I was reading a book called Radical Grace by J. Harold Ellens. He said that God’s grace is the only solution for human anxiety, which is the universal human condition. This really struck a chord in me. I am quite aware of being very anxious some of the time—and mildly anxious the rest of the time! So I wondered, what is the cause of anxiety?
My answer was two-fold. First, it seems to be up to me, and my tiny will, to hold myself in safety and happiness in the midst of a world that does not have my interests in mind. Second, it seems to be up to me, and my tiny will, to hold myself in a state of goodness, in the midst of all the forces inside me that would pull me elsewhere. I am not very good at either one. The task seems too big. Hence, my anxiety.
In this light, the answer to both sides really did seem to be God’s grace, just as Ellens said. The fact of a loving God means that it’s not up to me. My existence doesn’t depend on my tiny will controlling the marauding forces without or holding at bay the destructive forces within. It doesn’t depend on me. Despite the appearance that my existence is a frail boat resting on stormy seas, in fact I am resting securely in the Arms of God. As the Urtext says, “underneath are the Everlasting Arms.”
What has really grabbed me, in a way it never has before, is that second part, where it seems that I have to hold myself in a state of goodness in spite of all the winds of ego within me. I’ve been practicing in the last few days around the idea that that isn’t true. No matter what I choose, even if I give in to the worst in my ego, it doesn’t change anything real about me. God is holding me in a state of goodness. It’s not up to me. Ultimately, I am free of the effects of my tiny undependable will, swerving as it does towards light and then back to darkness. Left to my own devices, I will screw up, and I have, again and again. But that has no bearing on the crucial issue of the goodness of my soul and the cleanliness of my record. For “underneath are the Everlasting Arms.”
I’ve never felt that before like I am now, even if it’s only a hint. Even that hint feels very freeing. To paraphrase the book of Hebrews, it is a fearful thing to be (or seem to be) in the hands of a living ego. The other day in the afternoon I had about ten minutes where I felt, to a degree, at peace with everything. At peace with myself because I am not up to me. And at peace with the world they (others) are not up to them. It was a new feeling. The phrase that kept coming to me was “at peace with existence.” It was new because I am chronically not at peace with existence. Existence, including human nature, normally feels to me like one big train wreck. That sense of “at peace with existence” passed pretty quickly, but it held out hope that I could get back there and stay there. How wonderful it would be to be delivered from that constant anxiety!