I sat straight up in the bed trying to catch my breath. I shook off the just-woke-up confusion as I tried to recall what had just happened. Oh yeah—the dream. A horrible dream. One that shook me to my core. The truth of it shamed me as much as the oddity of it puzzled me. I slid from the bed and stumbled into my office, grabbing a piece of paper and pen as I straightened my pajamas and sat down in my chair.
I tried to capture the details I could remember. To replay the flashes and glimpses that had left me breathless with anxiety when I awoke. I wanted to discover what brought this on and what the events in my mind could mean.
I didn’t like the answer very much.
An unassuming trail of events that probably seemed very everyday to most people had left me in terror. I realized as I wrote that I had just experienced, in a dream that was probably not even ten minutes long, the naming of every fear I had. Rapid-fire mental images had called attention to everything I seemed to battle. The fear escalated as it stacked, ranging across everything from being in a closed space to messing up my children’s medical appointments. From being judged for my weight to being judged for my parenting. From no one hearing me call out for help to the paradox of my love and fear of water. From anxiety about shopping to anxiety about things being out of and beyond my control—including my son eating popcorn and a chocolate syrup sandwich for breakfast while a groundhog was in my kitchen sink eating an apple from the groceries someone piled there as water drips from my ceiling and my kids play with shorted-out electrical cords in an effort to turn on a light so I can see. (That freebie was for any therapists out there that might be bored.)
It was like someone had triggered the fear part of my brain and set all the captives free. The entire time in the dream I am screaming “WHY!? WHY IS THIS HAPPENING? WHY DID YOU DO THAT!?” until I had used up all my air. They were guttural screams begging for answers more than solutions. Screams full of sorrow and pain I still felt tingling in my chest even after my eyes flew open.
Yup, I know. Big therapy bill.
But the truth is, I don’t need a therapist to tell me what is going on there. I am an anxious person. I spend every day battling the fear of what if. I devote a significant amount of time to producing plans to try to prevent bad things from happening. I am an insurance agent’s best friend (actually a true statement). I keep myself running in circles trying to seek confirmation that I am okay and that everyone else in the world will be okay too. Oh, and they will all like me in the process. There is constant worry and guilt about keeping all the people happy all the time. It is no surprise that anxiety came out in my sleep. This way of life can be exhausting.
This is why it is not only a tagline, but a mission, that I search for light.
Because my dreams point out things that are very real. Fear is real. Anxiety is real. The garden is real. This fallen world is real. Mean people are real. Bad situations are real. The enemy is real.
And Jesus really says do not fear. The enemy's greatest weapon is my fear and Jesus knows it. His words offer me the reminder of what He is capable of against an enemy that will use anything he can to stop me from telling you about my faith.
This is why I must search for light.
For me to win this battle over my fears, I must be an active participant in the overcoming part. I can’t just believe the words, I have to live them. I have to wake up every single day and know that it is okay to admit I am tired and scared and anxious because I have a God that can help me through that. This is not the hill I will die on because someone else already did that for me. But it does require my yes. It does require my investment. It requires me to search for light.
I can keep searching for answers if I want to. I can try to figure out why people do the things they do. I can try to figure out why people are mean and why accidents happen and why life is unfair. I really wish I could figure out why there was a groundhog in my sink. The closest answer I can arrive at about any of it is that thing with the apple. (Not the groundhog apple but the Eden one.) But even if I had all the answers, it would not change that I have very little control over fixing it no matter how hard I try. I can't control it. But . . .
I can counter it. I can go find light. I can tell you about it. I can guess that some of the things I have talked about here may be things you understand more than you care to. I can imagine I am not the only one having strange dreams that point to all of the inner fear I hold inside. I can suppose I am not the only one who wakes from a night full of fear only to jump into battling for a day without it. I can tell you that you are not alone in feeling alone.
So, if you are like me and face ongoing struggles with anxiety, know that God has put light here for you to find. You can find light and God's helping hand in many things if you say yes to looking for it. Say yes to counseling, friendship, laughter, encouragement, and other opportunities for support. God can use anything to show you the path forward—even a crazy dream and a groundhog. You just have to keep looking. Just embrace that groundhog and keep on looking.