A few weeks ago, while at counseling, I shared the mix of emotions I have been feeling in the wake of our court date. On the one hand, I am filled with anxiety, often waking up in the middle of the night with nightmares (of being eaten by an animal) and unable to get my heart to stop racing. It's not a worry but a physical reaction that keeps my body tense.
But then, on the other hand, in my mind, I am experiencing a load of relief. On Friday night, I told some friends how excited I feel about life right now... something I don't think I've EVER experienced.
So what do I do with that paradox? How do I manage the anxiety while simultaneously holding relief?
My counselor explained that I have been in fight or flight mode for 28 years. For 24 years, I was in flight mode-ignoring and compartmentalizing the trauma I experienced as a teenager. Then the last four years have been a solid fight-waiting for the next phone call, the next bad news to come, the next shoe to drop.
I stopped fleeing a while ago but only now stopped fighting. And my body and my mind are having a hard time catching up to the relief that I "should" be feeling.
My inability to arrive at the place I thought I was headed reminded me of something I read recently about the Israelites.
The Lord knew they were tired of fighting; they were weary and weren't physically ready for war, so he took them "the long way," which also happened to be the way of the wilderness. I have so many thoughts about how this is mirrored often in life, but we're going to move on for the sake of time.
Why were they in the wilderness? They were escaping slavery and moving toward a Promised Land that God was preparing for them.
But if you've studied the Old Testament at all, you know that God didn't take them straight there, nor did he give them the land all at once. Instead, God says to the Israelites, "I will drive [your enemies] out little by little ahead of you until you have become numerous and take possession of the land." (Exodus 23:30)
He took them into the land little by little. Why? The text doesn't explicitly spell it all out for us here, but we can infer from all the information that they weren't ready. They weren't strong enough to defend the land, nor were they strong enough to fight for it. They weren't numerous enough, and God wanted to give them time to multiply.
They weren't ready, and neither was the land they were to take possession of.
So God led them little by little.
And I can't help but think that is how God works with us still today. I am ready for my promised land of relief. I am ready to experience it fully-whatever that looks like and whatever God has for me there. But maybe God also knows that I won't be able to handle the transition all at once. Maybe there's something or someone there now that God has to prepare before my arrival. Maybe, although the threat is gone, I'm weary of fighting, and God wants to give me some time to regain my footing.
And maybe it's the same for you, too.
Maybe you know you aren't there anymore, but you're also not there yet. Could I remind you today that God hasn't accidentally left us in this wilderness or in-between space? Instead, he is constantly working in, through, and around us. And he will continue to lead us, albeit little by little, until the day we meet him face to face.
Let's believe him for that today.