Freedom isn’t a destination. It’s a journey.
I decided to embark on this journey in 2015. I was riddled with anxiety. Most days you could find me curled up on the floor of my apartment bawling my eyes out. I was scared of EVERYTHING. Scared of making the wrong decision. Scared of disappointing the Lord. Scared of what I was putting the people closest to me though because of my crippling anxiety.
I came to a place where I was desperate. And I reluctantly agreed to go to counseling. But little did I know that taking that first step would take me on the most challenging, yet most beautiful journey with Jesus.
I remember being at work in October of 2015. That ever so present crippling fear washed over me. I picked up my phone to call a counselor that a mentor had recommended. I really didn’t want to. But I didn’t know where else to turn. I left a message. Got a call back. Set up my first appointment. One step.
I showed up to that first appointment extremely nervous. I didn’t really know what to expect. But I walked through the doors every week for several months. One step.
After a while, I felt stuck. I felt like every time I went, I was struggling with the same thing. I felt like I had hit a wall. I felt like my counselor was getting frustrated with me. She recommended we do a joint counseling session with one of the other counselors in the same practice because of her experience with situations similar to mine. I agreed, and we set the appointment out a couple of weeks.
I talked to Sean about what I was feeling. How I felt stuck. How I felt like I hit a wall. How I felt like I was frustrating my counselor. He asked me if I wanted to switch to someone else. “No! I can’t go through all this with someone else! I don’t want to start over!”
I showed up to that appointment a couple of weeks later. My counselor had filled her friend in on a bit of my situation. We talked for a while, and at the end, my counselor said she thought I should continue seeing her friend. All of a sudden I remembered Sean’s words. God took care of it! God was taking care of ME! He had ordained that appointment before I had even had that conversation with Sean about my counseling frustrations. And I didn’t even have to start over. I was able to continue my journey to freedom without starting back at square one. Jesus knew what I needed before I even knew. He has a way of doing that.
I loved my new counselor! I had never felt so heard, understood, and validated. She listened, she prayed, she hugged me as I cried. For the first time I felt like someone truly understood what I was going through. She walked me through my life from the beginning and helped me understand where all this fear and anxiety came from. And just understanding felt like a breath of fresh air. I realized I wasn’t crazy. There was a reason behind it all. It was another step.
There were times I felt like I took steps backwards. There were also times I felt like I ran backwards several miles. But she continued to encourage me that I would look back one day and see the progress. I, of course, didn’t believe her. I still felt miserable! Anxiety still clung to me like a garment. It would chew me up and spit me out. Progress? What progress? I was still in the tunnel and it was still dark. No light. No hope. At least that’s what it felt like. But I still showed up. I kept searching. I kept asking questions. I kept seeking freedom, even though it felt like it would never be within reach. Another step.
Then one day, in 2018, I showed up again. And as we talked, she began to tell me how she felt like I didn’t need to see her anymore. Of course, I could come in when needed, but she felt like I had learned to take control of the anxiety. I suddenly remembered her words telling me I would one day look back and see the progress. The day I never thought would come actually came. I remember sitting in her office, looking back on the last three years, and for the first time seeing how far I had come. I finally saw light. I felt hope. I got a glimpse of that freedom I had been chasing for so long. And it was beautiful. I took another step.
Fast forward to today. Do I still struggle with anxiety? Absolutely. Does it leave me on the floor in the fetal position on a daily basis? Not at all. It’s much sneakier now. Instead of throwing me to the floor in fear, it says things like, “Did you say the wrong thing? What if you offended her? What if you were inconsiderate? What if you’re not good enough? What if you failed?” I’ll be honest. Most of the time I go down those rabbit trails and end up in a place of questioning everything about myself. I certainly spend some time overthinking those things. But it doesn’t take me out for days, weeks, or months anymore. I can now, almost without any effort of my own, slowly emerge out of the anxiety. And it’s all because of that one phone call, that one step, back in 2015.
Tasting that freedom, even if it’s just a drop, helps me keep going. It pushes me to keep pursuing complete and total freedom in Jesus. I won’t settle for anything less. Jesus paid a high price for my freedom. It’s already mine. I just have to continue learning how to walk in it.
Through this journey that I’ve been on and am STILL on, I’ve learned about the gentleness of Jesus. He doesn’t ever criticize. He doesn’t push us past our limit. He takes you by the hand and leads you ever so gently. He says, “I’ve got you. I know you better than you know yourself. Trust me. Trust my process.”
I’ve seen his faithfulness in the process. He never wastes a moment. Even in the moments you feel like you’re caught in a landslide, he still leads you forward. He never lets go of your hand. The journey will include mountains and valleys, but the valleys are part of the journey. You can’t get to where you’re going without them.
Jesus is the best leader. He’s a trustworthy leader. He beautifully orchestrated, and continues to orchestrate, every step of my journey. He tailored it to me. To my heart. If he had just miraculously taken away my anxiety back in 2015 (and believe me, I prayed for that and wanted that), I would have missed out on a beautiful journey with him. Has it been easy? No. Has it been painless? Definitely not. But has it been worth it? Absolutely. Looking back on his perfect leadership in my life has created a bond of trust that couldn’t have happened any other way. And I wouldn’t change a thing.
Why did I tell you this long story? Because if you’re like me, and you feel like there’s no light at the end of the tunnel, I want to encourage you to keep going. Keep pushing forward. Keep trusting Jesus. Your journey is beautiful and perfect. He knows what he’s doing. He knows your heart. He sees your pain. And he loves you too much to leave you where you are. Don’t settle for anything less than complete and total freedom. It’s already yours. He paid for it. And I’m here to encourage you to keep going. One step at a time.