It is interesting that the beginning of a new year now excites me. It never used to. It is interesting that I now anticipate potential as a new year unfolds instead of fear. I don’t know why I have had time to think about it this year, but I have. Perhaps it is because this year my anticipation and excitement is so great!
Yet, I remember the mixed emotions of Christmas when we were first married and when the children were small. They were lovely Christmases full of beautiful moments and memories, but in the background sat a slither of darkness for me and this year I have remembered it. I used to dread stepping over the threshold leaving an old year behind and entering into the new. Those were the days when irrational fear was such a familiar part of my life that it didn’t take much for my emotions to be erratic. It was residue from childhood; a childhood with an outlook that dreaded the future. My childhood was wonderful. Don’t get me wrong, but a wonderful childhood doesn’t mean being exempt from ghosts and we all have our own battles to fight. One of mine was with irrational fear. I have had years of learning to identify the roots of it and I won’t bore you with those details. Suffice to say fears wouldn’t let me sleep at night and would have me paralysed and shivering in the dark. Irrational? Yes. I am not talking about the anxious worries that make me cranky, although there were, have been and still can be plenty of those too. But the sort of fear that affected everything, my feelings and my body. This sense that began with a thought and crept over the back of my head. It would make me freeze and shiver. It absorbed me completely. I had no control over it except to avoid triggers for certain thoughts. Those were the days when global and national news would dramatically affect my mental and emotional sense of well-being, so I never engaged with the news. I didn’t listen to it. I didn’t read it. I didn’t watch it. Those were the days when anxiety would cloud my perception; the days when a racing heart would wake me in the night with a fear of something undone or something about to happen; or the days when a sense of impending doom would hang over me for no reason.
Thankfully I have always been surrounded by good people who would never let me wallow in self pity or give in. While they understood, they have always encouraged me to overcome. They have encouraged me to fight back and not allow irrational fear to be something that is just managed but ever present in my life, nor have they ever let me use it as an excuse. That attitude was one that boosted me in actively going to God and seeking His answers, His deliverance. It has been a journey. The attitude of those around me is one that has tenaciously helped me fight and overcome. When first married, and annoyed by how battle weary I was, I asked God ‘why’. Why do I have to fight with this? I feel so vulnerable and I hate the conflict. I found my answer in Judges 3:1-3.
These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience): the five rulers of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites living in the Lebanon mountains from Mount Baal Hermon to Lebo Hamath.
I understood that He was teaching me to fight. Now this year, I suddenly realise that that battle is won. Yes, it has taken time. There have been marked moments of deliverance that I can recall along the way. I live today in complete liberty and actually have done for years now, (except, of course, when I try to diagnose a mysterious malady using Google!) but for some reason as we have crossed into a new year I have remembered how it once was. Today, that irrational fear so familiar in my childhood is nowhere near my heart. As I remember, I can cite several moments of conflict where, with God’s Spirit, we cut the ties that gave fear a right to be in my life. We reclaimed specific territories where fear had been king, such as by welcoming the light of Jesus into my life, the obedience of being baptised, learning to worship God first, learning to stand firm (Luke 21:19), learning to take the offensive in prayer instead of just the defensive by taking hold of the authority we are given (Luke 10:19). There have also been other people who have come alongside or moments of realisation that have helped me uproot and throw out the identifiable weeds that choked me. Then on the toughest of days simple practical wisdom was enough; such as during post-natal days – days in which I would be grasping for strength just to get through – I was told sleep and reading my Bible was my best remedy. And it was. Together these moments contributed to wholeness.
Learning to overcome…always learning a pattern of life that changed me, learning to live with the presence of God as my constant, not my ‘go-to’ in emergencies. I am still learning. There are new territories to overcome.
When I stop and think about it now, I find this liberation is, in truth, quite amazing. I am so excited (genuinely excited, not a talking-myself-into-a-positive-mindset excited) for the year ahead. I can look ahead without fear. Once upon a time I could not, without shivering!