About four years ago I stumbled on the notion that perhaps I struggle with anxiety and panic. As I prayed and talked over this realization with others including my professional support, I began noticing common threads throughout generations of my family. In fact, when talking with different members of my family, I quickly discovered we shared a common default; when facing challenges or difficulties, each of us either shied away, avoided or moved forward with much fear and trepidation. Most of us reacted to difficulty rather than pausing, reflecting and proactively choosing a better way. Eventually I learned I had a choice; prior to that, choosing was a foreign concept.
A Deeper Reflection
I could spend an entire series of blogs dedicated to what I am learning about my anxiety and how to manage it, but that’s not where I‘d like this to go with this. Instead I’m going to pivot in a direction that God turned me toward this past week.
While on the phone with a church member, I listened in awe as they shared how good God had been to them. Many mistakes were made in their past leading to current life situations that weren't easy. While they readily took ownership of them, what stood out to me was how much credit and dependence they had on God. As best I can remember it, they said: "I have to believe that God's grace and love can cover my past, my sins and the chains of generational sin."
As I drove home that night listening to God speak through my member, two things hit me... (1) My children are showing signs of anxiety and panic -- they are expressing similar symptoms I inherited from my parents who inherited it from theirs. But... (2) God says, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9) and Scripture also promises, "My God will supply your every need according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19).
Needless to say, I was blown away.
The Piano Recital + Christmas Song
This past Sunday Mia had a piano recital. To say she was nervous is an understatement. Weeks if not months prior she was already showing signs of anxiety and small panic attacks. As the day drew nearer, so to the consistency of her complaints. Heather and I decided to share our concerns with her piano teacher. What happened next, neither of us could ever have anticipated.
Mia's piano teacher is a devout Christian who spends time regularly in God's Word. As a result, she had just the right thing to share with us. Studying from 1st John, she shared the beautiful verse, "There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear (1John 4:18).
Mia's anxiety was rooted in fear. She was fearful about playing in front of many different people. In fact, prior to this, she was asked to play in church for a Christmas special with all the children of the church. Though excited, the day of, getting her up front with the others was not easy. She froze and dared not move forward with the others as last minute preparations were being made. Heather was concerned she might hold up the program (of course I had no idea, I was dealing with my own anxiety trying to get my team ready for the service on my end -- different story, lol, sorry)... and then, all of a sudden, kindly and gently Mia's close friend from church put down her violin and told Mia she would join her at the piano. A few minutes later, the two of them played right next to one another as the program began.
Love... that's the best way i can describe it... love. It was an act of love that broke through my daughter's fear. Love drove out her fear. Love calmed her anxiety, and Love won the day.
Back to the recital. So Mia's teacher encouraged Heather and I to write out Bible promises. To have Mia repeat these promises and to face her fear with God's Word. Incredible right?
So Heather made flash cards. Mia went over them. She practiced. She rehearsed. We prayed. And I wish I could say that she had no worries, stress or anxiety that day, but it just doesn't work that way.
Mia is my daughter. She shares my anxiety and panic. She's stuck with my genetics. But there's something special about her. She's God's daughter too. And her Heavenly Father can do for her what I can only dream of. He can drive out fear, melt away anxiety, and calm her heart. In fact, God can provide peace and replace the panic with purity and courage. And last Sunday evening, that's exactly what He did.
Taking A Bow
As I watched Mia play a flawless two songs, I wondered if she was even nervous or scared anymore. I saw a smile creep on her face... a smile! I watched as she enjoyed the opportunity to play two pieces she had practiced over and over and I suddenly realized, I'm more nervous than she is - lol.
Looking back on the whole weekend (which interestingly enough is now several weeks back since I didn't get to finish this post back when i first started) I am reminded of one last Bible passage. It's tucked away in an obscure story of when one of God's friends asked God to show Himself to Him. Prior to this, the children of Israel were terrified of their encounter with God at Sinai. Now, some days later, Moses is alone with God. He is on Mount Sinai, but He is not afraid. It is here that God reveals Himself to Moses declaring: "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness" - Exodus 34:7. Curiously He ends that section with - "Visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation" - Exodus 34:8.
This... this is what I am most fearful of... The "Iniquities of the Fathers."
It's the cycle: what I inherited from my parents and what they inherited from theirs is what I now pass on to my children. And yet, in spite of my fears, in spite of Mia's anxiety, God leaves the very best tucked right in the middle: "Keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin" - Exodus 34:7. And... perfect love casts out all fear. And, His Grace is sufficient... meaning, I am not bound by my iniquities or by the sins that have been passed down to me. In addition, my children do not have to live under the shadows or stains of my past. There is always a better way.
So as I watched Mia take a bow that night... as I watched the smile creep on her face... I too smiled. And looking back, a deeper smile creeps over my face. Because Sin has left its mark and I once thought it was a stain that could never be removed. But tonight I smile, because sin has been overcome... and it will continue to be overcome every time I or my offspring face it head on with Love.
God is love and He knows no bounds. He makes all things new. Just remember, when you are afraid, don't try to face your fears alone. Embrace God and ask Him to remind you of His love. Remember He is with you and that He is enough.