This is a companion piece to my Advent post today at The Rabbit Room; it was born out of a grim November night and written the next morning. Most pieces are better for a bit of polishing, but I’ve kept the main raw impressions and format from the first draft here for the sake of kindred readers — for those who struggle with anxiety and the effects of trauma, with mental illness and inconspicuous conditions.
Courage, friends. We will not always need these weapons. Soon enough we’ll follow Reepicheep’s lead as we enter Aslan’s Country: “Then he took off his sword (‘I shall need it no more,’ he said) and flung it far away across the lilied sea” (C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, ch. 16). Until then, may peace attend and guard you in your rising, your wrestling, and your lying down. “He who keeps you will not slumber” (Ps. 121:3, ESV).
Some hearts are built on a floodplain
Keeping one eye on the sky for rain
You work for the ground that gets washed away
When you live closer…
– Sara Groves, “Floodplain”
The last numbers I remember seeing on my phone were 3:48 a.m.
I didn’t check after that, though I was up.
I was fighting anxiety of a size I hadn’t seen in months,
triggered earlier in the afternoon by an unfamiliar pain.
The Thing itself was too familiar.
Real and hellish, coarse-haired and spiny and palpable —
It was an immense thing, kin to the beast slouching toward Bethlehem,
stroking stilettos smeared with fears of the future
and barbed insinuations that my wellbeing was in my own hands.
I used the arsenal I have amassed over time—
the darts, daggers, swords, and arrows borrowed from others—
the finger squeezes,
the single true statements,
the intentional slowing of the mad carousel of circular reason,
the reiteration of my readiness to die the first death.
All the while my errant heartbeat sounded in my ears whichever way I turned.
I wrestled and felt my body rise to fever warmth, which
evaporated into a cold so icy
my jaws clamped together and my bones shook
when I got up to find my earphones.
I listened to two songs four times
And prayed what I had
And breathed as well as I could.
And I remember the moment I opened my eyes
and looked toward the windows,
where the night would pale to dawn in a matter of hours,
and a little life-light peeked through. I had that clarion thought once again
that I must live today what I dare not put off till tomorrow.
Like a child reaching in the middle of a black night
to bring the covers up and over again
came the peace of knowing that my Lord appears
in ways I never can anticipate, delivers me
when I am insensible to the details of His nearness.
I lay in the bombardment and knew that everything under attack
was not in my hands anymore;
it was not in my keeping,
no matter how relentless the onslaught may become.
If all this should happen again,
perhaps for the sheer sake of knowing this
the wrestling is worth it.
There is no system in my body left unscathed by this war.
How tempting it is to wish for one decisive victory—but
there is no other place where I would know to lie wounded in the dark,
flattened by the weight of fatally injured foes,
listening for the footsteps of my King,
fully awake to the grace of being looked for and found.
Yes—the ground keeps washing out,
and the wind keeps ripping the roof off,
and the sleet at times sears my eyes blind—
but underneath the battered foundation is still solid Rock.
I kept one hand on the pulse of that reassurance.
And I finally turned off the music
And I lay there, stilled,
And I fell asleep.