by Heather MacFadyen
Panicked, I gripped the door handle and considered jumping out of the car. My body filled with adrenaline. And my mind was not even close to catching up with the wave of fear.
I had to get out. And get away.
But from what?
No one was chasing me.
My husband was driving. My four young boys were strapped in car seats in the back of our Suburban. We were simply buying lunch from a fried chicken drive-through. (And no, it wasn’t Chick-fil-A because this anxiety attack chose to arrive on Sunday, after church.)
Reflecting back on that moment, on top of the shame, I have to fight feeling guilty.
Isn’t it wrong for a Christian woman with four healthy children, a loving husband, a great home, financial security, and “everything going for her” to feel that level of stress and fear? I should be able to handle this beautiful life I’ve been given. Sure, everyone has hard days. But “good Christians” don’t let overwhelming moments take them down. Right?
Those were my inner thoughts.
And yet, if you reached out to me on a hard day, feeling anxious, I would never layer guilt on your weary soul, telling you how you should feel. Or that you must not have enough faith.
So why do I talk to myself that way? How did I get here? I had good friends, mentors, and a loving spouse. A solid support network. Untapped.
It didn’t matter if I called it an “anxiety attack” or “break down.” What mattered is I could no longer continue without community. I could no longer carry my thoughts, fears, and worries alone. So, at my husband’s urging, I texted a friend. A friend who understood these thoughts and feelings. I simply asked for her counselor’s phone number.
Because I want to love the Lord my God with ALL my mind. ALL my heart. ALL my strength. Like Pastor John Mark Comer says, “Emotional health isn’t just about me feeling better. The whole thing is about love. You can’t be emotionally unhealthy and loving to the degree that you want. The degree that you are emotionally healthy is the degree to which you have capacity to love. It’s the greatest apologetic for emotional health.”
In addition to professional help, I made a plan to intentionally connect with a small group of women once a week. Beyond talking about our work or kids, to share the hard, messy parts of our stories.
Most of us desire intimate connection or at the minimum have been told we “need” community. But the means to this end requires risk. Because intimacy within community takes vulnerability. By definition being vulnerable means opening yourself up to wounding. Who intentionally signs up to be hurt?
Sometimes we carry around the idea that weak people share their struggles. Or we label those challenges as “weaknesses”—places of failure, faulty coping strategies or less flattering moments. I’ve found revealing weaknesses to safe friends takes courage. Showing up as my whole self is authentic living. When I’m no longer hiding, I experience the freedom that invites connection.
“When somebody tells the truth about their life, especially the ugly side, the scary side, it sets you free to do the same. It invites you to live with that same vulnerability and courage. We’re all so similar. We’re scared by the same things. If you don’t say it out loud, you start to think there is something wrong with you. But you’re not crazy. You’re not alone.” —Shauna Neiquist
Repeatedly in the New Testament we read instructions to live life alongside one another. In one of those verses Christ doesn't just suggest but commands us to love one another. He ups the ante, not just to love one another, but as he loved us (John 13:34). That’s a high bar. Especially when you consider how Christ’s love began with the ultimate vulnerable move—to leave heaven and occupy a newborn’s body. Fully dependent on another human to care for his needs and to protect him from harm.
Why did Christ come? Why risk wounding? He came to reveal God’s love and give us a model of how to love one another. He knew no earthly harm could keep Him from His purpose. Not even death could not hold him.
As a believer in Christ’ work on the cross, your eternal life has already begun. What can man do to you? This truth allows you to bravely and vulnerably love and connect with others. Because even when wounding comes, you have a Great Healer who can sympathize with your weaknesses and remind you of who He is and who you are in Him.
Heather MacFadyen wrote online before Facebook existed. After years of blog entries, in 2013 she launched a trailblazing podcast called God Centered Mom. In 2018, the show rebranded to the Don’t Mom Alone podcast. With over fourteen million downloads, Heather’s weekly interviews have been listened to at least once in every country on the planet. When she’s not recording conversations in her messy closet, she’s driving in Dallas traffic, feeding four growing boy-men, or walking around the “hood” with her entrepreneurial husband, Bruce. Don’t Mom Alone was released nationwide October 12, 2021.