There they are, overwhelmed with dread, where there was nothing to dread (Psalm 53:5; NIV).
For the last few weeks I have been exploring my chronic sense of *dread (see https://wp.me/p45bCr-dTm, for example). Today’s blog describes a way of handling it which came to me whilst I was praying a few days ago.
My dread springs from the trauma and emotional damage I experienced when I was young. A passage in Psalm 74 accurately captures the toxic atmosphere in my childhood home:
Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Your foes roared in the place where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved paneling with their axes and hatchets. They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshiped in the land (Psalm 74:3-8; NIV).
Praying before my icon
Last Wednesday I stood praying before my icon of Mary. As I touched both her hand and that of the infant Christ, I was longing for my dread to disappear. Suddenly I saw a different attitude to living with my dread. Thanking her, I hurried to write it down.
My notes became a prayer which encapsulates this new way forward. Now, I am trying to say, “Yes” to my dread, and to thank God for it, in accordance with the charism of the Community of Our Lady of Walsingham (p10, The Book of Life, Community of Our Lady of Walsingham; 2022).
Saying “Yes” to dread
So instead of longing for my dread go away, I now pray like this:
Lord, thank you for my sense of dread. It kept me safe when I was young, never knowing when, or where, the axe of my mother’s fury would fall next.
Please help me to welcome and accept my dread, surrounding it with love and gratitude. I want to rejoice in it as my oldest friend: the primitive, instinctive part of me that has protected me since birth.
After saying a spontaneous version of these words, I lay my hand on my abdomen and whisper to my dread:
My dearest friend, you can relax now. You no longer need to be constantly vigilant, ready to make me freeze, run away, or hide, in order to protect myself. You and I are in God’s hands, and we are safe now, no matter what happens.
A final prayer
Then I end like this:
Lord, thank you for my dread. Please help me to surround it with love. I ask this in your dear Son’s name. Amen.
Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; NIV).
*The symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), include “A pervasive feeling of apprehension or dread” (helpguide.org).
All your waves and breakers have swept over me (Psalm 42:7; NIV).
I am in the hands of the Lord, the Most High is my safe resting-place (Psalm 91:9; BBE).