I saw this cute post on Facebook the other day which made me chuckle a little until I realized I kind of fit this scenario in my life now and again! On the post was a little cartoon of a cape festooned, mask-wearing little girl with the caption: "Anxiety Girl....Able to jump to the worst conclusion in a single bound." Not too many days go by when things don't come up which could give me cause to worry a little, or experience just a little bit of anxiety. How about you? What we choose to do with our anxiety may just make all the difference in the outcome of the day though. We can get all wound up by it and give into the stress it puts on our bodies, bearing it in tight shoulders, stiff neck, gnawed inner lip, sweaty palms, and gastric distress. We could put forth lots of extra effort to rid ourselves of the stress by working out to the point of sweat-dripping exhaustion at the gym, or throw ourselves into the throws of over-eating by burying ourselves head-first into a gallon of our favorite ice cream. Either way, it isn't quite the right response to our anxiety! Maybe those of us who tend to the "Anxiety Girl" or "Anxiety Guy" just need to learn a different response to those things when they come our way!
Give all your worries to him, for he cares for you. (I Peter 5:7 ERV)
I liked the cute little illustration because of a couple of things which I think speaks to a lot of us when it comes to dealing with our anxiety:
- We often don a mask to hide our worries. Whatever it may be, we put on that mask and think it will hide all the stress mounting behind it. If we can just give the appearance of being someone we are not at the moment, then maybe we can buffalo our way through the circumstances without anyone being the wiser about how we are really handling the stress-inducing pressures which are mounting. We probably use our "masks" to hide behind a little more than we realize, so I challenge us to consider a few things. I actually found a website which tells people how to "hide their anxiety" whenever they cannot possibly be free from it! The suggestions included stepping outside of the crowd for just a moment to "regroup" when the pressures of stress are building, giving yourself a "rub down" to relax your body, and visualizing yourself relaxing. I don't know about you, but at best these only present the illusion that everything is okay on the inside. You can get a massage if you like, but if you haven't dealt with the cause of the stress, the anxiety will come back! Masks give the wearer a different appearance - they don't change who is behind the mask!
- Capes give us the appearance of being able to leap tall buildings, but really all they do is flap in the wind and make you look a little more "awesome" than you might really be! When the first cartoonists began to illustrate superheroes festooned in capes billowing in the wind it was for this idea of giving some kind of "boosted impression of movement". I think the illusion is created that the one wearing the cape is actually moving in a dynamic manner and capable of the most awesome movements. In actuality, the cape is just a piece of material which covers one's backside! In essence, the cape is a way of hiding the fact we have our tail between our legs and are trembling terribly on the inside! In giving the impression we are both capable of "awesome or dynamic movement" we may not be called upon to actually make much movement at all! Maybe this is why we don the cape so quickly - to give the impression we are ready to move, but all the while the cape is just billowing in the wind and we are stuck with our feet firmly planted on the ground!
Anxiety happens to the best of us and even to those who have "prepared" to face it. When it comes, we can choose to "don" the mask and cape of the superhero ready to face the day, but if this is all we do, we are at best an anxiety-laden girl or guy "made up" to look like something we are not. As scripture so well puts it, we need to cast or give or surrender our cares to Christ. That doesn't sound too superhero-like to me - how about you? Most superheroes stand their ground in their "mighty power" and hope to do their best against the presenting evil force of the hour. My power is not sufficient to withstand the evil forces of the hour, my friends. How about yours? If you look at the three words I used above, you will see they all indicate a sense of being real about what we are facing because we cannot "cast", "give", or "surrender" when we are busy hiding our true feelings and selves behind the mask and cape. As long as the cape and mask stay on, we are determining to remain in control of the circumstances which we'd probably do a whole lot better with if we'd just hand it over to the one who really controls all things with the very words he utters. So, one of the best means of being a little less of the Anxiety Girl or Guy is to learn to remove the mask and set down the cape. Just sayin!