In many ways feeling uncomfortable anxiety has become comfortable for me. This ill-at-ease inner state pervades many of my memories, probably because through most of my growing up years I espoused a “go-it-alone” worldview, convinced that safety meant flying solo, staying guarded, trusting rarely. Several factors led me to construct this perspective (temperament, experiences, distorted interpretations, human nature, etc.) but the point is, I came to believe that our world is dangerous and somehow I need to protect myself, all the while appearing to others like I’ve got my stuff together. The result? Anxiety.
Even though my understanding of the world has changed drastically, anxiety accompanied so many of my past experiences that I sometimes now find myself over-identifying with it. My self-concept can become black-and-white: no longer do I view myself as a normal, vulnerable human who has natural waves of anxiety that come and go, but rather I see myself as categorically anxious and then operate from that mindset. It’s as though I’ve become accustomed to living with a persistent gnaw.
I used to use substances to drown the fears, but I don’t do that anymore. Nonetheless, I still fall prey to using all kinds of self-fueled tools to cope, such as denying the feelings and smiling right through them, suppressing them through constant activity, or over-achieving to try to prove them false. These things work for a time.
Today, as I approach an intimidating event on tomorrow’s schedule, I feel that chew in my gut. This event pushes all kinds of buttons from the past, wounds I sense God is eager to heal and redeem. He’s walking me out of my comfort zone to do so, and I am balking. I list my fears on paper and look at their irrationality. I see the anxiety and challenge it. But, geez, I feel it, and I don’t like it.
My spirit engages the words of my God: “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” (John 14:27, New Living Translation)
That invaluable gift has been given, which means the ball is now in my court. There is a choice: to keep going, pushing, and battling; or to stop and receive. This morning I choose to be quiet, and I envision with my heart’s eye that God’s Love is removing the anxiety and filling the void with a steadying calm. Rather than relying on my futile attempts to fight fear, I instead call upon a Divine solution, one that’s been proven effective for generations. I accept God’s courage and put one foot in the other, trusting that if I dare to show up, so will He. I walk in hope and faith that his peaceful presence will empower me, just as He has so many times before. The “Pilgrim’s Song” of Psalm 131 rises within:
Lord, my heart is not proud;
my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, put your hope in the Lord—
now and always.
How do you find peace?