I was cruising along this semester running four distance classes, one of which was still in development and another which was in redevelopment and two that were in need of several updates. I was driving at full speed and worked my way up to a 31 hour week - from home with two kids in the midst of snow days. A couple weeks later, I found myself on a second week of insomnia (constantly waking throughout the night), down probably 5 lbs in my weight with no appetite for anything other than peanut M&Ms, sitting in the doctor's office with extreme dry mouth, a cold, and my resting heart rate bouncing between 89 and 117 bpm, and I had "wonky" looking tonsils. This was after pacing the house in circles, the yard in circles, the cul-de-sac in circles.
I was absolutely convinced I was no longer qualified to do anything - anything at all - except maybe fold laundry. I was wrecked with anxiety and an immense fear of watching my life play out. I have never felt so inadequate, hopeless and helpless in my life - not even in postpartum depression. Something just snapped and no deep breathing or rational thought could fix it. It's blowing my mind that it came on so suddenly and strongly. Once I reached out for help from my doctor, I spent three days crying. If you walked up to me or called me to ask how I was, I cried on you. I'm now four weeks past the onset of this meltdown and befuddled by what occurred. As I've sought to process it all, there are several truths I've had to face.
1. If you ask God to draw near, he's not going to leave you hanging. His presence may not be what you expected. It may be in the phone calls with friends you haven't spoken to in months but show you grace in answering the call and helping you sort it out. It may be your dad visiting from out of town to help you come unwound. It may be asking your mom that hard question, "If I didn't do this or if I wasn't accomplishing anything but that, would you still be proud of me?" and seeing that just as you love your own nose-pickin' kids who've not added a thing to their resume, your mom loves you the same. It may be in your spouse's quiet presence as he takes on the load of caring for the kids while you pace the halls. It may be that God shows up by giving you the strength to call the doctor and make the visit you know you need to make. For me, it was all these things. I found Him in sunshine, on the recumbent bike at the YMCA, in the handfuls of spinach in my smoothie, in discussions with my sisters, and in notes from my son.
2. The constant striving and pursuits are all garbage, and it is absolutely okay that they are garbage. Philippians 3:8 states, "What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ". I don't mean to minimize the work we do to pay the bills or the work we do for higher purposes, but in the shadow of the fullness that comes from knowing Jesus, they are nothing more than a burst of foul wind. As I began to decompose those feelings of purposelessness and inadequacy, I was confronted by the fact that for so long I've sought to inject meaning and purpose into what I do, and it took being stripped of all passion and goals to rediscover passion in Jesus. I've sought meaning, and what I should have sought was Him.
3. I carry a lot of fears that come from failing to believe that God will not withhold his goodness from me. Psalm 84:11 states, "For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless." Here's the caveat (for me at least): when I start to fear that I'm missing out (whatever that ideal life/work/calling/relationship combination might be), I walk far from a blameless path and I do miss out on his goodness. I don't know what "good thing" from that passage actually is. I suspect that it has more to do with dwelling in the presence of God rather than a vacation home at the beach or material blessing. Either way, the soul turned towards Jesus knows no lack.
4. I have to eat and sleep and exercise my physical body, or else I will fall apart. These are daily goals. No matter what my long-term goals may or may not be, I still have to approach each day as a singular step in this journey. As a woman who has chosen to forgo a typical career of people with my level of education to stay home and raise children, I have to carefully assess whether the standards I hold for myself are fair for me. Sometimes, in fretting over what this choice looks like for the next 30 years and feeling like I am doing nothing well, I forget those daily goals and to celebrate the blessings around me.
Here's the amazing thing - through being leveled, I am more aware of my utter dependence on Jesus than ever before. I'm no closer to finding answers about my life's direction, except that I want to be where He is. For now, he has me carrying on carrying on. There's only a couple weeks until this semester ends and the public pools start to open and the freckles start to pop out on my forearms. I actually enjoy teaching, I just need to make sure to establish a better balance next time around. I also need to be daily reminding myself that though society's goal for its members is to be educated and functional parts of the nation's workforce, God's goal is that we know and be reconciled to him.