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Entries in anxiety (5)

Tuesday
Apr092013

anxietation

There are plenty of things in my life that make me feel afraid or worried or anxious. Anxiety has been a growing issue over the past few years. Something I always dealt with by ignoring it, or hiding from it, or flat out running from it. The thing about worry and anxietythey may not run as fast as you, but they are tireless in their pursuit.

Lately I've taken a new approach to anxiety. I face it head on. And I pray. I pray without adding my anxiety to the formula God has laid out for me.

I have always prayed when things started getting tough, and that's a normal response, isn't it? I also prayed when things were going right, but when they went wrong it's like I would reach a whole new level of prayer. I'd start sweating it. And that isn't how God intended us to pray. 

Christ gave us the formula for prayer in what we now call "the Lord's Prayer," which goes exactly like  this

“This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from the evil one.’

Matthew 6:9-13

No panic there, right? No feverish begging that things will be alright. No anxious wringing of hands, "Please God, PLEASE!" Just a pretty calm and orderly request of God, tempered by obedience on our part.

This prayer is the model we should use for our own prayer. We don't have to memorize it and use it word for word, but instead use it as a formula and a guide for how we approach God. We acknowledge Him first, as well as His kingdom and His dominance. We acknowledge his will for all of creation, heaven and Earth. We ask that our needs be fulfilled each day. We ask that our debts (and our sins) be forgiven, and we promise to forgive anyone who is in our debt (or has sinned against us). And we ask for guidance, away from evil, delivered from the evil in this world (and into God's kingdom). Pretty basic, isn't it?

Where's the worry? Where's the anxiety? Where's the fear?

There's no room for it in the formula. You'd have to insert it between the lines. But really, why would you? It doesn't make sense. It's a contradiction. It'll mess stuff up.

Think about other formulas in your life. Think of a recipe. If you're trying to make a casserole just like grandma used to make, you use the recipe your grandma gave you. You could add to the recipe, if you want, but the result you get isn't grandma's casseroleit's your own. Fine, if that's your goal. But if the goal is to stay true to the recipe, to the formula, to get the results intended by the recipe's creator, then adding your own ingredients is just going to spoil the mix.

This analogy falls apart, of course, because in life we sometimes want and even need to change the recipe. But God's recipe is perfect. It meets all of our needs perfectly. It offers us the full protection of God perfectly. It tells us exactly how to live according to His will, perfectly. Adding an extra ingredient, like worry or anxiety, is just going to make us stray from the recipe, and get results that are unpredictable and maybe even undesirable.

God doesn't want us to worry. He doesn't want us to feel anxiety. Of course, it's easier to say these things than to live them, and God's aware of that, too. 

As I write this, I'm experiencing my own anxiety and worry. I'm anxious because something is outside of my control. I can't fix it. I can't resolve the problem, not right away, and the consequences of it could have a big impact on me and my family for quite a while. It's uncomfortable and undesirable, but it is what it is.

Except I know the truth. God is right here with me, watching as I watch, listening as I listen, feeling as I feel. He knows. And because He knows, I can let go of the anxiety and worry. I don't have to let that rule my life, because that position is already filled.

So instead I tell God He is holy.

I ask that His perfect will be done in my life.

I ask that He meet my needs (even those I may not be aware of).

I ask that He forgive me for when I fail, and I promise to forgive others when they fail.

I ask that He lead me away from evil, and protect me from it, and deliver me into his Kingdom. 

Worry has no place in my life. Anxiety isn't something I'm meant to feel. It's the thing I choose over God, moment by moment, and I have to die to that choice. I have to live for Christ.

The best cure for worry and anxiety is to face them head on. Pray to God for strength and guidance, for a clear view of the road to take, and then take action. Make the call you're dreading. Go through the door and into the meeting that scares you. Start the conversation that you don't think you're ready for. Endings have to have beginnings, and until you've faced the challenges in your life you are standing still, and you'll have nothing but anticipation as your companion. God walks with us when we are actually walking. 

Fear is stationary. It stands in place. It lives in the places we used to be, or in the places we haven't yet been. We only feel fear when we're standing in place. Action moves us forward, away from the past, away from what was and what used to be, and toward the new future, with new opportunities and choices that can change our lives faster than we could ever anticipate.

God designed us to move. He will take care of the path, but it's up to use to take it.

So anxiety, worry, fear? Those have no place in my prayers or in my life. I come to God with them, I hand them over, I surrender, and I take action. I walk. God will be my guide, my strength, the light at my feet. But my feet have to keep moving, or I'll end up standing in darkness.

Tuesday
Mar122013

choosification 

It's not always easy to keep your mouth shut. Or to keep yourself in check, say, when you're in heavy traffic or waiting behind "the Coupon Lady" at the grocery store. And when a bunch of that kind of stuff stacks up ... well, it ain't easy bein' easy.

What IS easy is complaining about it, even if you're just complaining to yourself. I do this a lot. I'm behind the only slow driver in three lanes of traffic, with cars zipping by on either side, too fast for me to scootch over and pass. The whole time I'm grumbling, "Great. Perfect. Typical!" And a few more choice, non-family-friendly terms.

I start getting that clenched feeling in my chest, the tightening in my neck and shoulders, the sizzle of my blood pressure going up. That tension only serves to make me more agressive, less reasonable, more of a buttocks chapeau. 

It's easy in those moments to react the wrong way, and it's even easier to look back at it and think, "It wasn't my fault ... Circumstances dictated ... it all just happened so fast ... I didn't have a choice!"

That's what's easy. What's hard is admitting to yourself (admit it!), "I could have handled that better. I made a bad choice." It's all about the choices.

Yesterday I was peeved at traffic, and I was peeved at being tired and hungry, and I was peeved at having to run an errand for my wife when all I wanted was to get home, and I was peeved at having to fight traffic AGAIN, after waiting fifteen minutes for my "fast" food to be made, and I was peeved that I was eating fast food after finally getting myself to hit the trails for some exercise after a long, fat hiatusall so I could get home in time for me to watch a few minutes of TV before I had to turn in for the evening. I managed to keep from taking things out on anyone directly, but the stuff going on in my head? The things I said aloud, in the privacy of my car, where only I ... OK, and God ... could hear me?

Oops. 

Those last two listeners are more important in this scenario than I gave credit at the time. God hears all, sees all, knows all ... he's better than the Great and Powerful OZ when it comes to that. And let's not discount the other listener in the car, who hears and feels and sees all of it too, and makes all the choices based on how he's communicating with himself. He's the one choosing to react to everything the way he does, so the way he chooses to communicate with himself is important. 

I didn't have to react the way I did, because I had a choice. Things happen fast? So does choosing. Actually, choosing happens faster, because you can choose ahead of time. "When I'm in traffic and it's slow and I'm getting angry, I'll take a deep breath, thank God for this quiet time, and chat with Him or listen to music or listen to a book or think about the book I'm writing."

See? I choosed. And I did it faster than I could possibly react to what's happening in front of me at any given moment, because I chose before I even got out of bed that morning. Of course, the thing to keep in mind is that these choices happen EVERY DAY. You have to make the choice, every day, about how you react to the things that you know will trigger you bein' the you that you don't like bein'.

It's all about the choices.

I choose wrong all the time. And that stinks. And then I feel guilty for those choices. I pray for forgiveness, and then I have to choose again. Choose to accept God's grace and forgiveness and grow from the experience, making better choices later, or choose to keep feeling that guilt and shame, so that the only message I ever communicate to myself is, "You aren't good enough. You failed. You always fail." 

It's all about the choices. 

Keeping my mouth shut is a chronic problem, as is keeping my attitude in check. But God honors us when we choose to do just that, despite the temptation to do otherwise. Trusting God, believing and having faith, that's a choice, too. You'll know when you've chosen well, if what you do brings you joy instead of dread, if it glorifies and honors God instead of tearing someone down (including yourself). 

Choose. But choose wisely.*

 

*I totally stole that from "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." 

 

Tuesday
Feb262013

choiciness

This morning, despite hitting snooze a couple of times, I actually managed to get myself pulled together and out the door a little earlier than usual. I decided to detour from my route a bit and drop by Starbucks. This always takes me about 12 to 15 minutes out of my way. Sacrifices must be made.

On the drive out of my neighborhood, down a long, heavily populated street, walled with nice homes and manicured lawns and well-groomed trees and medians, I had a chance to see the full moon. It hovered slightly to the right of the line of the street, and it was an enormous, shining disk in a slowly brightening blue sky.

It seems so long since I've left the house in daylight on a work day, so maybe the slow sunrise made things a little more special. Or maybe it's the crisp, cold air, the cloudless sky, the light breeze. Before I climbed into my truck I heard owls in the distance. I heard leaves rustling in the breeze. I felt the chill of the air, and it made me feel pretty good. 

I worry about things, sometimes. All the time. And it's tough to get out of that habit. Because worry, fear, anxiety—these are killers. They're sins. Maybe not the kind you're used to, like lying or sexual immorality or stealing. They aren't the sins you normally hear about in a church sermon. But they represent a choice you make, sometimes on a minute-by-minute basis. And that choice tears you down, makes you useless and pointless. God doesn't want that for you.

This is one of the things I struggle with, pretty regularly. It's what I'm struggling with right this second, actually. There's a fear, trickling down my esophagus. A worry that's starting small but threatens to widen. An anxiety that is slowly sinking its claws into me. "Will I turn off my readers? Will the people I know roll their eyes, turn away, think less of me?" See that? Fear and worry and anxiety that I'd NEVER feel about anything else I'd say or do, but for some reason fear when I'm talking about my faith, about sin, about God.

And that's a choice I make.

So I'm making a different choice. This morning is beautiful, and that's a gift. Every moment is beautiful, and that's also a gift. And right now, I'm choosing to be dead to the sins of fear, worry, and anxiety and alive in Christ. I'm asking God to show me how I can server him better. I'm asking for wisdom, for a light on the path to righteousness and love. I'm asking how I, wretched sinner, can make a better choice.

Thursday
Dec132012

ducks & doobies you read

If you watch this video, a bus full of orphans will be saved from a river. 

Tuesday
Dec132011

Pontificating in Public

I tried something new today. Which, of course, means I had moments of intense self reflection and crippling anxiety. 'Cause that's what I do.

For the first time in pretty much my whole life I decided to take the bus in from my home in Missouri City to my office in Midtown Houston.

Big deal, right? In fact, I knew it wasn't a big deal. I'm not entirely new to public transportation. I've taken subways and cross-country trains in foreign countries and METRORail in Houston and various types of buses here and there. But for the most part, those are quick transits -- examples of me flitting from one localized area of a city to another. Fifteen minutes tops. What was new about today's experience was the fact that I was dependent on the bus and the train to get me to work on time. The control, my destiny, my workday fate, all entirely out of my hands.

Call me a control freak. Or just consider me a simple country boy, and unfamiliar with your big city public transportation ways. Or maybe it was all the flashbacks I was having to riding the bus to grade school in West Columbia. Kind of like PTSD.

Or, if we're looking at this analytically, it probably has more to do with the fact that I've grown up in a car culture, where automobiles mean status and freedom. I'm already sweating balls over the thought that I'm stranded, at the mercy of the public transportation system.

I'm looking into therapy.

The thing is, riding the bus and the train this morning gave me kind of a "good" feeling. Not in the "I'm saving the environment" kind of way. I don't really subscribe to that argument. I'm pretty sure that running hundreds of diesel-fueled buses day and night through repetitive routes all over one of the largest cities in the world is a great deal more than the equivalent of me driving to and from work once each day.

What I felt good about was a little more selfish than that.

I'm an avid audiobook reader, and one of the things I love about my commute to and from the office is the simple fact that I have a couple of hours each day to plow through an interesting audiobook. But there are times when I'd just like to have more good, ol' fashioned eye-to-page time, ya know? It's nice to have some time when I'm not having to multi-task. I'm not forced to focus my attention in slender strands while I negotiate whatever chaos has been caused by the irate drivers surrounding me. I'm not forced to worry about the fate of my precious mobile status symbol as I'm forced to stop short to avoid the fifteen other cars that have stopped short in front of me.

It's me time.

It's not perfect, I admit. There are occasional aromas. There are occasional panhandlers. There are occasional "I've had too much coffee and am filling quickly with regret" moments. But I've dealt with worse, and when I did I wasn't able to settle back and close my eyes for a few minutes to let the moment pass.

Me time.

Anyway, I don't know how regular this thing will become, but I'll probably fold it into my routine a bit. The occasional "environmentally friendly" ride into town, during which I can read from my Kindle or watch something on my iPad or type something up on my Macbook. You know ... roughing it.