Monday, February 27, 2017

Embracing an Anxiety-Free Lent

I recently drove into Chicago for a meeting, pulled up at the designated site, and jumped out to park the car. The parking attendant noticed my Bible on the front seat.

He proceeded to strike up a conversation by asking, "Is that your Bible?" I replied, "Yes, sir." He inquired further, "Have you read it today?" I answered, "Yes, I have."  Now clearly intrigued, he looked at me and said, "Give me somethin'!"

I told him I had been in chapter four of Philippians, where St. Paul says, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again, rejoice!"  I mentioned that Paul goes on to say, "Have no anxiety at all..."--and confessed to him that I struggle with the "no anxiety" part.

At this point, as we stood just off of Michigan Avenue, he squared up chest-to-chest with me, looked at me intently, and responded with utter confidence: "This is certainly a challenging word, my brother, but today you and I are going to live it--no anxiety for either of us all day!"

I gave him an, "Amen, brother," and walked on from this grace-full encounter to have a joyful day in the Lord, indeed!

Rather than just deciding what we're going to do for Jesus this Lent, maybe we should ask what Jesus wants from us this Lent.

My gut feeling is that one of the best Lenten offerings we can make this year is to hand over our anxieties to the Lord.  Whatever makes you twitch, or keeps you up at night; whatever drives you to compulsive coping mechanisms, or potentially addictive patterns of behavior: I think Jesus wants these from us this Lent.

After all, the Lord himself shockingly says, "do not worry about your life..." (Mt 6:25). Perhaps taking this advice to heart is just what will make Lent '17 different from all the rest. When I hand over the reins of my worries to my Lord and my God, a part of me dies to the illusion that I'm actually in control. Letting go our anxieties could be as easy as humbling ourselves to let God be God.

If the parking attendant and I could do it for a day, couldn't countless numbers of us do it indefinitely with the Lord's help?!
Of course, there is a force in the world which wants us to keep holding on to our anxieties: the Evil One, the Liar from the beginning. As long as we resist the subtle temptation to worry--the age-old murmuring which claims that we can become like gods and can control all the details of our daily lives--as long as we hand all of our concerns to the God-Man, then the Tempter cannot divide and conquer our hearts.

Embracing an anxiety-free Lent will ensure that we rejoice always this Easter :)