Thursday, March 1, 2012

bread crumbs: on being still

{bread crumbs: hints, big or small, that seem to fall in front of me just when I need them.}

I've been reading Lauren Winner's new book Still: Notes On A Mid-Faith Crisis for the past few weeks. I first discovered her in college when my room-mate lent me her memoir Girl Meets God; I still read it every other year or so. Anyway, something stuck out to me a few nights ago. One of the things she writes about is her struggle with anxiety. She decides to give up anxiety for Lent (I love the bravery of such a statement):
The desert saints said that the beginning of renouncing a thought is simply noticing it. That is what I'm doing in my quarter hours--I am noticing, and naming, and then for a few minutes, quarantining  a distraction.
But the desert fathers say something more: after noticing a thought, replace it with prayer. So that is just what I try to do to my anxiety this Lent--not just ignore it for quarter hour increments, but sidle up alongside it and pray. (89-90) 
This idea of just spending some time with anxiety (or in my case the almost paralyzing discontent that creeps up sometimes) and noticing it, then praying through it really spoke to me. I tried it yesterday. I spent some time with my discontent, asked it what it's name was. Sometimes it's just advertising telling me I don't have things that I want (turns out most of the time I don't want them, not really), or Pinterest telling me I'm not creative enough with my throw pillows or my marriage, or any number of outside sources streaming false information into my mind. It's all the same lie of not enough. So I spent some time with that lie (disguised as my feelings) and eventually it showed its ugly face. And I prayed. I held up all my feelings, true and false, asked for help, and help came in the form of peace.

But say that feeling of discontent came from something real--something that really needed to be changed or fixed, then spending time with it would reveal that as well. Sometimes discontent is just the push I need to make something happen. Most of the time, I'm finding, that is not the case. It's just the not enough lie blinding me to the blessings that surround me.

I used to think I should be harder on myself. Now I mostly try to be kinder to myself, in the hopes that the outflow will be better. God lavishes grace on me daily, and I am desperately in need of grace to lavish (or even to dole out in teaspoons, that would work.) What goes in must come out, and there is no way to be there for other people if I'm not there for myself too.

I will not run away from stillness. It is uncomfortable but it is fruitful. I love this prayer she mentions:
O God of peace, who hast taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in quietness and in confidence shall be our strength: By the might of thy Spirit lift us, we pray thee, to thy presence, where we may be still and know that thou art God.
-from the Book of Common Prayer, 832.

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