Thursday, October 13, 2011

How Great Thou Art

Lately I’ve been bothered by a subtle, nagging anxiety. It isn’t the kind of anxiety that causes me to hang Matt’s dress shirts by style and color or the kind that urges me to perfectly arrange all of Reese’s toys at the end of every day. It doesn’t affect my ability to enjoy my days with Reese or trust my decisions or keep my home in order. Instead, it’s the kind of anxiety that always has me wondering what I’ve forgotten, the kind that leaves me feeling a bit uneasy for no apparent reason. Something seems to be missing. I’m not completely calm; not entirely comfortable; not totally at peace. 

I floated along this way for weeks, maybe even a few months. It grew so gradually that it became difficult to pinpoint a beginning. I started to wonder if I needed counseling or medication or maybe I was just slowly going crazy. It feels like I’m walking on a platform high above the ground, and although I know it’s wide enough and sturdy enough, I still can’t shake the fear that I might go tumbling over the edge at any moment. As I watched my platform slowly rising higher, I wondered how long it would take before others noticed how unbalanced I felt. The whole time, I had no idea that my saving grace was so easily within reach.

Six weeks ago, I started teaching 5th grade CCD on Wednesday evenings. It’s a great reason to get out of the house every week and I’m gaining teaching experience and deepening my faith. Talk about a win-win situation! I switch off leading the lesson every other week with Kristin, my co-teacher and close friend. Last night I parked my car and trudged to the classroom, glad it wasn’t my week to lead and hoping the hour would pass quickly. We started class with our usual prayer circle and then Kristin turned off the lights and played the video of Carrie Underwood singing "How Great ThouArt" at the ACM "Girls Night Out" concert. 

I knew she was planning to show that video, and although I had seen it before, I was completely unprepared for my reaction. Just a few seconds into it, my eyes brimmed with tears. I casually wiped them away, pretending to scratch an itch, but new ones came in their place. I reached for a Kleenex to stifle a fourth sniffle, and I wondered if the kids could see my red face across the dark room. Suddenly, as I listened to the refrain - “Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee…” - I felt so deeply connected to the present moment. My mind and my heart soared with comfort and peace; the unnecessary worries and irrational fears melted away; and a complete calm settled over the storm. And there it was, plain as day - the “something” I was missing. I had become disconnected from the Holy Spirit, and in that moment, I felt God calling me back.     

When the lights came on again, no one mentioned the emotion on my face. Maybe they didn’t notice, but I couldn’t imagine how that was possible. I pulled myself together as Kristin started her lesson. Afterwards, I walked to my car in a completely different mood from when I arrived just one hour earlier, and I realized that I did get my wish – the hour passed very quickly. 

As I drove home, I thought about how infrequently I have those moments where I feel fully connected to God. It’s a connection that reaches deeper than daily prayer and weekly Mass, which are uplifting and inspiring, but often become such a matter of routine that I don’t fully experience them as I should. These moments, rather, come in the form of triumphant stories, magnificent sunsets, uncanny coincidences, answered prayers, and beautifully sung hymns of worship and praise. They often catch me off guard during times when I don’t even know I’m looking for God, and that’s probably because He only lets me stray so far and then He comes looking for me.

If you saw me going about my day today, I would have seemed just like I always do on the outside. On the inside, however, I have a renewed sense of peace. Although all of my little fears and anxieties have not been entirely wiped away, I feel better equipped to handle them with the grace of God surrounding me. It’s a grace that can be found in the simplest of moments, out of which flow the most powerful reminders of God’s unending, unconditional, all-consuming love. And all we have to do to fully experience them is quiet our minds, open our hearts, and let our souls sing.... "my Savior God, to Thee. How great Thou art. How great Thou art!"

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