Anxiety and Care

One of the books I’m reading now is M. Robert Mulholland’s Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation. It’s an excellent little book. On page 86-87, in the midst of his discussion of the peace and rejoicing Paul teaches (and exemplifies) in Philippians 4, he say:

“Care arises when we are driven by the need to order and control our own lives. In a world where such order and control are partial at best, anxious care can become a consuming passion that misshapes all relationships, all events and all activities of one’s life. When this happens, anxiety-driven persons tend to become manipulative and dehmanizing in their relationships with others. Others must conform to their pathological attempts to order the world and maintain control of their lives. Anxiety-driven persons are also compelled to impose their own order upon the events of their lives. Layer upon layer of defenses and securities are constructed to keep the unpredictable and unexpected from intruding into their carefully ordered world.”

“Such persons cannot be the persons God intends them to be. They are imprisoned by the need to maintain control of their existence. Such persons cannot be God’s persons for others. They are captive to the need to protect themselves against others and manipulate others for their own purposes. Such persons cannot be agents of God’s grace to a broken and hurting world. They ar ein bondage to the need to impose their order upon the world.”

“The most tragic aspect of this carefuly constructed matrix of relationships and activities is that it also insulated one from God. In fact, in such lives God most often becomes one more element in the attempt to coerce the world to conform to protective patterns. God becomes not only the defender of the status quo but also, and usually, its reputed author. Anyone or anything that threatens the fragile order and control of life is obviously an enemy of God.”

This struck me as not only relevant to our lives as Christians, but also to relations between America and Islamic countries.  Pressed by the forces of modernization and westernization, some Muslims have become insecure. Lacking security in themselves they are trying to impose that security, using God as a big stick to control their world, whether through imposition of stricter versions of Sharia law, or through conquest of new territories and subjugation of infidels. Being insecure is bad. Being insecure and having weapons, money, and the willingness to use them is dangerous.

But the US isn’t acting much (if any) more secure than some of these folks in the Muslim world. we’re dead set against knowing ourselves, against having a stable identity. Our quest for greater authenticity has resulted in greater and greater fragmentation. In the midst of this confusion we hunger for security. So we seek to tighten up our laws (not Sharia, but equally controlling), and impose our will on the rest of the world.

Maybe someday we’ll actually learn how to trust God.

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