We woke up in Wyoming in early December. I could feel the cold working its way through the windows. I went to pull the curtain back to see how much snow there was but realized that the curtain was actually frozen to the glass with condensation. We got up and made breakfast and coffee, enjoying the warmth of the bus and the beauty of the snow outside. It was a cold time of year to be making our way west, but we had just one more day of driving until we reached Greg’s parents in Utah. From the day we left North Carolina I had been dreading this drive across Wyoming on I-80. This land was lonely, and the earth was frozen, and snow storms seemed to stay all winter long. I was afraid but I am afraid of a lot of things.
The fuel froze in the night but finally we got the bus started and headed out. The first hour was pretty clear and I realized that there was nothing to fear that day with the sun shining. But the sun started to fade, the wind started to howl louder, and the snow flew across the road as the temperature dropped. That uneasy feeling crept back.
There is no way to accurately describe how the wind whisked across the open planes of that vast State. The wind and weather actually seemed to pick up speed as it rolled across the fields and then swept vigorously across the highway carrying blinding snow. Whistling winds screamed through any cracks in the bus and then reached up into my stomach with gripping nausea, as I remembered what could happen to us out here.
For 30 miles, not only was there the wind that was jackknifing semi-truck after semi-truck that we passed, but there was also ice and snow caking the road ahead. Greg was driving, Rowena was sleeping soundly somehow, and I was losing my mind watching the weather ahead of and behind us. I weighed all the options; turning back, pulling over, or going forward. None of these options seemed to work. All I could think about was how we had made a horrible mistake starting out today. We should have watched the weather more closely and stayed at the RV campground. At this point, I was regretting ever embarking on this road trip and condemning myself and Greg for being the world’s most irresponsible parents for taking our precious baby on this crazy road trip in the winter in an old bus. What were we thinking?
Anxiety owned me for about three hours. Anxiety and self-condemnation for not being a wiser, more cautious mother. Our decision to set out was putting Rowena and—of a lot lesser concern—our home in danger. I kept asking God for his peace and presence to fill me and calm my anxious, doubting heart. To be honest, I didn’t receive any peace and I didn’t feel any of the presence of God during those three hours. God gave me no reassurance that we were going to be okay.
I usually think of anxiety and self-doubt as negative emotions that I must rid myself of immediately. They are very ungodly characteristics to start with and not the kind of person that I want to be. The interesting thing about that experience in the storm, on the road, in the bus, was that when I was filled with anxiety I stayed so close to God in those moments that turned into hours. I stayed right at the foot of the cross asking God for his mercy, grace, protection, and presence. I stayed right there at his feet and I dared not to move because my anxiety and fear were too close for me to survive without being close to God.
So, I have to ask myself, is there any chance that the anxiety, fear, and self-doubt were good things that day? What was the by-product of these dark emotions during our drive from Colorado to Wyoming? I prayed, and I stayed close to the Source. If I had simply pushed my emotions down and hadn’t recognized them, then I would have never had the chance to encounter God as I did. Now, to be clear, I didn’t encounter God as I had hoped to encounter him. I was hoping for peace and the reassurance that he would keep us safe. I didn’t get either of those feelings, which at the time made me wonder if I was doing something wrong, or maybe God didn’t care, or perhaps we were on our own. In retrospect, I know that none of these scenarios are true. I know that God is loving and ever present to me.
So what could have been going on? Was God trying to tell me something through my anxiety and fear? I know you might be thinking that God is not a God of anxiety and fear and wouldn’t use those tactics. I would agree. God tells us “Do not fear for I have already redeemed you.” But he doesn’t say: “Never be afraid ever. And if you are afraid, just get over it or act like you aren’t afraid.” What is he saying when the says “Do not fear for I have already redeemed you?” I think he is saying: “You will be afraid and when you are afraid rest in my redemptive plan and hand over your life.” So in other words, you will have fear that you will have to acknowledge and walk through in order to accept the reality of God’s redemption for you.
So that day, on the open road, in the midst of the wind and snow, the fear and shame, I kept asking for God’s grace and salvation in our lives. I had to ask for salvation and redemption because I was so painfully aware of my mistakes, limited understanding, and fears that were consuming me. They continued to consume me, and I continued to stay on my knees—metaphorically speaking. My fear and shame actually led me to the cross that day.
Our drive across Wyoming is a simple example of a larger life lesson I want to embrace, in order to not stuff my negative emotions down, but to walk with them and let them lead me to Jesus. I want my fears, mistakes, and broken dreams to take me straight to God’s redemptive plan for my life. What are the negative emotions you are battling and how can they lead you to God today