Today at 3:15pm I purchased Elizabeth Esther’s book Girl at the End of the World: my escape from fundamentalism in search of Faith with a Future.
I finished the book approximately 6 hours later. If you know anything about me and books, well…that says something right there.
I expected to find myself in the words of her book, just as I have found myself in the words of her blog over the last three years. And I did. Her story is vastly different from mine, but there are enough parallels in thought and dogma to draw me back to her story time and time again. If there was ever a blogger who has had a life-changing impact on me, it’s her.
I finished the book and then laid on my bed face down crying quiet tears. Not huge emotional sobs, just a little bit of a release. It’s a lot to take in.
Then I pulled out my journal and started writing. Some of the stories that she recounted of her childhood stirred up some painful memories of mine, and I had to get at least one of them out on paper. The words came, the details vivid, as I poured out a memory of a very fearful experience I had as a little girl that caused weeks if not months of anxiety and paranoia for me.
I think that the biggest thing I took away from the book today is that my struggle with anxiety, fatigue, and stress is more far reaching than simply being the result of being married to a combat veteran with an anxiety disorder. The roots of anxiety, fear, paranoia – and the resulting inevitable byproducts of grasping for control, perfectionism, legalism, and a frantic-paced life – run deep. Deeper than I want to think about.
Locked deep inside me is still a little girl lying to her mom about feeling sick because she is petrified to go to school but can’t find away to put into words just exactly what she is afraid of.
I love how Elizabeth Esther concluded her book.
You see, the fundamentalist inside me doesn’t know how to give grace or receive it. But me? I’m learning. Slowly. I’m so thankful God allows us the freedom to leave places that scare us and find safe places where we can rest.
I once heard a story about a woman who asked God to move a mountain. God said okay, and then He handed her a shovel. I think that’s a good analogy for how my story ends. I’m still shoveling. I’m still uncovering, sorting, rexamining. But I am working on it. And giving it a rest.
I don’t believe in perfect closure. But each day, I can choose to take care of myself. I can choose to let God love me.
He has given me a future and a hope.
I am not afraid.
And it was in these words that I found such comfort, and yea, even a bit of validation in this gentle trek to finding mental, emotional, and spiritual whitespace this year.
These seemingly small choices…like a quiet week on the blog, choosing to watch TV during naptime, ignoring the to-do list for an afternoon, sleeping in, saying no, writing a sloppy incoherent page in my journal…
this choosing of whitespace, it’s a mighty work.
I’m moving a mountain of stress, anxiety, fear…
one shovel of scary crap and deep breath at a time.