Monday, March 28, 2016

Rumination—or mulling over worries—is the biggest predictor of depression and anxiety, according to a large-scale British study published in 2013.

Then, speaking to all, He said, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross everyday and follow Me.’ Luke 9:23

Today if you shall hear His voice, harden not your heart.

Gary quoted from Psychology Today during his Easter sermon. Because all of the children remain in the service on Easter Sunday, the pastor has made it a tradition to keep all of the kids, well, all of us, on task with a word search of his sermon words. Each of us hung onto every word, knowing that a bag of chocolate eggs was waiting for whoever circled the correct words.

And it was just a tiny jump in organizational logic from how the encounter with the risen Lord changed the followers’ despair to awe, overjoyful awe to the magazine he thumbed through as he prepared his sermon at Starbucks.

“Awe is the opposite of rumination,” says Leahy. “It clears away inner turmoil with a wave of outer immensity.” Whether it’s a sunset with colors more vivid than you’ve ever seen or a rapidly expanding sense of love felt when staring into another’s eyes, “being in awe is losing yourself in something or someone else. The anxious person’s sense that ‘it’s all about me; I must control my situation’ disappears.” 

The pièce de résistance was the final experiment, where subjects were taken to the tallest hardwood grove in North America. They were asked to look up at the eucalyptus trees, some exceeding 200 feet, for one minute. The control group set their sights on a plain, tall building for the same amount of time. Sure enough, the tree-gazers felt more awe and were happier precisely because of what they felt. They also acted more generously in a lab test and reported feeling less entitled than the building-gawkers. 

As Leahy sees it, though, cognitive behavioral therapy is about, yes, examining your thoughts, but also learning to take them less seriously, to look at how they might be inaccurate or silly or useless, to stop taking what happens around you so personally, to realize it’s not all about you. 

And we wound up by the shore of the lake, with Jesus roasting fish on the beach and his conversation about agape and phileo love with Peter, the friend who had denied Him. And years later Peter wrote about this awe-inspired love, a love not about me, but about the other, loving the most unlikely him or her because of resurrection awe, loving one another earnestly from a pure heart, with no hypocrisy.

And a couple of times last night, ruminations woke me up. And I had to squelch those heading-back- into-the-routines–of-life thoughts, my own worrisome, dark thoughts. Those thoughts that often have a misleading sense of “realness” or “correctness” according to Leahy. 

And last night Daniel sitting in front of all of his textbooks at the dining room table made us smile a little, as he talked about picking up our burdens once again. Although I am sure that he wasn’t quoting from Little Women: "Oh, dear, how hard it does seem to take up our packs and go on," sighed Meg the morning after the party, for now the holidays were over, the week of merrymaking did not fit her for going on easily with the task she never liked."

And every day I am to renounce Self and pick up my cross and follow Him. But let me remember the truth: it was for the joy set before Him that He picked up that cross. The crux is joy.

The billowing sunrises greeted me once again as I pulled myself out of the pool and headed into the everyday. Awe. It’s not about me.

May my heart not be hardened.