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overwhelm part 2

My recovering cat, Tea, has good days and bad days. Today she is not eating again. I sit with her and talk to her and stroke her. Though she purrs, I get the feeling that my message of love and care, though sent as loudly and as clearly as I can manage, does not quite get embraced by her instincts and her body. She does not know how to take it in fully. She is too used to the suffering and stress.

I know that God loves me and that he is good. But I do not know how to take it fully into my life, my body, my relationships, my work, my thoughts. I am too used to the lack, the worry, the feeling like I have to protect myself, the need for control and the comfort of self-imposed order.

This morning I read from Matthew 5 in the Message, you know the part where Jesus says that if your eye is causing you to sin by inviting in lustful thoughts, go ahead and pluck it out, because living without one eye is better than ending up morally bankrupt. This is not a literal command, (though if a simple eye-plucking removes an area of compulsion from your life, you might want to consider it) but a literary device that brings the real issues into the open. The problem is never the eye - it is the heart. We try to manage the outward actions, always manage things, yes, that is what we do. We are impressive managers in that way. The things that we (and others) can see, what is obvious and what we can easily grasp a hold of, that we can manage; we can rearrange and sort and prioritise and tweak until it all seems to be under control. But we never really address the heart of the matter. We never strip off the outward behaviour to see what is feeding it. Removing an eye will not remove lustful thoughts from one's heart. In the same way, only allowing my mind to think about one thing at a time will not remove the deep-seated fear of being overwhelmed (see the original post on this called overwhelm).

What am I afraid of? I don't really know. My mind is afraid to even think about what it might be afraid of. Being overwhelmed is a symptom of fear and it has the same crippling effect. It is feeling too small for the situation, powerless and inadequate, with the glaring inability to see the help and hope which is available all around me. I am blind to the big-ness of resources at my disposal and see only the tidal wave of tasks and situations bearing down on me. Instead of grabbing the surf board my trusted surfing instructor offers to me (who incidentally created the ocean and the waves as well), I beat a hasty retreat to my inland bungalow and choose instead to encounter the water from the kitchen tap, one drop at a time. I feel safer, more at ease, less fearful. I can manage the trickle.

Right now, I find that I am no longer content with managing things, with funnelling life into small non-threatening streams, of breaking everything down into manageable bites that don't set off my fears. Fear is like pain: it is a signal that something is wrong, that action needs to be taken to bring things back to normal, to healthiness. The illness must be diagnosed and detected and eradicated. The wound must be cleansed and disinfected and stitched up. The broken bone must be set straight and bound in place until it is whole. I awoke this morning with a sense that this day would offer me countless choices, and I have the opportunity to say a loud NO or a resounding YES to them. NO means I do not give it a place in my life, it is not mine, I let it go without looking back. YES means that I let it in, I embrace it, I make it a part of me, I give it life. There is no middle management.

Let me not get so used to the stress, the fear, the managing, that I do not let the hand of Love reach down and caress me, stroke me, and heal me.

This is a picture of my balcony last week, embracing winter: ice and snow and sky.


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