I began 2012 with my feet on the floor running. I was right in the middle of my graduate school “career” for Marriage and Family Therapy so school played a big role in my life. January 2012 also meant it was time for me to begin scouting out, applying and interviewing for full time internships for the upcoming year. On top of those obligations I also worked 2 part-time jobs and have a husband. Whew, I can feel my anxiety rise as I simply recollect that time of my life!
As winter turned to spring, my anxiety intensified. I was doing so much I felt as if I wasn’t doing any one thing well. The perfectionist in me felt completely defeated. The feelings of guilt were overwhelming as I started to fall behind on certain tasks, something I was not use to in my short 25 years on this earth. Everything was a chore. It was even beginning to affect my health—blood work come back as abnormal. Thankfully, once my stress level reduced, my health (blood work included) went back to “normal”, but I was not about to miss this wake-up call.
I talked with my counselor about what I was experiencing. While she pointed out that many people would feel the same way I did at this point in life, I knew my problems went deeper than simply graduate school blues. I had begun to rely solely on myself. I had allowed myself to believe the lie that I am what I do. Basically, I had traded my identity in Christ for the earned identity of the world. Never a good idea.
My counselor suggested that I take some mental “time off”. What? No structured (and lets be honest, most of the time forced) quiet time?! What kind of Christian did she think I was? Obviously, she knew I was the kind who needed to reconnect to God on a heart to heart level, not simply a level of obligation. She suggested that I slowly begin to read, Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence by Ruth Haley Barton. This book began to transform the way that I viewed both my relationship with God as well as the way I viewed myself as a daughter of God. I learned that I do not always have to be a “human doing” I can be a “human being”. I realized that while it is important to serve God with actions, I needed to be still before Him to even know how to serve with a whole and pure heart.
The words of Mark 6:31 were the permission I needed, “he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” (NIV). After reading those words, a weight seemed to lift and suddenly I realized that my highest calling is not to be out running myself into the ground trying to prove my love and devotion to God, my highest calling is to be in relationship with Him and to find my worth and identity through Christ.
While I still struggle with some minor anxiety at times, I hope to be able to continue to practice the valuable lesson of solitude and silence in 2013. I strive to remember the lessons I learned in 2012 and to reflect back on the way that the Lord truly can make beauty from wrecked, anxious ashes.
How have the disciplines of solitude and silence deepened your relationship with Christ?
If you experience perfectionism of any form, how do feel God working in you and healing you?
Lorien Magnus is a third year Marriage and Family Therapy student at Richmont Graduate University in Atlanta, Ga. She is also a graduate and editorial assistant for Conversations Journal. She loves learning about integrating her faith into her future psychological pursuits as well as doing relational ministry. She and her husband now reside in Atlanta, Ga.