We’re one week closer to Christmas. This week in Advent, the focus is Peace. In this season, we often cannot find peace. I confess that I am struggling to find peace this month. I keep wanting to stress about money, people, places. I want to stress about doing all the right things all the time. I keep wanting to add people to the gift list. I keep wanting to present perfect to the outside world at the sacrifice of my sanity.
It’s just not okay. I want to be okay. But I’m just not okay.
I say that because my ultimate goal here is to be as real as possible. Over the last few weeks we have struggled along. I have tried too much and not enough at all the things I do. I have self-sabotaged. I have avoided doing what I know I should be doing. I have walked away from adulting. I have walked away from real life.
It took me an entire week and a meeting with my counselor to figure out what the heck was wrong with me. I could guess but didn’t really know what it was. The culprit? Fear.
I’m afraid of a hundred things probably. Most of them are associated with putting myself and my story out there. The other portion is not living up to who I want to be.
Over the past twelve years, I’ve taken back my power and decided who I want to be. I’ve decided what I would accept and reject in almost every situation, with all the people who remain in my life, and with all the things. I am still not immune to fear, failure, and trouble.
A good example is that last week I had an episode. I was watching TV on Friday night with my husband. I was cocooned in my blanket with some hot chocolate. The episode showed an instance of domestic violence. A husband reached over and grabbed the neck of his wife. He told her to do something and then pushed her away by her neck. Suddenly, I was no longer in my room in 2020, I was in a room in 2005.
Fifteen or twenty minutes later, I was back in my sitting room with my husband. He knew what was happening. He just let it happen. He sat silently as I slipped away from him, lost for those minutes. When I was present again, I told him the story of what happened fifteen years ago. Then we moved on.
This is not the first time this happened in our life. One time I was triggered by a case I was working and I pulled away from him. Another time, he hugged me and I couldn’t breathe. These are not the only times this has occurred. Every time, he gets an explanation. Every time I feel like junk.
I feel like junk because I immediately get mad at God because this stuff is painful. This stuff is the parts where I can’t just be okay. This stuff is the stuff that tries to dictate who I will be. It’s the fear and anxiety that tries to take over who I am. It tries to keep me struggling along in victim-mode. I get mad and scream at God inside my head. It’s the stuff that tries to keep me from loving and being loved.
How do we deal with this?
I let it happen. I let the fear happen, I cry, I lift my hands to figuratively push the walls and ceiling away. I open my arms wide so that I can pull air into my lungs. I call to God over and over inside my head so that I don’t fall down the hole where the memory pulls me under into darkness that I can’t get out of. I wait.
When I can breathe again, I cry again because of the junk. Then, I talk to God. I pray and sit with him. I imagine him holding me close and whispering that it is all over and it’s okay. When it’s all over I go back to what I was doing if it is possible.
Last week, after I explained, my husband reached his hand out to me. I took it, took a drink of water, then we watched the rest of the show. I was angry because I was sure that I was done with being triggered. Before this happened, I was sure that I was okay. I was wrong.
For those of us who experience trauma, the truth appears to be that this part doesn’t go away. Maybe it just happens less. This is part of our lives. It’s real. Maybe it just stays with us forever. Maybe it takes more time, more work, more therapy, more Jesus. I don’t have all the answers. I only have lived experiences.
The thing that was different this time, is that when it was over, I eventually experienced peace. I didn’t stay on guard against being triggered. I’ve learned to accept that this will happen and I’m prepared for the junk that comes after. It’s an emotional roller coaster and we can’t control it.
I can’t quit life. I can’t quit being a survivor. I can choose my response. I can choose how I will let the junk affect me. I can continue to live my life in the most real way possible. Sooner or later, I find peace in the reality that this is life and I’m okay as long as God is in it.
I think peace isn’t the absence of things being all jacked up. I think peace isn’t the absence of the things. I think peace is stepping into the presence of God. Peace is living through the hard things and saying ‘God be with me in this moment.’ What if peace is saying it’s okay to not be okay. What if peace is the real stuff behind all the pretending? What if peace is doing life every day walking with Jesus? What if peace is less control and letting life happen on life’s terms and knowing that even if it’s not the way that we want it, we’re going to get through this moment?
I think that’s what peace is. I think that’s the peace that God brings to us in this season. Now, that I can see that it’s okay when I’m not okay, I just keep reaching out to God. When I am stressed and when I come against a hard thing, I just think about walking into the throne room. When I can’t handle the situation, when I’m lost, when it’s just hard right now, God never stopped being God.
Moving one week closer to Christmas this year is different for everyone, I think. This year there’s a lot of hard stuff and a lot of junk. Whether you’re just starting over or you’re a few years down the road from your abuse, things are still hard. We have family stuff and friend stuff and comparison stuff. We all have junk and this year seems especially hard. What if we all just tried to exist in God’s peace, it might make the world a little less junky and a little less hard this season.
What do you think? How is your season going? What do you think peace is? Leave a comment below and enter the conversation.
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