Anxiety. It’s not imaginary. It’s not soft and cuddly. It is real. Certainly anxiety has been a part of my own life for as long as I can remember. My mother used to talk about my ‘anxiety bunnies.’ Therapy, prayer, and just being gentle over the years has helped me to befriend my anxiety and learn how to deal with it without it dealing too much with me, if you now what I mean.
Maybe that’s why I’ve always loved that anxiety has a part to play in my own Congregation’s story. In 1884, at the profession of vows of the first Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, Bishop Edward Gilpin Bagshawe said this:
“To secure this divine peace for ourselves and procure its blessing for others in the midst of the sin, turmoil, and restless anxiety of this modern world is the object of your institute.”
As a Sister of St. Joseph of Peace, then, my object is to be present to the restless anxiety of the world (and in myself) in ways that bring peace.
Today as I was walking home from church through city streets aglow with the splendor of autumn, I found myself reflecting on today’s second reading from Philippians (4: 6-9).
Brothers and sisters:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding
will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is honorable,
whatever is just, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,
if there is any excellence
and if there is anything worthy of praise,
think about these things.
Keep on doing what you have learned and received
and heard and seen in me.
Then the God of peace will be with you.
First of all, my dear friend Paul needs to realize that as much as we might wish to brush our anxiety bunnies under the rug, they will pop back up from time to time. We will have anxiety. I will (and do) have anxiety. But he has a point that rings true with my own experience.
The path to peace in the midst of the restless anxiety of our world (and our own hearts) is to bring that anxiety to God. To bring our prayers and concerns and wonderings to our God who of course already knows all about them, but there is something good and intimate and honest about laying it all before our loving God.
And so having placed our anxieties before God, we can let them rest there and focus instead on whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious, and excellent.
Whatever is lovely … so much is lovely, as my autumn walk this morning showed me in abundance. Does that make all the yucky or complicated or worrisome stuff of life go away? No. But it brings some peace that helps us to be more authentic and our best selves as we face what we have to face in life.
Or so it seemed to me this morning on my autumn walk.
May the God of Peace be with you all, and may whatever lovely things you come across on your path today touch your heart and stop you in your tracks, if just for a moment.