And then the next morning, I had this thought: “I’m 28 weeks pregnant! If we have to wait another four weeks to find out if we have to leave the country, I will be 32 weeks pregnant.” From that simple mathematical review, my anxiety immediately spiraled. Slowly at first. Just the first worrying seed planted in my heart. And in less than 24 hours from typing my very truthful, confident reflections on all the many, many ways the Lord has been merciful to us, I spent the rest of the day pendulum swinging between intense anxiety, feelings of guilt for my utter lack of faith, reviews of God’s promises and provisions, and attempts to take control and plan out all the different “what-if” contingencies.
My hormones were going crazy, and I have first-hand experience with knowing how legitimate hormones and emotions can affect you. But I also cannot blame this situation completely on those physiological responses. I’ve only had a few in the past, but I knew I was heading toward a full-blown panic attack. My heart was racing and there was a lump in my throat. I was light-headed and shaky. And the feelings of guilt for my lack of faith heightened. As I tried to control my situation more and more with contingency-planning and research, I felt worse and worse. And then the fact that it was getting way beyond my control and I couldn’t manage this panicked feeling made me panic even more.
I texted my two closest friends for prayer. Then I let my kids watch another hour of TV and took a bath while listening to a podcast and completely removing myself from the situation. Less than 24 hours after sharing our witness of the providence and authority of God, I had crumbled into an anxious mess of a woman crying in a bathtub.
Thankfully, my God is sweet. He met me there and helped slow down my heartbeat and allowed me to just rest.
When I awoke this morning, the Lord’s mercies were anew, as always. We dropped off our babies at their preK, and despite all of their excitement beforehand, they melted into tears. I walked away from them, fully confident that I had their ultimate good in mind. I could “see” the future for them better than they could. I knew that this temporary discomfort they were experiencing paled in comparison to the grief they’ve been experiencing from solitude for the past two months. Through prayerful consideration, I knew what my babies needed, and their ultimate good was worth their transitional discomfort. But I wasn’t mad at them for their tears and sudden anxiety. I have compassion for my babies and their hurts, but I also stood my ground as their shepherding parent because I know more than them.
As we waited for language classes to start, I wrote this prayer in my journal as I realized how much like my babies I was the day before.
Less than 20 minutes later, our language tutor arrived and was willing to call the Ministry of Cults for us. We very quickly discovered that we had already been approved and they had sent a letter to our church’s address (rather than our own) with the approval almost a month ago. They offered to send us another copy if necessary. Before today’s naptime was over, we had already obtained the letter from the church, gone to pay our insurance taxes, set up an appointment for tomorrow with a doctor for the medical certificate, and made plans to go apply for our Visa by Thursday afternoon. Though we will miss our 60-day mark and will more than likely have to pay a few extra fines, the Lord is providing exactly in the way we had prayed: to have this all done by Thursday.
Part of me hates that my anxiety and trust can be so quickly derailed by my temporary circumstances. I really hate how much I’m discovering that I clearly idolize my children since issues with them send me over the edge so ridiculously quickly! And pridefully I hate discovering how weak my faith truly is when I want it to be so strong.
But again in His providence, the Lord directed us to read through the Psalms at our family mealtime devotions since we arrived. I’m struck by the way that David pours out his angst to God; he doesn’t try to hide it. Within the very same Psalm, David and the other authors go through lines of deep remorse, questioning God and His goodness, repentance, joy, remembrances of God’s love, pleading with God to remember His own promises, anger at God, and then moments of throwing oneself flat on his face in trust of the Lord. The Bible Project video explained to me that the Psalms were used as a how-to or guidebook for prayer for the Israelites. These pendulum-swinging mood shifts and cries out to the Lord were considered excellent examples of how to pray and rely on the Lord even in times of struggle. And since we know that every word of the Bible was penned by holy men through the Holy Spirit, these prayers are God’s own directions for how to seek Him.
The Lord in His mercy was gently reminding me that - while He does want my faith in Him to grow - I’m not condemned for my shifting sand of trust. Just like I look at my babies with compassion as they cry at preK drop-off, so also the Lord smiles down on me with empathy and love for my very real struggles. I am praying for stronger faith and less pride and self-righteousness. And the Lord has promised that through trials comes perseverance and that He is sanctifying me to bring unto completion every good work in me. I am not a model of faith. There is nothing in me of my own nature that is worth witnessing about. There is no good example to follow based on who I am.
But praise be to God that the Holy Spirit dwells within me and will never leave me. He is and will always be my Good Shepherd who loves me despite every single shortcoming I have. He is working on me, and He loves to shower me with goodness each day because I’m His child. I’m so grateful for His never-ending love.
And it is that story of that love that God has given me that is a model of faith, a great witness, and a good example to follow. Because He is the only Shepherd worth listening to.