While driving to the coffee shop the other day I heard a powerful mini sermon on my devotional CD about rooftops. Not just any rooftops, but the ones that you find in scripture, or at least you would find in the culture when scripture was written. Apparently they were flat, not pitched like you see so often in modern day suburbs. I learned that in Biblical times the fastest way to get information to a large audience quickly was to have someone go onto a rooftop and yell the news from every corner. Pretty much yelling it across the city. Then the sermon went on to describe closets. Not the ones where we hang our clothes and store our shoes, but the place we go in our heart while the Lord is teaching us a powerful, and usually painful truth. It’s a place of privacy, quietness, prayer and surrender.
We spend our lifetime either on the rooftop or in the closet, spiritually speaking.
The gist of the message was that after God takes us through the fire and we have learned whatever it is He intended to teach us, He calls us to the rooftop to share our story. So, our life simply summed up might sound something like this…closet, rooftop, closet, closet, rooftop, closet, rooftop, rooftop, etc. Everything that we learn and experience is meant to be used. Nothing the Lord allows in our lives is ever wasted; whatever we face is needed for ourselves and for others or He wouldn’t make us endure it.
And endure is exactly what I feel like I’ve been doing lately.
What a journey I’ve been on the last few weeks. From the highs of Christmas to the lows of waiting for test results, it has been a difficult ride. Tonight, I am sitting here staring at this computer screen as I have so many recent nights wondering how in the world I am going to put on paper all that has happened to me of late.
I’m going to try and start at the beginning and hope it all makes sense.
Since I was a little girl I’ve been afraid.
I’ve shared this with you before, it’s not a new subject for me. I’ve prayed about it, written about it, tried to ignore it, and especially tried to hide it. But never has my fear been more exposed than over the last few weeks. Never have I felt more vulnerable or unsure of why my life was suddenly being turned upside down than in the recent passing days.
Since my mom died, I have been especially nervous about my own health. Honestly, I’ve had no reason to be; I am as healthy as the next person. But watching someone suffer and eventually die is a very traumatic, life altering affair. If you’ve been through this you understand what I mean, if not, be thankful.
But, like it or not, one day you’ll be able to relate.
When I said goodbye to mom, I was so emotionally spent and at a very low place. My mind was clouded with sorrow and fear. Fear doesn’t come to us when we’re expecting it, when we’re feeling strong and ready for the fight. No, it is no gentlemen, it begins its subtle takeover when you are already down and powerless. Or in my case, it was while I was overwhelmed with grief and despair.
It started about nine months after the day mom went to heaven.
I woke up in a pool of sweat in the middle of the night. I remember thinking, “this is odd, what’s the matter with me?” And, of course, it scared me. A little seed of fear took root that night. I had a fertile heart for it; tired, broken, off guard and with a history of being afraid. After that I began to wake up nightly in a pool of sweat, and every time I would feel more afraid. My mind began to create scenarios that always included me being diagnosed with a life-threatening disease, just like my mom.
After a few weeks of this, I began to have some other health issues. Nothing serious, but I kept imagining that the sum total of all of these symptoms was going to mean something horrible and fatal.
I was going to die, just like mom.
There are no words to help you understand how desperate I was during this time in my life. I went to the doctor, all the while shivering in fear that the results would be a difficult diagnosis. Fear began to be my companion; like a dark cloud that only occasionally parted for me to feel the sunshine of peace. Time after time, there would be a reasonable explanation for my symptoms, and I would feel temporary relief, until something else began to be a problem and I would start the whole cycle again. And when my fear heightened, my symptoms worsened.
I was in what felt like a hopeless cycle.
I’ve said to my husband so many times over the last months and year, “when am I ever going to feel good again?” I was starting to feel like debilitating fear was to be my new normal.
It was in the middle of this dark place that I had my first panic attack.
Writing those words feels so surreal to me. I never, ever expected my life to go this direction. I always pictured myself getting stronger in the faith and soaring past the fears and worries of this life, flying high above every day troubles. I was so disappointed in what I determined to be a lack of faith, I mean why else would I be having a panic attack? I must not believe enough or this wouldn’t be happening, that’s what was going through my mind. And where was the Lord anyway, He had asked so much of our family over the past few years and we had endured the greatest sorrow of all, death.
Why was I having all these emotional problems? Hadn’t I suffered enough?
I remember the first attack like it was yesterday, even though it’s been well over a year ago.
My husband and I had gone to the theater to see a popular movie, it was debuting that weekend so there were a lot of people milling around. He was excited and I was going to do my best to enjoy it. Not much was fun for quite a while after mom died. But, I wanted to put my best foot forward, so I put on my boots and cute jeans and we headed to a nearby town and bought our tickets. After standing in line for popcorn and a soda, we found our way back to the auditorium showing the flick.
I remember it was cold and I was snuggled against my man to stay warm. Looking back now, I wonder if it was really cold or if I just FELT cold, my frozen heart made me feel rigid. The lights began to dim and eventually it was dark when suddenly the movie screen lit up and the music boomed all at the same time, I felt like I might throw up. I sat there struggling to breathe, praying I wouldn’t jump up and flee the room causing a scene. It was when my heart started to race that I knew I had to get up and move, to escape my surroundings.
To Be Continued….