Thursday, June 24, 2010

Wait Training

In my world, where health struggles are the norm and medical testing is not unusual, I have done a lot of waiting. Waiting to see that expert doctor. Waiting in the waiting room (sometimes those minutes can be torture). Waiting for a scheduled test. Waiting for test results (weekend waiting is the worst, I think). Lots and lots of waiting. (To quote Princess Bride: I hate waiting. )

You'd think I would get better at it, but if anything, I've come to feel as though I have done nothing but perfected my fretting frenzies.

Case in point: Just a couple of weeks ago I was nearly beside myself for two weeks while waiting to see how severe my heart murmur is. I was a wreck!

I know in my head and heart that fear and faith cannot coexist, but it's one thing to know and another to be able to do. I really am sort of wired to worry. And the more I worry, the more my brain and body want to go to that place of worry.

It's like swimming upstream to try to change that.

But swim I must. For months, going on years, I have been working to build my faith through personal study and worship and by reading lots of books and going to a therapist. (She's a specialist in chronic illness and a woman of deep faith, and true angel in my life.)

This week, I had another something go wonky with my body which entailed another doctor's visit. A perfect storm was building for another pity-panic party. I woke up Tuesday with pounding heart and racing brain.

BUT, I am grateful (shocked might be the better word) to report that perhaps for the first time in my life, somehow I was able to push beyond the yuck and go -- AND STAY -- in another place in my mind -- a place that allowed the Spirit to penetrate through the panic and calm my soul - and STAY. I feel more than His peace -- I feel His power.

What a long-awaited-for gift!

I'm reminded of something my therapist has taught me. Repentance is not just a change in sinful behavior, but a change in how we see ourselves, life, others, and God. It often requires a new way of thinking. (See the Bible Dictionary definition of repentance -- talks about a changed view of self, others, God...I'd add mortality to that list.)

Such change is not just a spiritual endeavor. It involves real, physiological changes in neural pathways in our brain, many of which are both part of and reinforced by our fallen natures. My fears are an example. I think I *am* wired to worry, but as I said, I've sure developed a talent for it, too, through lots and lots of practice! This is an example of how the "natural man" can manifest itself -- not just in depraved sinfulness, but in distorted thought patterns that can keep God's peace at bay. We aren't bad people if we struggle with these things. Faith really is like any other exercise! It takes lots of time and repetition and patience and consistency and all of that.

But with that exercise and God's help, we can develop a new mind.

Let me be clear here. I know not everything about our brains can be fixed in this life, and in fact, some of that brokenness may be part of the necessary opposition for our journeys. Some mental illness is beyond agency's ability to affect. My experience has been that there are things I have tried to focus on fixing in my brain and have felt wrong about addressing right now. Others I have worked on and have had little success.

But on the other hand, I have felt pressed to focus on things like this kind of spirit-choking fear. I think I needed to get to a point in my life (yes, through a whole lot of "experience") where I was able to tackle retraining my brain.

And can I just tell you that progress has been colossally slow?

But now, this experience gives me hope. I know I'll slip into old patterns of fear again, but maybe, just maybe, I can practice going to this place and build a new road in my brain!

You know, I don't always like the learn-by-experience plan that is central to God's work with us {grin}, but when I taste the fruits of faith like this, I can embrace the plan more fully. (Fighting against God's plan has never yielded good fruits. Yet another pathway that needs some work.)

It's a wonderful thing to read the scriptures or sit in Sunday School or go to the temple and have the Spirit testify of the truth of the Atonement. I think all these things have helped plant truth in my spirit.

But it's truly miraculous for me to see those truths come to fruition in my life and take hold in a new-mind kind of way, even if just in a small way.

The Atonement is real.

We've just got to keep on working, exercising our faith (not giving up, and sometimes just showing up!)...

...And waiting. Waiting on Him.

- - - - - - -

What truths help you in times of waiting?


  1. Merely knowing that the Lord knows the end from the beginning helps. When I can successfully lean on that knowledge, then it doesn't matter as much how long it takes before I get to know the next step into the darkness.
    The idea of progression--that we are all learning and growing and imperfect and that is as it should be. Why this helps with waiting, I don't know, but it helps me immeasurably to hear that President Packer has struggled with not knowing what will come next, that Harold B. Lee needed to learn to wait on the Lord (and so forth and so forth). That this waiting on the Lord business is not easy for anyone, but that because we are waiting on the Lord and not on the bus or something else less important our waiting journey is supported by unseen angels and tender mercies wherever and whenever we can humble ourselves to see them.
    The idea from a stake conference long ago: You can't get there from here. Like the Savior, we must grow in little steps (either from grace to grace, like the Lord, or from grace to sin and back to grace again) and sometimes focusing more on the small steps instead of the big waiting steps helps, you know, elephant burgers and all that.
    And finally, the idea that the Lord clothes the lilies, is mindful of the sparrows and knows I wait.

  2. I know that my HF has a plan for me. It's when I get all sucked up in MY plan for me that the anxiety comes. It's hard to know the difference, sometimes. Does He want me to be sick right now? Does He want me to simply ask Him to heal me? It's just hard. But accepting "what is" while having hope for the future helps a lot. (I love Princess Bride--you have to read the book and order the ravine supplement if you haven't already--it's a scream.)

  3. How grateful I am for faith-filled friends. Thank you for these thoughts. I love truth.