Learning the unforced rhythms of grace



Illustration: Nathan Hayashi
Illustration: Nathan Hayashi

I believe there are two kinds of angst.

One, is the angst that comes from the reality you are facing. The second comes from denying that first reality. Let me give you an example.

If you see that there is oil leaking from your car, your reality is that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. You put cardboard under the car to keep the oil from staining your driveway. If you decide to avoid fixing the car and become an expert at taking care of your driveway by changing the cardboard every few hours, you have moved into this second kind of angst. It is a busy, disoriented, complicated mixture of fear, denial and procrastination.

If you live with an illness or pain or some kind of on-going emotional/relational pain that continues to be difficult for you, you have angst. Your car is leaking. There is oil depleting from the system that needs to be dealt with.

Every time my disease changes, or I begin a new treatment, or I have a new limitation or, the oil begins to leak, so to speak, I experience the need for acceptance of my reality again. So, after 21 years of this disease, I now have found a few helpful ways to deal with this angst and acceptance. Here is a short synopsis of what I do. I hope this can offer you some encouragement.

  • I stay in touch with my reality. I journal every day. My journal is a prayer to God, but includes regular things like if pain is high or low, if any other new symptoms have emerged, I write them down in my conversation with God. (It is too easy for me to pretend nothing is happening or changing, and I can live in a fake reality for awhile...but it never works and only builds more anxiety. This routine of journalling is like walking around the car to see if anything is wrong.)


  • I admit my reality out loud.  Just telling my husband that I was up in the middle of the night with pain, helps me to accept my reality. I don't tell everyone, just a few people. This discipline helps me to stay honest about it. (I'm too tempted to keep quiet and once it has been vocalized, follow through is more natural.)


  • I book an appointment. Because I don't want to be a complainer, I tend to avoid letting my doctor know that something has changed in my condition. I'm learning, however, to book an appointment anyway. I go in, and usually have a few tears as I tell him my new reality. He helps me find new ways of coping, and moving forward. I'm always glad I went.
  • I take a mini-retreat. With every new change, I take myself on a quick get away. It may only be to a coffee shop for a couple of hours, but it is a routine that I do to help me mark the day as an acceptance of a new reality. So, for instance, when I needed to begin drinking my food in liquid form rather than solid, I took myself out for coffee. I ordered a delicious latte with whipping cream on top and sat down with my journal at a quiet table. I wrote and grieved a little and I thanked God for the ability to still be able to taste and enjoy food and  let it nourish my body–now in liquid form only. I committed this next phase of life to God and asked for his help. I then went to a store and bought a cute little pan to cook soup in, and a travel mug to easily take my drinks with me. I arrived home a few hours later, refreshed and quieted in my soul. I now can look back on those mini-retreats and see them as markers of reality as well as  times with God as he cared for me.


  • I work it out. Acceptance for me means quick change. Once I face the reality, book the appointment, take a mini-retreat with God, then I begin to work it out. I may not be able to go on long hikes or camping or running like I used to do, but there is a hard-core adventure girl inside this sick body and I still want to pursue challenging things. So, I work it out. I figure out new routines. I challenge myself to keep a positive attitude. I find new ways to inspire or encourage others. I focus outward and look for a bigger vision of what this new reality may hold for me. God never disappoints me. He loves adventure and He loves taking me on it. I'm always thrilled to see what He does, who He brings into my life and how quickly He affirms that this new reality is not a hindrance for what can be done in and through my life.


  • And then, I repeat the process again. It is never over and never done, but having a process to go through keeps me focused on living life with God's power and love rather than fear. There is too much life to be lived to be paralyzed with anxiety or fear. Think of those people around you whom you love and want to spend time with. Think of those fun and creative things you like to do. Think about the desire that God has given you to do something significant in this world, in your lifetime.

Face your reality, check for leaks, so to speak, and say 'no' to anxiety!

"For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline." 2 Timothy 1:7