I was asked today what God taught or brought me through in this last year of COVID implications. The setting was bible study leaders whom I’ve gotten to know since shortly after I moved to Texas a few years ago. I began wracking my brain for a concise way to describe the last year.
For some, I know the last year has been one of the hardest. It’s been riddled with challenges and deaths and disappointments. I know that COVID has claimed the lives of many many people, and many of those many were unexpected.
I’ve had my share of unexpected disappointment. This last year was not the hardest of my life.
So as I listened to a couple women share about renewed family time and connections and heartache and answered prayers, I tried to put myself back in April of 2020 when the days were quiet-- too quiet.
Anxiety is something I am familiar with. It has revealed itself in many forms and at various times. I’ve spent so much time getting to know it that I am starting to smell it coming. I am way more perceptive to the stirrings than I was at 23 when I had my first panic attack on a weeknight alone in my apartment after my mom was diagnosed with cancer.
I know anxiety.
And because I know, I studied it throughout 2020. I knew it well enough to know it wouldn’t kill me. I knew it couldn’t rob my salvation but it could steal my days.
The spring of 2020 is marked by the anxiety-induced perception that any poor behavior I ever exhibited needed to be addressed, accounted, and apologized for. I went on this bizarre spree of reaching out to people I was close with in my past and apologizing for behavior that was hurtful or inconsiderate on my end.
I’m not even sure I wanted forgiveness from them. I just wanted to stop my head from spinning and my chest to loosen up.
A couple recipients were gracious towards my apologies that came years later and out of the blue. Some didn’t recall events I spoke about. Some didn’t reply at all.
This process is what I shared at bible study.
I am a verbal processor, so as I talked through this experience with the group, I put pieces together I had yet to. It was kind of like that moment in Queen’s Gambit when she played chess on the ceiling cept mine didn’t include drug use.
I fumbled my way through the backstory as the women kindly listened and here’s what I came to:
The anxiety I felt throughout the spring was incredibly purposeful for various reasons. If I sit still long enough, I can feel that tightness in my chest and race of my heart. I can remember the details I fixated on that felt like life could not move forward fully until I faced and addressed them.
Honestly, the whole thing was kinda wild looking back on it.
Because if anyone came to me with the worries I had spiraling in my mind, I’d have a couple points to make about grace and growth and expectations. I was able to confide in a few close friends as I processed who were really patient and I’m sure got tired of hearing about the latest transgression I was thinking about. *~you know who you are <3~*
Anyway, what I eventually got to was how the anxiety God let me walk through, the transgressions that surfaced (those I addressed and those I chose not to) began to eliminate shadows in my heart. And what I didn’t realize until this very moment typing this post almost a year later is that the first big “confessional apology” I made ended with a prayer I said right before I clicked send in which I randomly said “I don’t want any shadows. I don’t want anywhere to hide.”
Okay, so like, God answers prayers.
Because what followed was like turning on an overhead light in the middle of the night. Yes, that’s exactly it because I remember my heart and mind feeling overwhelmed with the amount of memories that flooded my mind. It felt like I didn’t know where to start. It felt like all of a sudden I was aware of how these moments compared to the way I would respond today… 180 difference in case you were wondering.
A month or two of sifting through memories on fire did the flames dwindle and I could start to see those moments for what they were: decisions made. I couldn’t go back and I couldn’t compare behavior to how I’d handle it today.
We can’t hold ourselves to expectations we didn’t have at the time.
So what am I coming out of 2020 with? A really comfortable spot with a good book in the home of my heart. I can sit with myself in the quiet now. I can look back on moments and memories and extend grace to the Hannah who didn’t know any better. I can remember people and places and problems without a tight chest.
God reminds me of His kindness in the quiet now. He reminds me of the work I did last year to stare my mess-ups in the eyes, let Jesus clean off the dust that prevented me from seeing them for what they are, and put them neatly away at the top of my heart closet. I didn’t get rid of them. That’s one thing I learned years ago-- dismissing the person you used to be dismisses the love and grace and beauty in chapters that are intentionally included in your story. *tears up* Jesus loved me then so that’s enough for me to keep the memories around.
I’m glad I sat down to write tonight.