To be brave is to be vulnerable.
So, dear friend, pull up a chair and let me pour you a drink. Because we’ve got some long-awaited stories to sample and secrets to share.
Three things come to mind, so let me start.
In response to your question ‘Are you in a good place?’, I must emphatically shout ‘Yes!’; yet I can’t help but wonder haven’t I always been?
Forgive me, I know you don’t mean it. But by our age, we ought to have come to the adult realisation that things are not so black and white. Days where I’ve shared my inner thoughts with you, sometimes desperately searching for relief from anxiety, might have given you some false belief that I was miserable. Like in some sort of dark hole.
When in reality, I was living through some of life’s sweetest moments: adjusting to city life in Scotland, exploring vineyards in New Zealand on bicycles (top tip: wear knee pads), settling into married life, publishing for the first time. I guess what I’m trying to suggest is this: life is both beautiful and tough. Beauty and grit can, in fact, coexist. Nowhere on earth was I more aware of my shortcomings as a human being than when I was horse riding through the Faroese mountains, which was easily one of the most exuberant moments from this year.
So yes, I am in a good place but I am also in a place of yearning for more joy. More peace. More freedom.
I’ve recently come to understand what grace really means. How it comes without warning. How it comes without expectation. Like a summer downpour that catches you off guard on your way back home from a late-night drink with friends.
I never told you this, but the fear of ‘not being able to cope’ has long been a stifling anxiety for me. It’s amazing what bumps in the road will do to your self-confidence. How unexpected detours will wreak havoc with your sense of security (news flash: you are not control of your own life. I know! Scary stuff, right?)
Those ‘flip your world upside down’ moments can make you start to question God’s goodness like you’re conducting some sort of exhausting job interview. So God, can you describe a time when you were not in control and crap actually hit the fan?
Perhaps what is most remarkable about grace is how God extends it to us during those times of waiting.
In those moments where you have reached the end of yourself.
In the character-building times, His grace comes softly. And gently He offers it to us.
All we have to do is open up our hands and receive.
When I was 19, I full-heartily believed that my anxiety disorder would somehow kill me.
Maybe it could have? Who really knows; but what I know for certain, is that the trajectory I was on didn’t promise good fortune ahead. I remember lying on my bed in my stuffy dorm room wide-awake at 1am pleading with God to bring some sort of sweet relief.
I would do anything to experience real peace. Join a convent. Avoid meat products. Never wear leggings as pants again. Anything to stop the countless ‘what-ifs’ from whirling around in my head that were on constant replay like a bad 90s pop ballad.
What I was desperate for was peace.
What I didn’t appreciate at the time was what I really needed was His presence.
I needed to encounter Holy Spirit.
Growing up in middle-class Southern America, where dancing in church was strictly forbidden and no shirt was left un-ironed, Holy Spirit was, far too often, a neglected figure in the Trinity. Hence, the whole presence dilemma.
I conjured up God to be an emotionally unavailable and passive ruler who had a quick temper.
Friend, I don’t what your relationship is like with Him; but I must confess that, more Holy Spirit in my life has translated to more peace in my heart.
And the more peace I’ve had in my heart, the more I can hear from God. The more I am in tune with His voice. The more I can sense Him leading me on a journey, bringing comfort to my anxieties and wisdom to my tricky decisions. As John Paul Jackson once said, ‘Peace is the potting soil of revelation.’
Unsurprisingly, it’s the moments where I am stressed out to the max where I struggle to hear God for myself and for others.
Now, don’t think for one second that I am suggesting that all my anxiety has completely vanished with my newfound relationship with Holy Spirit. Not one bit.
Instead, I have found coping with the pitfalls of adulthood not as stress-inducing as once believed.
The panicked moments not as gut-wrenching.
Difficult circumstances not as worrisome.
Choosing to fear less. And trust more.
Perhaps this is the greatest secret of ‘adulting’.
Getting newly acquainted with an old friend.