tentative faith

A few years ago, when my Generalized Anxiety Disorder first became A Thing, one of my few defenses against a panic attack was, of all things, the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear.

I’m not a Dune fan. Like most of the epic fantasy/SciFi novels of yesteryear, I feel it lacks a great deal in relatable characters, respect for women, plot and pacing. Not necessarily in that order.

But I like the Litany Against Fear, not least because of the power of this interpretation from the ever marvelous Zen Pencils. I did and do resonate with the words of the Litany to a certain extent.

“Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.”

I’ve always prided myself on my ability to think. I’m not one of those people who is always quick on her feet and can debate a point at the drop of a hat, but when given time and space to mull things over, I tend to arrive at conclusions I have no trouble defending because I’ve thought over every angle I’m able to conceive of. (My friends with quirky minds who arrive at places I’ve never considered and make points that have never occurred to me probably think I’m hopelessly slow, but that’s beside the point.)

Anyhow. I’ve lived in my mind for the whole of my life and was rather smug in my pre-crippling-anxiety days about my ability to process with logic rather than emotion and with facts rather than feelings.

But fear is the mind-killer.

That’s true. I hate it. But it’s true.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I’ve been obliterated. A lot. It sucks. A lot.

I have raged against this more times than I can count, for all the good it does me. I have cried out that my mind has always been a place of order and reason and it’s really just not comprehensible that I have zero control over the primitive fear side now, no matter how logical I am still capable of being.

This solves nothing.

I’ve tried to embrace the rest of the Litany Against Fear. Tried to face fear and to permit it to pass over me and through me. I think the implicit lie is that fear can’t really touch you if you have this acceptance of fear passing over you mixed with a rejection of the fear even as it’s passing through you. Like you should be able to endure fear without it leaving any lasting marks. Or maybe there is a perfect mix and I haven’t mastered it.

Fear does touch me as it washes over and through me. As much as I’d like to be so, I am not immune.

And so I’ve started holding to a different creed. One that relies less on my own strength of mind and will.

Spirit, lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters wherever you would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior

The most difficult but also probably the most beautiful thing about this to me is that it’s a choice and an invitation. Not from a loving God to me but from me to a loving God.

Letting fear pass over and through me is like being pummeled by waves and hoping I can somehow weather it. Allowing God to have control over the situation and having faith that he really does have control of the situation is walking on the motherfucking water.

I said I’m a sinker and that’s true. Left to my own devices.

I think that’s pride. I think that’s self-reliance, and I’ve been humbled over and over with how weak and not in control I really am, so to that end, let me drown! Let me sink until all my struggle is gone out of me and all that’s left to me is the hope of salvation.

It’s not comfortable imagery. Not peaceful. But it takes one giant leap outside my self and my unwarranted pride and that’s probably going to be the thing that salvages anything worthwhile I might have within me to offer to the world.

Not me. Not my mind. Not my logic. Just my hope and faith. Just my tentative faith as I try to keep my eyes above the waves.

o come, o come

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel is my favorite Christmas song of all time.

Maybe it’s the sweet and plaintive melody. Maybe it’s the chord progressions which I don’t know all that much about musically, but which I can totally appreciate as a non-musician.

Maybe it’s Emmanuel.

God with us.

God is with us!

Even when this song calls for rejoicing, it’s subdued, and I think that’s how my life is. I think that is why I relate so much. I have been called forth from captivity, but that doesn’t erase the time spent captive. A trial is at an end and all things are made new, but it doesn’t erase where I’ve been and what I’ve endured.

O come, o come, Emmanuel.

Come to the exile, to the lost, to the lonely. Come and be God among us.

Today, I listened to a message about God incarnate and it… it was more than I could properly take in. Part of that was a surge of anxiety at a really inopportune moment. Part of it was my own preoccupation with my after-church plans. I want so badly to be a good and generous host and for my home to be a place of comfort and replenishment. Not a bad thing, but perhaps the wrong thing to be focused on when I was.

Despite my split focus, God incarnate is powerful. O come, o come, Emmanuel. Be that in me. Let me be Christ in my world to those around me.

Then You crash over me and I’ve lost control but I’m free
I’m going under, I’m in over my head
And You crash over me, I’m where You want me to be
I’m going under, I’m in over my head

Whether I sink, whether I swim
It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head
Whether I sink , whether I swim
It makes no difference when I’m beautifully in over my head
I’m beautifully in over my head
I’m beautifully in over my head

In spite of my own distractions and my own preoccupations, in spite of my own ability to sink or swim (I’m a sinker), in spite of everything, this song still echoes in my heart and mind. Emmanuel. God with us.

It is humbling and a comfort. So much of both. What am I that God is mindful of me? My human struggles that God should care? (Psalm 8, paraphrased like whoa)

David said that 1, and David had far more right to do so than I do. I don’t have any idea what Jesus was subjected to in his time on earth, but today? Today, I doubted and felt chastened in my own heart for doubting. I have no idea whether the Christ dealt with mental illness. I somehow doubt he did. But there must be something there that can give me that common ground. Right?

Casey/At says I need to ask whether Christ is living within me enough to tie him to my experience. I don’t know. I feel adrift here, because even at his most terrified of what was to come, I feel like it wasn’t unknown to Jesus. Where my biggest source of terror is that I don’t know. Anything. What was. What is. What is to come.

I suppose that’s where faith comes in. In so many ways. I have to believe that he knows not only where I am but that he will also be Emmanuel. God with me. Through whatever valley of the shadow of death I am walking through. Emmanuel.

God with us. God with me. Please.

  1. I think. Whatever. I don’t know who wrote every Psalm, so it’s a good guess, okay?