I have a serious problem with anxiety. Or fear. Worry. Lack of faith. Call it whatever you want, the result is the same. I am a total mess.
I have one primary method for dealing with it – plan, plan, plan, and plan some more.
Get this – I make between 3 and 5 “to do” lists on a daily basis. [To admit this is rather humbling because I think it signifies that I may or may not have OCD….or at least OCPD.] Throughout the day, whenever the worry or stress of life begins to overwhelm me, I pull out a post-it note and a pen and write down every minute task I need to complete and when I plan to do it. The anxiety disappears (do you see where I’m going with the OCD thing?…). Sometimes I keep the list in a prominent place with a Sharpie nearby so that I can enjoy crossing off each completed task. Other times I just ball up the list and throw it away. I don’t need the list in order to remember what to do next (that will come in about 20 years – at least I’m in the habit of writing it down already). Instead, I like the feelings of power and control I receive from the action. It’s as if by writing it down I convince myself that I am the authority about that which concerns me.
Like many of us, I “need” to be in control. I need to have a plan. I need to know the outcome. I need to be sure of the result. I need these things in order to feel safe.
Don’t misundestand me. I’m not alwasy this high-strung. It goes in waves, and I am currently experiencing many intense stressors and having weeks of high anxiety. It shouldn’t be surprising. I am in my last semester of graduate school and trying to find a job in a difficult economy. My grandfather passed away unexpectedly, other dear friends and loved ones are going through various trials that I am powerless to change, and these events fall in the shadow of the April 16 anniversary…a time when it’s hard to live under the illusion that I’m safe.
It’s like I said to my mom the other night – “I just hate feeling helpless and vulnerable.” Her response: “But you are totally helpless and vulnerable.”
Thanks, Mom. Thanks a lot.
But’s she’s right. And I know that. I just don’t like living day-to-day with such an acute awareness because I don’t like my default response. Instead of kneeling to pray, I make a list of all the things I plan to control. Instead of, “Lord, I’m acknowledging that this day is Yours to do what You will,” I clutch my pen and paper and document all that is mine.
The truth is I am helpless. The truth is I am vulnerable. The truth is that even as a daughter of the King trying to live a life that honors Him, I am promised no safety in this life. And no amount of organization and contingency planning is going to change that.
I am as fragile as the cherry blossom in the picture. Fortunately, I have a Father who knows my weakness and treats me with tenderness…
I was about to write that in His tenderness, He cares for His blossoms so that they are not crushed. That’s not quite how it is though. In His infinite wisdom, many blooms fall and are trampled underfoot. But it is then that their fragrance intensifies and they bless the world in a different way.
“But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life…”