Tuesday, February 12, 2019

why I'm grateful for panic attacks: anticipating rescue


“For thus says the Lord GodBehold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness."
--Ezekiel 34:11-12

Panic attacks feel like I'm leaving myself, like my rational mind has flown away and the anxiety brain has taken over. When I first started having them on a regular basis, I began to anticipate the predictable rise and eventual fall. The fall feels like a slow returning to myself. My whispered prayer, repeated over and over, has been, "Return me to myself." Though I know God is there in the middle of it, it's very hard to feel His presence at the height of an attack.

When I read the words in Ezekiel, they felt like a description of my anxiety: "scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness." My mind starts to feel scattered, on warp speed with unproductive, irrational worrying. My very self feels scattered, as though one part of me has left and another part has remained, my anxious body waiting for the Self to return.

I recently heard Lauren Daigle's "Rescue" for the first time and have not been able to get it out of my head. This morning, as I felt my anxiety beginning to rise in response to circumstances, I sang "Rescue" quietly to myself, praying for the Lord to settle me. As I prayed, I felt Him answer me:

I'm going to rescue you a thousand times, in a thousand small ways, over and over until you just come to expect being rescued. It won't be a big event, but many times over again.

Any on-going suffering, be it anxiety, grief, depression, chronic illness, or any number of things, gives us the opportunity to be rescued again and again until we come to expect the rhythm of distress and comfort. I'm reminded of my dad's foster parent trainings in which he explains that healthy attachment between a baby and caregiver happens through the cycle of the baby experiencing distress and then being comforted consistently and appropriately. This cycle repeats itself many, many times, occurring each time the baby is hungry, tired, overwhelmed, sad, in pain, or afraid. Every discomfort is a chance for the baby to develop a healthy attachment to the caregiver who is meeting her needs. Over time, the baby learns that the world is a safe place where her needs are met. Once she feels safe, she can begin to take the necessary risks to learn new things and mature. 

Most of us don't want to be in a position where we need to be rescued. By definition, it means we are uncomfortable and suffering in some way, possibly even in actual danger. But maybe those of us who are weak and in need of frequent saving have been given a unique gift: we are given a thousand opportunities to call out and be rescued by the Lord, developing a healthy dependence on Him that eventually leads us to expect Him to actually be there every time, all the time. Then, maybe instead of anticipating the hardships that will surely come in life, perhaps we can begin to live our lives anticipating rescue. We wish that we didn't need help so desperately and so often, but if we're going to be vulnerable in this way, let's milk it for all its worth. Let's not miss one bit of the treasure hidden in the secret places of suffering. Suffering can be so isolating, but it allows us to have those life-altering moments where we look around, see that we are in a place no one else can go, and then find Jesus there.

Then, one day, as we are singing the love song that only pours out from one who has been rescued countless times, we will find that we are in good company. Many others who have gone before us, will come after us, and are currently standing by us are singing the same song to the same good God. We are the rescued ones. We will find ourselves in deeper and deeper intimacy with Him until we realize that had we never needed saving, we would have missed out on the relationship that has come to mean more to us than anything else in the world. 

When He spoke to me those intimate words this morning, painting a picture in my mind of Jesus coming to save me many times, day by day and moment by moment, I found myself overwhelmed by His completely irresistible love for me. So today, I find myself in the odd place of thanking God for panic attacks. The next time you see me taking deep, calming breaths, don't worry. I'm just anticipating rescue.



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