Thursday, September 11, 2014
To Prevent Anxiety
I’ve written here of many incidents, many thoughts, and many blessings I have received, and the focus has largely been on me --- or you, if you see yourself in these words. I’ve written of things and events which have helped me lessen my anxiety, the worries of my life. Most often, I think, I’ve written that my anxieties are lessened if I can accept the fact that God wishes good for me, in all things. He loves me.
Sometimes I have written about God’s will for me --- and I’ve often found, in summary, that He wants me to love others, as He loves me, calming all our anxieties. I think, however, that I have NOT written much about how I can bring about this awareness of my need to be loved, and to love. I’ve not written about concrete actions I can take --- on a regular basis --- to be reminded of God’s love and my call to love. And I need those reminders.
There are some things I can do to lessen life’s anxieties, and to stop those feelings before they happen. These proactive preventative measures are called, in a word, prayer.
My spiritual advisor classes started Tuesday night, and the initial topic was prayer. In describing how to read Scripture, St. Ignatius suggested that meditation --- our reflective capacity to discover meaning --- and contemplation --- our imaginative capacity to put ourselves into the Bible scene --- both come into play. Ignatius taught that we need to reflect on the truths of Scripture AND how those truths relate to US.
To illustrate the personal nature of this method of Scripture reading and prayer, the class was directed to read and pray over the words in which Jesus called Simon the fisherman, in Luke 5:1-11. And then we were asked to speak aloud our silent thoughts, what caught our attention. It was surprising the number of different foci from that one passage. One person was immediately struck by the fact that Jesus saw two boats on the shore and then chose to get into one. “Why that one,” he wondered, and considered how God used small choices in his life to effect great changes. (This is along the lines of most Scriptural miracles, wherein Jesus requires some participation of His followers in bringing His miracles about.)
I noticed Simon’s verbal reaction to the great miracle of the full nets: “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Simon followed the Lord’s commands, and then was humbled at the great blessing of God. Putting myself in that scene (and considering the many great blessings in my life), I considered that my reaction may likely have been one of pride at the great catch that “I” had made, and perhaps even considering it a just reward for all my labors. Simon reacted in humility; how often, I realized, I reacted in pride.
Reading a Scripture passage I have heard so many times, yet I still have so much to learn.
The point of the exercise was to illustrate the importance of prayer and of regular Bible reading. We all have anxieties in our lives, and always will. But a big part of Jesus’ message was “Be not afraid,” and “Do not be anxious.” As demonstrated by our exercise, there is much we can gain by meditating on Scripture, to figure out the truth Jesus was saying, and why. But there is also much to be given uniquely to each of us by contemplating Scripture in prayer, by putting ourselves in the Scriptural scene and letting the Holy Spirit expand the message into our lives, so we can hear His message for us: “Even in these troubling times in your life, I tell you, Do Not Be Anxious.”