Anxiety // When the World's too big


There's a quite beautiful scene towards the beginning of Zack Snyder's Superman premiere: Man of Steel. The film kind of loses it in the third act and THEN Zack went and made Batman v. Superman which was not at all beautiful but hey, think happy thoughts - the beginning of Man of Steel. 

Here's the clip, you should watch it.

Young Clark Kent is at school, when he finds himself overcome by a frenzied hypersensitivity to all that is around him. His unhinged super-hearing and X-Ray vision overwhelm him to the point where he runs to a closet, desperately trying to shut it all out. 

His adopted mother Martha comes to school to console him. 

"The world's too big mom."

"Then make it small...focus on my voice. Pretend it's an island, out in the ocean - can you see it?"

"...I see it."

"Then swim towards it, honey."

In this intimate, vulnerable moment, the would be god among men that is Superman is afraid and overwhelmed by the world around him. He sees and feels too much. The world is too big. As he embraces his mum outside the closet, he asks desperately: "what's wrong with me?"



Have you ever felt like this? Like there's just so much happening and you can feel so much and you don't know what to do with it all. So much to think about, so much to fear. The world is too big, but you can't switch it off, and the only thing you want to do is run away. 

I have. I would wager that most of us have - and I'm encouraged that anxiety is now something that people seem to be more aware of and more able to speak about. 

And it's weird to talk about because there's such a range of experience and I'm not going to cover everything that could be said about it but I think I just want to say one thing. One thought about what to do when the world is too big. 

What to do when maybe you're like me and you see all these options in front of you , and all these ideas from different people you care about about what you should do and who you should be. 

Sure, sometimes you're relaxed, but other times you're absolutely overcome.

You see all these outcomes and possibilities, all depending on how you choose to play.

What's your move?

You know I once spent 20 minutes taking a turn on Scrabble because I just didn't know which word to play, and I just couldn't get it wrong. That might sound silly, but in the end I really had to leave and have someone else take my go. Which I think was my way of saying:

"The world's too big."

And what to do when you think, "If I can't handle this right now, how am I possibly going to handle all the rest that life apparently offers, things like marriage and family, and big scary jobs and money and no money and...life. How am I going to do that? "What's wrong with me?" 

What do you do in that place? 

Well, like Ma Kent says, when the world's too big..."make it small. Focus on my voice."

Because Superheroes get anxious too, and their stories are as much about weakness as they are about 'strength'. 

But who is the voice of Ma Kent for us? Who speaks to us in that anxiety that no one else can see?

For me, this has to be God. This is the voice I turn to. And I might've lost you there, but hear me out. I believe that God in Jesus invites us - in the face of real anxiety - to make the world smaller, and to choose trust instead of control. The Apostle Paul, writing to fellow believers who also wandered this strange and troubling world, put it like this: 

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

This verse can be misused or overused, but its still really important. This isn't simply 'let go and let God', and it's not just 'don't worry - be happy' (no disrespect to that cheery tune).

This is a true, weighty call to prayer. 

This is: all those things you're holding, all those things you're afraid of - bring all these to your Heavenly Father, and talk to him about them. When its all too much, when you're frozen in fear, paralyzed by endless possibility - slow down. Focus on one thing, one person. Do this with thanksgiving, taking time to see all the glorious giftedness that surrounds you. Find freedom in remembering that these were gifts, not trophies; they're not the merits of your striving, they're the fruit of the unbounded generosity that created the universe. Talk to God. Focus on his voice. He is never far from any one of us.  

As you do this, something happens. It may take a lifetime for us to truly see or understand, but there is a Peace that will guard your heart and your mind, a Peace that will fight for you. This too is a grace, a gift, and it will indeed transcend understanding. This is not merely a positive mindset, it is the mystery of intimacy with the divine - in whom you are fully known, and fully loved.

Or as one friend of mine put it so well:
The peace I pray for is the kind of peace that comes in the eyes of storms; peace as exists only when we can be sure that something, or someone good, exists that is unbowed by the chaos and brokenness around and within us. It's a peace that acknowledges pain, stands amidst disharmony, embraces chaos, and begins setting broken things to rights. God's peace is not a trite "forget your problems to find me" kind of peace, but a peace that stares into troubled eyes looking at troubled waters saying "you can rest."
I've found this to be important. It's not a magic formula that banishes all anxiety for ever, and obviously it's not a call to stop thinking about things. It's not saying anxiety means you just don't have enough faith and it's definitely not a call to ignore professional help. Things will still be hard. We live in hard times. But all I can say is that peace is possible and powerful, even if it doesn't feel present all the time. That despite the darkness, God really is there. It's quiet and it's subtle and he doesn't text me or anything, but as I've learned to trust, I've found God to be closer than I had felt before. He didn't change, but I did. 

It was all too much for the boy who would be Superman, so he ran away, like we so often do. But he found freedom when he could will the one thing - listening, trusting, embracing the one in whom he was fully known and fully loved. 

Because true heroism, true courage in the face of anxiety, comes not from mere power or might, nor the will to act - but from trust.
                                                                       
"The world's too big Mom."

"Then make it small. Focus on my voice. Pretend it's an island, out in the ocean - can you see it?"

"...I see it."


Comments

  1. "How can I help you if you don't let me in?"

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