“The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” – Proverbs 28:1 NIV
Imagine you are running through a forest at night, weaving between the trees and crashing through bushes and brush on your way to nowhere in particular. Your carom off tree trunks as you try to miss them but it’s so dark you can’t help but run into a few. Leaves and branches crack under your feet as you stumble around, looking for somewhere safe to hide. All you know is that ahead of you is that safe place, and behind you lies an unknown but terrifying danger. You even muster the courage to look back over your shoulder once or twice, and while you see nothing there, you still run as fast as you can because you know, deep down inside, that stopping is not an option. You must keep going.
Metaphorically speaking, this is what it can feel like to have a panic attack. When I was in my mid-twenties, I suffered from multiple panic attacks over a few year period. They would come on without much warning and leave once I had found myself a safe place. Sometimes that safe space was the emergency room, other times it was a phone call to a parent, once it was even the corner of my bedroom with my back against the wall. As I have come to learn over the years I succumbed to these attacks because I was running away from what was inside of me, because I feared what I might find if I stopped to look. As I have also learned, you can never truly outrun that which is inside you, at some point you need to stand and boldly face it. “The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
I finally did build up the confidence to ward off those attacks when they came, partly through therapy, partly through opening up about them to my friends and family, and partly through retreating into a daily routine that kept me calm and focused. But certainly not through my own righteousness. I still remember the first one I warded off on my own. The pride was palpable. I awoke in the middle of the night, felt my heart begin to race, my forehead begin to sweat, and my breath begin to shorten. But then I talked myself down and was able to get back to sleep (after about an hour of staring at the ceiling but still, a win is a win!).
I like to think that by strengthening that which was inside of me, I began to learn how to squeeze out that fear and slowly make room for Jesus, who became my righteousness and my lion. It wasn’t until I was older that I truly began to make serious room for Him in my life, but it gives me comfort to think that at one time, before I was ready to be with Him, he was there with me, sitting in that corner, warding off the coming fear.