I’d been a nervous wreck for days. In the next four weeks, I had several major projects due. Each endeavor was an opportunity for which I’d hoped and prayed. I should have been grateful, yet I couldn’t seem to calm down.
My husband, noting my anxiety, talked me into walking the dogs with him. It was the last thing that I wanted to do. Yet I knew that something needed to change. I lagged behind him a bit as we walked and silently asked God to calm me. I could not do this alone.
As we rounded the corner to make our way home, I raised my gaze to look straight ahead. There was a bit of misty fog in the air. I started noticing the birds singing. Then it occurred to me that the temperature was finally a bit cooler than it had been. What a welcome relief after the 100-degree temperatures we’d experienced just a few weeks ago.
As I began to ground myself in the quiet of our early morning walk, I found my heart rate slowing and my body beginning to calm. Stepping out of the ruminations in my mind and into the beauty of God’s creation, I continued looking outward. In that moment I realized how disconnected I’d become from everything except those upcoming projects.
With the worry surrounding these opportunities, my natural instincts had taken over, and I was stuck in flight-and-freeze mode. After a few weeks, my body was exhausted. I’d accomplished little, and I was stuck. I would need to tune back in to God.
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, our television set was the centerpiece of our living room. Back then, there was no such thing as cable television or streaming. The TV was connected to a large antenna that was mounted on our roof. A box with a dial that controlled the direction the antenna pointed sat on top of the television.
We were only able to get three different channels. One channel was based in Paducah, Kentucky, another in Carbondale, Illinois, and the final one in Nashville, Tennessee. Every time we wanted to change the channel, we had to turn the direction of the antenna towards the city that hosted the channel.
This visual reminder came to mind and helped me notice what I was giving my attention to. Was I tuning into my fear, or was I attuning to the God who reminds me many times in Scripture to fear not? As my husband and I made our loop around the block, I knew what my problem was.
To hear God’s voice within, Jesus often went off to be alone and pray. I decided to follow his lead. I decided to leave all of my devices turned off for the day. I took time to do my daily readings and pray. Then I started giving my attention to one project at a time. If I got antsy, I stopped, returned to solitude, and asked God for direction.
As I considered all of the ways that I had disconnected from God’s presence over the last few weeks, I decided to use what St. Ignatius called agere contra to go against those disconnecting tendencies in an effort to reconnect to God’s voice within and regain my calm. With the knowledge of God’s presence, I know that I am never alone.