Stress has been piling up in my house of late. College application deadlines. New braces. Another (brief) parking lot accident. And add to that every major road leading out of my town is currently under construction. Yes, massive stress bubbling under the surface. It’s the kind of pressure that leads to hypervigilance.
Deadlines do this to me, especially life-course-determining ones. Anxiety used to be my roommate. I kicked her out a while ago and changed the locks, but once in a while she slips in through an unlocked back door. That girl knows no boundaries, I tell ya!
In the middle of one of those days, I took my son and husband to the airport for college visits (landing in rush hour traffic both to and from Boston) and made it home in time to get my daughter to dance, throw a nicer shirt on, and attempt to manage back-to-school night at the high school jumping between the schedules of a freshman and a senior on a massive campus. It felt like an episode of a teen sitcom as I rushed around trying to slide into each class before the bell rang.
So it was in my great hurry to arrive at the last class that I cut a corner down a hallway, and, to my great surprise, there was a low-to-the-ground, black end table next to a couch in the loft area between halls. I imagine high school students gather and are aware of the furniture there—but not me. I was not aware. It simply was not in my line of vision. I had Algebra I, Part 2 (whatever that is) to get to, where my friend teaches the class. What a nice way to end the long day, except for this: I hit the low end table at the ankle and somehow face-planted after tumbling over it. Yup. Right in front of other scurrying parents that night. Splat. Everything in my hands shooting across the floor.
People were very kind, and other than bruises forming all over me, I was completely fine. But the concrete diving I did that night was a wake-up call. Know what I mean? Really, it was the louder version of the racing heart, the lack of sleep, and the overall stress meter indicating a hot engine. Rushing down the hall that night and taking a fall could happen to anyone. It’s not the fall itself but the pace I was attempting.
And I remembered what our household had been fighting against so determinedly for years, pushing anxiety back across the line. Shoving it out the door. Pulling up the welcome mat and sending it a “change of address” card.
When the anxiety beast started shutting down my youngest child four years ago, we rallied to calm our entire household. Therapy. Psychology books. Faithful prayers alone and with others. Education. Advocacy.
Then we weathered my father’s death and the complicated grief around it.
We had practiced the art of stillness with God and found peace and healing. Getting lost in a Psalm. Time in my gazebo. Tending the soil.
And not every day can be relaxed on that level. Jobs, parenting, life, etc., are all stressful. But Jesus can bring us back to our calm—and even better, He can keep us there. We simply have to hold onto that warm, beautiful hand—and not let go.
I’m getting better at this. In the moment, I often feel the adrenaline of busy-ness and stress. In our fast-paced, instant-gratification culture, we are stress junkies. We are. Really. It’s our drug of choice. Think about it for a second.
- We regularly recite our resume of busy schedule to everyone around us (can you say self-important?).
- We think the rest of the drivers on the road are perpetually too slow and inconsiderate (and we burn with anger and frustration).
- Everyone else around us must accommodate us all the time with carpools and favors because our life is too much for us to manage on our own.
- We are too distracted to interact relationally.
- We walk around discussing our perpetually full “in-box” as if we are the only ones who are busy (martyr syndrome).
- We believe we are a one-person show, feeling as if we single-handedly hold up the planet. We no longer recognize the many people around us doing their part as well.
There are, of course, exceptions to these examples. If you are working multiple jobs out of necessity (or a particularly demanding work environment where adrenaline serves you and others well, like the Emergency Room), a single parent or a caregiver on one or more levels, your situation necessitates a certain amount of intensity.
But the rest of us who are not in a season of life like that, we are sipping from the stress bottle, taking a hit of self-importance, and filling a void only satisfied by being still with Christ with the rush of the rush. And for what? Shorter life spans? Snappy attitudes?
At the heart of it is a feeling of grandiosity. Fierce independence. Pride. Entitlement. Worship of selves with our time and priorities.
Then the busy-and-self-important train soon stops pulling up to the station. It continues on one seemingly endless rail of shutting out relationships. Isolation. Loneliness. Disenchantment. Disillusionment. Disappointment.
Hit any nerves yet? Yeah, I definitely slammed into mine.
See, the thing is: He loves us so much that He doesn’t force His way in.
If you are finding your overall level of existence is one pile of angst after another, and you can’t clear your mind enough to sort out which areas of busy-ness are necessary for a season and which ones are pride, try a few of these grounding, practices of “being still”:
- Pray, which is like having an open conversation with God—and listening to Him respond.
Psalm 37:7-9, ESV
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices
Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
- Read the Bible. The Psalms calm me at times because they are full of emotion that resonates with me.
- Sit outside and watch nature.
- Read for 10 minutes…something fun and not work-related.
- Ponder your blessings, the people and moments in your life you would miss if you weren’t still at times.
- Ask God to bring more peace and calm to your life and to show you where you need to adjust your schedule and priorities.
- Connect with people in meaningful ways where there is conversation, not logistics.
Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
- Tell the storm to “be still!” Not every action demands a reaction (this goes back to hypervigilance).
These are biblical principles, so in theory and in practice they are commands and willful choices toward obedience. God knows how we are and set up commands to protect us from our self-imposed frenzies that lead to temptations, sin, and disconnect with Him.
What keeps you spinning and self-focused?
Won’t you grab the Savior’s hand and join Him as He walks across the waters we daily stir up for ourselves and leads us to the shore?
Matthew 14:25-33, ESV
And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
*This blog was first a featured column at Your Tewksbury Today.
**It has also been shared at any link highlighted here: Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-Up, Make a Difference Mondays, Worshipful Wednesdays, Women With Intention Wednesdays, Grace & Truth, A Little R & R, RaRa Link-Up, Me, Coffee & Jesus, Dance With Jesus, Blessing Counters, Breakthru Link-up, Saturday Soiree, Tell His Story, Find Stability, So Much at Home, Faith-Filled Fridays, Reflect His Love and Glory Link-Up, Bonbon ‘n Coffee Linkup, Sunday Thoughts Link-Up, and Christian Mommy Blogger.
Anecdotal stories about an everyday relationship with God can be found in Not Just on Sundays: Seeking God’s Purpose in Each New Day (includes Book Club Discussion Questions).