Thursday, February 18, 2016

Thankful Thursday: My racing and anxious heart

Yesterday morning, my heart started racing.
So much so that several times I had to stop and stand still, take a few deep breaths,
close my eyes, and place my hand over my heart.
I prayed that God would calm my anxious heart,
and more than that, I prayed that God would show me why I was so unsettled.
What came to mind almost immediately was a flurry of questions.

Gail, what is so fear-producing in your life right now that God can't handle?
What is so big and complicated that God can't take care of it, but you can?
How will worry and fear and a racing heart fix anything?
Is the goal of your life to fix anything or everything?

On Tuesday, I heard someone say: "Worry is a misuse of the imagination."
I like that. But I prefer another quote about worry: "Worry is praying for what you don't want."

What am I praying for when I worry?
To whom am I praying when I worry?
Why do I revert to worry so often?

The Bible says, "In everything give thanks." Having remembered that passage, another question emerges: How can I be thankful even in the midst of having a racing and anxious heart?

First of all, those anxious moments reminded me of how much of the time of my life I spend not bound up in or by worry. I know people for whom anxiety is a normal state of being. Stress is far more the norm than calm for many people. I am grateful, so grateful for the increasing peace that God has given me in these past few years.

Don't get me wrong: things fall apart within me and around me.
Family members and friends are going through some stuff.
Stuff that is horrible: the husband of someone I have know since I was a young child died this week.
Another is dealing with her mother's increasing physical needs.
Job stress for some. Financial worries for others.
Kanswer. Diabetes. Congestive heart failure.
School issues. Homelessness. Poverty. The water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
And don't get me started on the topsy turvy world of politics these days.
Not that any of that compares to the tragedy of human trafficking and slavery,
the humanitarian crises, people on the move, on the run, on their way to who knows where -
there is so much to worry about.

But what does worry accomplish or solve? Nothing.
How does a racing heart resolve anything? It doesn't.
Do I need to find my niche, find the sweet spot of my passion, and do something to make a difference? Absolutely. But worrying doesn't help that in any way at all.

Second, those worry-filled moments remind me of how much more time I can, need, and want to spend in prayer and meditation on the goodness of my life, the beauty of the world, and the power of hope.

Hope for healing.
Hope for wholeness.
Hope for freedom.
Hope for justice.
Hope for change.
And I need to do more than hope: I need to act.

Which brings me to the third reason why I am grateful for yesterday morning's racing and anxious heart: I need to translate that nervous and anxious energy into useable energy for justice, for healing, and for peace.

I need to listen for opportunities to give, to speak, to act, to support, to pray, to challenge myself and others to not just worry, but to act.

I need to be willing to tell stories about my fears, my doubts, my worries, my insecurities and failures, so that no one looks at me or reads these ramblings and mistakenly believes that I've got this worry/fear thing figured out completely. I do not. Not even close.

I need to listen to the stories that other people tell about their racing hearts,
their broken hearts, their wounded hearts.
Your broken heart. Your wounded heart.
I need to not try to fix anything, but simply listen.

When I was a sophomore in college, for several weeks, I suffered with a debilitating stomach problem. When the pain would hit, I would be doubled over at the waist, completely unable to stand up straight. That pain often lasted for hours. I could make it to and through my classes most days, but only barely. If the pain hit in the middle of the night, I would be unable to sleep. I tried several medicinal remedies - with no success. A college psychologist suggested that it was "in my head." A nurse I frequently visited at the student health center agreed with his suggestion.

Not long after that, I began to notice that if I could rewind my worried mind back to the moment when the pain began, if I was willing to analyze and release the thought, the issue, the circumstance that triggered the pain, then the pain would go away. Literally, in the moment that I recognized, "Oh, it's that guy I still like; I'm obsessing about him again," the pain would go away.  Or if I realized, "Oh, it's that issue with _____________. That's what I was thinking about when this started," the pain would go away. Instantly. I am happy to report that I haven't experienced that same pain in my gut in years. Thanks be to God.

I am grateful that yesterday morning's heart palpitations followed a similar pattern. Once those questions about my power versus the power of God surfaced, once I realized that yesterday's worry was directly tied to my desire to control some situations and people and circumstances that are completely out of my control, once I removed my right hand from my chest, pressed it together with my left hand, and bowed my head to God in prayer, my heart slowed to its normal pace. And it hasn't accelerated again since that moment - except for when I was walking up a hill in my neighborhood on my way back from the library. That kind of racing heart is exactly what the doctor ordered, literally and figuratively.

Speaking of which, I'm gonna get up from this computer now and go for a walk.
Thanks be to God for a beautiful day here in my hometown.

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