I sat in her big purple chair. It was a Monday afternoon in 2011, and I would rather have been anywhere else. I looked down at my dangling feet.
This stupid chair. As if people didn’t remind me enough about my height, now this chair is laughing at me. I feel so small. Can I leave now?
“Sorry, what was your question?”
“You were telling me about your flash backs.”
“Yeah. Sometimes I have flash backs, and sometimes I feel panicked for no reason.”
I feel like I’m going to puke. It’s only my first counselling session, and I’m told I have PTSD and anxiety. Awesome. I guess I already knew, but now it’s real.
I hate that big purple chair.
I eventually got past my denial, but then I had to get past the Christians, which was going to be difficult, seeing as I was a Christian, attending a Christian university.
I am now about to finish my last year of undergrad, and I still have anxiety.
I am a 21-year-old who loves Jesus, but my subculture often makes me feel like my emotions are not valid, and that I am a defective Christian. I pray every day, sometimes about my anxiety, sometimes not. I know I didn’t always feel like this, but I can’t remember when that was. The thing is, I’m content knowing my anxiety may never fully disappear.
I refuse to believe the lie that “If you just have enough faith,” the anxiety will be no longer. I am not saying God cannot heal, but sometimes He chooses not to. He chooses not to because He’s God, and He knows what He’s doing.
I have anxiety, but God still shows me how to rely on Him. I have anxiety, but His grace is sufficient. I have anxiety, but it is not my identity.
And when it feels as though my heart is punching my chest, the last thing I want to hear is, “Let go, and let God.” I didn’t always mind this phrase, but after the abuse Christians have put it through, I can’t bear to hear or see it. It’s one of the go-to responses we give someone when we don’t know what to say.
It’s not just this phrase — there are plenty of others like it. A simple response, such as, “I don’t know what to say, but I am here, and I am listening,” would be enough — and it would be honest.
Honesty is what that purple chair taught me. Yes, talking to a complete stranger about the pieces of my life that were dipped in darkness was draining. Yes, admitting my stress hindered my daily life was terrifying.
But, when I think back to that purple chair, I hear Christ’s words, “It is finished.” The days of pretending I am just prone to stress and repeating “I’m fine” are over. I can be transparent and know Christ takes me as I am.
God hears us through our melancholy prayers and He does not ask us to apologize for them. So why do we make each other feel like He does?
I know some days are going to be bad. I know some days I’ll have anxiety for most of the day. Those are the days I thank God for that stupid purple chair.
Photo (Flickr CC) by Mitya Ku.