For an Advent devotional, I’ve been using God is In the Manger, excerpts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s sermons and letters. Below is a profound insight I came across. I encourage you to read this slowly and really take it in:
Not everyone can wait: neither the sated nor the satisfied nor those without respect can wait. The only ones who can wait are people who carry restlessness around with them and people who look up with reverence to the greatest in the world.
Thus Advent can be celebrated only by those whose souls give them no peace, who know that they are poor and incomplete, and who sense something of the greatness that is supposed to come, before which they can only bow in humble timidity, waiting until he inclines himself toward us—the Holy One himself, God in the child in the manger. God is coming; the Lord Jesus is coming; Christmas is coming. Rejoice, O Christendom!
Only the restless can truly celebrate Advent. For someone whose brain runs a million miles an hour, whose mental processing and angst run non-stop, who lives with much spiritual, emotional, and existential restlessness, this gives me hope, even for a moment.
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might deny ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and cavalry to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king that the hand of our God is gracious to all who seek him, but his power and his wrath are against all who forsake him. So we fasted and petitioned our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.
What an odd and beautifully honest aside. At first I was put off by the logic here. “I proclaimed a fast…For I was ashamed.” I thought “that’s a terrible reason to have a fast!” But the more I thought about it the more I realized that, of course!, that’s the right time to fast! When you are most unsure, most in need, most insecure. This is when “we might deny ourselves before our God.”
See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.
At my job, I have this client (nowadays they’re called “participants”) who’s unlike any other I’ve known. He’s got some sort of complicated cocktail of mental health issues going on. Whatever they are, they’ve come together to create the most agitated, anxious, hyper, manic, rapid-thinking individual I’ve ever seen.
He’s the kind of guy whose own thoughts race a million miles an hour in addition to the other voices in his head doing so as well. He craves attention and simply has to be the center of it at all times; the more people around, the more dramatic and performative he becomes. He acts out like a child in any way to get the attention he craves, all while his inside hums and buzzes with a constant anxiety.
He can easily talk non-stop for hours with random things setting off new associations and new lines of thought and one topic flowing into another topic that seems unrelated, save for a color, a location, or even a word in common with the prior one. The first time I met him, his thoughts became so fast and so loud, he started screaming and clawing at his head just to get them to quiet down.
He evokes little sympathy from those around him, including myself. He seems to thrive on the fact that he can so affect people–even if it’s in a negative, irritating way.
I haven’t talked about it much (on this blog or to many people), but for the past 6 or 7 months I’ve been in professional counseling, primarily for anxiety (and it’s various outward expressions). There is a constant tension and busyness inside me that keeps me from living so many aspects of life. The counseling has been challenging, amazing, and painfully slow in the growth it has been producing in me.
But growth it has produced.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided to take a week off from the blog, somewhat as an experiment. That week, I experienced more freedom from the various expressions of anxiety in my life than I had for years. I began to experience once again that communion with Christ I’ve written about wanting before. I was reading his Word, praying, and serving those around me with such calm and freedom.
I then thought to myself, “Wow. That was amazing! Now, I can go back to blogging.” I came back to the blog all last week, and all the anxiety came rushing back with it.
[Read Part 2 and Part 3 of this series]
Oh the perils of post-modernity.
There once was a time where I was arrogant in what I thought I knew. I know, I know, many of you are thinking “once”? Let me explain.
I grew up in the South; or at least (if you don’t believe Dallas is in the True South) the Bible Belt. I was raised in an atmosphere that choked with fundamentalism. What’s more, I was fully enveloped in this culture as a Southern Baptist, and all of the cultural retardation that accompanied it. Most everyone in my world was “religious”. Actors and “liberals” were the only ones that were “atheists”, and they were all in Hollywood, D.C., or Berekeley–far, far away. I lived my younger years not knowing even of the existence of other “denominations”. Everyone in Texas was either Catholic or Southern Baptist, and in Sunday School they taught me that Catholics believed in salvation by works and were therefore not going to heaven anyway. Only we Baptists were right. In short, I grew up with a sense that I was part of the cosmic “in” crowd: God’s One and Only Faithful.