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  • Writer's pictureRuth Sauers

One question I'm learning to ask myself

If we've learned anything since our world was turned upside down a year and a half ago, its that life can change in an instant. Getting used to a new normal is something we've had to do over and over again. Just when we think we've maybe found a little bit of a stride, something changes, disappointment looms or strikes, we lose something or someone again, we are left scrambling for sure footing as if we're caught in a rising tide at the edge of an ocean of unpredictability, an ocean that threatens to take us under. Of course, our ideas of control and mastery are an illusion, Covid just exposed the truth that we are less in control of our lives than we think we are. But, no matter where our security was placed, Covid shook all of our normals and turned them upside down.


During those first few weeks of Covid, I don't think any of us knew what to think- we tried to do the right thing, even though it was hard to know what that right thing was. We tried to shepherd the people in our care through this unknown even as we didn't know how to shepherd ourselves. As the weeks wore on, we found ourselves in more and more stress- the stress of living through something we've never lived through before, the stress of making sure everyone in our household was doing alright, and then some of us had the added stress of trying to continue education with children who were grieving so much that was taken from them, the stress of being isolated from other humans while desperately needing to process this with other humans.


Like a lot of you, I found myself in a state of complete overwhelm. In the morning I would wake up and if it was not Saturday I would be filled with a sense of dread, dreading trying to run from one child to the other solving computer and technical issues or trying to help them with work they didn't understand. I struggled to make sense and acclimate to our new normal even as I tried to help them understand and acclimate.


After a few weeks of this, feeling like I couldn't catch my breath, feeling like there was no end in sight, I started sitting on the couch in the living room, the only place where no one was set up for school, and asking myself, what do I need right now? Do I need to take a few deep breaths? Do I need to just dump it on God and say please help me? Do I need to walk outside and breath a breath of fresh air? Do I need to go for a walk to clear my head and get out of this space for a minute? Do I need to make a cup of coffee and let the comforting smell and the warmth remind me that its going to be ok? Do I need to read a Psalm? Do I need to take a drive in my car down some beautiful back roads that will remind me there is a world outside my home? Do I need to call a friend and see how they're doing and commiserate together?


Learning to ask myself this question - what do I need right now? - allowed me to care for my soul and grow to be a non-anxious presence for my family and also for myself. Learning to ask myself this question allowed me to acknowledge that I am a human and I have needs that matter, needs that are separate from those of my family. As moms (and dads!) we often work so hard to take care of our families and our focus is on all that they need and how to help them thrive. But it's easy to forget that we are human beings too. We need care, we need attention, we need to acknowledge the reality that we have needs in our lives.


I'm sharing this question I've learned to ask myself because it is a practice I started during Covid, but it's a practice that is still serving me now. I am still asking myself - what do I need right now? This is a shift that had to take place after living my whole life asking, what should I do right now? Or what am I supposed to do right now? Or what does someone else think I should do right now? And these aren't wrong questions or bad questions, but living your whole life based on what you think you should do denies the reality of what is going on right now and denies what you feel about it. It denies you the reality of being in your body and being able to have any kind of influence on your situation, any kind of agency to help yourself. It presupposes that some other person or outside source knows better what you need than you do.


Simply asking myself this question has been an incredible way for me to diffuse anxiety. If you would have asked me five years ago if I was an anxious person, I would have said no. But the more I learn, the more I see it under the surface of so much of my life. But, now I know it's my body's response to certain triggers and experiences of trauma I have had in my life. Now I know it's not something to be ashamed of, now I know it's not a sign that I don't have enough faith, or that I'm not trusting God enough. Now I know it's something I run to God with and I can pour out my anxieties to Him, just like the psalmists did, and I am always met with love, with care, with compassion, with gentleness. I am never met with contempt, or eye-rolling, or mockery, or belittling, or even the pressure to try harder - only love, only love, only Love.


We are just these fragile earthen jars carrying around a spectacular weight of glory. It makes sense that we might break sometimes. But those cracks, and our honesty about those cracks, is where the light pours out. Maybe this anxiety we feel isn't a problem to be solved but a tension to be managed. Maybe it's one more thing we drag into the presence of God with the rest of our baggage, knowing He meets us with kind eyes, with big shoulders, and He says lay it all on me.


For you, my friend who struggles with anxiety, this might be a question you need to adopt. This might be a practice you borrow. It is yours for the taking. The next time you feel overwhelmed, short of breath, afraid of what's coming, unsure of what you need to do next, ask yourself this question- what do I need right now? You can borrow from my list, but you probably want to make your own list of heart-rate reducers. I often start with deep breathing because it is quick and I can do it anywhere. You might want to try a breath prayer, which is just praying a prayer as you breathe in and as you breathe out.

Inhale- God I need you

Exhale- You are here with me

As we head into this Christmas season, I think asking ourselves this question just might help us more than we can imagine, it might be the grounding we need in a season that tells us we must hurry. It might be the very thing that draws us back to Immanuel, God with us.


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