I took a bite of a Fuji apple. One of our sons had gone apple picking the week before and returned with a bushel of apples. I took a bite of an apple and had a revelation.
I turned to my wife and said, “Did you know that everything in this apple comes from the sun? All of its components were given birth by a star.” It’s true. All the molecules that make up the apple were produced in a star like our sun. They eventually made their way to earth and are now part of this apple.
For thousands of years, we humans have been contemplating the relationship of the Earth to the cosmos. We know that the Earth is in the Milky Way Galaxy. It was once considered to be 1 of 200 billion galaxies. But recently, NASA announced that our galaxy is 1 of two trillion. That’s a lot of apple seeds!
Keeping track of a ratio is one way to gain perspective. In the Hebrew Bible, God told Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. In the New Testament, Jesus communicated our importance to God by telling his disciples that God keeps tracks of the follicles on our head.
Consider the structure of a cell. We know that mitochondria are the powerhouse of a cell. They provide chemical energy for cellular functioning. To gain some perspective on how much power mitochondria produce, if we were to scale up the mitochondria to our size, the energy produced would be the equivalent of a bolt of lightning. It’s hard to imagine that this is happening in every cell all the time.
The best way I know to change my perspective is to go for a walk. When I look up, I try to comprehend the vastness of the universe which helps me keep in perspective my place in the cosmos. When I look down, I am reminded how quickly everything changes. The grass growing around me, the leaves hanging from the trees, and the bees buzzing around my head will all be replaced this time next year.
What do you tell yourself when faced with a challenge?
The experience of heightened anxiety lacks perspective. Anxiety always demands an urgent response. Sometimes an anxious response is useful, for example, when a building is on fire. But research is beginning to reveal how our neurological systems are chronically anxious. A consistent call from an anxious system demanding an urgent response often has a limited grounding in reality.
If you could name one committee in the congregation that is chronically anxious, which one would it be? Finance, Trustees, Personnel, or something else? The best way to address chronic anxiety is with perspective, grounded in reality. Sometimes asking good questions helps move the conversation in the right direction:
- Have we ever been in this situation before?
- How has the congregation dealt with similar situations?
- Is this a short-term problem or a long-term problem?
- Will we still be dealing with this problem a year from now?
- Is this committee or team responsible for solving the problem, or is the congregation at larger responsible for solving the problem?
Stepping back and gain perspective can be extremely useful when dealing with anxious topics. Matching the situation with the right outlook can help reduce the anxiety of the moment.
But it always comes back to the internal struggle to keep one’s perspective in check. As a congregational leader, how does one shift the brain into more thoughtfulness? How anxious do I become when faced with an anxious committee or team? Am I able to conceive of dozens of solutions to the presenting problem or am I so anxious, I can hardly conceive of one? Am I thinking about the problem or reacting to my own level of anxiety?
How do you gain perspective in anxious times? What do you tell yourself when faced with anxious others or when you are anxious? Please be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below.