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Waiting in American lines makes me anxious. The New York City subway system always reminds me of this. When the train pulls in, people huddle on line in bloated, snake-like waves. There is barely enough room for those in the soiled cars to squeeze out before a large wall of flesh counter-shoves its way into the daily commute.

How can I be calm when those subway doors open? Especially when thoughts begin to shove for precedence in my brain. Thoughts like:

“Ugh, I hope we all move faster, I don’t want to be crushed by the doors.”

“Seriously? They seriously expect more people to fit into that car? I should have brought some Crisco with me.”

“Wow, I think I just got called a freckled whore in Welsh. And I don’t have freckles.”

The experience becomes even worse when I am with someone. Then, I end up worrying about the safety of my companion. Heaven forbid if you get separated by those automatic doors…

How can I be calm when those subway doors open?

Those stuffy, sweaty New York tunnels make me pine for the London Underground. There, when a train pulled into the station, people neatly lined up on either side of the car door, giving fellow passengers a wide birth to alight. If someone bumped into you as you silently moved from platform to car, they would quickly mutter “sorry.” Of course, “sorry” could have the same connotations as the f-word, depending on the inflection–but, even in their annoyance, my fellow passengers contributed to a traveling environment that was quiet and respectful. I never felt anxious in the London Underground. Unlike New York, I got to experience waiting for my train without anxiety or fear.

For most of my life, I wait like I am on line in a New York subway rather than in the London Underground. Questions like these daily plague my mind:

“Am I saving enough money?”

“Am I advancing professionally in a timely manner?”

“Am I choosing my friends and lovers wisely?”

Yet, in the midst of swirling anxiety and fear I know that I am not alone. Others struggle with this as well. Henri Nouwen once wrote that it is hard to give up control of our lives and allow for God to define us, “trusting that God molds us according to God’s love and not according to our fear.”

What a beautiful thought: defining our lives by expansive Divine love and hope rather than by jostling fear and anxiety. Thoughts I find comforting to ponder this first week of Advent. I must wait this month not in fear of my life’s constant questions, but in peace. For it is the very act of God made flesh that creates a quiet space for renewal and redemption on earth.

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