Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Good News Response to Anxiety

Continuing from yesterday I, too, wanted to show a new spouse where I had lived and worked. We had gone to a convention in New Orleans and one day we went out to a former pastorate. I was sick at my stomach for three days and couldn’t eat! Making sense of one’s life is a lot like putting the pieces of a puzzle together so that the picture is complete. A good way to do that is to find the corner pieces and begin there. I did not have that corner piece. 

This was a small church in a small town. I had been there during the civil unrest in the South over segregation. I had believed one way about that and the majority of the congregation believed another, but there was no great tension over it – at least that I allowed myself to feel. I made some good friends and I still cherish memories of those friendships. Yet I became ill:  psychosomatically so.

It would be many years until I found that “corner piece” and began to get a sense of the whole picture of my life. If you have been reading the blog, you know what it is. For more recent readers it was a nightmare in which I discovered myself facing a rattlesnake in the dark of a tunnel when I was a Boy Scout of 13. I had denied those feelings all the years after and it was a truly hellish experience when they came back in the form of a flashback. It took some length of time before I could work through the experience and the snake’s head began to diminish.

It was only gradually that I began to realize that the flashback had set me free. I had a good many experiences of psychotherapy along the way of becoming a pastoral counselor. Each had made a positive contribution, none got at the core of anxiety and resultant long buried rage, the tendency to avoid and withdraw. Now the picture began to rapidly fill in and pieces of odd shape and color suddenly fit in. I know the snake’s head is still there. It is etched into brain cells. It does not bother me, simply an awareness of what was and is. 

What is far more important to me is a new grasp of scripture. It is that awareness that Paul had brought to my attention often in my daily Bible devotions and I did not quite understood it in its fullness: God is working for our good in all things, even the worst of them. Thanks be to God.

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