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Detoxing Anxiety 1: Identifying with Earthworm

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Ever since I can remember I have angst over anxiety. In these series of blogs, that will follow over the coming days, I’m sharing some of the insights (from Martyn Lloyd Jones to the CCEF) that continue to help me in my ongoing struggling to be a non-anxious presence in a troubled world.

Growing up, I could identify with the Earthworm in Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. He’s a perennial worrier. When James and his supersized insect friends suddenly find themselves drifting in the middle of an ocean with no land in site, inside a giant peach, Earthworm cries, “We’re finished! Every one of us is about to perish! … we’re not likely to find any food around here… We shall get thinner and thinner and thirstier and thirstier, and we shall all die a slow and grisly death from starvation. I am dying already. I am slowly shriveling up for want of food…” That’s the voice of worry.

“But good heavens,” says James “you must be blind!”

“You know very well I’m blind,” the Earthworm snaps. “There’s no need to rub it in.”

“I didn’t mean that,” James says quickly. “I’m sorry. But can’t you see that –”

“See?” shouted the poor Earthworm. “How can I see if I am blind?”

James takes a deep, slow breath. “Can’t you realize,” he said patiently, that “our whole ship is made of food!”

Everyone except Earthworm, rejoiced at this admittedly obvious discovery. Earthworm says “You must be crazy! You can’t eat the ship! It’s the only thing that is keeping us up!

“But you can eat all you want,” James answered. “It would take us weeks and weeks to make any sort of a dent in this enormous peach. Surely you can see that?”

“Good heavens, he’s right!” the others cried, beginning to eat.

But Earthworm looked worried. “What’s the problem?” Centipede asked. “The problem is. . .” the Earthworm said, “the problem is. . . well, the problem is that there is no problem!”

Like Earthworm many of us are perennial worriers. In 2013 there were 8.2 million cases of anxiety in the UK. Surveys in 2018 found that 61% of 16-25 year olds regularly feel stressed (worry’s cousin).

We get anxious about job security; the safety and wellbeing of children; the threat of terrorism and our health. And of course we get worked up about money. 67% of the British population say money causes them anxiety. From will I be able to pay my utility bills this month to will I ever be able to buy a house in London? And if I do, will I be able make the mortgage repayments?

What do you worry about? Sometimes I don’t think I just have a nervous system but am a nervous system. What about you? A good starting point is recognition and acknowledgement. Naming something is the beginning of knowing what to do about it. Like the game of musical chairs, take some time to sit down where you’re at, however ‘sweaty’ and agitated you may be, turn off the ‘noise’ as best you can, and tell God where you’re at (like Elijah did in 1 Kings 19).

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