When Alan and I were in the early stages of writing What Does Your Soul Love? (releasing September 17), we spent a week in a Utah cabin outlining the entire project. This cabin was remote, with no internet or cell phone coverage. There was one old-fashioned plugged-into-the-wall phone in case we needed to communicate with the outside world.
It was absolutely quiet except for the blowing wind, the chirping birds and a noisy chipmunk who hung out in the tree on the side yard. I was raised in a small town in the country and this slow way of life is how I grew up. However, I have spent the last three decades in Southern California, and the last two decades in Orange County. Let’s just say that another, unwilled, pace now revs inside me.
We had originally planned to stay at the cabin for an entire week. But about two days in, I suggested that we could leave a day early. I could not imagine being in that quiet of a space for that many days. Knowing it was one day less seemed to be a way to help me relax a bit.
I didn’t realize it right away, but my body and my mind were going through a kind of input overload detox. The sounds and the pace of my regular life were absent, and, on that particular day, I felt itchy inside. Get me out of here!
That much silence and remoteness exposed my anxiety and I was not comfortable. Alan heard my plea and agreed we could leave on Friday instead of Saturday. Good, I thought. That will be helpful.
That evening before bed, as I continued to read Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation, I came across this quote:
“Unnatural, frantic, anxious work, work done under pressure of greed or fear or any other inordinate passion, cannot properly speaking be dedicated to God, because God never wills such work directly.” (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, p. 19)
What? Those words were like a splash of cold water to my face. They woke me up. They were a direct blow to my anxiety. Yet again, the mirror was held up to my tendency to push and to angst. And in that moment, my need to escape evaporated.
If I know anything about myself it’s this: I want all that I do to be dedicated to God. And if anything stands in the way of that, I want to stop doing it as soon as I am able.
So I decided to sink further into this reality: “The Lord is my shepherd. I have everything I need.”
The ways of Jesus are found in the Great Commandment, the Fruit of the Spirit, the Sermon on the Mount, Psalm 23, and more. We do not see Jesus moving frantically or anxiously.
Even with all of his interactions, there was always an underlying spirit: “I do what the Father is doing. I say what the Father is saying.” He always knew what he was about and he felt no need to push or to burn the fuel of anxiety.
Recently, at church, our pastor said, “Jesus is smart. Jesus knows how to live. He is stunningly brilliant.” Yes! I believe this.
My anxiety-ridden ways are proving to be an engine that burns dirty. So I continue to learn how to take my cues from Jesus, my stunningly brilliant Savior.