A dear friend recently asked me, “If you could go back in time, what would you tell yourself going into your senior year?” Although I had expected some broad, deep question our entire walk, I had to pause and think about my answer.
“I would tell myself to step take a step back and chill out.” I told her. “Because when it comes to chill, I have none.” It was a lighthearted response, and the conversation was filled with a degree of ease and laughter. But the comment had a large degree of honesty in it, too .
I like to be in control. I like to have a plan. I like to color coordinate my calendar and cross items of To-Do lists and reach mental goals that in the grand scheme of things really don’t matter. I obsess over time and whether or not I’m spending it well. I worry that I’m being held back or disadvantaged and that I need to be pouring all of my energy into alleviating the drawbacks. I get upset when people waste my time because I have things to get done.
This mentality is often a source of motivation and productivity. But it is also a source of anxiety and isolation.
I went through a several-month period where I didn’t spend time with friends or take any time to relax. Watching TV became stressful because I felt that the 50 minutes spent on Netflix could be put towards studying or reading or doing homework. I declined invitations to spend time with friends because if I went with them, I could not let go of the feeling that I was running out of time for other things.
For several months, everything I did was surrounded with stress and anxiety. I could not escape the feeling that I was wasting time.
This mentality comes and goes. I’ll have a couple months of ‘relaxing’ that are likely a result of a temporary burnout from my stressful, intense productivity. But even these months of relaxing are marked by a worry that I’m not doing the right thing.
But I was not created to live life in a vacuum of stress and anxiety, and when I choose to focus on To-Dos and Haven’t-Done’s, I invite in negativity that God doesn’t want for me. And more importantly than that, when I prioritize school and my success, God falls to the wayside.
I am learning (and will be learning for the rest of my life) that I cannot overcome the stresses and anxieties of life on my own. I am powerless against the craziness, and no matter how much I plan, things will always go wrong.
I love the image evoked in Psalm 61:2, which says “When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” When we are in the midst of the chaos, our problems loom over us, blocking our view of our Savior. But God is a solid foundation that is higher than us, and when we let Him be, He is much, much higher than the struggles we face. He lifts us up in His righteous right hand, and is unendingly willing to show His power and love for us.
Through everything, we have a God that loves us and loves to be with us. His presence is full of peace, grace, and comfort, and provides relief from uncertainty and trouble. Although I am prone to an overwhelmed heart, I have the ability to choose God’s presence, and all the good that comes with it.