by Brian Johnson, 2019 – Audible

This latest audible book came to me from a.i. Artificial intelligence.It’s real. It bombards our daily lives. Yet its artificial.

I suppose they call it artificial because there’s not a real person behind the actual sending of a book or product into your personal cyberspace. Surely no human besides me really knows that it comes to me. Just a bunch of algorithms–whatever that is–and there you have it. A new book to explore, or product to purchase all becuase of what you have been looking at on your own screens. Because of my own choices in cyberspace, a.i. thinks I may like this sort of book. So I took the bait and bit. It sounded like a good title based on my own values and beliefs and perhaps a.i. is correct in thinking I might like it.

And then it happened. The Supreme Ingelligence–God Almighty–led me to it the morning I was finishing up last weeks’ blog where I focused on anxiety.

I absolutely love it when I realize God is swooping into my life unannounced — yet always invited — to guide me to my next read — perhaps just to confirm that He’s taking notice. Which by the way is perhaps my favorite attribute of His — he SEES and TAKES NOTICE! I know He cares — for me that’s a given — but sometimes I wonder — God, are you seeing this?

Yes He is.

But anyway. This book was all about one man’s struggle with anxiety — the severest form perhaps — panic attacks. And it was a short book. Four hours. I can do four hours in my sleep. But I did it on my way to Charlotte on Monday to lunch with my friend Kim. She’s never had a panic attack. I asked. Me neither. I don’t think. Perhaps one or two back in my early twenties when I went a bit crazy. Perhaps that counts as a panic attack?

But I don’t have to have one to know that they are real, and you feel like you are about to die. Or embarrass yourself to the point of wishing you were dead. I have been extremely nervous before a talk. Nervous to the point that my body was doing weird things. I didn’t realize that knocking knees was a literal thing, until the first time I gave my Christian testimony in public. It is. And I will never forget the first time I spoke to a group of seminary students and my boss who was the Old Testament professor. My teeth were so dry, I couldn’t get my lips to move down over them. It is hard to talk when your lips won’t close. And I can also recall my first year on staff at my St. Louis church where a staff of 30something went around a table each week to report on their ministries. The closer it got to my turn, the more nervous I got. I was continually in my head, pleading for God to calm my anxious mind and heart. I reckon he finally did — thirty years later. Now when I’m around the table at staff, I actually look forward to my turn, even though I usually have not one thing to add to the conversation. But my pastor has a way of asking me just the right question to get me to pipe up, and pipe up I do. Because here’s the thing: I’m sitting around a table full of loving people.

I think I’m on to something as I prod my own issues with anxiety.

When we don’t feel loved … When we don’t feel safe … When we think people are going to find out we’re flawed … That’s the stuff that anxiety is made of. For me anyway.

And you know, sometimes we are in enemy territory — surrounded by people who are either ambivalent at best or really dislike you at worse. Sometimes we aren’t safe. This world is not safe. It isn’t now and it never was. Not even in the 40’s (that was a shout out to my dear husband). He however, did feel very safe in the 40’s. And always, we are flawed. Get over it. You’ve messed up. You need work. You can do NOTHING–of lasting value–apart from Jesus. John 15 says so, and I believe it. You know what is freeing for me: to tell people right up front that I’m flawed and I know it. Especially when I speak to more than one person at a time. That very thing does a lot to free up my dry teeth and knocking knees.

But anyway.

Back to the book. I found myself getting irritated with the flatness of his voice. He reads it himself. I thought also that this guy wants people to think he’s all that. I got a strong sense that he had a very high view of himself. And I have a feeling that his highly charismatic parents gave him a little too much non-age-appropriate things to think about as a kid. As a child, I still can recall the time I felt like the sky may fall at any moment. It was after a revival preacher spoke on the book of Revelation and the end times, and the thought that locusts were going to swarm in and cover the earth was just a little too much for me to handle at such a young age.

But anyway.

This book. This guy. A guy up to his eyeballs in ministry. His story. It takes him until he is in his late thirties — I believe — to actually get it. He’s flawed. And he needs God to intervene and if God doesn’t intervene, he’s sunk. And he was. Sunk as low as you can go emotionally and physically. Yet doing Christian things. Good Christian things.

Amazing to hear the physical impact that a panic attack can have on your body. It’s not real, yet it is real. Sorta like this a.i. thing the cyber-world has going on.

But anyway.

He couldn’t cope–even though he was driven and talented and endowed with great resources. But as he read his take on conversations and life, I thought to myself, he doesn’t get it! He is really impressed with himself. I found myself not liking him. Until the end. He was starting to get it. Hasn’t arrived yet. But he finally realized that God was drawing this flawed, yet gifted human to Himself.

Come unto me all who are weary.

Brian was going to music — even Christian music — going to medications — going to a therapist — seemingly doing all the right things — but still the panic attacks were unrelenting. And then he started to figure it out — and I believe he started to decrease in opinion of himself, and increase in his opinion of God — and started seeking the Lord Jesus Christ in fresh ways.

Utter dependence.

God will do whatever it takes to get you to the place of utter dependence on Him. For some it takes panic attacks. For all of us, its some sort of addiction that is very real. All of which often leads to a miserable life–apart from God.

But God. There before the Grace of God.

God’s healing power, through his nearness, leads to shalom. I realize this tension of dealing with our own struggles never gets all tidied up in this life. So, until we see the face of Jesus, we shall have to depend on practicing utter dependence. When you start to get that, you start to get it. And then you realize, you haven’t arrived. But there is joy in the journey when you struggle well.