It may sound like an oxymoron, but I have been living with peaceful anxiety for the last year or so. I have the symptoms of anxiety that appear on the physical level, but deep inside I have the peace of living in Blessed Mother’s Arms no matter what. The psychologist calls my anxiety an illness – my spiritual friends call it a cross – my spiritual director calls it my blessed weakness.
I imagine in the spiritual life that anxiety most often represents lack of trust, lack of faith or perfectionism or all the above! It is the consequence of fear and unrest. I know what that type of anxiety is because I lived with it for 35+ years! Watching my young adult child arrive late to get ready for the confirmation where she would be sponsoring a family friend, without a gift yet, struggling to get dressed and rushing out the door unsure where she was going to meet up with the confirmand reminded me of my own 20-something life. The difference for me was I didn’t have my mom telling me, “This is who Jesus loves, the one who runs late! Offer up the truth that you are late and unprepared and ‘messy’ for the benefit of the confirmand…that Blessed Mother will repair your hurry and open the heart of your friend to the Holy Spirit!” No, that wasn’t the type of response I received on my days of running late. My mom didn’t say a word about it that I remember, but there was a rolled eye here or there.
I didn’t need my mom to give commentary on my weaknesses. I had it all in my head already. “Get up, you are going to be late. Come on – stop being so lazy!! Oh man, you forgot to do the laundry again! You have nothing to wear. You idiot! Why are you always late? I knew this would happen! Ugh! The banks are closed now. All I have is $2.00…can I give that as a gift? Why didn’t I pick up the card when I was at the store last week? I knew I should have, now I don’t have a card! Traffic! Always traffic. If I had just left earlier. Why didn’t I call and tell them I’d be late? I want out of this whole thing, why did I say ‘yes’? Here I go again, arriving in the middle of something, feeling so embarrassed. I hate myself!”
“If we seek peace as the word gives it, if we expect peace in accordance with the reasoning of the world, or with the motivations that accord with the current mentality that surrounds us (because everything is going well, because we aren’t experiencing any annoyances and our desires are completely satisfied, etc.), then it is certain that we will never know peace or that our peace will be extremely fragile and of short duration.”1
Before my entrustment to Mary, I was so focused on myself that an event was no longer about the event and people it involved, it was all about me! How was I going to handle it? How was I going to look? My anxiety was because I thought I had complete “control” and “responsibility” to do the right thing or what I thought was the right thing. From the example of my parents, I wanted to be this on-time person who was prepared and in line with all the proper etiquette! I wanted to be organized and loving and happy to help. Instead, I was exhausted from my desires and I often sank into self-pity and self-loathing. I didn’t have peace.
Since my entrustment, however, MOM has gently been changing my thinking and my position toward my weaknesses. She focuses me on the fact that I am God’s beloved daughter and She wants my heart to turn away from myself and toward our merciful God and my neighbor. I desire to rely on MOM’s heart which is only attached to God. Through my entrustment, I desire to rely on Her goodwill and therefore, I live with peaceful anxiety.
“The less you concentrate on yourself, the more resistance to your wounded self you will develop.”2
When I leave late now or find myself in an unexpected traffic jam, forget to do important laundry, or am too weary to do something loving for my neighbor, MOM and I live in the truth and WE pray together: “Lord, if you want everything that I do (my attempt at good deeds, my desires for perfection, my prayer life, my efforts of any kind) to melt in my hands, then I also desire this…Lord, have pity on me, a sinner. Give me Your grace because I am sold into slavery to sin. Even more, I do not want to be set free from sin at all. My only hope is Your mercy.”3
1. Jacques Philippe, Searching for and Maintaining Peace: A SmallTreatise of Peace of Heart (New York, NY: Society of St. Paul, 2002), 14.
2. S.C. Biela, Open Wide the Door to Christ, (Ft.Collins, CO: IAMF, 2005), p. 172.
3. Ibid. p. 162, 184. Bold and underline emphasis added.