One of the greatest gifts I experienced on my sabbatical came in the depths of silence. On the third day of that silence, I felt a great freedom, a release from worry. I had been contemplating the challenge of anxiety in my life and I realized, or I just knew, that in this moment, all is well. God is present in this moment.
There, in my guest room at the monastery, I experienced a sense of peace knowing that this moment is sacred. I was, suddenly, free from anxiety and a desire to control every outcome. For months afterwards, I was able to access that sense of peace by simply remembering that moment, and by letting go of the illusion that I could control the outcomes in the various parts of my life.
Then life happened. My mother-in-law fell and broke her leg. The permits for our construction at the church took much longer to get than we had planned. I found myself worrying about budgets and finances and all the stuff that we do as a church. It wasn’t that any of these things were worse than they had been. The circumstances of my life were different, but not really worse. What had changed was in me. I was anxious again.
The life that Jesus invites us to share is not dependent on circumstances. The Kingdom of God is present and available to us now, right along with the mess of our world and our lives. The Eternal Life Jesus offers is a present reality that we are called to participate in. It has to work for us even when the circumstances are terrible, or especially when the circumstances of our lives and our world are terrible.
Jesus offers us a path, not just a promise. Following Jesus is a way of life that leads to peace even in the midst of uncertainty. To put that in a more worldly way, our Christian practices can give us relief from the anxiety and fear of life. The spiritual growth we experience as disciples allows us to be more resilient and generous.
We don’t get to escape from the mess. Jesus doesn’t deliver us from this world to some other place. What we get, through faith and Christian practices, is a life here and now that matters more, makes a positive difference, includes the possibility of peace and joy, and that can even have less anxiety and fear.
I still get anxious, but I find that I am able to let go of that anxiety and return to peace by trusting in the presence of God, and our access to that presence, here and now. I do this through my discipline of Centering Prayer, twice a day. It is like staying fit: you have to continue to practice; you have to do your exercises. The Centering Prayer allows me to live to a different narrative, one in which God is present and I am participating in that presence.
The world tells us that we are not enough, that we need something else to be well, but Jesus tells that God is enough, and we are in God and God is in us. Following Jesus and keeping the Christian practices of prayer, worship and service, reorients us to a different way of living, finding freedom from fear and anxiety. We will explore this more deeply in the class I am beginning this Sunday and Monday titled, Freedom in Christ: True Life in this Modern World.
Yours in Christ,