Beyond the buff Jesus: Giving up anxiety

We often think of Lent as a time of either taking things on, such as running, journaling or eating mindfully, or giving things up, such as chocolate, the snooze button, social media or soda.

I have had the opportunity this year to work with the youth of First Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, an experience that taught me a lot. During Lent, the church has been doing a study based upon a book called “Giving Up Something Bad for Lent.” What bad things does the book talk about? It, among other things, discusses giving up envy, regret or the horrible things we say about ourselves and others.

The study has given me a lot to think about. My life, much like the lives of many others that I know, runs on anxiety. I make a to-do list every morning out of the anxiety of not getting everything done. I lay in bed at night wide awake because of my anxiety over what I may have forgotten, the things I said that could have upset people or how I could have participated better in class. If I cannot think of something that happened that day, I just go back to past events that I can be anxious about.

I cannot imagine my life without all of this anxiety. What on earth would I do with myself if I could go to sleep every night without yelling at myself, in my head, first? How would I possibly get everything done if I do not have my anxiety to drive me? There are no answers to these questions that I can think of right now, but the simple idea of this anxiety going away is amazing to me.

What if I gave anxiety up for Lent? What if the Maryville College community gave up anxiety for Lent? What if  we, as a community, gave up the idea that our worth lies in the grades that we make or the number of extracurricular activities that we are involved in? Can you imagine it?

I know what other students may be thinking, because I think the same things. We have to make good grades because we have to graduate so that we can get jobs, right? We have to prove ourselves as good MC students, right?

I hear that. I feel that. This is not something that can change in a day or in a week, and maybe it is not something that can change in the mere six weeks of Lent. But wouldn’t it be amazing if it did eventually change? If the level of anxiety went down, if the fear of letting professors and friends down lowered, the atmosphere of this campus would be revolutionized.

Maybe this is not a problem for everyone. Maybe I am just projecting my feelings outward, but I think that this is real, and not just for college students. Perhaps now is the time to start thinking about what one should really be giving up so that your life can seem better for oneself.

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