- Janyne McConnaughey, PhD
Leaving Tomorrow in the Future
Sometimes I write blogs and they get lost on my computer. This is one of those! A couple months ago, I posted a blog about anxiety and staying in the intersection. The original blog I wrote was much longer and went off into a path that I thought deserved its own voice. So, if you haven’t read that one, go back and do that first! (Stay in the Intersection)
During my three-year journey of healing, I was often intrigued by words spoken by Jesus. Those words have been interpreted in a variety of ways, but seldom from a simple perspective of being spoken from the mouth of God—the one who created our bodies and brains.
I often think Jesus was simply talking about what he knew about humans, but we have dissected it and spiritualized it to the point of no effect. There was very little in my story that was a spiritual problem caused by sin, but the message from the church tried to convince me this was true. It wasn’t.
Take anxiety for instance. Surely being anxious is a spiritual problem, right? It is not trusting God enough, right? Wrong. I am sorry, if a hurricane is headed your way, it is a human survival skill to have some anxiety and take action. It is not a spiritual problem to feel concern. Our emotions were created to inform us and help us protect ourselves.
Wait, didn’t Jesus say to not be anxious?
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34 NIV
Jesus was not suggesting we don’t need to prepare for a hurricane. We get that right? He was saying to not prepare for a hurricane if none was forecasted—but if you have ever lived through a natural disaster of any type, you are probably always going to be on guard to some degree. Jesus was speaking to the Jewish people who were under very unpredictable Roman rule. He understood their past experiences were invading the present and clouding the future. He wanted them to be able to enjoy the present because there wasn’t any way to control the future.
Jesus knew humans. He came to earth and lived among them. He heard the tale of how he had been saved because of a warning from God and flight to Egypt. Jesus understood the trauma his people had experienced. He wanted them to be able to enjoy the life they had despite the troubles. The only way to do that was to believe God had their best interest in mind and would provide for them—yet troubles would come, but those future possibilities should be left for another day. Today is the only day to be concerned about in ways that debilitate the human spirit.
That is what I said in my other blog. Anxiety is pulling the past forward into today and projecting it into the future. We have to stay in the intersection in which we are driving. We can’t presently drive through the intersection five miles away. This is a human problem, not a spiritual problem. What amazes me is that Jesus made this concept so clear, but in our struggle to apply what he said, we turn it into a spiritual control problem instead of a psychological problem.
Why does it matter? Is it a bad thing to consider anxiety a spiritual problem? Yes, because our humanness then becomes something that disconnects us from the God who created us.
Yes, Jesus wanted a better life for those he loved. Worry about future events that could neither be predicted nor controlled wasn’t going to do that. We put a tone into his words that I don’t think he intended and heap guilt on ourselves for being human.
Instead of fearing tomorrow, delight in today. It has been a long road to accomplishing this because I trained myself to be prepared for any possibility and catastrophic thinking was my companion. I couldn’t plan a trip without thinking a car would crash or a plane would fall from the sky. Might it happen? Possibly, but it really had nothing to do with the day in which I was living.
Making it spiritual leads me to believe I need to control it. Stop worrying Janyne! Stop. Just stop! Did anyone ever stop worry by a pure act of determination? Find that person and email me. I want to talk to them about being dissociative. Now that is a true skill—to by sheer subconscious effort walk away from being human is a true skill. I know, I did it, but it doesn’t mean it brought me abundant life.
I do think there are many who have found this place through spiritual journeys. I am not discounting this, but this blog is not for them. It is for those who have filled their lives with guilt over their inability to control the anxiety—probably most have had some type of trauma in their lives. The sense of spiritual failure over this has only compounded the problem. I took antidepressants for years to stabilize never knowing that the answer could only be found through healing.
Now instead of guilt, my healed mind and spirit have learned to sit in the present moment. Right now I am sitting on my grandson’s bed, which he has given up for the week. I am listening to my Pandora piano station while my little family sleeps and the dog stands guard to leap into action from his deep slumber. The coolness of the fan is blowing across me, and my body is beginning to feel the need to drift into dreamland. I love this moment. I have so many who love me and care about me. For all the tomorrows that I don’t need to think about right now, I say, “Your time will come, but right now I have finally learned that neither my past nor my future can invade this quiet moment.”
When I am here, anxiety does not exist. Jesus knew how peaceful our life could be if only we would allow our tomorrow to worry about itself. I think when the broken looked into his eyes and felt his touch, they understood. In that moment, there was neither past nor future. In that moment, they found the wholeness I have fought so hard to find under layers of spiritual guilt. In a sense, I did look into the eyes of Jesus and I was forever changed.
Good night world, tomorrow will take care of itself.