Faith Story by Dianne Chabira-Sung
When the lockdown started last 2020, I was the newly appointed head of my department. There were a lot of things I had to learn in a short period of time; making decisions at short notice, preparing SOPs for my department, learning how to prepare and deliver online lessons. Zoom fatigue was something that I have had to grow accustomed to.
Being a bit of a workaholic, I would be replying texts and emails all the way through midnight. I faced each day in a flight or fight mode. In the midst of leading worship, leading CG, doing all the right things, I drifted. Before long, I was far from the peace and joy that God has for me. Work became my central focus. I grew anxious whenever issues arose at work – I had to fix them immediately. My son, Judah, became a distraction. My priorities were misplaced. There were days when I would get annoyed with him for not napping according to schedule because it meant I wouldn’t be able to complete my work. I often felt like a terrible mother, and entertained negative thoughts about how I have failed. Through sheer will and strength, I persevered until that first lockdown ended.
In June 2021, when lockdown resumed again, I wasn’t sure if I had what it took to endure it. This round however, my husband Edgar and I managed to figure out a better schedule where both of us to took turns between work and caring for Judah. The Marriage Preparation Course and The Marriage Course have helped us so much in communicating our expectations and feelings. We never had to argue whose job, whose meeting, or whose class, is of more importance.
Despite that, I had a nagging feeling of wanting to quit – I was getting tired mentally. I got nightmares about getting notifications on my phone about work, and about meeting deadlines. But it wasn’t just my job that I wanted to quit; I even want to quit ministry. I got tired of being responsible for so many things so I wanted out.
Between 2020 and early this year, I was experiencing series of mild panic attacks whenever I had anxious thoughts. Sometimes, it felt like my brain was going haywire, often thinking of the worst-case scenarios about life. One night, it got so bad that my heart was racing, and I felt breathless. I couldn’t calm myself down. Edgar noticed immediately, and I am grateful for the wisdom God gave him. Instead of panicking, or rushing to bring me to see a doctor, he just held me and said “Let us pray in the Spirit.”
As he began praying, I sensed a lightness in my spirit. I became calm, and we continued praying until I felt better. I realized then how much prayer and dwelling, speaking the Word of God out loud to myself are my spiritual oxygen. Whenever I’m on the verge of losing my patience with my son (I’m not a very patient person by nature), I pray… and almost immediately the Holy Spirit will drop peace and words of wisdom into me to enable me to parent our little toddler. Prayer is like the cable that connects the charger to my phone. I need the cable to recharge my phone. Prayer refreshes me and connects me. Prayer and the Word of God are like the chains that link a ship to its anchor so that it wouldn’t drift. Since that night, I began to be more receptive to the Holy Spirit alerting me whenever I have drifted. It is so easy to drift. You don’t need to sin to know that you have drifted. Losing joy, experiencing burnt out, isolating yourself from your church community, complaining and grumbling, worrying – these are all signs of drifting.
One afternoon, as I was thinking about the uncertain future of my son, I heard the Holy Spirit said, “Don’t hold back in timidity and fear. Teach your son how to war in the Spirit. You are a warrior in Christ.” At first it sounded like an exaggeration. But then, I remember Ephesians 6:10-20. The sword of the Spirit is the only offensive part of the armour. The rest are defensive. The Sword is a weapon. As parents, God wants us to teach our children the Word of God so that they too know how to protect themselves against the works of the enemy.
I have come to terms with this truth: we cannot do this on our own. Our best efforts are insufficient to raise a human being. We need a community, and most importantly, we need God. Coming to terms with our inadequacies enables us to say this with full assurance that “when I am weak, then I am strong.” In Him and only in Him.