Inside an anxious heart

I have experienced much change since writing my last post over two weeks ago. Yet, some of my more annoying aspects continue.

I suffer from anxiety, which can be a challenge not only for me, but for those around me as it can manifest in various ways. In public, it often means I start to shut down.

Though I rationally know it is probably not true, in the moment I feel as if everyone is looking at me and judging me. I am holding the line up. I don’t know what to do next. People are barking instructions at me, but I don’t understand. I begin to freeze up. I just want to crawl away and hide. Better yet, disappear. Forever.

Flee. That is my instinct. This is not always an option, though. I usually have to push through. I often try to avoid certain scenarios that I know feed my anxiety. I don’t arrive at the grocery store after 8 AM, for instance, as it is too crowded. People. Always in a hurry. And I am always in the way. Always.

Driving is another challenge. There was a time when I only drove my one route back and forth to work, and I avoided driving elsewhere as much as I could. I would let someone else drive. That was easier. Give in to the fear. I became dependent, though. I could only go somewhere out of the ordinary if I had someone to drive me. With the encouragement of my Bible Study Partner (BSP), I have started driving myself on different routes and to different places. It may sound silly, but these are actually accomplishments to someone that had essentially drove only on a few established routes for years and had no confidence to drive anywhere else.

One Way sign, pointing to Heaven
Credit: JC

I can still get worked up while driving, though. Again with the people. Always rushing. Always in a hurry. I dread right turns at stoplights, for instance, because if the light is red, I am very cautious before proceeding. But, if someone honks his horn at me in impatience, my mind goes blank. Everything goes white. I can’t see. I sometimes go ahead and pull into oncoming traffic such that the person behind me can be on his way. I wonder if he would care if he watched me get creamed and splattered across the intersection in front of him? I suspect not. He would probably drive on past, happy to be on his way to whatever important destination awaits him. He has to get that morning coffee, after all.

Anxiety often hits me at work. The nature of my job is such that I have to talk to and interact with people every day.

Some days are better than others. On bad days, my heart will start pounding: Thud. Thud. Thud.

“The candidate is here for you to interview.”

Thud. Thud. Thud.

She is over 15 minutes early. I am not ready. I try to explain this to the recruiter. But my words are inadequate. I can’t think.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I try to take a few minutes. I need time to think. To prepare. Before I can even take a breath, though.

“Here is the candidate!”

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I can’t breathe. I’m not ready. I should have made this more clear, but it is too late. I can’t think. I don’t know what to do.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Instead, I lash out. I am rude to the recruiter.

Now, I am not only suffering from anxiety, but I am being a jerk. This is not who I want to be. I am a child of God.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

Interview has to start. The rest of the interview panel is looking at me.

The knowing stares. The thoughts I think I see in their eyes.

He is losing it again.

What is wrong with him?

He can’t handle his position.

The one person who understands me steps in, covers for me. Things begin, despite me.

I breathe and try to calm down.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I reach into my pocket and pull out a prayer stone that my BSP gave me for dealing with such situations. I hold it throughout the interview. I repeat over and over in my head, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Thud. Thud. Thud.

By the time it is my turn to question the candidate, I am at least functioning.

I still feel the eyes, though. The worried looks.

I make it through the experience, but at what cost?

After the interview, I retreat to my office and close the door. I need time alone or, ideally, with my BSP. I remain off-kilter and need to re-center. Read scripture. Pray.

Nope. No time for any of that. Within a minute, there is a knock at my door.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

It is the recruiter. This would be a great time to apologize. Or I should just ask her to come back later.

That’s not what I do, though. Instead, I lash out even more. If it seemed like I might have been a jerk before, this solidifies it.

The recruiter leaves, and I finally get a chance to be alone with God. Why did I let all of this happen? What is wrong with me?

I wish this post had answers. It does not. All I can say is that I remain a work in progress. Incidentally, I did later apologize to the recruiter, and I asked forgiveness from both her and God.

My BSP helps me tremendously with my anxiety, finding ways to comfort and calm me. Suggesting things to try in the moment. Always trying to help. I am sad to report that I even occasionally lash out at this caring individual. Yes, I am that much of a jerk.

All I can say is that I am trying. Some suggest taking life a day at a time, but sometimes, I have to take it more like a moment at a time. Just get through this moment, and then the next. Then the next.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

Stepping stone to eternity

Cross on a mountaintop
Credit: JC

“By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.”
Ephesians 3:7

As with all of our resources, time actually belongs to God. We are to follow His will in how to use it (Ephesians 5:15-17). Before I was saved, I considered faith a very private matter. Though I held a belief in God, it was not something I usually discussed with people. Oh sure, I would say the typical, “My thoughts and prayers are with you,” when someone encountered a tragedy, but what did that really mean?

After being saved a few months ago, I initially wanted to remain in a kind of “bubble.” I still considered faith to be very private, so I avoided discussing the many changes that were happening in my life with anyone besides my Bible Study Partner (BSP).

Only recently, with the encouragement of my BSP, have I started to find my way out of this bubble in small but rapidly growing ways, including by starting this blog. I am also mentioning Jesus to people in my life. Last week, for instance, I finally told my siblings and other family members about being saved, and they were all very supportive.

As a follower of Jesus, I have the awesome responsibility and privilege of representing Him. As Paul states above in his letter to the Ephesians, part of that responsibility – through the grace of God – is to share the gospel, the Good News that the suffering and death of Jesus for our sins, His resurrection, and His ascension back to Heaven make those who believe and accept Him right with God (1 John 4:9-10).

It does not matter who you are – age, education, ethnicity, race, nationality, financial status, or background. It does not matter what you have done in your past, for He already knew your every failure when He chose to die on the cross for you.

He knows everything there is to know about you. Everything. He loves you, and if you believe in Him, you will experience that love in so many new ways, including eternal life. Once you accept this Gift, no one can take it away from you. No one (Romans 8:38-39).

I owe my eternal life to Jesus. Any physical or emotional pain that I experience here is nothing compared to the pain He experienced sacrificing Himself on the cross for my sins. I belong to Him, I serve Him, and I love Him.

When someone needs His hand, I pray to Jesus for her or him. He already knows all needs, so the praying is really for my benefit as part of my personal relationship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Life is a stepping stone to eternity – Heaven for those who are saved. In this life, we have choices. How to live? What to believe? Who to follow? I choose to believe in and follow Jesus. I choose to obey Him as best I can, despite my many failings.

I choose to begin making the most of my time here on this stepping stone.

Thank you for reading. God bless you.

Yet, He loves me

In the before-times. . . .

A typical work day. When I first wake up, I check twitter on my iPhone and read various websites for interesting pop culture or news stories. Twitter is also a way to stay on top of political opinions and happenings.

Twitter is my companion while eating breakfast, with the TV blaring the news of the day or sometimes cartoons in the background. My day is usually better if I start with cartoons instead of news.

At work, lunch is an inconvenience. I eat alone and as quickly as possible – I can finish a reasonable meal within ten minutes, often far less. During that time, I read twitter. As soon as my food is done, I get back to work. After all, I have an important job.

When out and about in the day, if I have a spare moment, I read through twitter. It is convenient, since I often have my phone with me. It is something to do while waiting. Twitter, of course, can be a valuable tool, but it can also be a dumpster fire of hostility. Some of the tweets I encounter make me sad.

In the evening, I watch TV or surf the web. Sometimes, I read a book – but somehow TV watching and web surfing seems to sap out time for reading. As with twitter, both TV and the web can offer positive experiences, but also negative ones. Certainly on the web, I stray far too often into places I should not be – especially as a person who tells himself that he respects women. I carefully delete web history and hope no one finds the images I save. And deep in the back of my closet there are those DVDs I hope no one ever discovers, either.

I live a life of shame.

“I hate myself. I wish I was dead,” I repeat in my head throughout most days.

Sunlight breaking through clouds
Credit: JC

Then, Jesus saved me.

The focus of my life has changed.

A typical work day. Before breakfast, I have quiet time. Using the YouVersion app on my iPhone, I read at least three chapters of the Bible, often as part of various devotional reading plans. Sometimes, I journal in reaction to what I have read. I then spend time praying to Him.

The Bible, through YouVersion, is also my companion while eating breakfast, preferably with the TV off. My day is always better if I start with Jesus instead of news.

At work, lunch hour is a cherished time. While I sometimes eat with my Bible Study Partner (BSP) and we discuss Jesus, most of the time schedules are such that I am still alone. Though some habits are hard to break, I try not to tear through my food as quickly as I once did. During lunch, I read the Bible/YouVersion. Sometimes, I journal my thoughts again. Sometimes, I pray. Most days, I use my entire break before getting back to work. After all, Jesus is the most important part of life.

When out and about in the day, if I have a spare moment, I read the Bible/YouVersion. It is convenient, since I always have my phone with me. My phone is not only my Bible, but also a connection to my BSP. Reading the Bible or discussing Him with my BSP brings me joy.

In the evening, I rarely surf the web anymore. I still keep up with some pop culture news, but in the grand scheme of things, none of it is important. I have deleted my old twitter account. Most nights, I read the Bible/YouVersion again before saying my prayers.

As for those images and DVDs, they have been deleted and shredded. This blog is about raw truth, so I will tell you there are still times I think about them, but it is fewer and farther between now. Each time, I pray those feelings away.

It is by no means perfect, but I live a life of happiness. I am blessed. Throughout my day, I pray or otherwise think of Him.

Sometimes, my dark thoughts about myself return, though. When they do, I pray. I read the Bible. I listen to praise music. If it is really bad, I reach out to my BSP, and we pray together.

Jesus knows every horrible thing I have ever done and ever will do. Yet, He loves me (Romans 5:8).

The Son of God died on the cross for my sins. God resurrected Him from the dead, and many witnessed Jesus before He ascended back to Heaven. By believing in Him, I am forgiven of my sins and I, too, will have eternal life with Jesus and my other brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jesus loves you, too. No matter what you have done.

Thank you for reading. God bless you.

I am a failure

Of those I have read so far, one of my favorite books of the Bible is James. However, I struggle with the below passage:

“For the person who keeps all of the laws except one is as guilty as a person who has broken all of God’s laws. For the same God who said, ‘You must not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You must not murder.’ So if you murder someone but do not commit adultery, you have still broken the law.”
James 2:10-11

I definitely grasp that a person is guilty by breaking any of the commandments. What is more difficult for me to comprehend is that a person who has broken a single commandment is just as guilty as a person who has broken all ten. How can this be?

I am often perplexed by binary questions, the kind looking for simple “Yes” or “No” answers. I grapple with this passage, then, because “Do you obey God’s law?” is the ultimate binary question.

Either we obey the commandments or we do not. “Yes, but. . . .” is not a valid answer, nor is “I obey the ones that are easy” or “I obey the most important ones.” What we are really saying with those kinds of responses is, “I obey the ones I choose.” Which means we are arrogant enough to think we know better than our all-knowing God.

Do I obey God’s law?

No.

I sin every day. Even when I am on my very best behavior and have the greatest day ever, I sin. I have broken over half of the commandments, many of them repeatedly. Even after being saved, I still break God’s law.

What is wrong with me?

The answer to that question is simple. I am human. There was only one perfect man, and our imperfect ancestors crucified him.

Fallen tree in the woods
Credit: JC

Jesus is also the answer for my sins, though. The perfect man without sin served as the ultimate sacrifice for all of us imperfect, sinful humans.

No matter how hard I try, even if He granted me a blank slate today, I will never be able to obey all of God’s commandments. I will fail and sin, as I have to this point in my life. Over and over. When it comes to obeying God’s law, I am a failure, and I always will be.

By accepting Jesus into my heart, I have been absolved of my failures.

Since I will always fail and yet be forgiven, does this mean I might as well break all of the commandments (Romans 6:15)?

Jesus suffered on the cross for me, for all of us.

Do I really want to be disrespectful to His sacrifice by using His love as an escape clause?

Now, there’s a binary question that I can answer without struggle: No.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.

The walk begins

Welcome to the first sentence of the first post of the Beloved Walks blog. I am 43-years-old, but I was born only 5 months ago.

That may sound like a riddle, but it is easy to explain. Earlier this year, someone special in my life worked on His behalf to lead me to accept Jesus Christ as my lord and savior. My life changed on that day. In fact, I was reborn.

I had heard people talk about being “born again,” but I never really understood what they meant until it happened to me. One of the darkest days of my life became the brightest, and His light of love has only intensified for me since then.

My eyes and ears are now open to a beautiful, wonderful world. Colors pop like never before. I see and hear signs of Him everywhere. I have new desires to improve myself as well as to discover and remain on the path He intends for me.

foundRightHere

When Jesus forgave me on that day in June, I felt the heavy pain and burden of my sins disappear, as if chains had literally been removed from my body. Not until Jesus forgave my sins did I realize just how heavy those chains had been.

I have had multiple amazing experiences in the short time since I was saved. However, I have also learned about other aspects of this world – battles going on behind the scenes and beneath the surface that I never suspected.

In addition, I have discovered an unfortunate tendency of mine to try to pick some of those chains of guilt back up, which is disrespectful to the sacrifice He made for us. I also sometimes find myself drifting off God’s path for me. That is to say, becoming a Christian certainly did not make me perfect. If anything, it has only highlighted for me my imperfections.

I love to write, and I was multiple years into a pop culture blog when I was saved. While I still enjoy the topics of that blog, I no longer have the same kind of desire to write and obsess over them as I did in the before-times.

Instead, I have a new focus – God’s love for all of his creations. I was initially hesitant to start this blog, though, because I am no expert on Jesus or the Bible. I have not yet even finished reading the entire Bible.

I thought to myself, who am I to start such a blog? Then I heard the answer.

Who am I? I’m a child of God! (John 1:12)

As I said, I am far from perfect, though. I will make mistakes here, as I do elsewhere in my life. I will connect things that have no business being connected, and I will miss connections that are obvious to others.

This blog will chronicle my experience and failures as a Christian. It will include observations and thoughts on the Bible. It will celebrate the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As I rediscover the pure version of me, I’ll present here some of what I learn along the way on the journey to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Thank you for reading. May God bless you.