It is possible that last night might have been my most pathetic church experience. Ever. I was so distracted by the worries swirling around in my head that I couldn’t concentrate. Even when what we were working through together correlated directly with what was happening in my heart. After reflecting on the following poem for 1/2 an hour (by Anthony DeMello [‘The Absolute’ in Wellsprings]), I just felt ridiculous. And stuck. All at the same time.
God says, ‘Give me your heart’, And then, in answer to my puzzlement, I hear him say, ‘Your heart is where your treasure is’…
My heart is in the future too. Its anxious fears of what will be tomorrow leave little energy to fully live what is today. I list these fears and say to each, ‘Let the will of God be done’, observing what effect this has on me, knowing in my heart that God can only will my good.
Anxiety is a hard one to explain. But it is completely consuming. The tightening stomach. Knots of tension in shoulders and neck. Shortness of breath. Scenarios & thoughts a broken record playing over | and over | and over. (And just like a record won’t stop skipping unless someone pulls the needle off, anxiety is hard to stop too.)
It’s something I’ve struggled with since I was a kid. (Only then I don’t think it would have been called anxiety…I was just a worrier.:) )Always dwelling on the worst case scenario. Getting a horrible disease. Dying. Losing someone I love. Getting in a accident. Plane crashes. I focus so intently on what could happen that I can barely function sometimes in the present. [Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Because my anxiety comes in waves – it’s not a continual every day over every year type of thing. And, I still manage to hold a job (and do well at it). I am still married to Steve after almost six years. I have friends – many of whom if I never mentioned this to them would never know that I struggle with it.]
But in a nuanced and subdued way, I do live in that continual fear of the worst possible thing happening in the future. What I struggle with most in the poem is the process of surrendering those fears to God. Saying out loud “Let thy will be done” petrifies me.
Because what if He takes away the things I think that matter most?
So Anthony is right. In a weird and twisted way, my anxious fears of the future let my secret out. It shows where my treasure is. What I value deeply. And that of course is me first. My life. [Even though Jesus said anyone who clings to his life shall lose it]. Secondly, I value the lives of those I love the most.
These days, my mind is a broken record. (especially as Steve and I face the great unknown of baby-land).
So. Seeing as how it’s lent and all, it’s time to do more than just reflect on my worries. I’m going to practice letting go. Yes, it is a bit abstract. Not as tangible as giving up coffee or chocolate or facebook or email. I’m still not even sure how I’ll measure it. And for sure it isn’t a cure all. But my hope is that by stopping my anxious mind before is starts the skipping-broken-record-business, that I just might begin to let go of those future what ifs. And begin to live in freedom.
Here are some of the benefits I foresee of not worrying all the time.
- less muscle tension.
- healthier pregnancy. (Seriously. Anxiety and stress during pregnancy have been linked to low birth weight and pre-term labour. Yikes!)
- Less selfish demeanor (lets face it. anxiety focuses constantly on me. me. me.)
- Freedom to laugh and enjoy life today.
- The headspace to think about other things I care about (like this blog’s name…justice and mercy and compassion and living in Cambodia).
I have a three step process that I hope will help train my mind…
- when I identify myself worrying, I will stop myself. And breath.
- then i was say (out loud) “I will cast all my cares upon him because he cares for me.”
- Then I’ll replace that thought with something positive.
I hope & I pray that this process will help transform me from the anxious nut job I’ve become to a person who can stare the future in the eye (with freedom) because I know He cares for me.