Anxiety…my friend?

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by Martha Spong

Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.

              -1 Peter 5:8-9a, as found in The Order for Compline, Book of Common Prayer

I like to say we run a little anxious in my family. I also have to point out that two anxious parents will likely produce anxious children, although I’ve seen no studies to prove it scientifically. It’s my hypothesis that the combination of whatever brain chemistry makes people prone to anxiety being passed down from both parents mashed up with the experience of living with those mildly anxious adults leaves children little choice but to join Team Anxiety.

Therefore, I have been giving my children ideas for to cope since they were old enough to have anything about which to worry. My oldest son carried a smooth stone in his pocket in 2nd grade, to rub between his fingers instead of chewing on them. My second son would call from boarding school, not even able to articulate what upset him, and I would talk him through square breathing. Their younger sister, now a college sophomore, sends me Facebook messages when a paper is due, occasionally in all caps, but more often like this one: “Mom I’m freaking ooooouuuuuut”

I understand it all.

Sometimes the worries that threaten to devour us are manufactured. We have let something go by, a work deadline or a birthday we ought to have acknowledged or a call we should have returned or even, God help us, the due date for all the financial aid paperwork needed to keep the freaking out child in college. Other times our fears are genuine and even mortal. If we run anxious, we tend to make both kinds worse for ourselves.

I am speaking from experience.

Sometimes the lion only growls, whispering to me in a low grumble, telling me no one cares, or my work doesn’t matter, that even my friends and family don’t really love me. When I get myself into a state, I’m not so sure the devil prowling around is anything definably external, but I am quite certain that I cannot overcome that adversary without the help of the One I trust does exist outside my normal reality. When I can hold firm in that faith, the lion recedes, and I rest secure.

How are you anxious? Have you found a particularly helpful way to respond to your anxiety that you could share with others? How do you invite God into anxious moment.

I offer this prayer:
Holy One, when we raise our fingers to our mouths, when we cannot catch a deep breath, when we are freaking oooooouuuuuut, be with us, we pray. Amen.

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