A Well-Worn Path


Twelve hours I had been sitting at this table working on my final project of the semester. Twelve hours was supposed to be more than enough time, but now it was dark outside and panic really began to set in. I would doubt I was even halfway done.

Note to self: do not break off an engagement right before finals week. 

I don't know how else I would've done it though. I couldn't imagine still carrying on pretending there would be a wedding and that I was enamored with the idea.

I also couldn't imagine why I couldn't feel hardly any degree of relief since calling it off. Yes, separating from my fiancé had been very painful, but the feelings I was having were hardly even related to him anymore. They were related to me. I had expected my confidence to grow after I called off the wedding and discovered that I could do hard things. Instead, the sleepless nights had continued along with a growing sense that something was very, very wrong.

*****

"We're going to get control of these negative thoughts you're having."

I was sitting in the office of a trusted church leader. I could feel of his genuine concern and desire to help me. It gave me hope.

"I'm going to give you an assignment."

Anything. I'll do anything.

"I want you to carry a notebook with you, and anytime you have a negative thought, I want you to mark it in that little notebook. That will help you sift through the thoughts that aren't helping you, and we're going to get rid of them."

A few hours later that notebook had become my trusty companion because I was pulling it out frequently. Tic. Bad thought. Tic. Bad thought. Tic tic tic. 

A sweet lady came and picked me up for a drive, probably to take my mind off of my broken engagement. Do I bring the notebook? I wondered. Do I want to feel better? So as she drove, I tried to carry on a conversation, but she had to be wondering what I was doing in my lap. Tic. Tic. Tic tic tic.

Later that night I concluded something. There had been almost a constant flow of panic rushing through my body for the past couple of weeks leading up to the breakup and beyond. It was very distressing and one of the ways my body coped with it was to try to release it through my foot. I had developed a shaking foot. Wherever I was, whatever I was doing, as long as I was sitting down, my foot was shaking. I realized that my fear and anxiety had become so constant, that I could mark a tic with every shake of my foot. 

****
I knelt in my dress after finding a quiet, secluded spot in the park. This actually wasn't the first time I had knelt to pray in this park.

At five years old, I had come to this park with my mom's friend Cindy and her little boy Cole. It was a huge park, and it didn't just seem like it because I was a kid.

I was playing in the sand when I looked up and realized there was not one familiar face to take in. Panic struck my little heart, followed quickly by the thought of something my parents had always taught me: You can pray to Heavenly Father anytime you need help.

I walked over to a park bench and knelt down. 

"I'm lost. I'm scared. Help me," I prayed. 

Instantly, the image of a yellow shirt flashed through my mind. "Cole's mom was wearing a yellow shirt!" I think I even said it out loud.

My eyes scanned the park. Not far from where I stood there was the peak of a small hill and up and over that hill came a woman in a bright yellow shirt. I got a better glimpse as she came closer. It was her. As relief flooded my insides, I ran to join her. He had heard my prayer! And answered it! And I knew it.

15 years later, the needs I would express here in the park weren't much different. 

Please help me. I'm scared. 

This time however, it wasn't my grown up I feared I had lost. It was my mind. And I wasn't saying that to be dramatic. I could feel myself on the verge of insanity. 

Please, show me how to fix this. I know you can.

I knelt for a long time waiting for something.

Nothing.

I tried to remain hopeful on the way home. I knew God often doesn't answer prayers immediately and that's when faith sustains us. But with a growing sense of dread I realized that the place where faith lived in my heart had been filled instead with a quiet sense of terror.

****
What a shame. What a horrible, tragic shame.

It was several weeks later and I now had it all figured out.

I was going to hell. 

That was the only possible reason why my cries to Heaven were going unanswered and my mind was in a constant state of fear and torment.

I had always wanted to be good and to stay out of trouble.  But I was also humble enough to recognize that I wasn't invincible, that I could make mistakes.

And somewhere between the winter and the spring, I had made a big one. Or a series of small ones that had led to my downfall. God had had a different plan for my life that did not involve my ex-fiancé, but I chose to pursue the relationship anyway. He had made several attempts to help me change my course, but in the end I had forged ahead with my own agenda. God had no choice but to sadly step out, and when He did, Satan stepped in.
 
I'd always heard he was good at what he did, but I really had to hand it to him. I never saw it coming.

My misery continued to sustain itself day in and day out, and each day I would review the trail of mistakes that led to my tragic fate. I could trace them like points on a map until they were ingrained in my brain like a well-worn path.

I was going to hell and no one could talk me out of it.

God, save my soul.


Next Chapter: The S Word



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