On a clear autumn morning in 2009 I woke up and something was gone.
I looked around and couldn’t find it.
In its place was a delicious sense of well-being that I had experienced before, but never without a constant eclipse of anxiety.
It’s hard to describe, but the best image is Dorothy stepping from her black and white Kansas into the land of technicolor Oz. The difference was that striking.
And it only lasted one day.
That one day was a wake up call to the possibility of a different life. Before, I simply didn’t know how much free-floating, purposeless anxiety I lived with daily. It was just how things were. Of course, I suspected. Over the years, I had tried anti-anxiety techniques, I had read the books, meditated, prayerfully begged , then finally accepted it as my life.
But once I went beyond suspicion and into experience, I started to imagine what it would be like to have more days anxiety-free.
Afterwards, I went over my life with a fine-tooth comb–what had I done differently? What hadn’t I done? What flipped the switch from on to off?
Three months later, information about and treatment for the migraines that had plagued me for years led me to living a technicolor life more days than not.
It’s been a year and half now. The migraines are all but gone, and minor when they do occur. The anxiety pops up occasionally, but there’s normal, easily pinpointed reasons for it–not simply an unwelcome guest loitering all the time.
But surprisingly, on the other side of the rainbow in life without anxiety, I found a new challenge:
I never realized how much I used anxiety to fuel creativity, to get things done, as the source of my prayer, my ambition, my academic study, even energy for relationships.
While my methods of dealing with anxiety all those years taught me to function in its shadow,
it didn’t teach me how to live without it.
The moment I started envisioning a life where anxiety wasn’t the primary ingredient, I had to start learning something new: courage.
Rather than submitting to anxiety’s demands, courage asked me to stand up and fight back.
It asked me to hope for something different, even if I didn’t believe it was possible.
Now, courage demands honesty about how much I’ve depended on fear to motivate me. It’s requiring me to look more seriously at my limitations and weakness. It’s asking me to put the effort into discovering a new fuel for creativity.
Courage faces a challenge and calls for the best of who we are to meet it. To live, to act, to create, requires a vision, and courage is necessary to trust the vision and see it through to completion.
Submission is often the word used to describe Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, but reading it now, I think courage is a much better term.
Jesus courageously drank the cup of our salvation to the dregs because he knew the cosmos-redeeming power of that creative act. This wasn’t passive submission, but fierce action. While our own acts of courage may not seem so enormous as his, they have far-reaching effects.
The courage to believe in and pursue a different, more life-abundant way of living changes the world, one person at a time, starting with ourselves.
I believe that Jesus Christ is the source of this kind of life-giving courage and it is ours for the asking.