I have to admit: I have, in my life, been a little bit prone to anxiety. Not really anxiety as much as a small case of the nerves, for any number of reasons (most of which are ridiculous; some of which would surprise you). I don't know why. I've always considered it a part of the way I'm wired, but come to find out, anxiety is a learned behavior. At least, in large part, it is. And as such, you (and I) can un-learn the nerves.
One of the groups I was honored to be a part of recently set a series of rules for ourselves near the outset. Among them was this, and we scribbled it across the dry erase board in green marker and left it there for four months:
Let go of the outcome.
Uhm, I can't. And I can't fathom how you can. And if we all let go of the outcome, then whatever are we going to accomplish and how will we know if we've accomplished it? (You see, my anxiety didn't like this very much. My nerves started shaking over the unknown.) In the context of that group, I'm not sure I ever learned this lesson. I still shook with nerves every time we met together.
Then in the past couple of weeks, I think I've got it. For me, it was a two-step process.
The first step came when I preached two services at one of the local senior care facilities. After a few years of speaking routinely at my church, I have to say that I still get junked up on those Sunday mornings. I have a ritual, a routine, that gets me through it, a process of giving it back to God and purposely working myself up to mask nerves with excitement. But as I drove across town, parked my car, walked into the building, met my liturgist, rode the elevator up to the first service, and set my Bible in the pulpit, there was not one bit of anxiety in me. Not one bit of nerves. I was perfectly relaxed, confident. My stomach was growling because it had been far too long since a meager lunch. It turned out to be a really cool afternoon.
Then step two came last week, when I had some business matters to take care of in the next town over. I woke up early to get my things together, and I was nervous from moment one. From the second my eyes opened, I could feel the anxiety in me. Even though in the cosmic scheme of things, this was less significant (I think?) than the pressure of bringing God's Word to a community of people. This was just a little thing, but here I was in old patterns. Nervous.
Until I stopped myself and said, "Wait a minute. What makes today different than Sunday? Why am I letting myself get worked up over this when I know how well the last thing went?"
And the answer is this: It turns out I get nervous about things that I think are going to speak into my life. I'm betting I'm not alone.
You see, I was putting too much emphasis on what this business matter was going to say about me. Either I was worthy of the investment...or I wasn't. Either I was a good prospect...or I wasn't. Either the world was going to say yes to me...or I was going to hear a big resounding no. (I could get more specific if I were to tell you the venture, but the details are neither here nor there. The point is that this was bringing up in me questions about myself, based on what was about to happen.)
Contrast that with the preaching opportunity, where I walked in with excitement at the opportunity for something new. And at this season in my life, when I feel so endowed by God and blessed by the Spirit and both confident and a little nerv-cited (nervous-excited) about where life is going, I knew God had invited me into this opportunity. It was He who was going to speak, not me and not this opportunity. So I was able to relax, stand in confidence, and enjoy the experience.
I think that's the truth for most of us when we get nervous or anxious. It's that we think whatever's about to happen is going to say something about us. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty weary of letting other things speak into my life, particularly when the voice of God is exceptionally clear. And when we build our lives around what God has already spoken into them, and what He continues to say, then whatever adventure we enter next is not a place that's going to speak into us; it's a place where we are going to speak. (And, of course, God through us.)
I realized all this in the few minutes between getting dressed and hitting the highway, and you know what? I instantly relaxed. I walked into the day perfectly myself, in my imperfect glory. Calm and comfortable. And above all, confident. God has already spoken into my life. Whatever this is, it has nothing more to say about me.
And the venture itself? I've let go of the outcome. I finally figured it out. And the funny thing is that it was hanging on my wall next to my bed for many years before I ever really understood.
Be fully that...which God has created you to be, and nothing more. And nothing less.
Live a life worthy...of the calling of God.
Let your life speak...
Then you don't have to worry about what might speak into it.