In my journey I have been learning a lot about what makes me tick. During the past couple weeks I have had an increase in feelings of anxiety. It will grip me. As it grips I begin to feel it in my chest then a knot in my stomach develops and as it does I feel not only fearful but physically sick. My mind gets paralyzed in a circular thought process that produces nothing but a spiraling out of control knowing that some unknown devastation is moments away. I have not been feeling this as much in the past several months. It once was an ever present tormenter.
It began several days after I re-engaged my emotions after the darkness of depression that had characterized my emotional make up since the beginning of December. When this anxiety resurfaced it seemed so familiar. Chunks of my adult life were spent with this gnawing apprehension. I have lived it repeatedly and cyclically.
It is strange to write what I am about to write. I think that it might be a good thing that I have been so pressed by these senses of fear, anxiety and impending destruction. I described it to a friend as like the sword of Damocles, a sword hung by one hair taken from a horse's tail poised over my head that at any minute could fall splitting open my head.
Why would I say that it may actually be a good thing. Well, here is how I see it. For the past 4 months I have been shutting down emotionally. I realized that this dark, dark time was a strategy of my soul to shut me out of my own heart. As I began to emerge from the loneliness and disconnection I allowed myself to feel. I opened up my heart some. And this is what rushed out.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, Proverbs 4:23 says "Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life." In the Hebrew the words translated "Keep" and "with all diligence" are actually synonyms that mean to guard. The word translated "with all diligence" is a more picturesque word that can mean a literal prison. Bearing this in mind I suppose you could translate this something like "guard your heart like a prison house". This is what I had been doing (still do). There are so many vile things inside and what I seem to do is lock them up tight trying not to let one of them escape, guarding my heart like a prison house. Of course my anger would escape from time to time and hurt folks - especially my wife and family. And the "issues of life" that came forth were more like the venomous poisons of serpents or scorpions.
Well, I am no Hebrew scholar and none of them that I consulted agreeded with my translation. This is because the scriptures did not have this kind of guarding in mind. The wise man who relayed this wisdom did not have in mind locking up you heart so that prisoners don't escape. Rather, what he did have in mind was that we need to protect the heart that has been cleared from these vile felons and having been liberated it can be a spring of life. It needs to be guarded diligently from being contaminated again by unresolved issues putrifying in it like 3 month old left overs in the refrigerator. What comes out of a good and pure heart is both life and life giving.
I long for my heart to be so set free. A 2nd century AD Christ follower named Ireneas wrote that "the glory of the Lord is a heart fully alive." This is what I long for. But to get there I have to open my heart, even while the events of life begin to provoke this deep dread of impending doom. It came to me as I began feeling this again that what appeared to behind this feeling was a strong belief that if a situation deteriorated - say a business deal or relationship between two friends, or even my parents - it was my fault because I failed to control the situation or bring it to a positive resolve. I seem to hold a belief that I actually have the power to over ride others personal responsibilities and control things in such a way that everything will work out.
How these feelings began to rise in me again was when I saw a business deal I was helping to facilitate begin to descend into oblivion. I have a reputation in this field that I make it easy for everyone, but I found myself in the middle powerless to stop what was happening. No matter what I said, or how I thought it through I had no power to make it work. Later after the deal crashed and burned, we did actually get it back together and for the past couple days I have been trying to manage it so that it did not explode once again. Well as I should have anticipated (can you hear it) , last night it erupted again and it may very well die another cruel death. My anxiety level increased again to a flash point. Finally I just gave into the several realities. One was easier than the other. I can not control other people. That was easy. The second was much harder for me because it is much more core to who I am and it is this ... It is not my fault.
I have gone through much of my 45 years thinking that it is all my fault. The fact that I could have done something different that may have helped produce a different result has haunted me in all my relationships. From parents, my wife, girlfriends, friends, to working associates, employers and even strangers. My life has been either taking blame and harboring it in my heart or trying to avoid the blame that my mind told me belonged right here at my door. It has propelled me to stay in unhealthy relationships, situations and mind-sets too long simply because I hold out hope that my belief is true that I have the power to control the outcome and I do not like to face the "facts" that it is all my fault. (As I write this I may have a third belief that I do not have the power but I should and its my fault that I do not have it or exercise it even though I do not have it. As I am rereading I am wondering about a fourth belief that other people are actually out to sabotage what I believe I have the power to control.) These beliefs seem to hold me in no win situations till I can bear the pressure no more.
It is no wonder that I go back and forth from being in a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean of despair to an anxiety that feels like I am spiraling out of control with the impending crash only seconds away. I can not seem to free myself from the false beliefs long enough to embrace God's truth. I seem to go from taking on someone else's responsibility to embracing someone else's dream to declaring someone else's vision and bearing them with such a level of responsibility that when they do not succeed(due to someone else's issues) it is really all my fault. God free me from this desperate cycle of deceit of heart in me. I identify with Paul one of Jesus' apostles who wrote, "Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from this body of death."