Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for
all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all
our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless
fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life
may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal,
and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ
our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
This is the perfect collect to be paired with the reading out of Matthew's gospel where we are told in the last line, ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.' So true, and yet so hard to remember, especially in these trying times. How does one tell the state worker who has gone into combat mode in fear of losing his or her job, "Don't worry about what might happen; live in the present!" It is true, of course. But it is also true that they may not be able to hear that right now. The threats are too imminent, in some cases.
Life, the world, the machinations of humans in "the Church" all can contribute to the "fears and worldly anxieties" that make us lose sight of God. The Church has done a fine job over the centuries to blot out the sun that shines from the Son and the Father and the Holy Spirit, all at once. (Can you tell that I'm immersed in reading about the Reformation?) Even today in the Anglican Communion, we are sometimes too caught up in those things which separate us rather than focusing on our common bond as believers in God made manifest in Christ, and what his death and resurrection tells us about our own ability to cycle out of the depths of hell and get back to living again. Perhaps there is comfort in living inside the prison of fear rather than living as liberated from that prison. We know the walls of fear; quite often, we are the ones who built them so well in the first place. Getting outside of those walls creates new fears: how will I live without my prison?
When I went through my transformation from public radio reporter/producer to licensed massage therapist, I had tremendous fears. Public radio was providing me with a steady paycheck and health insurance. My days and nights were moderately predictable during the legislative session. It also gave me status. I was "known". I would have complete strangers approach me in restaurants as if I were a movie star, and tell me how much they admired my work. And I had access to those with power, and I could ask them questions. Sure, the reporter's life was soul-sucking, and my superiors at the public radio station were back-stabbing nutjobs. But I had fame. I had a salary with benefits. What more could I want? As a massage therapist, nobody was going to recognize me or care what I said. I could feel the presence of those prison walls that were trapping me in an otherwise miserable job, just because I thought I would be losing something too great. "The public needs me!" my ego would cry. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, a few weeks before I was going to resign. I was sweating, and my mind was racing with the recurring thought: "If I'm not Susan Gage of Florida Public Radio, then who the hell am I?"
Lying there in bed, I realized just how much my identity as me, the real me, had become entangled and confused with what I did. "Doing" had replaced "being". And this was another revelation which made me see how right it was for me to make this transformation, and learn, again, who the hell I am.
I would not trade the experiences I have had coming out of journalism and into massage school for anything. Living on a goat farm, having to depend upon the kindness of friends to cook me food in exchange for being massage guinea pigs, and coming into touch with my body were all so much more important than reporting on Jeb! Bush or following the twists and turns of Florida's death penalty laws. Massage school also began the steps toward returning to God, and finding God in the simple, experiencing God's presence on the walk of the school's labyrinth. Overcoming my fear of the uncertainty of a career change and going into the unknown was all part of the necessary changes I needed to make to move back toward God, and an understanding of who I am in God.
Thanks be to God that I passed through fear. Thanks be to God that I trusted the new path for my life. And thanks be to God for all the changes in my life.