Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Ornament Exchange

The Bible study I'm involved with did an ornament exchange this year.  Everyone was supposed to bring a wrapped ornament, and we were supposed to play a game to determine which ornament we would take home.

I'm not sure if you noticed, but I suffer from social anxiety.
According to the Social Anxiety Institute, "social anxiety is the fear of being judged and evaluated negatively by other people, leading to feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, embarrassment, humiliation, and depression."  I'd say that about sums it up.  

{And please don't tell me I  shouldn't worry about that kind of stuff.  This is an irrational fear, which means no amount of truth is going to make it go away.}

In my case, I have to give myself a little pep talk every time I go somewhere, even somewhere where there are people I love being with, like my Bible study.  I can have physical symptoms, like nausea, headache, rapid heartbeat, sometimes (thankfully, very rarely), I have panic attacks.  The past couple of months, my anxiety has been increasing, to the point where no pep talk was enough; I hadn't been to my Bible study in probably two months.  

I hadn't been able to convince myself that it would be OK to go be with people who love me, for two months.

I wanted to go to the ornament exchange, but I didn't know if I could.

About a week before the party, I was running errands, and suddenly I was absolutely convinced that I needed to go to the ornament exchange, and I needed to make an ornament with Joshua 1:9 on it.  And I just knew that my ornament would be for a specific woman in the group.
My friend has been going through a really rough time for a long time, and it doesn't seem like anything ever changes, no matter what she does.  She's being torn apart by forces beyond her control; she needs a Word of hope.

So on the one hand, I had this conviction, that felt like a divine message, and on the other hand, I had anxiety.  And the anxiety was louder.

I did what any reasonable, anxiety-ridden person would do.  I procrastinated.  I was sick.  And then I found it really difficult to stay out of bed for three days, but finally, that divine message drove me to make the ornament.

And it didn't work.  The method I had planned to use turned into a big mess.  And the anxiety whispered, "you can't do anything right."

Yup, this was definitely a sign--the excuse I needed to give in to anxiety and not go exchange ornaments.  So I planned to not go.

And then I realized that I could still make it work a different way, that I could still go to the party.  Honestly, y'all, that was a divine message, too.  Anxiety blocked my brain, but the Spirit showed me the way.

It was like having something dark and ugly and heavy pulling on my leg, pulling me down, and something dazzling and holy and beautiful yanking on my arm, pulling me up.  I was the rope in a spiritual tug of war.

I honestly didn't know, until I walked in the door, whether or not I was going to actually go to the ornament exchange.

I am absolutely certain that my Bible study sisters had no idea how much effort it took for me to be there.  I don't think any of them have a clue that, even on my best days, I have to give myself a mini pep talk in order to show up.  But that day, I made it.

Fast forward to almost the end of the party.  It was time to exchange the ornaments, and we played the game to see who would get which ornament.  When I returned from selecting my ornament to take home, I noticed that the ornament I had made was in the hand of the woman I was convinced it was meant for.


Later, she texted me:
"Thanks so much for the beautiful ornament!  I love the message! It was meant for me!"

Yes, it was.

You know, nothing bad would have happened if I hadn't shown up that day (well, except that the anxiety would have that much tighter of a hold on me), but because I did, something amazing and holy did.

Both of us received a divine hug that day.  God sees both of us.  He knows our struggles, and He gives us the strength needed, just for today.  What a joy, what a gift it was, to be the bearer of that holy message.

My ornament from J.  Isn't she talented?  There's a card attached that says,
"What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? 
What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?"
There's a heart on the back. <3

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