Monday, October 1, 2012

Be Anxious for Nothing

Anxiety is something I've always dealt with. As a young student in elementary school, I remember talking about my anxiety over tests with the teacher because she wanted to understand how I could do so well in class and then freeze on tests. As I got better about managing my stress in school, life decisions began causing anxiety. My desire to make the right choice and choose the best path became an obstacle to my ability to do anything at all. Throughout my life, I've had to continue taking deep breaths and reminding myself to CHILL OUT. To lower my expectations a little and trust that things are going to be alright.

It's a little humorous, though not too humorous, that I now find myself in a stressful role (pastor) for a stressed institution (the Presbyterian church). Our mainline churches (PCUSA included) are facing great financial stress and we're having to address deep rooted questions of how to be the best stewards of what we have left. We're having to discuss the vitality of our church and be open to the Spirit's movement away from the way things have always been done. And not only are we having these stressful conversations, but we're doing them on a timeline (one that no one really knows). We're dealing with decreasing numbers and an apathetic culture. Needless to say, our church is really anxious.

Anxiety can be a good thing. It can lead us to have important conversations and make wiser decisions. It can teach us to sit put for a second and listen more before we act. It teaches us to take each step with caution and realize the ripple effects of our actions. And anxiety can be good because it points to our deep concern for something. Just as my own anxiety at school points to my deep desire to do the best I can, Presbyterians' anxiety points to the fact that we care SO MUCH for the church. We as a church don't want to make the wrong choice or do the wrong thing. We want very much to know the will of God and to follow it.

Anxiety definitely becomes a BAD thing however when we let it take over. When we allow it to paralyze us. When we live and sleep and dream anxiety over making the right decisions and doing the right thing that we can't move forward. We're stuck in the present, longing for an idealized past, and terrified of the future. We turn inwards to ourselves and hold even higher expectations of what we can and should do to make the situation better.

Yet, scripture calls us to do something different:

"Be anxious for nothing. But in all things make your requests known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your mind and heart forever in Jesus Christ." (Philippians 4:6-7)

We need to acknowledge our anxiety concerning the livelihood of the church and recognize this as a sign of our deep commitment and love of the Church. And we also need to let go of the reigns anxiety holds over us and take a huge leap of faith to TRUST God enough to try something new. To dream. To be open to new perspectives. To live into the promise of hope that we are not alone, that God is still alive and at work here.

And when we let go of our desire to control the outcome, we can live out God's promise to us - "that the peace of God will guard our minds and hearts forever in Jesus Christ."

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