I am ashamed to say that I have always flirted with stress. When I was young, it took on the form of procrastination. Now, that I’ve gotten over my procrastination, though, it takes the form of busyness, overloading my schedule, caving in to the demands of people in an effort to please them, and extending myself entirely too thin.

I have always flirted with stress.

I bet you know the feeling. The feeling of doing so much, you “couldn’t possibly do one more thing.” The constant feeling of exhaustion. The obsession with the finish line looming in the not-so-distant future. The daydreams about what you’re going to do when your project is over or your life returns to “normal.” The questions that plague you, making you ask, “How did I get here again?” way too often. Yep, I bet you know the feeling.

Can I tell you that the feeling ends?

Nope, this is not one of those feel good posts that’s going to encourage you to keep going because you’re going to make it to that long awaited place we all call, “One day.” This is a real post to tell you that at one point the flirtation becomes dangerous and it threatens your life. Dun dun dun!

Could I be any more dramatic?

Seriously though. This past October, I realized I’d officially gone entirely too far beyond the line of flirtation I’d had with stress and fallen over it. The bags under my eyes, the way I carried my body because it hurt so badly, the anxiety I felt motivating my every move, and the twitch that was beginning to take over the right side of my face all told me that I’d officially failed to maintain the appropriate boundaries at the intersection of life, work, and ministry. I kept hearing God say, “slow down,” to my heart and I knew it was serious. I knew that it was threatening my health-for good-if I kept on.

In the middle of October, I took a much needed break as soon as the project was over and my husband took me camping. That first morning he led prayer for the two of us, I got out four words before I collapsed in tears, “Help me to breath.” I’d forgotten how. I don’t mean to make light of the situation with everything that’s gone on this year with George Floyd. I literally could not inhale deeply enough to get a full breath. The anxiety had transformed my life. I’d collapsed in tears because I didn’t know how to sit down any longer without rushing off to do anything else, and I felt incapable of breathing deeply enough to or correctly enough to sustain the life in my lungs. It literally hurt.

Sis, it hurt like…you wouldn’t believe. I would never wish that emotional and physical pain on anyone. Yet and still, I’m grateful for it.

I never would have changed unless change forced itself on me and into my life. It’s been slow, but it’s been steady, and I’m grateful because that stress blessed my life. Romans 8:28 is one of my life verses. It sustains me. I quote it all the time, but here it is again:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

I’d like to suggest that the hard thing that’s staring you in your face has come to help you. I’d like to ask you to slow down long enough to listen to it. I’d like to invite you to cry through it, acknowledge it, and walk away from it, regardless of how much it hurts. You may need a therapist or a pastor to help you walk away from it, and that’s okay. It will be worth it. It’s working together for your good, and we are praying for you.

Dear Father,

We are asking for your strength to walk away from the stress today. Practically, we don’t know what it looks like, but we’re inviting You to show us. It may mean we let some people down. It may mean that we are going to walk away from some “opportunities.” It may be hard, messy, uncomfortable, and bring us to tears more often than we like, but our bodies are Your temples and our families are Your gifts. Help us to trust the true opportunity You’ve given us to redefine and reinvent ourselves in this season.

In Jesus’ name, we pray, amen.

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