It is Sunday morning here in London. This is the first Sunday since I’ve left on this Sabbatical that I have not been in a place of worship, but I knew when I awoke this morning that I needed to spend this morning in quiet prayer and also with family.
My oldest son, who made this trip possible and whose family have so graciously loved me, housed me, fed me and included me these last seven weeks, leaves today for a trip to the Middle East, and I won’t see him again before I leave England. We’ve just had a couple of hours of sweet conversation, nothing important, just time. Just time.
Earlier this morning, I heard from a friend of mine who is undergoing the challenge of watching her mother die and is herself suffering greatly in the process . I wrote this to her:
I do understand the anguish of waiting and the almost complete emotional depletion that comes from wondering when this will be over.
One thing I’ve learned both from my mother’s death and my travels: what will happen will happen, and all your anxiety will do is make you, and those around you, miserable. Anxiety is of no help in any circumstance. It just raises everyone’s stress level.
You can only live in the now. All our efforts to live in the future are totally doomed–that is an impossibility. The more you push mentally and spiritually for this to be over, the more likely it is that you will miss the grace moments of the present.
Your dog is picking up on your anxiety and displaying it the only way she knows–to keep chewing at a piece of her own skin. It’s why many teens cut themselves–it is a way of releasing the huge anxiety of their lives.
I’ll say this even more clearly: you are hurting everyone around you, including your beloved pet–and your mother–by refusing to live in the present moment and letting God deal with what is to come.
Sit still, my friend. Sit still. Pay attention to your shoulders, your forehead, your back, your gut, your fingers and toes. Your mother’s life and death are her problem. Your life and death are yours. Quit taking this from her. She’s got to deal with it.
I know how many words you have in you. Today is the time to stem that torrent of words and just let your mother speak, and let silences, holy silences, fill the air. As they do, pay close attention to your body–not anyone else’s, just yours. Listen to the way you are breathing, notice what your muscles are doing. Be quiet. Do not try to answer the questions or help anyone feel better.
“Be still”, the Psalmist says, “Be still and know I am God.”
Be still. Hear the wind, listen to the refrigerator cycle on and off, the same with the air conditioner. Find the birdsong, hear the traffic flow. Let their sounds hold you.
Stop the words.
Go to worship. Let the rhythm of the liturgy settle you. Receive the sacrament with gratefulness, instead of pleading for God to fix this.
Be still. Receive the salvation of the Lord, which works the way God wants it, not the way you want it.
Be still. See in your mind your mother’s reception in the Holy Place, the place where all that matters is the Presence of God, the Presence of the fullness of Love, and every anxiety on earth must also bow to perfect Peace.
Be still. You will have to fight every normal impulse to do this, but you can fight and win here. What you are doing is not working. It is time to find the better way.
Let the silence hold you. You don’t have to fill it with anything, for it is already full of God. Your words and your anxiety have blinded you to this.
Watch your pet become well in your stillness.
Let your mother take her own path in your stillness.
Repent of your need to be God here, to decide life and death for others.
Quit trying to fix this.
I am seeking to follow that same advice, knowing that on so many Sunday mornings, in preparing to take my place as Pastor, I am anxious. How much does my anxiety add to the Kingdom of Heaven? None. Not one bit. How much does it distract? Hugely. It is a negative force.
So as I pray for the many who themselves may be facing anxiety on this Sunday, “Let us all be still. God is indeed God, and will not let the world fall between those Holy Hands. No matter what happens, we are in the presence of perfect love. ”
Thanks be to God.