"Angst means fear or anxiety (anguish is its Latinate equivalent, and anxious, anxiety are of similar origin). The word angst was introduced into English from the Danish, Norwegian and Dutch word angst and the German word Angst. It is attested since the 19th century in English translations of the works of Kierkegaard and Freud. It is used in English to describe an intense feeling of apprehension, anxiety, or inner turmoil." Wikipedia
It is always so much easier to see it in others - you know the thing that you really don't like in them, that often mischievously resides in you.
Let me explain - I go a little crazy when M says "I worry about...". Being a Bible guy, I pull out my sacred text passage and remind her that the good book reads "Do not worry..." I mean didn't Jesus teach that himself? Eeesh.
So I was quick to point out the sad error of her ways, even courageously suggesting a great alternative: why not say "I am concerned about...". I cannot tell you how happy I felt about myself. I mean what a husband to draw his wife back on the narrow path.
Of course this is where I want to end the story, but sadly it is not.
God created our wonderful bodies as an intricate whole. He gifted us with life, light, color, beauty, adventure, boldness, fragility. The beautiful nerve endings provide rivulets of life, protecting us from pain and destruction. They shout at us when fire wants to burn us, sticks want to poke us, glass wants to cut us...
So too, we are gloriously created with emotions designed to shout "danger, danger, danger," when we begin to burn our emotional wholeness to smithereens. Anxiety, angst and apprehension are not devil ideas. They have been woven into our psyche to guard us from emotional overload that our fragile foolishness may drive us into. We are created to love peace but react with anxiety, when we hunger for shabbat but react with inner turmoil. Surely that is God's trigger to get us to pause...every thing is not in order, recalculating!
But back to me...after I had done my lap of righteous honor, applauding myself for my apparent lack of worry, honesty drifted into my heart. Actually I didn't worry. Heck no. I have a scripture after all. But there resided the alien of anxiety that hovered over my fragile soul. Not realizing it, I had hid it so well behind my alpha male, "I can do anything", persona. My "obligation to optimism" had covered this deep anxiety that stewed and brewed around my troubled soul.
But why? What had triggered this resident alien that held me captive? It has been quite an obstacle course to find a deeper self realization that I too lived with "angst". I feared going that road of discovery to be honest.
I think the first thing that jumped out of hiding was growing up in a home with her disfunction. Even as I kid, I never quite knew how every day would end - laughter or fear. That seeded "angst" in the heart of a little boy, unsure if applause or rebuke would flank my day.
Out of these days grew a "pleaser". A young boy who dearly wanted to please parent, peer, professor, pastor and wife alike. That created a vibrant soul ecology for "angst" to flourish. Low grade anxiety became my adult travel companion - I just didn't know I had picked up this hitch hiker en-route.
But I guess the greatest detox of this journey has been my recognition that my soul would be soothed, not by the applause of men, nor the fleeting fame of success and recognition but the answer of one question. This is the question my Heavenly Father has asked me every day, especially the last decade - "Can you trust me?"
Of course my first very spiritual answer is "Heck yeh". But slowly the ruthless reality of my fallenness has to answer more honestly - "I really want to". I know my God. I have tasted his love, been comforted by his kindness, been embraced by his mercy and reassured by his redemption. I have seen his hand gently answer prayer after prayer. I have known a life that has been "exceedingly more abundantly than I could ask or imagine" yet my family of origin still has an angst DNA that has seeded my essence of being.
"Is there hope", you may ask. Oh absolutely. It is in acknowledging that I am not nearly as spiritual as I want to manifest. I am not nearly as courageous as I wanted to show outwardly. I am still seeking to control my life in unhealthy ways - working, politicking, maneuvering and manipulating to get my way. That brutal honesty is the beginning of creating a new trust ecology. It will take time but the encouragement is that we do not garden alone. The one who destroys the fig tree, is also doing some landscape in you and me. It only requires sober recognition, then the journey begins. There is no hope while there is dishonesty and control. Hope comes, when honesty begins.
"Can you trust me?"