I hear it whispering, scratching at my mind, trying to get inside.
I smell its sulfury death, curling around my nostrils like smoke.
I feel it grasping at my arms, my legs, trying to pull me in, pull me down.
It's there, palpable and real, waiting for a weak moment when I am vulnerable and it can overwhelm me.
I breathe deeply. Softly whisper "Jesus." It scatters, dissipates like steam. Gone. For now. But I know it will return.
It's December. And anxiety claws at me. It is my foe more this month than all the others put together. There's just so much to do, so much to be.
Bt then, that's it. I just have to be. Silent. Still. Aware. Focused on the Prince of Peace. The one whose birth we are celebrating this month.
Yet, it is hard. so achingly hard. Fighting the self-imposed, internally driven pressure to do more, be more, buy more, go more feels impossible. I've been this way all of my adult life. No. Honestly, I've been this way even longer than that. So long in fact I can't even tell you when the Christmas Crazy took up residence in my mind. Maybe junior high?
The point is it's hard to change. Christmas after Christmas I've striven to produce the perfect Christmas. Not just for the ones I love, but also for me. To be able to sit down in January and say breathlessly "I did it" has long since been my goal. And every year I fall short and promise that next year will be better. Bigger. Brighter. Fuller. And every year the only thing that grows is my anxiety.
Can't do it again this year. This is my six-word mantra this December. I no longer chant, "I think I can, I think I can." Because I know now I can't. And more than that, I don't even want to do it that way anymore. Yet it cloys at me. Like the anxiety it produces, the desire to produce lures me, entices me.
And I slam the door in its face. No. There is no slamming. I close it, slowly, peering from behind the door, trying to figure out how I can squeeze just one more thing into Christmas 2014. I am the innkeeper. I close the door, worried I may be missing something, yet too tired, too worn down, too much busting-at-the-seams busy to let one more thing through that door.
But I don't want to be the innkeeper. I don't want to close the door and miss the ONE THING that makes Christmas, well, Christmas. I've done it every year. In my busy-ness, in my desire to produce, in my anxiety-drunkenness, I've missed the point. Even as I've intelligently sought after Him every Christmas Past, trying to capture every beautiful moment of that miraculous birth. Yet, I've missed it. I didn't close the door on that one more thing, I, like the worn-out, overbooked innkeeper, closed it on Him.
I've been the innkeeper before. I won't be the innkeeper this year. Can't do it again this year.
But to open the door to CHRISTmas, I have to close the door to Kristymas. I have to do that which makes me uncomfortable. Less. I have to be that which makes me squirm with insecurity. Real. I have to say no to get-togethers, to activities, to anything that in its own right is good but for me, right now, is bad. So to those things, those good, fun, festive things that I used to cram into my schedule and down the throats of my family, I have to be the innkeeper. To those things, I have to close the door.
Still, the anxiety grows and lurks and looms. Even more now because I've said "no" to Kristymas. I'm chanting "can't do it again this year." But anxiety is tempting me with whispers of "yes you can, just this one more thing, it isn't too much." It offers false promises of the best Christmas ever. It flashes images of happy children, satisfied guests, perfectly wrapped presents matching perfectly addressed Christmas cards.
Can't do it again this year.
So, I must make the conscious effort to fortify myself against anxiety. And diligently search for Him, following His promise of hope like a bright far-off star in the dark night sky.
1 Peter 5:8
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.