I Have Been Brought So Very LowPosted: June 1, 2013
The thought of going out on vicarage terrified me from the beginning of second year. The unknowns of the process petrified me and the thought of facing a congregation of strangers made me panic. But I had a plan on how I would stay in control. There were two things I knew absolutely could not happen during vicarage: I could not become a housewife* and I could not spiral into anxiety and depression like I did after our first move. If I could prevent these fears from forming, then I would survive vicarage.
But my fears came true. The two things I fervently prayed for God to prevent happened anyway. I became severely anxious and struggled with depression. The anxiety became so severe that I couldn’t go to church on Sundays. Even worse, I had to allow my husband to explain to the congregation the reason for my prolonged absence. They knew my secret of anxiety. My work hours were continually cut to the point where I can no longer consider myself a nanny–I had become the housewife I never wanted to be.
As I watched my plans unravel, I felt bitter. I was angry at my husband for dragging me all over the Midwest, I was angry at myself for not being able to handle what every other sem. wife seemingly did with ease, and I was angry at God for refusing me the two things I wanted most. And I felt deeply ashamed. I felt ashamed when I finally talked the pastor here about my anxiety (even though he showed nothing but compassion for my pain), I felt ashamed every time I had to answer the question of, “Well, what do you do with your free time?” (answer: nothing of great importance. Really, it’s a productive week if I actually clean the bathroom), and I felt ashamed every time I didn’t meet my expectations of how I should behave in church. It was a difficult time.
Never have I felt the words of Paul in Philippians 4:11-13 so poignantly as I do now, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Now, I’m no theologian, so I can’t sort out for you why why God allowed me to have been brought low through anxiety and no job. But this I do know: I lost every sort of illusion that my own strength could carry me through vicarage. It’s impossible to feel invincible when you rely on your husband to bring home the paycheck. It’s impossible to feel strong when you sit by the door on Sunday morning crying as the church bells ring because you can’t walk out the door to go to service. It’s impossible to feel righteous when you stare off into space all afternoon thinking all kinds of evil thoughts about how God has abandoned you.
In the end, it was God who has gotten me through vicarage; I obviously had nothing left in me to pull my life together. He gave me a loving husband who cared for me during my times of anguish. He placed us with a supervising pastor who was willing to give me communion when I admitted that I couldn’t go to church. He provided me a friend in the congregation who would reach out to me despite my crazy behavior. And when there was no pride or strength of my own to cling to, Christ’s cross was there with His Words, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matt. 28:20b).
The funny thing about all this is that despite my fears coming true, despite the anxiety, and despite the lack of a job, I’m surviving. In fact, I’m even starting to think that I’m beginning to thrive. I’m writing more and I’m finding my voice again through my writing. I have made a few good friends here and I’m finding that I’m starting to love the congregation in my own quiet way. Best of all, I don’t dread my husband’s call (God willing) the same way that I dreaded vicarage–my worst fears already happened on vicarage, I now know what happens when they come true. I no longer have to fear my fears. And while I may again succumb to my own pride and battle against anxiety (after all, I am still a sinner), God will remain faithful. He will daily and richly forgive all my sins and keep me in the faith–not by my own strength, but through His.
*I define housewife differently from SAHM. A SAHM cares for her children and keeps the household running, a housewife only tends to the house. I’m okay with the thought of being a SAHM, I never wanted to be a housewife.