The Heart’s Way –
The sky has been cloudy today. It has been mostly dreary and cool. It’s one of those days you stay inside and try to keep warm. This weekend has felt like fall. Not the fall with the beautiful leaves, cool nights and warmer days but the type of fall days which tell you winter won’t be long coming.
I’ve been tired today. It’s been a long 10 days and its caught up with me. I don’t mind “lazy” days. They are good for the mind, body, and spirit. However, there are things which need to get done that didn’t. I know there will still be enough sunny warmer days to finish winterizing the house and yard but letting go of “wasted” day thoughts is still tough.
Looking inside, into my soul, where the stillness exists I am reminded that there must be days we rest. I am thankful for the wisdom teachings of the importance of the mind but even more so the lessons of the heart. Going deep, when the surface is confused or condemning, helps me discover the path is not forged by a quickened pace but by a contented heart.
This morning, driving to a Father/Child reading event I was rounding a curve when out of nowhere came a big white dog, barking and headed straight for the truck. I didn’t have much time to react when at the last second it decided to turn back. My heart went into my stomach and as I looked in the rearview mirror the dog made its way back to the bush it was hiding behind to wait for its next victim. It was frightening to have this huge canine all of a sudden appear on what should have been an easy drive to a county library.
After my heart and stomach settled I thought about the dog and the fright it gave me. The fear had subsided and I wondered where its owner was, why the dog was allowed to play this dangerous game when, in a collision, the vehicle almost always wins?
I don’t like being afraid. Fear is unsettling and I’d prefer to live life without it. However, I admit that life can be a lot like the, almost, run in with the dog today. We navigate the road of life the best we know how hoping to reach our destination. When, out of nowhere, something happens which makes us afraid. It may be a brush with death, a lingering sickness, a mental health issue, a financial crisis, a danger or challenge to friends and family. In these moments we become afraid. Our goal is no longer reaching our destination but getting through each next moment. Everything slows down and our attention becomes solely on the fear.
In one sense it’s helpful our vision is singularly focused. It helps us concentrate on what’s in our way and how to avoid it or fight it. However, if we are not careful the thing which makes us afraid becomes the only thing we see and our vision to all the beauty and wonder of life is obscured. Balancing being fearful and mindful is tricky but is the only way we make sure we don’t spend our lives afraid to live.
Today, at a county health council, I had the privilege to listen to a man speak about an abusive childhood which was saved by someone who cared enough to take him under his wing and become his mentor. He described how this older gentleman would take him out for breakfast some morning and listen, just listen. This went on for several months. Finally, it dawned on the young man that he wasn’t being judged or given unsolicited advice, his mentor was there to hear him. He listened to the good and a lot of bad, the smidgen of positive and a plethora of negatives. The young man, at last, ran out of words to say and the mentor slowly helped him work through all the challenges and difficulties which result from growing up in an abusive and neglectful home. This mentor made all the difference in his life and as a result, the speaker now helps run a multi-county mentoring program and has improved the lives of countless young men and women.
It was a great reminder that most times the greatest gifts we can give another is presence and listening. Too often we see our role in the chaotic lives of others as telling them what to do, how to do it, advice that will make things better and shape to look more like ours. The speaker said today; “I didn’t need someone to tell me all the things I needed to do. I needed someone to let me get it all out so I could sort through it all and figure out what to keep and what to throw away.”
Presence and listening. Two of the greatest and perhaps least used treasures we possess.
“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.” The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 16
How Much Does a Spirit Weigh? –
This morning was my regularly scheduled session with my therapist. I wanted to leave early because traffic approaching Nashville can be hazardous and slow. I arose with the alarm and went into the living room to do my morning prayers. Following, the above verse from the book of Proverbs was stuck in my head.
I pulled out of the driveway and began the trip. Everything was going fine until my cell phone rang and it was Beth, who was on her way to work, and while listening to the radio heard there was not one but two vehicle accidents on the interstate which I was traveling. “Sigh!” Brake lights soon lit up the road in front of me and I couldn’t help but be amused at how quickly my plans fell apart. “Oh, how little control we have over anything.” I finally made it to the doctor’s office and the waiting room was already full.
I found my seat and occupied myself with my phone and the TV which was on. Minute after minute passed by and it wasn’t too long before my appointment time came, went, and still I sat in the waiting room. My plans for the morning were vanishing before my eyes and I wondered what the Lord’s answer to me would be? Perhaps, “Brian, just breathe and let go of your irritation. I know where you are and I am there with you.”
Planning and scheduling my days are part of how I deal with my Severe Anxiety Disorder. It helps me break my schedule into smaller, more manageable parts. It seems innocent, “pure” as the verse from Proverbs would say, but I also recognize that the control I seek isn’t really possible and handing control over my daily existence to the One who is eternal is the only way to true peace of mind.
When my anxiety and/or depression begin to permeate my spirit it seems to get heavier and heavier until it’s an effort to do any and everything. However, when God, who knows my spirit is being weighed down by mental illness, plans, worries and a host of other things, sees me burdened he picks me up and breathes his lightness into my spirit so I can rise up and keep going.