Ok so I actually started writing this post months ago but I never got around to completing it. And now I know why... the service at church this morning reminded me of this semi-finished post and when I came back to read it, I realised just how right the timing is for it now. Obviously it wasn't right before. So here it is. It's about fear, God, relationships and 'extravagant love'. I feel like perhaps there will be some kind of conclusion to it next week. We'll have to wait and see but in the meantime, please read and make what you will of my ever rambling-ness.
Something that I have boasted over the years is that I am scared of very little. This is true; I'm not scared of much. But when I am scared of something, the fear is crippling. It would be fair to say that this is the cause of some of my mental health problems. But, as I have mentioned before now, I am extremely stubborn. I'm also really bad at asking for help. Both of these character flaws mean that when I do come across something that scares me - terrifies me - and I feel that icy cold grip on the back of my neck and everything just seems to stop, I refuse to admit that I'm scared. More than that, I pretend like whatever it is means nothing and I then avoid it at all costs. One could say that this has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion; and you wouldn't be wrong. One thing that therapy is -slowly - teaching me, is that I need to talk about things that scare me and ask for help with them when I need it. My stubbornness doesn't help in this matter, but I am starting to talk about things that scare me more. I used to think that admitting fear was akin to admitting weakness; that you might as well stick a massive target on your back or a sign saying, 'pick on me about this; it scares me'. The thing that I'm finding is that actually I was, yet again (I dislike the alarmingly high frequency at which this is happening), wrong. Talking about things that scare me does actually help. It helps to talk to people who perhaps have similar fears or who at least understand the feeling that if you tell people that you're scared they'll use it against you, because they are less likely to do just that. Admitting to and talking about things that I am scared of helps to diminish the fear a little; it makes the thing seem less scary. Especially when someone else chimes in to say that they're scared of that too. It makes you feel less like a freak. Though therapy is, by its very nature, full of crazy people; so the fact that they feel the same as I do, probably doesn't make me any less crazy. But at least I can be crazy with someone.
I feel like I have been working really hard at therapy. I do try to talk about things that scare me. But I'm still scared to talk about some of them. Rather ironic that I find talking about things that scare me, scary. But hey, I am my own brand of crazy. I've talked a lot about my aversion to people which, it turns out, just boils down to me being scared of how people will treat me and of being rejected (talk about serious 'daddy' issues!). I've also talked about my fear of failure; why I find normal life so difficult because I am constantly terrified of getting things wrong and of failing. When I had to leave University, due to my messed up brain, I felt like I had failed. Not just at University but at life. I was in such a bad place when I was at University that even normal everyday life was too much for me and I just wasn't looking after myself - I'm scared of going back there. When you're in that much of a state it's easy to let yourself think that you're a complete failure, at everything. And for someone who is terrified of failure, it just completely destroys you. You let it destroy you.
As a Christian, I know that I have nothing to fear. God has always and will always have His hand on my life. While I've been at therapy I've not just been learning about the psychological aspects of my mental health problems but I have also been learning about the spiritual aspects. I have found an amazing home at York City Church and I consider all of its members to be family to me. They have helped me through this time in my life to an extent that they don't even know. And I am so grateful for them. Especially considering the fact that just a year and a half ago, they didn't even know who I was. God has blessed me so richly this past year. He gave me St Andrew's, where I go for my therapy, knowing that it was perfectly right for me. Because everything He does is perfectly right. Through therapy and church, He has taught me so much about myself and about life. I have never felt so good as I do now. I am filled with joy. And it is all thanks to Him. He has helped me to realise that for so long I was in bondage, to sin and fear. And His hand on my life, His blessings, have helped me to see that I don't need to live like that, ever. Not just to see it but to truly believe it. I do not need to be afraid. I do not need to be ashamed. The funny thing is, I always knew this. I have been a Christian for as long as I can remember. I always knew all of this. But, as one of the therapists at St Andrew's loves to tell me constantly, 'knowing isn't everything'. And, as per usual, he is right. I doubt he meant for that to speak to me on a spiritual level but God works in mysterious, and often rather humorous, ways.
My emotional journey through life and therapy has been completely intertwined with my spiritual journey with God and I have frequently found that themes in my therapy seem to be linked to many of the themes talked about at my church on a Sunday morning. This morning was no exception. I've been thinking a lot about this fear thing; this isn't the first time I've visited this blog post. Recently the theme of my work at St Andrew's has been about relationships. I've had a pretty bad run when it's come to relationships in the past and so talking about relationships is pretty scary for me. So scary that I often get horrible nightmares that feel almost real. I've never really talked about my nightmares before but I know that it's something I'm going to have to do. And soon. The service at church this morning was about 'Extravagant Love' for Jesus. It may not seem like this would have anything to do with fear but it really does. The guy who was preaching talked about things that stop people from loving extravagantly. Fear was one of those things. He addressed it mostly to the men in the room, which I disagreed with actually, because I knew exactly what he was talking about when he described how that fear can affect our lives and our relationships; especially our relationship with God. And that kind of fear can and does affect anyone. Hearing the preacher talk about fear like that, even though I knew it all already, was like a revelation. And it felt like God was just using the man at the front of my church to repeat everything He'd been saying to me through therapy. When that happens it makes me even more certain that I am where God wants me to be because He just keeps driving it all home and backing it up with the Gospel. I got a real sense this morning of things just sliding into place, like the cliched pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. I realised that all of my fears and insecurities about relationships are just preventing me from extravagantly loving God and having the relationship with Him that I am meant to have. It just reminded me that I am where I need to be and that God has His hand over my life and I just need to completely trust Him. But my fear has stopped me from doing that. Over recent months I have come to trust and rely on God more, in the way that I am supposed to. But I still find it a constant battle. I know that God loves me extravagantly. He sent His only son to die, for me! That is how much He loves me. But to love Him in return, in the way that He deserves to be loved, I need to let go of my fear.
And I thought that, with only five weeks left to go at St Andrew's, the work was almost done. What a fool I have been!