Everything Old Is New Again
What if I told you that the joy of memes is part of the Bible? That the concept of self-care was actually preached by the disciples of Jesus thousands of years ago? Okay, I may be exaggerating just a little. But this past Sunday at my church, I had a bit of an epiphany regarding that little passage in the Bible about not worrying about anything.
[I should probably add a note here before continuing. I’m not a “Christian” writer. In fact, I think this is the first time I’m writing about a faith issue here at all. I’m simply someone who writes things and also happens to be Christian. I just didn’t want you to be surprised to land on this article after reading something else I’ve written. Anyway….]
So, in last Sunday’s Mass, one of the readings was Philippians 4:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.
Especially in times like these, the advice here can seem impossible — I mean, how are we supposed to rejoice, be happy, not worry, when our planet is being torn apart and is literally on fire right now?? I’ll admit, I do usually kind of tune out when it’s time to contemplate these parts of the Bible. Passages like this feel just a little too “goody two-shoes” for my tastes. That’s just how the world works anymore, you know?
But thanks to a very thought-provoking sermon, I’ve come to realize that perhaps I’ve been handling crisis moments all wrong.
During his time at the pulpit, Fr. Caleb maintained that the act of meditating on what is good is in fact a kind of prerequisite for achieving true clarity. So rather than worrying and praying and pondering and stressing out, all in an attempt to gain some modicum of peace (that probably won’t last all that long anyway, let’s be honest), the concept here is that we should focus on peacefulness before jumping into problem-solving. Seriously!
Remember your mother, or maybe your grandmother, kindly advising you to stop worrying about a thing? “I’m sure things will look better after a good night’s sleep,” they may have said. And guess what? They were right! And what’s more, they’d be right today, too! I mean, come on, isn’t that why you go surfing the web looking for cat memes or carpool karaoke videos when you’re feeling like crap because some situation or other makes you feel helpless? And who hasn’t felt at least small moments of helplessness these days?
What boggles my mind is that this concept doesn’t just apply to Christians, but to all of humanity. It’s precisely why we’re hearing so much about self-care lately, as an example. On some level or other, people are beginning to realize that, yes, we are better equipped to handle life’s challenges after we’ve achieved at least a momentary state of peacefulness. It’s the starting point, not the end goal. (Okay, okay, you could argue that true happiness is a pretty damned good end goal, all things considered. I’ll give you that one.) But the challenge to my personal mindset was the idea of putting myself into that calm state first, and then tackling whatever challenge is in front of me.
This, too, is helpful when I contemplate the sometimes-pithy concept that boils down to “kindness matters”. I mean, if the world’s almost literally going to hell in a handbasket, does it really matter if I hold a door for someone or help a kid tie their shoes or do something nice for a stranger I’ll probably never see again anyway?
Yes. Yes, it damn well matters.
With any act of kindness, you have a great reciprocity thing happening here. First, you’re reaching out to a fellow human and expressing yourself in a giving way. That’s already going to build up some good positive energy for you (and karma points too, if you’re into that sort of thing). And second, that person you’re reaching out to? Maybe they were stuck in their own worries and stress, and your act of kindness got them refocused. So together, you’re both experiencing at least a moment of peace, which as it turns out could be the starting point for building something better. So yes, kindness matters. Always has, always will. Even the Bible says so. (Kind of.)
So go ahead! Take some time to binge-watch one of your favorite shows. Ask your friends to send you all their favorite GIFs of cute pets (or cute men/women!). Take that moment to put on your own metaphorical oxygen mask before helping someone else with theirs.
And then, let’s get back to work.