Sometimes, it all just feels so overwhelming.
I know that I have it relatively easy in life at the moment, comparatively speaking. For example, I don’t have to walk 10 miles (if I’m lucky) the nearest source of water. I don’t really have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. I don’t have to worry about being bitten by a mosquito and then die of malaria on a daily basis. I don’t have to worry about practicing my religion (or lack of religion, as the case may be) openly in fear of being shot by the government. I have not one but two roofs over my head ( live in two places at the moment.) I have working transportation. I have more friends than I know what to do with. I have a family that loves and supports me. I have talents that will serve me well beyond the present condition of being a student. I have opportunities unlike many will ever receive. I have been so privileged in my life, I will never know the full extent of it.
I say all this to remind myself that it could be so much worse than it is. And yet I, like many of us out there, am still so overwhelmed. I’m in the middle of preparations for finishing my third year in Seminary. I’ve got papers to write, sermons to deliver, and exams to prepare for, and instead of that, I’m writing this blog because I need to get these thoughts out there, so I won’t dwell on them forever.
I’ve had a mental block lately that’s been getting in the way of my work, and it is thoroughly frustrating. I actively tried to assess what it was earlier, and I think it’s just apprehension about the unknown. The end of the semester is always a troubling thing for me. It seems that I can never quite get around the idea that I have no idea what’s going to happen in May, or after May, or in the Summer, or next Fall in my internship. I have plans, but at the same time I feel like I’m Paul looking through glass darkly, unsure of what is to come, what I’m going to do, how my life will change, and what I’m going to do with it.
At times like this, when it’s all overwhelming, uncertain, and deadlines are bearing down on me like an avalanche, I have to remind myself to step back and slow down. Then, I wind up looking at the lectionary, to see what kind of insight my tradition might have me dwell upon so that I can reorient myself to where I need to head.
And lo and behold, tomorrow is the feast day of Anselm of Canterbury.
A brilliant yet controversial scholar, Anselm and his argument for God’s existence as “that which nothing greater can be thought” is a challenging yet comforting thought, for some reason. Naturally there’s far more about Anselm than I have experience with at the moment, but for now this profound concept of God being that which nothing greater can be thought will suffice for reflection.
I looked further at the lectionary, and what did it tell me? Why, it told me to look at the words of Jesus out of Matthew 11:
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
This passage, as trite as it might seem at times, as overused as it is, still speaks to me. I have a bad habit of overburdening myself, taking on more than I probably should. I hold myself to a very high standard of achievement, and when I feel like I fail at achieving it I get discouraged, and then I make up for it by taking more on so that I can somehow prove to myself that I am competent, that I am talented, and that I am worthy of whatever it is people think it is I’m worthy of. In my mind, as I’ve told people before, I feel often like a fraud, a charlatan, and at any moment I’ll be found out as the foolish, sinful and idiotic person that I think I am. I’m kind of a mess, really.
So when I hear that rest is being offered to me, that I don’t have to do this on my own, that comfort is given to those who will learn from this crazy prophetic God-man from 1st century Palestine, I’m inclined to take him up on it. God ordained it, after all, to take a sabbath. it’s something I have to work at. This blog is part of my Sabbath. So is going to the gym. So is reading, watching movies, and playing video games. So is going to dinner with and having fun with friends, family and so on. It’s these soul-restoring activities that I have to make sure I make time for, otherwise I’ll run myself into the ground.
I recognize this need to hear these words, and let it inform my attitude to life. However, being the stubborn mule I am, I often let these words get muffled under a stack of papers. That’s why I’m glad I have good friends to help me through it all. As I was reminded by a fellow nerd friend Patrick, quoting the ever appropriate “Lord of the Rings,”
I may not be able to carry it for you, Mister Frodo, but I can carry you!
So, with this in mind, I sally forth to papers yet to be written, tests to be overcome, rivers to be crossed, mountains to climb, depths to descend, and all that other stuff that goes into having an adventure. I need to be able to rest, and if it comes to it, be carried, if not by friends then by my faith.