Six Habits of Peace: How I Broke Up with Anxiety

Let me tell you a story about a girl named “Rhythm” who lived with a guy named “Anxiety”. They lived in a loft in the middle of a city in the state of Mind. I’ll start the action during their evening meal, here we go:

Rhythm inhaled another bite of Adrenaline Alfredo.

“I cooked up some Cortisol Crisp for dessert,” Anxiety shouted from the kitchen.

“Thanks, Anx. I’ll eat it while I finish up my work in the office,” she replied.

She scoped up the last spoonful while she sent off the final report and crossed off the last item on her to-do list. Burrrpp. Anxiety’s cooking gave her heartburn, but it always helped her get stuff done.

He is such a good roommate, she said to herself. He considered her best interest; warned her about potential peril and protected her from possible problems at every turn. He numbed her sad emotions and kept her hopes safe-locked under reality. He served her well, she thought, though she admitted some of his habits were a bit odd...

Every night he played her a broken record of her brokenness and every night she studied the lyrics so she would not, could not, should not repeat the broken. But that broken record only ever knew how to repeat itself.

Anxiety cataloged her every fear for years. When his records grew so large she lost room to store precious things, like love, joy and hope, she began to moan. And when her friends stopped calling due his compulsive habit of over managing her calendar, even Anxiety heard her groan.

Rhythm was gasping for air, restless and stuck. She tried to imagine a new life but struggled. Her imagination only knew how to plan for the worst. In the searching however, a brave new decision struck her mind like a gong and the ring of freedom resounded between her ears. Rhythm reached for a pen and wrote it down in big bold letters:

“I’m moving out.”

She held it high and read it aloud, “I’m done with Anxiety, I’m moving"  

She smiled...then bit her lip and frowned. Hmmm, but where will I go?  
After some research she found an advertisement online:

“Peace’s Palace: Located at Philippians 4:8 Blvd. Fully furnished wide open floor plan with open picture frame windows overlooking streams of hope and new mercy’s sunrise. Peace welcomes all who share her love for the Prince of Peace to live in her quarters rent free as long as tenants are willing to part with their old furniture to embrace her very own decor: truth, goodness, honor, right-living, purity, love, and everything excellent and worth praising.”

She rolled her eyes, “Pfft I might be tired of Anxiety but I’m not naive.”

"Peace's Palace? Rent free? Yeah right!"

* * *

Can you relate to Rhythm?

I can.

I lived in the habitation (a.k.a. habits) of Anxiety...though I didn’t know it at the time. I nicknamed him “realistic,” “problem solving,” “diligence,” and other euphemisms that kept me steeped in denial. But the truth? Well the truth was I spent a great deal of my time dwelling on the should-of, could-of, and would-of’s of my past, calculating what was missing from my present and trying to avoid the inevitable mishaps of my future. By grace, God helped me realize I was living with Anxiety (not “reality” or “diligence”) and that this chump was not worth the expensive all.

How kind is God that He commands me “not to be anxious for anything”? How thoughtful of Him to insist I break up with Anxiety and finally let go? How generous is He to invite me to live in His presence of Peace with all the new furniture of truth, honor, right-living, purity, and love?

Jesus paid the rent in full long ago. He signed the paperwork in His blood and wrote my name on the deed.  Peace’s palace was as good as mine, but I couldn’t begin to experience the benefits of living there until I abandoned Anxiety’s cramped corners and actually made the move into the habits of peace.

Once I took the plunge, I found Peace’s Philippians 4:8 advertisement lived up to all it promised. More even. And let me tell you, the freedom freaked me out at first. Feeling light felt weird. I realized that I liked the freedom and that made me nervous. I didn’t know Peace could be a permanent dwelling place and feared I’d be kicked out. But Peace remained generous as long as I remained under the roof of its habits. This amazed me.

Hmmm. You don’t believe me. That’s okay, I get it. I didn’t think it was possible either. So let me show you what it’s like. How about a tour around my new place? Come on in, make yourself at home:

Photo taken by Denard Jones (otherwise known as "Poppie" around here)

Photo taken by Denard Jones (otherwise known as "Poppie" around here)

1. Truth: Instead of mulling on lies about my identity, now I savor the truth about who God made me to be as an image bearer of the Creator. I turned from calling myself names and began to embrace that I’m adored and invited by God to participate in His royal love-work on earth as it is in heaven. I’m learning to stop looking for proof of my worth in my actions and am now free to focus on Christ’s actions on my behalf. His empty tomb is proof enough. Look with me, the view is awesome.

2. Honor: Instead of rehashing the disappointing dishonorable things about the people around me, I learned to rediscover the honor in people. Many make this rediscovery easy, some make it excruciating, but God makes it possible. I am learning to join Him in His vision of people’s worth while I also learn to magnify the honorable acts of God in spite of humanity’s mess. When I started to look with Him, my perspective enlightened and those streams of hope snapped into focus.

3. What is right: Instead of making endless mental notes of what is going wrong in the world, and in my world, I now sketch lists of what is right and what is being made right. There’s something powerful about writing it down. And when it’s hard to write about what's right in horizontal places, I dwell on the vertical righteousness of Christ - endless material there. 

4. Pure: Instead of compulsively measuring my motives to determine whether or not they are pure, I take delight in gazing upon the purity of my Savior. I’ve learned to rush under the shower of God’s forgiveness to receive His purity so I can walk in Him anew. Peace’s palace is clean, the air is fresh. Take a deep breath, it’s pure freedom up in here, can you smell it?

5. Lovely: Instead of indulging in imaginary arguments with others in my mind after a disagreement, now I envision reconciliation - yes, I actually daydream about it. Love always forgives. Forgiveness is a quicker reflex and blessing those who curse me is now a joy. It felt awkward at first but have a seat with me here long enough and you’ll find it’s your favorite seat in the house too. Healing hastens in this loveseat and ohhh it’s so strangely comfortable.

6. Good, Excellent and Praiseworthy: Instead of choking on media reports that expose people’s faults, I inhale inspiring stories. The Scriptures, biographies, nonfiction, fiction, articles and movies that help me see the good in life are a part of my weekly diet. With fresh eyes then, I’m able to keep my head up when I read the headlines. I’m learning to dig for what God had in mind when He made the world and reported that His work was good. I’m learning to taste and see His goodness everywhere, in the mundane and the muddy. He is still a good God; I believed that in my head when I lived with Anxiety, now I believe it deep in my guts. God is good.

* * *

Okay now, back to our gal Rhythm. Would you believe it? She called Peace and made the big move!

Anxiety fought to keep her with him. He called multiple times every day trying to get her back, “I’ll keep you safe, come home,” he grovelled. “Peace’s Palace is a mirage. You can’t trust that so-called Prince of Peace to protect you, everything will go wrong without me! You’re so dumb, you really believe you can stay on top of things without my help? What will people think of you? What will they say when you’re late?...when you trip?...when you lose?”

She struggled at first to hang up when he’d call, but she found strength in the palace of Peace. Now whenever Anxiety rings she doesn’t even bother to answer. She lives free in a brand new rhythm - a wide open space where she enjoys new mercy’s sunrise every morning.

What about you?
Where does your attention go each day?
Where does your thought-life make itself at home?

Are you tolerating the poor living conditions of Anxiety?
Is today the day you choose the habits of peace?

If so, pack a prayer and move out today...

"God of Peace, I admit I’ve made anxiety my home. I confess it is a shabby place to dwell, and is not the safe place I hoped it to be and I want out. I want You. I abandon the habits of anxiety. Thank You for inviting me to move into Your dwelling of peace to remain with You. Renew my mind and refresh my perspective. Refurnish my focus and help me embrace all the habits of peace that You’ve granted to me by Your kindness. I make myself at home with You, Prince of Peace. Please make yourself at home in me. Yes, be Your full self, God of Peace, right in the center of my mind and heart. In Jesus name, Amen."