High Anxiety

High Anxiety

I have always been an anxious person.  I arrive at the airport two days before my scheduled departure.  I want my taxes done by the end of January.  I know the circumstances under which I am likely to die.  I will have a heart attack while awaiting the results of a routine medical test.  The test will show I am fine, but my anxiety about the test will cause the heart attack.

My son seems to have inherited this tendency toward anxiety, his daughter too.  She gets extremely upset when they head into the subway, afraid they might miss their train.  He must remind her, “It’s all right.  Another train will come along soon.  They always do.”  I apologize to both.  Undue anxiety is a burden.

I used to think my anxiety was useful.  I believed it caused me to be cautious, prepared and appropriately conservative.  I was not likely to hike above the tree line if there was any possibility of a thunderstorm.  I always traveled with any medications I might need.  I took care.  Unfortunately, over the years I have learned it is possible to become dependent on your anxieties.

I have an anxious friend who is very sure there is no God.  He approaches each day as though he must find some independent meaning to the next 24 hours.  My friend takes pride in his unbelief.  He uses his confident atheism to feed his ongoing anxiety. There is a smug pride in his lack of expectation about any inherent goodness in the world.

I understand how my friend came to his position.  Better not get your hopes up, for surely they will be dashed.  We use our anxieties to manage our expectations, to stop us from looking at what might be possible, to stop us from aiming for the stars.  It is difficult to set aside these “useful” anxieties, primarily because of how completely dependent upon them we have become.

To let go of anxiety is to admit you are not in control.  It is to acknowledge you never were and you never will be the captain of your own ship.  To let go of anxiety is to fall into the arms of the Jesus you cannot see or hear, the one who is nothing if not subtle.

I know I must loosen this grip on thin air, this vain clutching.  I must trust God, the one who knew me before I was born and numbered every single hair upon my head.  I must give up these “useful” anxieties that provide nothing but false assurances.  I must leap and trust the God who will help me grow wings on the way down.  I must move beyond my anxieties.

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