My heart hammers as the doors open wide. Smiling faces blur. I duck my head.
Greetings call out and all I long to do is drag in one free inhalation of air.
Breathe in, breathe out.
I come yet again to the place where I was wounded, yet I know it’s where I should be. Why is this so hard?
How strange that both Hope and Goliaths should occupy the same pews.
Music floods the air. My mind struggles to focus on the words, the melody, the rhythm. My voice sounds strange in my own ears. Are people watching me? Can they see the turmoil churning through my mind?
A toddler squirms, pulling my thoughts towards lighter things. The coo of babies. The zip of a diaper bag.
A head turns. Eyes bore into mine. A stare. Curiosity? Judgment? Heat flushes my skin, creeping up my limbs and choking the air from my lungs. What is the stranger thinking? She turns back around, yet my heart is left alone, a reel of movie film, snipped and whirling out of control as it falls free from its encasement.
The sermon begins yet the word mesh together. The words of my Savior. Why can I not concentrate? “I am the way….He who comes…then they said….the truth….He said…”
What kind of a Christian can’t even sit through a worship service?
Tears blur my vision. I rise and stumble from my pew, hastening towards my safe place. The haven I find myself in every Sunday between eleven and twelve. The one spot in the church building where more people need ministering than any other. I know because I see them there each week. The tired mothers. The depressed teenagers. People battling anxiety like me. We each walk in carrying our silent burden.
As I slip inside and tuck myself in an empty stall, I drop my head in my hands and let the tears fall.
God, do you see me? Why can’t I break free?
(I wrote this narrative after interviewing many friends and acquaintances who battle anxiety, both social and otherwise, within our churches. May we all be aware of the wars silently being waged each Sunday, and be the hands and feet of Jesus to the hurting. Depression and anxiety bear no mark on a person’s spirituality. May love, grace and wisdom be the aroma we spread to all we encounter…the aroma of Christ.)