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Panic in the Heavens

Rebekah Lyons

How grasping our identity helps us to overcome anxiety

Author / Co-Founder, Q Ideas
October 9, 2013

Anxiety crept into my world in my mid-thirties, unsuspecting and stealth, as most trials do when you are already in a freefall. The panic arrived four months after I landed on the streets of New York, having relocated from the suburbs of Atlanta with three children, two toy poodles, one husband, and our minivan.

We’d moved from south to north, suburbs to city, margin to constraint. Yet I carried a gnawing feeling that the move was less driven by the demands of running our non-profit, but more by my personal conviction that I wasn’t living this one life well.

New York was my reckless abandon. To sell almost everything, break from the comfort we’d created, and begin fresh. It was easier, in some ways, to take this route, than try to revamp our current context. All or nothing in most pursuits, this marked a pattern I began to see when looking back over my life in the months that followed. But here I go getting ahead of myself.

The panic attacks began on a flight in mid-October, when the air was crisp and cool. Fall marked my favorite of seasons, brimming with pumpkin-spiced lattes and savory scones, but this year, fall yielded fear instead, in airplanes, subways, elevators, and crowds. Within two months, I’d become crippled.

This crippling creates a much smaller, fearful version of your once creative self. Doubts and fears plague your plans, and you slowly retreat. Most interestingly, it continued to surface in surprise situations that I thought were within my safety zone. As a result, my resilience slowly faded while the anxiety grew.

For eighteen months I fought this, with moments of reprieve and relapse throughout. Toward the end, surrender arrived in a way that’s virtually impossible to describe. In a crescendo moment, I cried out desperate midnight pleas for rescue, and in grace, it came. During the weeks that followed, a truth began to crystalize:


We fade when we don’t know who we are.

Words began to pour on pages, conversations began to stir hearts, as I paralleled my journey with others that had walked the same road as I, seeking the very specific purpose that exists deep within. When God’s first commandment to humankind was to cultivate the earth, perhaps He knew that if we didn’t, we’d go crazy.

My greatest joy is to walk with others as they wake to whispers of their own calling. The more our lives align with what God intended when He knit us in our mother’s womb, the more our freedom replaces fear.