Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Courage, dear heart!

Print by Ruth Chou Simons of Gracelaced

Have you ever had an identity crisis? I did, years ago when inflammation around my spine took me out of running and triathlon. It took awhile, but God showed me that I am not defined by what I do, how much I do, but by the fact that I belong to Him, I am His daughter.

I've been having to remind myself of that a lot recently. I find myself not recognizing me. I am afraid to try new things. I am afraid to attempt things I used to do but haven't done in awhile. I feel a sense of relief when I return home after an outing; home is my safe place. You see, I know how I will react and respond (for the most part) when I am at home. I know how much noise and chatter I can handle. I know how much outside stimuli (book, movie, music) I can handle. Remove me from the house and it becomes a big unknown to me. Will my head start hurting too much? What if I get confused talking to the cashier? What if my now almost constant nausea makes me throw up in a friend's car? What if I just start crying in the middle of talking to someone? 

And this fear, it's silly, because, when I finally do these things I fear, I can usually do them, maybe not to where I used to be, but I can do them (like swimming backstroke after months of not using the muscles in my upper back because the steroid swelling was so bad). I am continuing to make progress. The immunospressive cocktail of Rituxan and  Imuran is helping my joints to be less painful and I've starting to work with my rheumo doc and pain management doc to wean of certain medications - and that's been going well. My focus and mental endurance is also continue to slowly increase. So my fear isn't even valid for the most part. But its still there and still real, which means it needs to be confronted.

Being fearful isn't a new thing to me. God and I have addressed that before and I am so thankful for being able to go back and read my journals and my blogs to remind myself of the truths He taught me.

"When I am afraid, I put my trust in you, in God, whose name I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid, what can flesh do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4)

"He keeps Him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock." (Isaiah 26:3-4) 

I am finding that as I am trying to teach myself not to be fearful, I can't just leave the space fear used to occupy empty, I need to fill it with something. I need to fill that space with the opposite of fear: courage.

What's courage? Merriam-webster defines it as "mental or moral strength to venture, persevere and to withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.

Well, I've tried the mental pep talks, they help, but it's not lasting, because it's me talking to me. I need Him to talk to me. And then I need to speak His word to me, not my words, those are fleeting and shallow. His word is living and active. My courage needs to be based in how He equips and sustains me to tackle the new, the untried, or the old familiar, not in my ability, capability, determination, or attitude (don't get me wrong, those help for sure, but they aren't the end all be all). Courage is a matter of the heart. And I need to ask myself, who has my heart? 

Our hearts can be many things - our loved ones, our positions and titles at work, our experiences, the outdoors, techy devices, knowledge, food, coffee ;-). None of those are bad, but as I get used to this new Melissa, the one who is more cautious than before, the one who can be tentative rather than decisive, the one who second guesses instead of forging ahead with confidence, I am realizing again how much I define myself by what I do, what I accomplish. 

My last day at NASA was this past Friday. It was the right decision, but hard because of how much I loved working there - the people, the mission, the cool factor :-). I left a position that I knew (usually) how to handle, what to do and how to get things done.

And the future yawns blankly and dimly before me. 

I've left something I know and can do well at, to stare overwhelmed and, to be honest, fearfully into the possibilities of biblical counseling and motherhood through foster/adoption. What if I can't do those things? What if I fail? What if my brain and my lupus cause all sorts of hiccups and mountains and stumbles? And I find I step fearfully back, dragging my feet, pausing overlong, questioning. This type-A, recovering perfectionist doesn't have a to-do list or a game plan. And the fear of the unknown, of failing, or regret begins to work its way into my heart.

How do I become courageous?

Courage comes from reminding myself of what He has done for me, of His faithfulness through the years. Of recalling to mind all the times He's blown my expectations, hopes, and dreams out of the water by showing up bigger and better than I could have ever imagined.

And this God? This God isn't a one-time God. He shows up EVERY SINGLE TIME. He's consistent, He's faithful.

Great is Thy faithfulness!

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" (Psalm 23)

"Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who hope in the Lord" (Psalm 31)

"He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage..." (2 Corinthians 5:5-7).

Courage is hope in a way - courage buffers the heart to press on and look forward, to hope, because of the past faithfulness of the Lord. 

If fear of the unknown, the seemingly impossible, the new, or the unwelcome old is causing you to tremble, to delay - join me in taking courage! Let us remember how He has been faithful. The Lord is with us and He equips us for all that He gives us to walk through and handle, whether it be health trials, financial struggles, struggling relationships, the unknown, the "might-have-beens". He knows.

“But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, "Courage, dear heart," and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan's, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.” (C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader)