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Walking Our Faith: Overcoming anxiety in this time of transition

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson
Walking Our Faith
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson

The summer before my junior year in high school, I developed tendinitis in both my shoulders as a result of training too hard with my swim team. I was training hard because I hoped to qualify for the Junior National team that year in the 100-meter freestyle. Instead, my injuries forced me to stop swimming all together until my shoulders healed.

My coach told me I faced a choice: I could give up swimming, walk away and go on with my life. Or I could accept the challenge of starting over and rebuilding and work toward my goal again the following summer, with absolutely no promise of success.

I loved swimming. So, I chose to give my shoulders the time they needed to heal and then start again. The following summer, I set a Junior National record in the 100-meter freestyle and was ranked 16th in the world.

In the moment of that disruption of my dream, I couldn’t have known the eventual happy outcome. I imagine there are high school and college students throughout our country who face similar disappointment and uncertainty. Graduations have been put on hold or canceled. Sporting championships have been canceled. The job market is suddenly very uncertain.

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Many in our community face a similar crossroads. Jobs have been lost or put on hold, and the question is, will the jobs return? How long can we continue in suspension, and how do we deal with the anxiety we may feel as we gradually open our town and welcome the visitors who are the lifeblood of our economic security?

For introverts like myself, it feels safer to stay home. For extroverts like my mother, who has been quarantined in her condominium in Fort Lauderdale, she dearly longs to return to Wednesday evening choir practice, Sunday church service and Sunday evening dinner with friends.

For frontline workers in hospitals, EMTs, police and firefighters who have protected us, and the grocery workers who have kept us fed, they must long for the moment they can take off their masks and breathe a sigh of relief. To go home and safely hug their children and their spouses and have a well-deserved rest.

We have learned we are a caring and resilient community. We have learned how to stay in touch through Zoom and FaceTime and holding conversations while wearing masks and standing 6 feet apart. 

We have discovered that love is so much stronger than fear. It has lifted us up and held us close when we have been unable to hold one another.

Last year, when I was going through a time of uncertainty, I spoke with Father Emmanuel of Saint Mary’s. At the end of our conversation, he recommended I read the 23rd Psalm every night before bed or anytime I was feeling anxious.

That turned out to be excellent advice. I’d like you to read that psalm, too, anytime you are feeling anxious. I’d like you to try to memorize it, so you can repeat it anywhere and anytime you need reassurance. Its words promise that you are loved and you are not alone.

When I am trying to commit Bible verses to memory, I write out each verse, leaving a space in between where I rewrite it in my own words. This makes the verses real for me and easier to remember. Here’s what my version looks like:

Psalm 23: A psalm of David

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

“You are my best friend, I have more than enough.”

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,

“You remind me that I need to rest my mind and body.”

He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.

“When I ask for help, you guide me with wisdom in the right direction.”

Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

“When I am afraid, I can share it all with God. You will comfort me and protect me.”

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

“You provide my every need. I can trust in your help.”

Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

“I will not fear the future, because I know you are always with me and will never leave me.”

Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at suzanne@suzanneelizabeths.com.


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