Jesus says faith is like a seed. It begins in the quiet dark of the soil of our souls, and it must remain rooted there, in the Ground of All Being. But it cannot remain a seed if it is to grow into the plant it was intended to become. It must send forth its tender shoots into the light and the air. That can be glorious; it can also be scary, for the world is both beautiful and terrible. The temptation in anxious times is to shrink back, to curl up in the seeming safety of our own selves. I know, because I lived that way for a very long time. I also know it doesn’t work.
I have learned over long years of practice what does work. The antidote to fear is faith. We can’t force faith, any more than we can force a plant to grow. We can only provide the conditions in which it can grow—good soil, adequate water, and a place in the sun. The growth is a gift, as any gardener knows. Faith, too, is a gift. But it’s a gift we can cultivate, just as I cultivate the seeds in my garden.
If you are feeling anxious or afraid, I link here to my e-book, Anxious No More: Six Habits for a Happy Life. In these days in which so much feels uncertain, I have found myself returning to these practices more frequently and in a much more intentional way than I usually do. I know they work. I also know that they are work. It is exhausting to live with anxiety, and it takes effort to turn it over to God again and again and again. But it is worth the effort. It allows us to access the freedom, peace, and joy that Jesus offers. And while I wouldn’t wish anxiety on anyone, I receive it as a gift, for it is an opportunity to practice trust and faith, and a visceral reminder that I need to.
I will also add two other habits that are not in the e-book but that are deeply helpful for overcoming anxiety:
- Flee the Web
That little phone you carry around everywhere and that keeps you up-to-date and connected with all and sundry? It’s anxiety you’re holding in your hand. Put it down. Information is not knowledge, much less power or wisdom. It is just information, and mostly it makes us more anxious.
At the best of times I avoid the news and Facebook like the plague (or the corona virus). And this is not the best of times. But wait, you say, what if something happens that I need to know about? Don’t worry, you’ll know. Your mother or your spouse or your friends will make sure you know, even if you’d rather they didn’t. Trust me on this one. Put the thing down.
- Take a Hike.
Get outside. I know. We’re in quarantine. There are still ways to get outside, even if it’s only for a stroll up the street or a walk in your neighborhood. Being outdoors has a wonderful way of restoring our sense of perspective. The natural world reminds us that we are small, and the world is big, and God is bigger still. It reminds us that the world is beautiful (where I live, this time of year is a teeming glory of beauty) and that the God who made it must be more beautiful still.
It also fosters a sense of connection and participation that almost nothing else can, a much-needed antidote to our alienated and fragmented culture, and especially needful in these times when we must stay away from other people. We need not stay away from nature. She cannot substitute for human relationships, but she can go a long way toward helping us remember that we are all in this together and that the chaos all around is not the final word: there is order and pattern and beauty all around, too, if only we will open our eyes and see.
K. C. Ireton writes sort-of-monthly reflections on God, gardening, and good books.
The featured image is courtesy of Julie Jablonski and is used here with her generous permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
K.C. Ireton is the author of The Circle of Seasons: Meeting God in the Church Year and Cracking Up: A Postpartum Faith Crisis. An avid reader, she is especially fond of old books and home-schools her four children so that she can spend her days reading and learning all sorts of interesting things. K.C. is pleased as punch to be writing for The Cultivating Project!