Last year for my course-required counselling I focused on my anxiety over other people’s perspectives of me, and how even just my own speculation of their thoughts drove me crazy. I have felt so much better with interactions this year everywhere, except at church.
I haven’t been able to put my finger on why. I’ve had a few ideas in my mind: we haven’t fit in like we expected we would at our church here in Manitoba. Everyone’s so young and cool. It’s like stepping back into all the paranoia of grade 8 — “They aren’t talking to me. Why would they talk to me? Look how much cooler and prettier they are than me!” But this time it’s grade 8 with the addition of three little children who people can also judge. Mostly Luke, who tends to be quite the spaz at church…
This summer the church changed the arrangement of the sanctuary, putting seating on the platform and creating a new smaller platform at the other end of the church. The first week of the switch, the kids decided they wanted to sit on the front row of the platform. Granted, the majority of the congregation was facing the other direction but by the end of the service I felt completely sick. I just felt like everybody saw every time Olivia dropped a toy or Luke did something annoying. Of course this was also a potluck Sunday which is normally stressful for me. Except this time I was already close to tears before the potluck even started! Thank the Lord a good friend who was there had the presence of mind to invite me for a walk to vent and get me out of that anxious situation.
Even just typing that makes me cry — so frustrating how when you want to hide your body does things like cry which only draws more attention!
Ever since that Sunday I’ve been more aware of what I would call my “social anxiety” at church. And obviously I am thrilled to recognize this the same year that Marc is entering the PASTORATE!
But this morning during communion our pastor said these words:
We come, because God gathers us here,
with the community called faith:
where the hungry are filled with the bread of life,
where the thirsty drink of the fruit of the true vine.
We come, because God reunites us here,
He has emancipated the slave and the prisoner and set us free,
And has placed us among sisters and brothers in a family of love.
“We come, because GOD reunites us here.”
I didn’t know it until I heard it, but I needed to hear that. GOD reunites us. I don’t have to try to “unite” myself by being perfect. I don’t have to panic about other people, because it is not those people who do the uniting. God does.
So I prayed that God would help me to enter into the unity that happens around the table, in the church through Him. And, for the first time in a long time, I felt peaceful. Even with the possibility that the kids were going to storm in the back door right behind me from Sunday school at any moment. I felt peace. And, for the first time in a long time, I made it through a whole service without those anxious feelings.
I was thankful for those words today.