Monday, July 14, 2014

For God Gave Us a Spirit Not of Fear

Disclaimer: As usual this blog post is Anissa's view only and does not reflect the church she attends or organizations she volunteers with. 

Hello there.
It's been awhile, hasn't it?

I have not sat down to blog in over 3 months. When I cracked open my laptop computer just now to begin writing I could not even remember the website (platform) I use to blog! It feels like years in my mind. Earlier today I was feeling extremely passionate about a couple subjects and decided to post the following on my personal Facebook page:  

Two topics I am itching to blog about (and praying I can write about): 

1) The stigma that accompanies women who decide to keep their maiden name (including among friends). 

2) My experience at this past weekend's camp meeting (it will be an uncomfortable blog post to publish).

I thought it was going to be one of those status updates that fall beneath the radar but within literal minutes, I received a message from a former pastor asking me what happened at the camp meeting this past weekend. And at this very second there are over 60 comments on the status. Something I mentioned on the thread was that this blog post might be a disappointment to those who are expecting something completely different. But here it goes...

This blog post might be reminiscent of a previous one I penned in January 2013 entitled, "How My Liberalism Has Increased My Love For God (to read it, click here)," but this post is different. I can honestly say I was on the road to healing from my past church experience (read the Liberalism post to know what I am referring to) between January 2013 and mid-November 2013, but the healing process halted on November 23rd when my husband and I visited a similar type of church (similar to one referenced in the Liberalism blog post). And don't you worry, I have already communicated with them a couple of times. I am 70-80% ready to speak on a public forum about what transpired that day, but I am not quite there yet. The point is the healing process had to restart after I had made all that progress. It was a rocky restart and to be completely honest I had to restart the healing process for third time in the last month or so because of more of the same (it is related to the same situation that occurred eight months ago--yes, eight months ago). It's tough. 

Anyway, between November 2013 and early July 2014 I had not attended any large church event (not because of what you think, but I just had not) until the camp meeting (sort of like a convention for all of the area churches) this past weekend. Growing up, camp meeting was one of the highlights of my summer; socializing and worshiping with friends, making new friends, seeing old friends, going on hikes, learning more about God, staying up late and cracking jokes, etc. There is something nostalgic about camp meeting and those of you who grew up attending them (and genuinely enjoyed them) know exactly what I mean. When it rolled around this year I was less than excited (compared to my excitement in years past) but was not dreading it.

It began with my procrastination to pack my weekender bag because I knew I had to be meticulous about what I was going to clothe my body in over there. And those of you know me know I try to be modest at all times with my clothing choice, but just knowing I was going to camp meeting panicked me because of my past experiences. When I got to camp meeting to assist with the youth program stage set up I was wearing jeans with a regular t-shirt and scarf, but as time approached for the program to start I started feeling anxious (again from my past church experiences) and decided to change into a jean skirt. I had a black hair tie around my wrist since my hair was down and took it off my wrist because of what people would think. Throughout the weekend I felt as if I was walking on eggshells with various aspects (not just clothing) and thank goodness only one particular friend saw/heard the angst in my face/voice every time I started having these mini anxiety attacks and verbalized my emotion (thanks for putting up with me, friend!). I was mindful to not spread all my angst among various folks because that is not Christian-like either. 

Nothing occurred over the weekend that added to my anxious and fearful spirit. On the contrary, although I felt as if I was walking on eggshells I still enjoyed catching up with old friends, making a couple new ones, and worshiping with many others. The sermons in the youth chapel by Pastor Josant Barrientos (someone I profoundly respect) were light, yet powerful, and thought provoking. You should have seen the altar call! God truly spoke on behalf of His servant and my friend, Josant. 

Photo of the overflowing youth chapel at camp meeting. 

This morning I was retrospectively thinking about what transpired throughout the weekend and realized how much of a damper I had put on myself these past few days. I let fear from past experiences semi-paralyze and get the best of me. It is an awful experience to go through church trauma (or any other trauma), but it should never let it get the best of us. It should not even get the worst of us for that matter. 

*Think about that for a minute.*

It was no one's fault, but my own that I arrived to the camp meeting feeling anxious and fearful. One of my wise sisters advised me, "Don't let bad past experiences spoil your present." My wise husband shared something wise with me as well and said, "The only thing we can create from nothing is fear. We do not need to fear anything, but God." Whenever we have anxiety from past traumas we need to cling even more to Christ Jesus so He can allay our paralysis and fears. After all, God is in control of all things; past, present, and future. 

2 Timothy 1:7
"For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

Philippians 4:6-7

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."