This entry is part of a series of blogs that connect political volunteering with spiritual themes. These observations come from my current volunteering for a congressional candidate. Today’s thought: Overcoming anxiety.
Over the past two years or so, I’ve found inside and around me a growing sense of dread about the state of the nation, particularly its political health. Without keening that mournful liturgy into your ears, I want to suggest how any of us can limit the harmful effects of anxiety—on body, mind and spirit—by taking action in the political sphere.
I’m not a big fan of political advocacy—it seems too easy for politicians to disregard. I AM convinced, though, that the concerted actions of engaged citizens coalesce to form an undeniable force in public life. That’s one of the reasons why my spouse and I have given increasing time and energy to electing a congress-person who holds more closely to our values and hopes for this country.
What I’ve observed about myself over these past years is that the anxiety has a way of sneaking up on my well-being, insinuating itself into almost every waking moment. Unease about the nation’s psyche easily morphs into dismay, fretfulness and anguish. Fear walks alongside these emotions, and eventually my brain’s natural reactions to stress—fighting, fleeing, freezing—take hold of larger and larger parts of my soul. Sometimes within minutes, I find myself gripped by a way of thinking that does NOT match what I proclaim is true about being godly: Trusting God’s providence, praying for God’s will to be done AND working to make those things true.
By volunteering for this candidate, I find myself combatting anxiety where it is most weak: At the level of action. Anxiety can’t control me if large swaths of my brain’s landscape are devoted to positive tasks, hopes or outcomes. If I imagine the good that will occur when our candidate supplants the current legislator, I’m less interested in imagining dystopian views of what’s happening right now. If my energies are deployed in creative tasks that help our candidate work effectively, I don’t have energy to kvetch and whine. If my time is spent in hopeful conversations with voters—during canvassing and phone calls—I have less time to devote to angry denunciations of our President and his acolytes. If my prayers are for strength and wisdom, they won’t get clogged with the misery of hopelessness.
My wife and I are both active volunteers, and that includes our conversations with others. In those moments of interaction with prospective voters, friends, congregation members and family, we find ourselves re-envisioning the best of the human spirit, the highest values and the deepest hopes for the world God so dearly loves.
Make no mistake about it, anxiety and its ugly cousins are capturing more and more of the national psyche—Christians included. But I refuse to think that this way of thinking will remain the default situation inside of me and those around me. I reject the notion that we must somehow just put up with our angst, or bear up under its certain burdens. I pray earnestly for a spirit that matches Christ’s own, in its fullest manifestations.
By volunteering, my wife and I are witnessing to what the Good News is all about: Love, forgiveness, justice and grace in the world.
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