I've been very introspective of late. At times, it's reached unhealthy levels, where anxiety overrides reason or peace. It's a situation I'm quite familiar with, which means it can be an easy road to follow when certain circumstances seem to align.
Today's been one of those more extreme days, where the worry baseline started fairly low and then continued to grow as I became more anxious about the workload and challenges ahead of me - both inside of work and out. By the time I was travelling home, I was employing as many distraction techniques as I could muster, trying to maintain a veil of calm and hoping it would all just go away. It's daft really, because I know that's the worst thing to do... but I'm human, a creature of habit, and sometimes following old behaviours and mindsets seems 'easier' than challenging them.
I finally stopped for a moment and had a chat with God tonight. I asked Him what He wanted me to do with this. I asked Jesus about how he managed to cope when he was on the Earth - I mean, it's not like he didn't have some very stressful things to cope with. And then I thought of the boat. The story is told in Mark 4. Jesus and the disciples were crossing the water, and in the NIV (v37-38) it says that 'A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.' Try to imagine it - the waves were so high, so frequent, that the boat was nearly so inundated with water that it could have sunk. How is it possible that Jesus remained asleep at this time? And as I thought of this image, I realised that the disciples had a couple of choices available to them at that moment. Their decision was to wake Jesus, to beg him for help. Alternatively, they could have equally chosen to huddle together in their fear, whimpering and crying as the waves got higher and the boat got lower in the water, wishing that someone would help them but believing they were utterly doomed. But there was also a third choice, the one which I love the most and which I'm choosing to do tonight. They could have joined Jesus in the stern of the boat, lain down next to him and gone to sleep. They could have rested, staying close to him and relying on the peace that he carried to also settle them.
This all links back to something I've been considering a lot recently. Whether you look at secular or Christian teaching, the need for rest in order to function well is being made very clear. If you want your mind and your body to work at their best, sleep and times of peaceful restoration (meditation, stillness, however you view it) need to be a central element of your life. They're not things that come easy to me - the habits I've built up till now have kept both sleep and 'me-time' to a minimum. I don't think that's been healthy or wise. But there's also a Godly perspective to consider. As His child, I am told that perfect peace is mine to have: 'You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!' (Isaiah 26:3, NLT). It makes you think about where Jesus' mind was whilst he was sleeping. Can you imagine that - he must have been so practiced in it, to have his mind in heavenly places even as he slept, not just when he was awake. I really want that. I really want that level of peace. And it's a choice I'm prepared to keep on making, to keep working away at, whilst it becomes my new habit. It's a decision to sleep well (surely more sleep must mean more time for my mind to be in heavenly places?!) and to keep metaphorically slapping my thoughts on the wrists every time they take a wee daunder away from heaven and into the anxiety pit.
Feel free to challenge me - if you see me on Facebook after 11pm, or just when you see me in the week, ask me how it's going. And encourage me - habits are tough enough to change on your own, it's good to have the wise counsel and positive encouragement of friends!