Contents Under Pressure

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There is a lot of pressure in life--just take a look at the headlines—from international threats to economic bad news. Now, throw an election on top, and make yourself a part of a key demographic in a swing state. Add some relational, job, and family stresses, and we have the makings of a great melt down.

What do you do when you reach the end of your rope? What relieves the anxiety? As a culture, we have a myriad of self-administered escapes. I confess, I am a stress eater. The more stress I feel, the more I want to graze through my pantry. It doesn’t solve the problem, at least not beyond the short-term fix I get from the salty/sweet/salty comfort food. In fact, the next day, I feel bad because I ignored my goal to eat moderately and the scale is reflecting a number in the “I never want to weigh that again” category. More stress.

Other people use shopping to relieve stress, which generally means that they buy, buy, buy when they cannot afford it. This is the same cycle as eating—stress buying results in short-term comfort and long-term pain, when a bill arrives in the mail with a number on it that screams, “What have I done?”

Financially speaking, the Bible calls us to be diligent and wise in using our resources. We are to tithe, provide for our family, honor our debts, and care for the poor. Making positive choices with resources, rather than making a ‘stress buy’, actually reduces stress.

Another confession-- I am not great with plants. In fact, my husband finds it humorous that we live in a garden state, yet plants do not thrive in my care. A few months ago, a friend gave me an orchid to care for while she was away for a few months. Clearly, she had not heard of my track record. She told me to water it on Wednesdays.

Water on Wednesday-- seems easy enough. But travel schedules and other complications get in the way, and I feel guilty because I haven’t been diligent to water each Wednesday. So, when I water, I tend to overcompensate. Luckily, orchids have a built in structure for dealing with my watering practice. The roots are loose, and the excess water runs through, into the sink. Now, I am definitely showering pressure on the orchid, alternatively stressing it with no water and then too much water.  But the orchid sheds the stress through its roots.

Similarly, our circumstances bring stress and pressure to our lives, and we have the opportunity to accept the pressure that we can impact, while allowing the remaining stressors to flow out of us, down the sink. When I think about the stressors confronting me, I make a list of them. Then, I pick off one that I can resolve. Once I get on a positive roll, my outlook improves and I tackle another item on the list. Poof! Stress goes down.

Try making a list of stressors in your life. When you look at the list, are there items that only you can do? Are there items that only others can do? My wise pastor once told the congregation, “when you look at an issue causing stress in your life, remember that, “…you are the only person that you can change, and that will keep you busy. So fix the things that you can fix, and pray for the items that require someone else to do something.”

The Serenity Prayer says it a bit more poetically,

God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

So, what I am proposing is that we adopt an ‘orchid strategy’ to dealing with stress. Instead of absorbing the stress, allowing it to weigh us down and make bad financial or food choices, we change the things the we can impact, we pray for the issues that are not ours to change, and we focus on loving the people that God puts in our lives, showering them with grace and truth. And, of course, we bloom in the process.

Postscript: The Orchid is sporting several gorgeous, large green leaves and looks like it may send out a new shoot soon. But I won’t know until I get home next week and water on a day other than Wednesday.

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