I’m afraid to fail. I always have been.

The day we did kindergarten placement testing, I came home crying because I couldn’t answer every question—when most of the questions weren’t meant to be answered.

Because we all came from diverse backgrounds, the assessment was a gauge to help the teacher know who would need extra help with letters and numbers and colors. Some of us lived and breathed Sesame Street. Others not so much. That test wasn’t an indicator of how we’d do in college. But even at five, I took it that way.

Today, I’m a wife and a mother to kids way past kindergarten age. And nothing’s changed.

Only instead of tears, my fear has manifested into panic attacks and high levels of anxiety. I want to do my best. I don’t just want my best to be good enough. I want my best to tear through good and come out the other side of perfect.  

That need for perfection, driven by my fear of failure, has dropped me in the middle of a lake of quicksand that’s rising so fast my chest constantly feels tight and I’m mentally short of breath. My thoughts are fuzzy and some days putting away laundry feels like lifting a mountain.

Worse than a half-empty-glass scenario, I’ve begun to see my life as a series of failures and my Band-Aid fixes aren’t working anymore. I can no longer get up in the morning and push through. I can’t talk myself through finishing a project or force that plastic smile that says I’m playing along with life.

But I think that’s the point. At least in God’s eyes.

Because now He’s got me right where he wants me. Down. Desolate. Desperate. And I have no choice but to listen. It’s as if when He speaks to me gently, I push Him off and put Him in the I’ll-do-this-later category. I’ve forced Him to roar.

I wish I wasn’t here, drowning in quicksand. I wish I were one of those people that had a got-it moment on the first pass. I wish I could grab a branch and free myself from sinking. I wish spiritual battles were a myth.

But they’re not.

So I have two choices. Keep sinking deeper and deeper until I can’t breathe because the sand is filling my throat and slowly suffocating me. Or I can stop struggling, ask God what He wants from me, and let Him lift me free.

That’s what He’s been waiting for. He wants me to ask Him and to quit relying on my old tricks.

Have you ever been stuck?

Have you ever felt like God has left you stranded in a dark alley with no car, no cell, no money, and no way out? In the middle of a gang war?

It doesn’t matter what brought you to that place. Marriage, kids, family, job, money, illness, attitude. Circumstances change, but the place we end up remains the same. And that place is painful.

It might feel like you’re treading water in an ocean that’s pulling you under. Or you’re being squashed between a rock and a boulder. Or you’re being stretched between two trucks moving in opposite directions. It might feel like you’ve landed in a spiritual desert that goes on so far in front of you, you can’t even conjure an oasis.

Here’s what my lake of quicksand is teaching me.

Anything I do in my own power will never be enough. A thing will never be enough. Even people will never be enough. Only God will be enough. This truth will never change.

I’m locked in this spiritual battle because I have forgotten my roots, who I am, who I belong to and the crushing quicksand is for me. Because God loves me. Even if it doesn’t feel like it right now.  

God put me in this place because He’s about to do something great in my life. But first, He needs to get my attention. My focus. My will. So I’m not looking left or right or behind. He wants my eyes on Him. 24/7. No idols. No distractions. No fear.