal. Can you believe it? Me? Being normal? It is true though. Someone out there is responding to the world just like I do. Someone out there feels alone. Someone out there is broken and in need of healing. The power in solidarity is not to be underestimated. 

His words did not stop there. He asked me, “What story are you telling yourself Athena?” This is the same thing that I have heard in church my whole life, but for some reason, Ben’s words struck where others had fallen flat. God had seen me miss His message so many times and continued to seek a new way to reach me. It was life giving.

I am in this awkward phase of not knowing what is up. I am not fully ok with it yet and maybe I never will be, but one thing that I am going to try is to think about what I am going to achieve and not what I want to avoid. The self-destructing cycle has to stop and I think this may be the way to go about it.

So you are probably wondering what you just read. I am wondering what I just wrote. It is perfectly normal. I am not sure what is next, but if there is anything I have learned this semester, it is to just do life and God will provide all else. He has done pretty darn amazing so far.