Two old friends paid me a visit last week. The first slipped in without a word, freezing my mind for an instant, like the shock of ice cream gulped down too eagerly on a hot day. As we visited for a while, I noticed the familiar voice is edged with a steely insistence, somehow sharpened rather than blunted by a hunger for news of trouble, and the scent of brewing chaos. By God’s grace and through His perfect timing, there, just in nick of time, was another beloved friend knocking on the door of my heart, gently enfolding me in loving arms. This beloved voice speaks quietly, yet perfectly clearly, sharing a different story, at once both old and fresh. The voice carries words brimming with abundant life, like a lush oasis in an otherwise barren and hostile desert. Such is the power of moments of fear to paralyze our senses, and to leave us feeling isolated and lost. Such is the power of the unparalleled peace found through our faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord, in the comforting words of Scripture.
We are all certainly well acquainted with the stresses and anxieties of everyday life: finding or keeping a job; making ends meet as we try to stretch every dollar; praying that the car will keep running for another year without a major breakdown; juggling family and relationship issues. The list goes on.
We worry about our children, their education, the state of the world, and their future. We have real concerns about our health and our health care system. We care for our elderly parents, and wonder how we’re going to cope with the often painful choices and challenges that walk alongside us as we age. Then there is the wider concern for our safety and security against real and imagined threats.
Torrents of media coverage wash over us leaving us with more questions than answers. Fear knocks us off balance, and disorients us. Our thoughts seem to scurry through an endless maze, bumping into more dead ends than opportunities or possibilities. Lasting solutions are elusive. No wonder we are stressed to the max. No wonder fear finds it so easy to dog our days, and haunt our restless nights.
Those who love God, and follow the Lord Jesus are by no means immune from any of the fears or stresses of life in the world. In different ways and to a different extent we all face the same challenges. It is in how we deal with life that makes all the difference in the world. The level of power we grant to each of the storytellers vying for our attention, directly impacts our perspective. It changes where we find ourselves dwelling most often on the path between the poles of fear and love.
What space, and how much we offer to the different narratives shapes our understanding of what is real and lasting, rather than temporal and fleeting. It also refines our ability to cope. In the portion of time we give to feeding on the contrasting stories we have the power to change the balance and weight each storyline holds for us in our lives.
Being grounded in God and rooted in faith on the one hand, and thinking we are in control, independent and strong in and of ourselves on the other, is like the difference between being nourished through a healthy balanced diet, or simply filling up on junk food. The first satisfies our deepest hungers for love, peace, and hope.
It fills our longing for the most lasting and deepest intimate relationship we will ever experience. It sets us free to look beyond self to meet the needs of others, to experience greater clarity of vision, and a broader perspective. Faith in Christ Jesus helps us to grow strong in body, mind and spirit. In sharp contrast we have the food of self-will, with an entrée of entropy. Well it isn’t called “junk” food for nothing. How about sharing a whole meal of soul food with a real friend this week?
• The Rev. Susan E. Wilmot is priest-in-charge at St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church, 975 E. Warner Road, Tempe. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (480) 345-2686.