But it's been a fine, fine morning at Couch Church, followed by Epiphany Chapel (in the shower, where I get my brightest and best ideas)--right now my brain is flooded with things I want to write here. And I will.
But, believe this or not, I'm off to a two-day retreat this morning, followed by time with my Spiritual Director tomorrow afternoon, followed by another two-day retreat beginning Saturday morning. It just fell that way. And, thankfully, gratefully, blessedly, I'm in charge of nothing.
My brain is full of creative ideas, too, something I'm always soooo grateful for when it happens; something I try never to take for granted. And I've had time this morning to jot down the main ideas, so we have that to look forward to. Now, for a little story about Anxiety, one of my familiar friends:
I’ll never forget the story Anxiety told about getting stuck in a crowded elevator. We’ve known each other for a long time, and I can tell you that his life changed as a result of that experience! To understand fully, you’d have to hear Anxiety tell it:
“I remember the fretful night I’d spent before, mulling over job and family pressures,” he told me. “I’d stayed up well past my normal bedtime, going over my finances. I guess I forgot to eat dinner, and noticed my ulcer was acting up. Had a little heartburn, too. It crossed my mind that I could be having a mild heart attack, though I couldn’t be certain.”
“Then the phone rang. Turned out to be a wrong number, but of course I assumed the worst. It could easily have been news of a car crash, or a death in the family.”
Anxiety rose early the next morning, packed his briefcase and left for work, picking up Worry on the way. They used to carpool together.
When he arrived at work, Anxiety remembered a project he hadn’t finished. He wasn’t sure, but maybe his boss would fire him if he failed to meet the deadline. He decided to run up and use the copy machine on the seventh floor. He told me that he and Worry usually took the stairs, since they were both watching their weight. Besides, they’d had numerous discussions regarding how unreliable the elevator could be. They even raced against it on more than one occasion, to prove their theory that the stairs were faster.
But, that morning, to Worry’s surprise, Anxiety headed for the elevator. Together, they wedged their way on when it stopped at the first floor. Someone had already punched the button marked “7” so Anxiety scrunched himself next to the wall and grabbed hold of the handrail. Worry stood next to him, breathing down his neck.
Trying to ignore Worry, Anxiety took a look around. He noticed that people kept crowding on while one man planted his thumb on the button labeled OPEN DOOR. Tension made a comment about the full elevator, and reached over Discord to punch another button. The door finally lumbered shut, and the elevator rumbled skyward.
Anxiety jumped when they lurched to a stop at the second floor. The door opened, but no one got off! The door closed, and they inched upward. Anxiety continued to watch his fellow passengers. Envy and Jealousy were having a whispered argument in the back corner. Fear had stationed himself next to the control panel.
About that time, the elevator made a distinct thunking sound. Anxiety studied the maximum weight capacity posted above the door. He was counting passengers and trying to do long division in his head when they stopped at the third floor.
The door slid open, and Anxiety saw the debt counselor he had intended to call that morning. With a nod of acknowledgement in Anxiety’s direction, he stepped in and turned to face the door. Fear swiftly punched the button again, just as Panic managed to squeeze his way on.
At this point in telling the story, Anxiety emitted a sigh. “Up till then, I’d been doing a pretty good job of calming myself,” he said. “I get a little claustrophobic from time to time, and I’d been employing some deep breathing exercises. But now they weren’t helping. So I decided to pray. I looked up at the ceiling and uttered a silent ‘Help!’”
Anxiety stood in silence as the elevator made its ascent to the fourth floor. The door opened, and there stood Peace.
“There’s not enough room for you,” snarled Strife. “You’ll have to wait till we come back down.”
But Peace didn’t listen. He just stepped in and worked his way back to where Anxiety was standing. Peace rested one hand on Anxiety’s rigid shoulder.
“Right then, a sense of calm settled over me,” Anxiety recounted. “I’m not sure I understand why, but my heart stopped racing, and the crowd didn’t appear so menacing. Fear and Panic got off at the very next stop.”
As I said, Anxiety has changed. He tells me he goes in to work a little later, now, so he can begin the day at home with prayer. His ulcer has cleared up, and he’s dropped the deep breathing exercises. He’s sleeping better, too.
He and Worry still carpool together on rare occasions, but they hardly ever see each other at work. Anxiety takes the elevator now. Worry still uses the stairs.