The Stranded Goldfinch
It’s said that opposites attract. This is certainly an excellent way to describe the pull I felt toward Jesus, even at a young age. I was high strung, “too sensitive” and prone to over thinking; he was calm and steady. When I thought, “Hit the panic button!” he said, through his gentle presence and the Bible, that he was near and that his peace could overcome my fear and the threats that caused me to worry:
5 The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:5b-7 (NIV)
The freedom from fear Jesus offers has made me want to rid myself of anxious and awkward habits. I want to walk with him and to walk like him:
…. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (Message)
Wanting to change did not automatically lead me to becoming calm and composed. There have been times when I’ve been able to internalize this pattern of not being anxious and to pray and petition with thankfulness, but this hasn’t always been the case. Sometimes I’ve been too anxious to be able to work out this discipline in my life, and my prayers and petitions looked a lot like worrying. I had been trying and trying to pray, and ending up doubling down on worry. I had felt too far away from Jesus’ steady and gentle presence. I had been believing his promises, but I wasn’t able to find a way back to his presence.
What I’ve learned, through trial and error, is that there are many more ways to get closer to Jesus and his unforced ways than I realized, that his nearness can come in many forms. For me relief has come listening to music I love, comedy on Youtube, and online sermons; getting out for a long walk. taking the time to soak in the beauty all around. I’ve been getting enough sleep, seeing a counselor, and finding a medication for anxiety that works for me; gardening, baking, and simply sitting still and watching dust motes float in the sunlight—the list is not limited to a few “spiritual” activities.
I continue to believe that opposites attract, and I certainly have so much to keep learning from Jesus. For me to consistently become less anxious and more at peace, has taken decades for me. But at the same time, Jesus has woven himself into so much of what is good, beautiful, and helpful in my life, from prayer, to adequate sleep, to the guidance of a therapist. He has been near, and he has brought peace, more and more with each passing year.