Years ago my husband and I spent a week in Puerto Rico. It was just the two of us for our own little romantic getaway. We stayed right on the water at the San Juan Marriott Resort. Our hotel had a pool, a spa and a casino readily available to us and of course, the best part; it was right on the beach! And let me tell you, I couldn’t wait to get out on the beach.
I remember our first time out, the weather was perfect, the waves were subtle and the beach was practically empty. I remember easing in with caution because my dad had warned me of the reputation this particular stretch of shoreline had and the undertow it was known for.
I waded out; ankle deep, seems ok… Mid-calf, still seemed fine.
As I got about knee deep, it began getting a little rough & before I could even retreat to the shore (just a few feet away) the ground slipped from beneath me (literally!) and I was about waist deep in waved whipped water that literally pummeled over my head. The water came up, I went down and just like that, my body hit the ocean floor beneath me. I could feel the burn of my skin on the side of my face and the top of my shoulder. When I tell you I hit the ground hard, I hit the ground HARD. I wrestled with the waves for a moment. My hair tossed with sand, my face burning from the impact it made with the ground, slightly out of breath and borderline terrified, I finally managed to stand. I was just about knee deep in water and maybe 10 feet from the shore. While I was relieved, I was also shocked. For a moment I felt totally alone and completely helpless, but I wasn’t. The shore was close, my husband was there & what seemed like an eternity was probably less than 30 seconds of my life.
‘Did that really just happen?’
‘Did I nearly die in two feet of water?’
Anxiety is like undertow. Everything seems fine on the surface; it looks good, it feels good but then suddenly, before you even know what’s happening, the floor beneath you falls in, it pulls you under and it takes you out. It whips you around, it exhausts you physically, mentally & emotionally, a rush of fear comes upon you, a list of ‘I never should have (you fill in the blank)… ’ starts running through your mind and then suddenly, as quickly as it came, it’s gone.
That moment when you stand up, you realize you weren’t as far out into the chaos as you thought, you weren’t as deep into the mess as you felt and although you felt alone and out of control, you weren’t.
This morning I was driving into work as usual and I felt the pull of this undertow once again. I felt the security of the ground beneath me just fall out, I felt the waves of fear crashing over me, thoughts of worry, doubt & concerns just consumed me. A movie of possible, yet unlikely scenarios played through my mind lightning fast. My chest felt tight, my heart felt heavy and my breathing got shallow.
‘Why is this happening?..’
I felt completely helpless in the moment but deep down inside I knew one thing for sure. ‘Lori, if you just stand up to this, it will be ok. It’s not what it seems.’
And just like that, I stood up.
I stood up to the fear.
I stood up to the worry.
I stood up to the doubt.
I stood up to the hopelessness.
I stood up to the feeling of loneliness and isolation.
I stood up to the irrational emotions that were trying to control me.
I stood up to every single scenario that had so quickly crossed my scattered mind.
I sat in my car and I began to sing ‘Pour it out, let your love run over… Here and now, let your glory fill this place’. Elevation Worship- Fullness
‘God, dear God, help me.’ I whispered.
Worship is my get up and prayer is what I stand on. When everything beneath me and within me feels frail, fickle and uncertain, I anchor myself back to what is faithful, constant and certain.
There are somethings that I will never understand, like how after all these years, anxiety still grips me like an old glove but I know this, I understand that the best way to get ‘over it’ is to go through it. Call it what it is, face it and deal with it.
For me today, the answer was worship, prayer & then finding a scripture that I could write down and focus on.
‘You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you,
all those whose thoughts are fixed on you.’ Isaiah 26:3
Dear friend, I hope you know that you are not alone today, you are not helpless and you are not as far from the shore as your circumstances lead you to believe. The waves seem strong, but they will pass. You’ve lost your footing but you’ll soon feel the ground again. You’re heart feels heavy, but the burden will be lifted. You think you’re alone, but you’re not….
Stand up, you can do this.
We can do this.