My drive home from work was a microcosm of the last three or four days in my life.
Generally, on a four-lane two-way road, I stay to the right, driving at the speed limit or as close to it as conditions allow. Those who want to exceed the speed limit can pass me on the left. The road between my workplace and my home goes past a lot of stores, restaurants, banks, a high school, and side streets into residential neighborhoods. With all the traffic entering and leaving the highway, it’s hard to make progress in the right-hand lane, so I like to drive home in the fast lane.
Today the fast lane was not very fast. A lot of people were turning left out of the fast lane, and a lot of cars were passing me on the right this afternoon.
All weekend my life has been unpredictable, filled with the unexpected, and for the most part unsettling. I don’t even know why it was that way. My big fight with Mrs. Dim was a week ago; I should be over that by now. Nothing unusually stressful has been happening to me or to the rest of my family lately. I don’t think that I’m fighting a virus: I have no fever, no headache or sore muscles, and no more congestion than is to be expected with seasonal allergies.
Yet since Friday night I’ve experienced waves of anxiety, some so strong that my handles tremble, making it hard to type. I have a constant sense of abdominal tension, like a tennis ball pressing on the back of my sternum. I go from place to place with a feeling of dread, as if I didn’t want to go there, or as if I thought something bad was going to happen there.
Through it all I’ve done my job, I made it to church Sunday morning, and I’ve been careful not to lose patience with people. I remind myself to breathe, and I focus attention on my breathing. I set aside time to read and to relax.
Then I go on the internet and read that some of my friends there are feeling discouraged and overwhelmed as well. Maybe they aren’t as prone to anxiety as I am, but they express feelings that match the way I’m feeling. Now, instead of wondering why I feel as badly as I do, I ask myself what I can say to them to help them feel better.
We need each other. We are sinners living in a sinful world, and sometimes our lives become chipped and cracked through contact with other fragile people. God could take away our problems, and sometimes he does, but other times he answers, “My grace is sufficient for you.” When we bear our burdens, and when we help one another bear these burdens, we grow in Christ-like mercy and compassion.
When the fast lane is crawling, other drivers are stuck in traffic too. We’re all in this traffic together. The best we can do is drive with patience and compassion, and eventually we will all make it home. J.