When Couches Become Pythons

It was a dark and stormy night. Ok, it wasn’t really stormy, and it was dusk if you want to get technical, but it was  definitely night. Emily asked if we could run to the store  to see a pair of boots she spotted online. She really wanted to know if a size 7.5 would fit before she made any sort of commitment.

We drove along, catching up on the day, singing to some song while she made fun of my dance moves. I wasn’t really dancing, but I do have some moves while I  drive even if my oldest says I look like the prancercise lady.

I exited the highway and decided to take a shortcut, which led up a long, dark, winding hill. As we rounded the corner, my headlights shone on the beautiful object you see posted at the top of this blog. I giggled, and Emily literally screamed. My grip tightened on the steering wheel as I gasped and asked, “What’s the matter?”

She started to laugh. “Ahhhh, I thought that thing was a gigantic python lying in the middle of the street!!!”

Close your eyes, look quickly at the picture, and then look away. Do you see the python? All I really see is an ugly couch that someone carelessly dumped on the side of the road, but if I try really hard, I might be able to envision a snake. …if I forgot to wear my glasses. …..Maybe.

We laughed all the way to the shoe store, but I thought about how my daughter’s mind, for just a second, saw something so false and created an impossible scenario that included getting swallowed by a python.

How often do we let our fear and worry blind us to what is really true?

If you were to crawl inside my brain, which I don’t recommend, you might find it exhausting. A high powered, noisy operation is going on inside of my head most of the time. Depending on the day, you  might see me screaming about all kinds of pythons slithering around in my head.

Yes, pythons.

Except you would probably be tempted to say, “Um, Lori, why are you screaming about an ugly couch?”

My pythons are  usually not about legitimate issues to worry about, but nevertheless they are powerful and can cause me to clinch my teeth and spiral into fear and worry.

The worst part is how they jump out in the most unexpected places.

What do we do about the pythons in our heads that plague us?

Wouldn’t it be great if I could write  “4 Easy Steps to Total Peace in Your Life?”(with emphasis on the Easy?)  I can’t resolve this issue in one short post, and I don’t want to share pat answers about how to deal with anxiety or fear or worry. Anxiety can cause serious, crippling issues for so many, and I don’t want my words to ever minimize such a painful, overwhelming struggle.

For me, it helps to be honest about what is slithering around in my head. My thoughts lose power when I am able to share them with someone I trust. I am not recommending telling the bank teller about the irrational fear that just stampeded through my brain, but when I sit with a close friend and she listens well and loves me anyway, the pythons start to resemble garden snakes instead. In some really difficult seasons, I have had to meet with a qualified therapist to help me find my way through some deep waters I could not navigate on my own.

Reading and praying through the Bible helps me more than anything else. I need to clarify something though. Throughout my life, I have encountered people who have said things like, “You just need to pray harder.” Or “Memorize this Bible verse and it will help you overcome your problem.” Being someone who likes goal-oriented tasks, I jumped all over these suggestions and read verses like Philippians 4:7, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your mind in Christ Jesus.”

I strongly believe the truth in this verse, but when I was younger, I  carried that verse around, said it over and over, and expected my fears to instantly dissolve because I was “following the rules” and memorizing the verse. And when I crawled into my bed at night, overwhelmed by my anxiety , I blamed myself for not being a good enough pray-er. That belief has been one of the biggest pythons along my path.

I am finally unlearning that lie. I am learning when Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” He really means it. I am learning to invite him into my fears and my doubts and the pythons that try to strangle me. And He, in his patient way, is helping me to understand when the python is really just an old ugly couch.