Connecting with Culture
It’s been said that culture is ‘what we make of the world’, but what does that look like as Christians? How can we begin conversations about what’s goin...
You’ve probably been told that your grades don’t define you. That whatever happens, God is in control.
When you’re waiting for exam results, however, it can be hard to feel like that. In the last fortnight, around 60% of people experienced anxiety that interfered with their daily life – as results day looms, that figure is likely even higher. I remember that anxiety all too well. A piece of paper felt like it would determine everything about my future.
Did you know that research shows the body reacts physically to feeling anxious? We can get headaches, nausea, shakiness, stomach pains, or shortness of breath. But, as well as being affected by anxiety, our bodies can also help us cope with hard or scary moments. Amidst exams, workplace stress, and other overwhelming worries, your breath could actually be your superpower. Experts laud the benefits of mindfulness, singing, laughing, or simple movement – whether that’s doing couch-to-5K or even dancing in the kitchen.
It all helps us tap into a feeling of peace. Pema Chödrön, a Buddhist nun, said: ‘Peace isn’t an experience free of challenges, free of rough and smooth; it’s an experience that’s expansive enough to include all that arises without feeling threatened.’ Though it comes from outside the church, this thought echoes ancient biblical wisdom. Philippians 4:7 talks of an experience of peace ‘which transcends all understanding’, which ‘will guard your heart and mind’.
This isn’t just a comforting Bible verse to hold onto in moments of anxiety: it builds upon the gift of your body’s nervous system. The chance to physically experience a deep transcendent peace is, in a sense, a breath away.* By focusing on how we breathe, we can begin to change how we’re feeling: tapping into our body’s nervous system and automatically instigating a feeling of calm in our bodies. When prayerfully inspired, the air we breathe is more than just oxygen: as many of us often sing on Sundays, it’s his breath in our lungs.
And we’re offered this peace that we might then give it away, empowered by his Spirit, to be a non-anxious presence. Amidst results-day stress, embodying this peace that transcends all understanding could be our best witness.
And if peace feels unattainable, remember this: bad grades don’t ruin God’s plans. There is no plan B. Whatever happens, ‘everything’s going to be all right…’ (Jude 1:1 MSG). Breathe that in, friend, let it live in your bones and make a home in your heart and mind.
Ennette is based in Nottingham. She has her own Christian yoga and well-being business, @imagodeiwellbeing, and has the joy of recently joining the staff team at LICC as our Emerging Generations Champion.
* For some, however, anxiety will be crippling and clinical. It’s a symptom of living in a broken world. And it’s not because you haven’t prayed hard enough or because you’re a ‘bad’ Christian. If that’s you, pick up the phone to the GP or check out the NHS website for support and advice.