Will you ever understand how near God is to you?
- Lalla, fourteenth century C.E.
“I can’t really explain it,” I said weepily. I was talking to my Dad on the phone, trying to describe an uneasiness that had me in its claw, “It’s been here for a string of days. I feel worried and fearful, irrationally so.”
Ugh! Fear and worry. Are they sometimes familiar characters for you, too? Since it’s my tendency to feel confident and competent, when worry and fear find me, my initial reaction is brush them aside, much like
good witch in The Wizard of Oz. To the bad witch Glenda
says firmly, but with a smile, “You have no power here, be gone!”
Lately, though, I’ve noticed that my polite requests aren’t always enough. The sticky “inconvenience” of worry and fear extend a bigger invitation and remind me I can pray insight and for help.
In the Jewish tradition, believers are instructed to offer a minimum of 100 blessings a day. One hundred! “But a person would have to pray all day long!!!” you might be saying. Ah-HA! Clever, isn’t it? And, as a result, Jews have blessings for everything: blessings for the phases of a day, and blessings for the endless activities one might find him/herself doing in the turn of 24 hours: waking, sleeping, eating, drinking, entering, leaving, hand-washing, celebrating, grieving, garden-tending, working, love-making, greeting one another, greeting a tree, and so on.
So, what might a blessing for fear and worry be like? I’m still experimenting, but the quote above has been a light-hearted and poignant teacher: even in the gripping distraction of fear and worry, God is near. Whether gently nagging or all-pervasive, I’ve begun to see fear and worry as a call to prayer. I greet them with gratitude, “Thank you, Fear, for reminding me that God is right here. You, Fear, might be here…and God is too!” And, “thank you, Worry, for reminding me to ask for help. I see you, Worry, pushing me to call on my community for support, reminding me to take a break and find something wonderful to laugh about!”
And most importantly, “Thank you, God, for reminding me that you are so much larger than any of my fear or worry.”
Fear and worry have much to teach us, of course. In this practice, they are an invitation for each of us to participate in the great act of blessing each act, in every day. In my waking, my walking, God is near. In my texting, my computing, God is near. In my noticing a homeless man or woman, in hearing a painful story in the news, God is near. In reviewing my to-do (and still-not-done) list, God is near. In my conversations, in the child barely toddling down the street, in the flower that just dropped its last petal, God is near. God is near! God is near!
lives in Berkeley, CA. She serves as the
Dean for The Chaplaincy Institute, an
interfaith seminary and tends a her private as a spiritual director. You can read Lauren’s
blog at: http://www.laurenvanham.com/