Throughout the past seven days, I have experienced the peace of God in a more surprising way than ever before. In the weeks leading up to my Master’s class residency, I was anticipating a serious contention with anxiety. I would be away from my family – including my one year old daughter for the first time – with people I didn’t know, working within a schedule I wasn’t getting to set. I waited for the fear to grip me, for the nausea to sweep over me as it has countless times before.
But it never came.
I got in the car after hugging my most-loved people and drove off with confidence rather than despair. For the first time in my life, I didn’t experience one ounce of homesickness in my time out of my element. God showed up. God met me in the most obvious way and gave me residing peace every moment of the day.
In our Master’s program, we’re working through intense dialogue, having read large stacks of books with weighty words, and we’re hearing from professors who challenge our status quo. As we look at the syllabus and the assignments looming and as I open up the syllabus for the upcoming course, I anticipate that fear-wave to crash over me again. Every single class I’ve ever taken includes at least one mild moment of panic as I wonder how on earth I’ll get it all done. But God showed up. Not a drop of worry tip-toed into my thoughts. I didn’t question, didn’t fear. And it felt weird. But this crazy kind of peace is more than welcome.
On Wednesday during my spiritual direction meeting, I was trying to encapsulate the peace I’ve been experiencing. My thoughts have been so clear. My mind has been so present, with the subject and with the people. It all felt so foreign. I couldn’t put my finger on the “why,” but it felt very much like I had a rare moment of clarity as I gazed back at my old mind and looked ahead into my new mind. I was standing on the precipice of change. I had an opportunity to leave behind the mindset of fear and anxiety, of not-good-enoughs and incompetence, of lie-believing and criticism-lobbing. Would I step forward into the truer version of me, the self who knows its worth in Christ, the one who speaks truth, lives in love, and exudes joy over judgment?
How could I express my embrace of the transformation toward which Jesus was leading me?
My spiritual director invited me to open my palms, a sign of receptivity to the work of the Spirit and my lighter grip on my life. This open-palmed liturgy will become a practice of mine. Yes, during worship and private prayer. But also during moments when I see the Fear creeping around the corner or notice Shame blowing into the crevices. When I feel the need to grip tightly to control, I will open my palms. Release. And I will keep my palms open to gratefully welcome whatever or whomever God brings to me. Receive.
By Melanie Eccles at Melanieeccles.com