The stress got to me today. It hasn’t happened very often and it usually doesn’t last long when it does, but when it comes, it comes like a flood – abrupt, painful, and pervasive to every aspect of my life. Today it was more like a tsunami. While these episodes have yet to be crippling, the suddenness with which they come and the relatively minor events that seem to trigger them always leaves me wondering if I’m falling back into some old habits, my old ways of “dealing” with stressful events in my life. It frightens me to think that maybe I’m not ready for all of this, that maybe I’ve tricked myself and others into believing that it’s all going to work out just fine. What if my faith isn’t strong enough to carry me through? What if the reason that we’ve been able to enjoy this adventure up to this point is simply that we haven’t yet been hit with the fatal wave of circumstances that is certain to wipe us out? What if we can’t possibly handle what’s coming our way? What if our marriage suffers? What if Eliot is overshadowed, over-stressed, and overwhelmed? What if my career, my company doesn’t succeed? What if, what if, what if…
Stress and, more specifically, recognizing the stress in my life has been an issue for me for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been pretty good about sucking it up, dealing with it, ignoring the pain…fill in whatever other cliché you can think of here. Problem is I never dealt with the stress; I just got really good at not allowing myself to feel it; essentially I was ignoring it. Sounds great, right? Never feel stress again…who wouldn’t want that? Unfortunately however, I learned the hard way that you cannot confine this talent to just the stress in your life. At least I wasn’t able to; maybe others can, but I couldn’t and didn’t. I also learned the hard way that ignoring the stress is not the same as dealing with it and just as the rubber on your tires only has so many miles it can handle so also does the tread on your soul. The miles add up, the tread breaks down, the soul falls apart…
While I was busy ignoring the stress in my life, I was also ignoring the wounds that were being inflicted by stressful events in my life. To make matters worse, my ignorance of my own stress level allowed these wounds to grow instead of heal. The hurt, anger, bitterness, and frustration from these events was building up inside of me and never found release. Possibly worse than that or at the very least equally unhealthy is the fact that I was also ignoring the needs of those around me - close friends, family, and strangers alike. Without even realizing it, I was shutting people out of my life, including those closest to me, and I slowly became aware that I was living alone, inside the very constricted, cold walls that I had built up over the years. Walls that were initially intended to protect me were now walls that confined me. My growth as a person, as a member of the community God created, had become like that of a fish, restricted to the size of the container that bound me.
Well, as you might imagine, you can’t go on living life this way until something eventually gives. And give it did…big time! I’ll spare you the details, but know that thanks only to the Lord above, the effects of a life lived this way, though certainly life altering was not life destroying. And the damage that was done, with help from good friends and good people in my life, was quickly undone and I was soon well down the path of reclamation and restoration of a soul that had lost its way.
I learned a few lessons along the way - I learned a little about life and I learned a little bit more about the God who made this life possible. Now that I look back on the course of events of my life, I know that I was never alone in all of this. Though I never asked for it, never would have admitted it, and oftentimes was never even aware of it, I had a lot of help in keeping it all together when it very easily could have all fallen apart. There was a hand at work, busy filling the cracks and holes in my life that had begun to accumulate as a result of my choices and the bumpy, dark, and dusty roads I decided to travel. Back then, I never stopped to reflect on my life, I just kept moving, onward and upward…or so I thought. I never stopped to give thanks and I never stopped to consider just how blessed I was.
These days I do look back - almost daily - and I do give thanks after carefully considering just how blessed I am. I consider how fortunate I am to have the wife that I have and I consider all of the ways that she was designed perfectly just for me. I also consider how amazing my daughter is and how her attitude and happy-go-lucky-ready-for-anything nature will be just right for the challenges that lie ahead. I consider how truly incredible my parents are as are many of the other folks they brought into my life who have all contributed to the person I am today. I consider how amazing it is that the people who have selflessly and tirelessly carried us, cared for us, and loved us from the day the Quint Invasion began entered our lives only 18 months prior.
When the tidal wave of emotion and stress comes over me and sends me reeling into a backwash of doubt and anguish, these are the things that I consider. And after careful consideration, there is only one conclusion that I believe any man who has his wits about him and has in place a rational view of his role in this world can come to: God did this. God chose to knit me together in my mother’s womb, to place me in my parents’ care, to bring me together with my amazing wife, to bring Eliot into our little world, to bring us to Riverbend Church and the Marriage Builders group. He chose to smooth out the rough patches of our lives, to challenge me, shape me, mold me, and to love me too much to leave me the way I was and am today. And he chose to breathe life into those five little babies that now breathe life into ours.
So this is how I make it through and this is how I know I’m not falling back into those old, dangerous habits. When the stress strikes, the world begins to tighten its noose, and the air suddenly gets really thin, this is the place I always return: God did this; there is no doubt in my mind. God did this and he will see us through. How he’ll do it, how he’ll answer the what if’s that seem to come up every day, no one can say. To be honest, I don’t know much of anything beyond how I’ll handle today. And, strangely, I’m comforted by that. It takes some getting used to, but yes, I’m comforted by the fact that I have little clue as to what road I’ll be traveling when I wake up tomorrow morning. I’m comforted because I believe that this is exactly where he wants me - living one day at a time, living a life completely dependent on him. God did this just as he has always done this, with or without my permission. God did this and he will continue to do this. God did this, and with his continued guidance and direction on my life, we’ll continue to be able to do this…somehow, some way…one baby step at a time…