Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Have no anxiety at all

One of the things about OCD is that it makes you think the tiniest things have massive import. Your child falls and breaks their arm on the playground and the thought leaps unbidden to your mind, "It's because I didn't fold the towels right yesterday." Of course, in your rational mind you know that this isn't true, but you are extra-careful with the towels for weeks afterwards, because you can't shake the thought that bad things will happen if you aren't.

The thing about having obsessive-compulsive tendencies and being a Christian, at least for me, is that it becomes harder to convince myself that the little things I do don't have a profound effect on the entire universe. Your small thoughts and actions and so forth can have a profound effect on your own soul and on the body of Christ in general. Your prayers do make things happen.

Knowing that can make it so easy to get caught up in doing prayers exactly right. Say the right words, make the right gestures, feel the right feelings. Because of course if you've been a Christian for more than 16 seconds you've heard that Bible verse that starts with "Have no anxiety at all" and ends with something about making your petitions known to God. I can't remember exactly how it goes, because the imperative "Have no anxiety" instantly triggers massive anxiety. After all, it means that if I'm anxious God won't hear me because I'm doing it wrong. 

Then one day I figured something out. It didn't instantly solve all my problems the way revelations usually do in these moral tales, but it did make the problem bearable. The realization was this: Prayers don't make things happen because they're yet another ritual in the unending cycle of rituals. They work because God loves you.

Because God loves you, he isn't going to ignore your prayers because you accidentally said nine Hail Marys on the third decade, or because you genuflected on your left knee, or because you felt anxious.

He loves you even when you mess everything up, even when you're a horrible person, even when you don't pray at all, much less pray "the right way."

He loves you even when you're so paralyzed by anxiety that you can't believe in his love.

He's God. He has time to keep telling you until you believe it.


DavidD said...


Sheila said...


I mean, doesn't Jesus say "your Father knows what you need before you ask him"? Prayer isn't about asking for things (though there's nothing wrong with asking for things). Prayer is about spending time with someone who loves us and wants to talk to us. No number of prayers or special words are going to make prayer a magic formula. The words are to help US.

Now if I could just get people to stop leaving that stupid St. Jude novena all over churches with promises that you WILL get what you want if only you fulfill the rules exactly right. :P

The Sojourner said...

Yeah, sometimes novena promoters take things a wee bit too far...