I think everyone has a chore or type of job that they just hate doing. Mine is phone calls. They frustrate me to no end. Half of the time you don't reach whoever it is, the other half of the time whoever you're trying to call can't solve your issue ("If you have questions, call Judy in customer service." Judy certainly has many lovely qualities, but she doesn't have the answers I need.). So, I put off phone calls. It almost doesn't matter what it's about. Big or small, I am not dialing until I absolutely have to.
This came back to bite me (pretty hard) recently. I needed to schedule a follow up appointment for my son with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). We had waited nearly a year to establish care with this behavioral pediatrician because of her wait list and she said not to delay too long to schedule a follow-up, even though it was usually easier to get in once you were an existing patient. Music to my ears! I DON'T HAVE TO CALL RIGHT AWAY! So I didn't. And then I didn't, and then I didn't some more. Every time I didn't just pick up the phone and call I felt another ounce of weight on my shoulders. It kept adding up until it seemed like I was being crushed by this phone call.
I know that a lot of time being overwhelmed involves feeling completely swamped by tasks and just not knowing what to do next, which I certainly feel at times. For me, and perhaps many of you, the most difficult part of being overwhelmed is when something has sat on the back burner for SO LONG it's on fire and filling up the house with smoke and now it's just impossible to deal with. So, I don't deal with it and sit in my smoky, burning-up-the house mess and wish it would all just go away.
8 months later, I FINALLY made that phone call. It will take over a year for him to go for a follow up. Every ugly, terrible, unkind (not to mention untrue) thing I could possibly say about myself I said when the receptionist told me, "We're scheduling for March 2020."
"How lazy could I possibly be?!"
"This is, like, a minimum standard of decent motherhood and I blew it."
"Other moms would do anything for their kids, I obviously don't care."
"My kid has special needs, this is not some optional thing he can just skip, my failures are setting him up for failure."
On, and on, and on.
Perhaps you've been there too? A few small things pile up, then a big thing or two adds on and you start scrambling to stay on top of it all, feeling worse and worse as time goes by and nothing seems to get any better , as YOU don't seem to get any better. You're positive you just need more discipline, a better planner, just an extra hour in the day, just another glass or wine, only one more cup of coffee...ummm, maybe two. What is our Lord's solution for overwhelm? Let's read from the Gospel of John.
1 After this, there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem at the Sheep [Gate] a pool called in Hebrew Bethesda, with five porticoes. 3 In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled. 5 One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.....14 After this Jesus found him in the temple area and said to him, “Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you.” John 5:1-9, 14
In this section of the gospel we hear of a man crippled for 38 years and unable to reach the healing waters of the pool. If you and I were standing there instead of Jesus, we might have said "seriously, dude?" But our Lord has only one question; "Do you want to be well?" He doesn't ask "have you tried three deep breaths?" or "what about a more consistent schedule?" or "have you made a really thorough to-do list?" Interestingly enough, he doesn't even ask the man if he wants help. He simply says," Do you want to be well?" He offers the cripple at the pool the healing he needs not only to be of sound body, but of sound spirit. No strings attached, no judgement about whatever has happened or should have happened (or NOT happened) over the last 38 years.
Our Lord is here now, asking me "Do you want to be well, Trisha?" Jesus offers the healing and wholeness that I so desperately need after eight months of beating myself up over a phone call that I know I should have made about 7.5 months before I actually did. He will be here again to ask me, "Do you want to be well?" the next time (because, y'all, we know it's coming) I am a day late and a dollar short.
The offer is there for you too; has it been 38 years, 8 months, 10 minutes, or any amount of time in between that you've been in need of healing? That you've needed to know that it's not all on you? Take two quiet minutes and repeat Jesus' words to yourself; "Do you want to be well, ____?" Yes, Lord.
Our Lord's next task is to "Rise, take up your mat, and walk." Being healed and made whole we have been freely given the grace and the strength to try again. Look around you; is there are a mountain of things to be done, or maybe just one phone call that you've been putting off? Right now, just take up your mat and walk to the next thing to do and do it, knowing that you don't need to take care of everything this minute, cross it all off the to-do list, finally conquer your total dislike of dialing the phone, you just need to start walking.
The antidote to anxiety is action. Jesus says, "walk." So, just keep walking. One thing done? Praise Him and do the next thing. Hour by hour, day by day, our Lord is faithful to His promise, we just need to keep walking. Step by step we will see the things that have been crushing us dissolve away.
Here are a few things to think about moving forward:
Do I notice certain actions or choices cause feelings of overwhelm? What about certain situations or certain people? What can I do when I find myself in these times to stop the overwhelm before it starts?
When I feel overwhelmed or stressed do I reach out or do I withdraw? If I withdraw, am I afraid of people seeing weakness? Do I have shame over my (real or imagined) mistakes? Can I invite a trusted friend into my troubles? Can I invite Jesus into my troubles?
Do I need to use some practical supports to help me stay focused on what's important? A good calendar or scheduling app or planner? Can I get some help from my child's doctor, therapists, or local support groups to stay on top of appointments and needed treatments?
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, thank you for meeting me right here. I sit as a crippled mess, but you aren't afraid, or cautious, or repulsed. You have healed me and given me strength for what lies ahead. You will continue to heal time and time again. It might take a while to get everything sorted out, but you have simply asked me to rise and walk. As I go forward, Jesus, help me to keep my eyes fixed on you that I might continue to just walk. Amen.