I can clearly recall the morning clothing battles with my stubborn and highly opinionated three-year-old daughter like it was yesterday.
“How about your blue flower skirt today?” “No, Mommy!”
“Why don’t you wear your purple jumper? You love purple!” “No, Mommy!”
I knew better than to even suggest anything resembling pants, because I knew it would be met with yet another emphatic “NO!” I was a busy, working mama who needed to get out of the house by 7:30 a.m. and that seemed like an impossible task with this child. I tried giving her only two choices. Nope. I tried making the decision for her. Nope. We tried picking out the clothes the night before. And just when she seemed to settle on an outfit, she’d change her mind as soon as she was out of bed the following morning. I was at the end of my rope. I was counting the days until she’d be in Kindergarten and in uniforms. Ten years later, getting dressed for school isn’t an issue for her at all. It’s the same plaid skirt and polo shirt every day. And I’m not gonna lie. I’m a little jealous of the simplicity of her school-day wardrobe.
Because the ironic thing is that lately I’m not so different from that little three-year-old girl who used to fight me with her daily wardrobe choices. It’s that I’m yelling “NO!” at anybody in particular, but the indecisiveness and thought-process in deciding what to wear is…well, it’s borderline paralyzing. “How hard can it be to dress yourself, woman?!” you’re asking yourself right now. You may be thinking I’m pretty crazy, but if you understand anything about anxiety, you know it takes on some very odd little quirks, which make absolutely no sense at all.
You see, choosing clothes each day has become a monumental chore for me. It hasn’t always been like this. I suppose I used to be like most women, scanning her wardrobe each day for what to wear – and sometimes feeling like there was nothing to wear, despite having a closet full of clothes. And yes, I supposed I may have been slightly scarred from showing up to my freshman homecoming dance in too fancy of an outfit, instead of the jeans and t-shirts everyone knew to wear. But no, I’m talking about something entirely different. Because that was before. Before the unthinkable happened and my son went to be with Jesus. What followed began a few weeks after that horrible day. I’d find myself getting out of the shower, heart pounding, and staring for several minutes at my clothes hanging in the closet. I’d have to sit on the bed, think some more, breathe in and out slowly, and then try again. It was crazy. Insane. Completely irrational. To compensate, I’d spend nearly 30 minutes the night before trying on clothes, picking an outfit, only to change my mind the following morning. It’s nothing shy of a miracle that I’d even make it to work each day, with actual clothes on, instead of pajamas. That was just one of the ways anxiety took over my brain. (There are others, which are more complex and significant, but I’ll save that for another day. No reason to let out ALL my crazy in one blog.)
After weeks of functioning like this, I finally went to a doctor, who was able to prescribe some medication for me to take to help with all these anxious feelings I was experiencing. And sure enough, after a few months, I mostly got to a place of peace and calm in my mind – even when choosing clothes.
Now, this is normally the part of the blog where I would share some really heartening Bible verses that helped me with my issues, such as…
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” ~ Colossians 3:12
Because all I needed to do was focus on what I should be wearing, right? All those wonderful fruits of the Spirit. Or, maybe I just needed to stop stressing about not having the right thing to wear.
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? ~ Matthew 6:28-30
And I can quote the words from Philippians 4:6 better than anyone:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
And then this would be the part where I would tell you that I don’t struggle with this now that I’m not on medication anymore. I’d say, “God has totally healed me! He took all my anxiety away!” and you’d all think “Wow! Amazing!” But you know what? It wouldn’t be true. At all. And perhaps that’s why I’ve been so silent with my blog for over two months. Because I’ve been waiting to write something with a lovely tidy little ending about God doing something amazing in my life. But that’s just. not. happening.
So here’s the real honest, ugly-truth deal: I still struggle. Daily. And not just with getting dressed, but with other anxieties, too. For the most part, I’ve learned ways to cope with them now, so that I can function. Some days I function better than others. (And if I ever get to the point again where I need some help medically….well, I’ve learned that’s OK, too.) I still read Scripture. I still pray. I still ask God to help me. But I also am aware that God may be choosing to not do so. Yet. Or maybe ever. Which leads me to believe that maybe there’s a purpose in all this struggle. A purpose I don’t know right now.
For someone who is incredible logical and rational, I’ve learned that anxiety doesn’t always make sense. I’ve learned to be gentle with myself and know my limitations. I’ve become more compassionate towards those who deal with anxiety and am able to share my own struggles with it. I don’t have a solution. I don’t have a happy ending, but I do have this:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
I can’t tell you when anxiety will no longer affect me. I can’t tell you how to get rid of anxiety. Or depression. Or addiction. Or whatever it is you’re struggling with. But I can tell you this: there are a lot of things that weaken me daily. That have weakened me in the past. BIG things. Things that should have broken me. And I dare to say, that there’s a good chance there are things you’ve dealt with and deal with that should have broken you, too. But it is through the power and strength and grace of God ALONE that even allows us to still function and walk this journey of life.
So, friends, when you see my strength, know that it is Christ’s. When you see my joy, know that it is Christ’s. When you see my resiliency, know that it is Christ’s. And when you see my love, know that it is Christ’s. The only things I can offer this world are my weakness and brokenness. But Christ offers us so much more! He offers strength and hope and forgiveness and love and peace to our aching souls. He offers that little tidy, happy fairy-tale ending I so desperately wanted to write about, but could not produce on my own. He wrote it with His own blood, shed for us on the cross, so that one day we would be able to have a life dressed in His righteousness alone and stand faultless before His throne.
My hope is built on nothing less.