This guest post is part of the Good Ways blog series, a collection of stories and practices for finding God in hardship.
Generally I love my life. I feel more blessed at age 60 than I ever could have anticipated. Yet, even in the midst of a “normal” life I struggle with anxiety. My wiring, a six on the enneagram for those who know it, enables me to anticipate challenges, see around corners, bring things together and recognize how everything and everyone fits together to create a better world, a safer world, a happier world. But that has its downsides.
I work at a church and am fondly called “chief of staff” by the Senior Pastor. Sometimes I think that means if anyone or anything is messed up, I’ll take care of them, fix it, get things back on track. I realize how much my wiring fits this. My boss has said more than once “your anxiety helps us.” But it can also easily get on overdrive and drive me and everyone around me crazy! So when anxiety starts to overwhelm my insides (too many people and things to “fix”) I have learned to recognize anxiety starting to control me. I take a step back, breathe deeply, and recalibrate. Years of therapy, prayer and practices have allowed me to gain peace and perspective. At least some of the time!
When my anxiety is in charge, I often struggle to accept reality. I have a strong sense of how things should be: how I should feel or act and how others should feel or act. I don’t listen to the moment, the person, or God. Instead I project what I want to be true onto others, and work to make it so. Then I become the great controller of all things, and those around me sense that. And fortunately I have begun to sense that in myself.
I have learned that I need a gentle acceptance. God’s grace brings freedom: freedom to fully accept the truth in myself, in others and in the world around me. I am free because it is all going to be okay. A perfect God’s love for me, and others, and the world is boundless and in complete control. God will make a way for each person, each situation. I don’t need to be the fixer, but instead the responder, lover, friend, and mentor. Working from a place of reality, not a secure place of my own making.
Several years ago my daughter gave me a copy of the welcome prayer. I keep it in my Bible. I have learned to practice “welcome” and “letting go” when the overwhelming feelings come. I can now do this on the fly in the middle of a situation, but only after many times of working through this line by line on a regular basis. I did this daily for many days, then once a week, and now as needed, every month or so. I fill in my own words where the bold is with very specific things, writing them in my journal. And I follow it with some silent centering prayer. And most often I come away calm, and renewed in my trust of God. Settled, and at peace.
Welcome, welcome, welcome.
I welcome everything that comes to me in this moment because I know it is for my healing.
I welcome all thoughts, feelings, emotions, persons, situations and conditions.
I let go of my desire for security.
I let go of my desire for approval.
I let go of my desire for control.
I let go of my desire to change any situation, condition, person, or myself.
I open to the love and presence of God and the healing action and grace within.
––– Mary Mrozowski 1925-1993
A good friend shared a phrase God gave him during a difficult time that has the same nature of the welcome prayer. “Let it go, let it come.” I use this as my mantra during the day to awaken the Spirit of God in my heart and mind. I say it this way: “Let it come….Let it go….Trust.”
This has become the 10 second practice I use when I feel the tension rising in my encounters with people, situations, conditions, or myself.
And God’s gentle reply is this: “I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear: I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13
Nancy Lindroth has served on staff of Blackhawk Church in Madison Wisconsin for 18 years. She is married to Rick who is a Professor of Ecology at UW Madison. They have two grown daughters (both are married to wonderful pastors—ministry must run in the family) and two grandsons. When she is not working, Nancy enjoys reading, journaling, art, road-biking, hiking and fly-fishing with her husband, and visiting her daughters who live on opposite sides of the country. You can read more of her writing here.