I suspect it would have happened no matter what career path I’d followed, but since my ordination to the priesthood 8+ years ago, I’ve been diagnosed with three medical ailments with stress markers. I’m honestly not sure what there is in my life to be so stressed about. I have a solid family, a good job in a good church, and, by and large, things are good. And yet, my body reacts as if I’m making multi-million dollar decisions on a regular basis; like I’m a brain surgeon working on Stephen Hawking; or the guy who decided to give RGIII another chance.
I am, like most modern Americans, powerless over anxiety. It is as much a personal issue as it is a societal one. Yesterday, for example, I spent some time in an outpatient surgery waiting room. As is the cultural expectation, there was a TV hanging on the wall with one of the 24 hour news networks playing at a reasonable volume. As I sat there listening to talking heads discuss the Presidential election, I realized that the 24 hour news cycle is designed to make us addicted. They create stress, even when there is none to be had, and let our bodies do its thing. Eventually, we become so addicted to the cortisol reaction, we can’t look away. As the 12 Step community would say, we are powerless over anxiety.
The Collect for Proper 20 hits that powerlessness head on. We ask God to “grant us not to be anxious about earthly things,” but we can’t stop there. As the old joke goes, you can pray to God to win the lottery all you want, but you have to buy a ticket to have a chance. We can pray for an end to our anxiety, but part of that prayer has to be about changing our own behaviors as well. Can we turn off the TV? Can we step away from the balance sheet? Can we stop focusing on those things which we cannot change, and instead take the initiative to move the needle where we can? Can we, in the midst of things that are passing away, turn our focus to things heavenly?
Ask any addict, it is easier said than done, but perhaps this Sunday can be a start. Maybe I can take this prayer more seriously this week, and begin the process of being set free from my stress and be made alive again in God.