Have you ever been lost? How about alone and creeped out late at night?
I remember one time when I was walking home from youth group at like 10 pm in late fall. I grew up in northern Arizona. It is the largest Ponderosa Pine forest in the world. We have ski resorts up there. It isn't what people typically think of when they think of Arizona. Anyway, in the fall, the air becomes really crisp and it gets REALLY quiet at night. I should also mention that we had black bears, coyotes, and a lot of skunks in my neighborhood. I chose to walk home rather than call my parents to pick me up, because I was angry (about something stupid probably... I was THAT kind of teenager. Sorry Mom!) and I needed to blow off steam. I didn't realize that a couple of miles in the stillness with some pretty big fears could be such a panic creating thing. It was. As I was walking, I realized there were no cars out, there were hardly any lights, and no one knew I was out there. I felt so alone walking down the roads of empty summer homes. I was afraid I would run into a bear. It was the time of year they were desperate to finish fattening up, so they were coming into the neighborhood more to get into trash cans. I thought I might be able to scare off the skittish coyotes, and I was making enough noise shuffling my feat to not scare the skunks. I was the only noise in the neighborhood. There haven't been many nights since then that I have heard such stillness and quiet back home. It was as if the world was quiet with anticipation of some great moment. All I could feel was fear. I am NOT a fan of the dark. Really terrible things have happened in my life in the dark. I really shouldn't have made the choice to put myself out there. With each few steps, I let my fears take deeper root and start to twist my perceptions. It was as if trees twisted into terrifying shapes. Each leaf caught by the slight breeze caught my eye.
Have you ever had that alone and paranoid feeling? It makes your heart pound, and your stomach drop. It makes you stop thinking clearly, and forget any boldness you once had. It could completely consume you if you let it.
It has been probably 17 years since that night, and I had completely forgotten about it.... until 2 weeks ago. Since I moved to Washington, I didn't realize how much I had given into my fears. It hasn't been the same fears as that night; but rather loneliness, worry about my marriage, feelings of inadequacy as a parent, hopelessness, and lack of faith. The strange thing is that one day I realized that I was being consumed by my fears, and my mind immediately flashed back to that moment so many years ago. It was the same physiological response.
I suppose it is true that every experience we go through teaches us something we will use later. This was one of those moments that statement was true. When I had experienced that fear earlier, I calmed my fears by singing every hymn I could remember from our Lutheran hymnal. I sang songs we had taught the children in VBS. I sang church camp songs. I sang through my neighborhood and by the time I got home, I was freezing cold and very happy. Part of the way through my songs, I had realized that I wasn't seeking the Lord about my fears. I had completely forgotten every verse I KNEW about not fearing, or about His protection. The words of those hymns had soothed my soul and pointed my heart heavenward. As I sang, I prayed words of praise. I was so thankful for that beautiful, peaceful night and the chance to have quiet worship. I completely forgot about anything that had almost pulled me under moments earlier. It was amazing. That transformation was something I remembered clearly in the moment the memory had flooded my mind this month. I was in the same situation of letting my fear consume me, and all I needed to do was remember to whom I belonged. I needed to remember that my purpose is not to wallow in self pity and hide in my home. I needed to get out and live my life of worship.
I am trying to spend more moments in gratitude. Even times when I am feeling so much fear and uncertainty, I am trying to seek the Lord and his peace. Singing those same hymns have brought me so much peace and hope. Obviously I needed to be reminded that I have been walking off the path I should be. I have been making choices that have put me in the dark. I have pushed everyone away so that I am alone in the dark. I needed to remember that I am not a victim and I am the one who chooses how things affect me. I am very fortunate to have some friends who have reminded me of that as well.
I feel like I am finally walking back into the light. Fear is still here, but it isn't consuming me. My friend reminded me that I am not going to drown. I don't know if I have found hope, but I have found gratitude.
So there we are. I thought I was going to be this great blogger and write really interesting and fun things the whole year my husband is gone. I didn't expect to fall apart and then blither for an unusually long time on my blog. It is a process, I guess. Maybe I will learn something from my failed blogging attempts, and one day offer you a really interesting and useful blog. In the mean time, thank you. Thank you for sticking with me, for taking some time to read about my experiences.