Who Is That Masked Bear?

Five years and four or so months ago, I started this blog with a prayer.  "O God, hasten to my aid!"  I had never written a blog, and I had no idea what I was going to say.  I only knew that I wanted to write and to say something about the process of writing.  I knew also that I wanted to think about prayer and hoped that I might find others who also wanted to think about prayer.  I had an inkling at the time that I would be writing about fencing, thus the title of the blog, but I needed a persona other than my professional or private self through which to explore whatever it was that I was going to be exploring, thus my Fencing Bear mask.

For the first few months, I kept my proper name out of my posts, although almost immediately I realized that I wanted other people to know that I was keeping a blog, even when things started to get, shall we say, a little embarrassing, especially those posts that I wrote that summer at Nationals.  By the middle of the summer, when my family and I took our trip to England and Belgium, I was ready to come out of the salle, as it were, and let on to who I was in human terms, but it was still something of a secret to those in other networks of my life.  That winter, however, I found Facebook, and soon the game was up.  I was the Fencing Bear, and she was I, and when she laughed, I laughed, and when she cried, I cried--and cried and cried and cried.

It has been quite a journey, more transformative than anything I could have ever consciously prayed for.  And yet, everything that has happened in the past five years I recognize now as an answer to my prayer.  "O God, hasten to my aid!  O Lord, make haste to help me!"  Even in my darkest moments, God has been with me, just as I asked Him to be.  "You grasp my soul," I prayed with Augustine on the banner to my blog for the first several years, "and topple my enemies with it. And what is our soul? A splendid weapon it may be, long, sharp, oiled, and coruscating with the light of wisdom as it is brandished. But what is this soul of ours worth, what is it capable of, unless God holds it and fights with it? Any sword, however beautifully made, lies idle if there is no warrior to take it up.... So God does whatever he wishes with our soul. Since it is in his hand, it is his to use as he will."  Little did I know what I was praying for!

God has made me confront my deepest fears, sent me back out onto the strip time and time again, just as I was convinced that there was nothing to hope for, nothing that could possibly change.  It is a little scary, actually, to think how many of my prayers have been answered over these past several years.  My fencing, my writing, my thoughts about my weight, every anxiety that I have ever had (almost--I really haven't told you everything, although it may have seemed that way sometimes) I have had to confront and battle, until I could sit with the falcon on her perch and not bate at the thought of having to work on my book or compete against fencers whom I thought I should be able to beat (always the worst for me--what if I lost?).  I have even, at long last, started to learn to play the instrument that I always wanted to play.  I have posts that I should have written about that, but I haven't.

And why not?  For the most part, because the anxieties simply aren't there.  I know that what I need to do is practice in brief, regular sessions, and I have experience now that things that my fingers couldn't play yesterday, they can play, maybe not today, but in a day or two.  It is a lifetime and worlds away from the way I used to feel when I was younger and trying to learn to play the piano.  If only someone had told me then that feeling frustrated was a good thing and just to sit with it!  But "God knows what He is doing with me and, when He has tested me, I will come forth as pure gold" (Job 23:10--there's a secret in there that I am not going to tell you!)  Sometimes I am afraid to look at all the things that God has done for me in the past several years, in case they somehow go away.  But even that thought is (almost) bearable.  God knows, God knows.

So who am I now, the bear in the mesh mask?  A ten-year-old fencing bear, no longer a little child, but still a child of God.  Oh, to stay a child, always willing to try new things, to set myself up against things that make me feel anxious and uncomfortable, knowing that if I sit with them long enough, the answers will come and the anxiety will go away!  Always living on the edge, my sword sharpened and oiled and flashing with the light of wisdom, no stranger to the combat in which I find myself with myself and my demons!  Yes, that is a good prayer.  "O God, hasten to my aid!  O Lord, make haste to help me!  You are my helper and my deliverer, O Lord, make no delay!"

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