I was on a pre-break-up run. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time, but I had begun to worry about my dating difficulties, and pounding it out on the trail to White Rock Lake seemed like a good idea.
I felt stuck in one of those Vine videos on Facebook, looping through the same anxious thoughts, over and over, until I wanted to scream. If only I could close the browser on my anxiety or scroll past it like a Vine. But, anxiety doesn’t work like that.
Photo courtesy of Rula Sibai via unsplash.com
Sometimes, when people quote the Bible, they seem to imply that anyone can dispel anxiety with four easy steps: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer (Step 1) and supplication (Step 2), with thanksgiving (Step 3) let your requests be made known to God (Step 4). And the peace of God…will guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7).
But, in all my years as a champion worrier, the four-steps approach rarely fast-tracked me to peace. True–that day on the path–praying and giving thanks reminded me that even if my relationship nosedived and I got wounded in the crash God would help me through. But, how could I get a grip on the anxious feelings?
Have you ever tried to stuff a sub-zero sleeping bag into one of those sacks the size of a ziplock? That’s my experience with anxious feelings. No matter how hard I try to jam them down, most of it stays sprawled across the floor.
If only I could bottle up these anxious feeling, I thought as I ran. Then I’ld put them on a shelf and walk away…maybe in a Mason jar…with the lid screwed on tight.
I felt my fingers gripping a metal lid, my forearm contracting, the tin scraping against the grooves—twist, twist, twist, twist, thud.
Tight. Secure. Contained.
And, suddenly, that was how I felt. Contained. I was so surprised I almost stopped running. Thank you, God.
A few hundred feet later, I crossed the Garland Road bridge. Cars whizzed below. Suddenly, new anxious thoughts whirred around my brain.
God, I’ve already prayed about this. Help me trust you.
I imagined the Mason jar again—twist, twist, twist, twist, thud.
Thank you, God.
The following week, I re-jarred those emotions repeatedly. Who would have that screwing the lid on a Mason jar–in my mind–would help me feel at peace?
And this left me wondering, can imaginary Mason jars and Philippians 4:6-7 coexist?
I believe so. Both remind me–in different ways–that I don’t need to feed my anxiety, fix it, or figure it out. I can leave it with God, because he’s promised to stick with me even if disaster comes my way. So, while the Bible verses recenter my thoughts on God, the Mason jars help me contain my emotions.
So for now, when it comes to anxiety, I’m praying with Mason jars.
* This experience with anxiety is due in part to the work of James K. A. Smith in his books Desiring the Kingdom: Worship, World View, and Cultural Formation and Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works—well worth the read for anyone interested in how our bodies relate to faith.