There is a wave of anxiety out there.
It’s out there and it keeps increasing. It’s around us and it isn’t going anywhere. It doesn’t discriminate. It takes all sorts of people hostage.
I was recently at a Levi the Poet show in a little coffee shop. The show carried an emotional weight to it before I arrived, the artist being Levi the Poet after all whose material is shared from painful depths from his innermost being.
The opening acts, a couple solo singer/guitarists, took the opportunity to share some of their own stories in between songs. They were gut wrenching, tales of broken dreams, betrayals, personal screwups, and…..also about the radical love of Jesus.
A love that seems to completely defy what is in the air around us and in us with the increasing anxiety in our world.
These artists set the intimate stage of sharing deep pains they’ve been through, while in the same sentence at times turning around and talking about how we have a healing God, a God of life, a God who loves regardless of what has happened and what is still going to happen.
Brokenness filled the room. But healing overwhelmed it too and filled the broken gaps. Perhaps this is because space was given to be honest of our collective and individual brokenness.
A coffee shop worker came up between sets and felt compelled to share his testimony. He talked about how his call to become a pastor had come true, him and his wife moved to another state, were a year into what he absolutely knew was his purpose in life and the beginning of a promising career helping build up the youth in Christ’s love.
Then the church fired him after a year. Because they said he didn’t fit.
The opening act talked about the four year relationship he had that came to a terrible end. I’ll spare the details because they were very painful and I don’t recall the story exactly, but to be sure he experienced racism, a miscarriage and more.
Yet, both of these gentlemen expressed how Jesus, in spite of their sorrows, is the lover of their souls. Jesus gives dignity, provides the next day, the next foot forward.
I once read a statement from a Donald Miller book titled Searching For God Knows What. He said:
“Show me a guy who was molested by a minister and still loves Jesus, and I’ll show you a genius. The stuff that guy would have had to think through in order to arrive at an affection for God is nothing short of miraculous.” (p. 199)
I was in the presence of several geniuses at the concert.
People are carrying deep emotional wounds.
Then in addition to all that, there are pressures to keep up with the next overachiever you see in your feed screaming to crush it and work 14 hour days. There are models of perfect execution leaving us all with ‘no excuse’ not to execute as perfect as them in the information age.
I personally believe there is a strong connection to the digital era in all this increased anxiety as well. After reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport I see it all around now. The mechanism or the conduit, it’s a double edged sword to be sure. We are connecting better but we are not communicating better.
On one hand, I was in a room filled with people primarily under the age of 30. As long as there are reports like this one that keep turning out about Millennials experiencing loneliness at higher rates than other generations, despite our increased internet usage which is supposedly devised to make us connect better, anxiety will find a way into our lives as we don’t fulfill interpersonal needs we are wired to thrive off.
On the other hand I was able to go to the show that night because I found out about it on social media. It’s a tool that can benefit for sure.
But it’s about how we use the tool. And I keep seeing this theme of constant connection, a wave of anxiety, and an increased sense of loneliness.
It’s why it was so important to listen into all these geniuses at the concert. Levi in several lines of his poetry alluded to silence, stillness, quietness. Understanding we have to withdraw is the most important thing. It’s a true paradox, because we need each other and we need the community that springs forth from connecting with each other. But we also need to withdraw. Otherwise the anxiety is simply going to get worse.
Witnessing folks in person spilling their guts, many younger than me, was Jesus in action that night. Folks were doing something about what they experienced. They were releasing it out there. And they were doing it with and in the presence of each other.
I am left with the impression that my own anxiety is a result from living a life I’ll have studied and examined, and not done anything about.
The big first step for myself is showing up. Then acting on what I know.
And I know this.
I am not the only one in pain. And it would be selfish of me to keep what I know about dealing with the pain to myself. I must give and I must help. Because I must take care of myself, and as I do so, I have to reach out to others. We need each other and will continue to need each other. Maybe this is how the wave subsides.