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social anxiety as a crutch…

Finding a community in Nashville has been daunting for me. The choices were limited but remarkably different. I was alone, mostly. I’d drift into the back and try to blend into the paneling. It usually worked. I’d sneak out early because being in the space was intimidating enough but then having to meet and greet actual real life humans…that’s when my hands would start to sweat and I’d go all tongue-tied.

This sucks because frankly, I love to talk. Real life friends will tell you, once I know where I fit in the social structure of the space I’m there, fully present and engaged. At first though, that demon of social anxiety takes my heart in its grubby hands and squeezes it until I can’t breathe.

I’ve done some work on this. I know what it is, where it finds its roots. I’m so afraid of rejection, judgement and abandonment. It’s old stuff, childhood stuff, stuff I just never left when I moved away from home. It’s me sitting up late at night hearing my mom and dad argue. It’s hearing the door slam and my dad’s truck roar off down the street. It’s the day they told me they were divorcing. It’s the kids in grade school who teased me and left me out because I lived a little outside the common circles.

It’s a desperate desire to belong…because belonging is what it looks like to be loved in my view. For someone like me who sets herself apart from the norm and lives a little outside the common circles it’s hard to belong. It kind of goes against the very thing I say I want.

I suppose this is my common refrain then, Orthodoxy being this unchanging set of arms waiting for me. But that picture is a little distant, cold concrete can’t welcome me in. Only flesh will answer that. And then I’m gripped with the familiar anxiety.

But here’s this new thing I’m thinking- how often do I use my fears and anxieties to get me out of being uncomfortable? How often to I lean on the social anxiety, tell it my troubles and give it another slice of my heart? How long until all I have left is a crutch. What I’d really like it to throw it down, have that not be a part of my emotional DNA.

I imagine that if Jesus was in my livingroom and I was telling Him this He’d be all, “throw down your crutch, you are healed” and I’d answer back, sassy-like with “yeah, right…easy for you to say!” And then He’d laugh because He really does think I’m funny.

There’s the word we’re looking for, the operative word- “healed.” What does it look like for me to move through the injury, to bear the pain and see what happens then? Call it an active rehab. I may always walk with a limp, that’s okay by me, but my hope is that I won’t always need a crutch.