This past weekend, my husband and I and our 18 month old son went to the pool. It was a nice day, and we were relaxing with friends and family. The pool is a neighborhood pool, so it was full of families. Kids of all ages splashing around with their parents and every floating toy imaginable were scattered all around. My husband and I were taking turns either being in the pool with our son or watching him outside the pool, just playing around. He likes wandering around and exploring just as much as being in the water splashing around in his floater.
At one point, my husband was watching and playing with him, but needed to go to the restroom. He left him next to me and my aunt, who were chatting. My husband did not say anything, so I assumed when my son followed him, that they were just walking around to another area as they had been doing. My husband assumed that since he was with me, that he would stay next to me and if he wandered off, I would know to go with him. We both assumed the other was watching him. The next thing I know, my husband is calling my name and looking at me like what are you doing? as he is picking up our son next to the exit where the restrooms were located. Everything was fine, thank God! Completely by the grace and providence of the Lord, there was a woman standing there who kept an eye on him while my husband was in the restroom. My husband later told me that when he walked out, he saw our son there and the lady was close by making sure nothing happened because she had noticed that he was by himself.
Even typing this, a serious wave of anxiety is coming over me. My gut is actually wrenching. I know this is something that happens; it is simply miscommunication, a couple of words left out. Nothing happened, but we all know what could have. I did not totally freak out at the time and struggled to push away all the “what if’s” in my mind. I succeeded for the rest of that afternoon, but then the night came. I woke up in the middle of the night with anxiety. I could not shake the “what if’s” and things got dark. Very dark. Thus began a downward spiral. Fear, guilt, anger, blame shifting…. I was consumed. I know that we can play the “what-if” game and, literally, give ourselves panic attacks and make ourselves physically ill. I have done this numerous times. I’ve even done it in absurd circumstances where nothing could have gone wrong.
I kept trying just to push out the thoughts, but that was not working. I then began to beg God to take the thoughts away. This would work for about 3 seconds, then the thoughts would rush back. Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit, I began to use a voice of thanksgiving. I acknowledged that it was God who placed that woman, a mother herself, at the pool that day. It was He who gave her alert eyes and a motherly instinct to notice what was going on. I thanked and praised him for His protection. I began to pray for immense blessings on her and her family. I had made small talk with her in the pool and had seen her children. I did not know any of their names, but I prayed for them and prayed and prayed and prayed. I have been praying for them since then. I am choosing to give thanks instead of letting fear consume me.
The Bible tells us over and over to pray constantly.
Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. Col. 4:2 ESV (emphasis mine)
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Rom. 12:12 ESV
… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Phil 4:6 ESV (emphasis mine)
I know nothing about that woman, but I now feel like I do. It is strange and awesome. I remember her face and what her children looked like. I am praying and believing that God is going to do something special in her life or the lives of her children. The amount that I have prayed for this woman is, sadly, a reflection of how much I can be consumed with worry, but it is also an encouraging example of how prayer and taking our thoughts captive transforms us. We are told to meditate on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” This is the second part of the familiar Philippians verse 4:5-9. Until recently, I would only think about the first part that tells us to pray about everything. Worth noting, right after that, we are given things to meditate on. The mind is, indeed, a battlefield.
I will boast in this weakness of letting fear consume my thoughts. I will tell about this anxiety, worry, and inability to let go because Jesus shows up here. While my flesh is crazy and goes to dark places, my spirit can give thanks and praise for God placing his safety upon my family. I choose to believe this:
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2Cor. 12:9-10 ESV