Lutheran Church Extension Fund

The (Nearly Impossible) "Non-Anxious Presence"!

Reading time: two minutes. The first time my pastoral counselor friend Al mentioned Murray Bowen’s expression, the “non-anxious presence,” my reaction was, “Of course! That’s it!”  It made perfect sense.  As a church pastor, if I could remain level-headed and calm while all around me were breaking out in fits of congregational anxiety, I’d be much better able to exert calm, Spirit-led leadership as we journeyed forward in mission. My second thought was, “Too bad.  There’s no way I’ll ever be the calm and level-headed one.” It’s a great idea and a brilliant catch-phrase for church worker wellness.  But maybe, despite being such a lofty and unobtainable ideal, we can still benefit from the concept of the non-anxious presence. Simil iustus et peccatur comes in here.  We’re sinners and saints at the same time, all the time.  Family Systems Theory would suggest that at our very best, most self-differentiated self, the highest level of non-anxious anyone will ever achieve is about 40%, which is pretty good because people generally operate at about 10-20% most of the time.  What we’re really striving for is to be a “less-anxious-than-usual-and-less-anxious-than-the-majority-of-those-around-me” presence. Baptismal grace is the only power that can actually reduce the anxiety a Christian is experiencing during their times of stress.  Mantras and aroma therapy and crystals look as silly and useless as they truly are compared to the wonder of knowing, moment by moment, no matter what’s happening to me or around me, that I am a child of God by grace, and that He is with me, abiding, loving and blessing me.  On the anxious/loved scale, the love of Christ always prevails. Casting cares on the One who can bear them is a joy and a privilege. When I become less anxious, the body of Christ, of which I am an intimately connected member, benefits.  Just as my whole body is helped by a slow, deep breath, or by a pause to stretch and calm my beating heart, so also a congregation is helped to remain calm when one or a few of its members find the grace to embrace the calming presence of Jesus among us.  Faith encourages faith, as peace encourages peace in other members of the body, like leaven making its way through the whole lump of dough. As with most matters of our faith, this journey of ours seems always to return to the Word of the Lord.  A vibrant, humble, receptive devotional life bathed in the promises of God’s grace is the wellspring of peace, the fruit of the Spirit, the force behind our diminished anxiety.  When cries of despair and panic echo around us, the gentle whisper, “Thus says the Lord,” leads us to the quiet pasture of our Good Shepherd. We’re still sheep, to be sure, but little lambs confident in His loving care.  May He bless you, (and all at the convention this week), with just a bit less anxiety in your journey! Thanks for reading. Are you interested in helping bring a Grace Place Wellness Retreat to your region?  We’d love to hear from you.  Contact our President/CEO Randy Fauser today to begin exploring the possibilities.  Let’s have a conversation about bringing our Church Worker Retreat to your area soon!