Am I Growing in Compassion or in Anger?

I knew I had to change how I follow the news when I couldn’t stop thinking about certain stories and policies while mowing the lawn.

Listening to the radio became a hard way to manage how much I could take in or process at a time. Scrolling social media exposed me to so many different reactions and responses that left me fearful, anxious, or angry.

There are plenty of issues and stories in the news today that can spark legitimate anger. If asylum seekers being separated from their children doesn’t spark anger in us, then we have certainly lost our way as a society.

As sure as we can become angry over the news, I have grown concerned over my ability to remain compassionate and loving toward others. It’s bad enough to be in the grip of fear and anxiety over the news–I know this first hand–but the ways we consume media and news can certainly undermine our ability to remain compassionate and loving toward others, especially those we disagree with.

MIT researcher Sherry Turkle has written extensively about the impact of social media and technology in general on our relationships in her books Alone Together and Reclaiming Conversation. Turkle is one of the many researchers raising alarms about our loss of compassion and empathy when we interact with people over social media.

When we can’t see nonverbal cues, notice the impact of our words on others, or even just see other points of view as flesh and blood people with complexity and dignity, we can lump them together into groups that are easy to fear, insult, or hate.

I was an early adopter of social media, and I have felt compelled to use it less and less because of how much I feel it pulls me away from in-person, flesh and blood interactions and empathy.

I live in a very conservative area, and I routinely interact with people who hold views on gender and equality that I find oppressive. They vote for politicians I consider dishonest, cruel, and often racist. If we interacted only on social media, we would surely fragment over our ideas and lose touch with each other’s common humanity.

Adding to the complexity here: even being present for others on digital devices is difficult. We don’t have to sacrifice much or give much of ourselves on social media, and I can see myself slipping into the relational equivalent of slacktivism.

Although I try to think of ways to use technology to be more present for individuals and to share myself in ways that are more sacrificial and loving, there is a difference in being fully present for someone in person vs. being present over technology.

The times that I could be present for others may well be undermined by technology as I consume news and view reactions that could give rise to anger or fear. The more I develop imperfect caricatures of others and apply them to people I meet, the less likely I am to see them, to be present for them, and to treat them with love and empathy.

While anger will always be a legitimate part of the human experience, the ways I consume media can also send it spiraling out of control. And let’s face it, mowing the lawn is a hard enough chore with allergies and intense southern heat.

Who wants to stew on the news while mowing the lawn?

Recognizing the presence and power of thoughts and then meeting them with contemplative practices have helped me identify and respond to the clutter of my mind. Thomas Merton offered the following diagnosis that has often been on my mind:

“The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds and makes of all political and social life a mass illness. Without this housecleaning we cannot begin to see. Unless we see we cannot think.” -Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pg 72

I would add, if we cannot see and we cannot think, we cannot love.

 

Photo by Daniel Watson on Unsplash

There Is Life on the Other Side of Our Fears

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When I released my first book, an author I knew shared a picture of his book in a bargain bin at a discount book store.

I gasped in horror. What if that was my book? Would I dare to share a picture like that???

Eight years later, my first book has no doubt sent plenty of copies to the bargain bins as well. My publisher stopped promoting it—that’s what they told me.

While I had long taken pride in the fact that my book was still officially in print eight years after being released and selling more copies than the majority of first time books, I started to face my fear about going out of print. This was way beyond the bargain bin. This was THE END.

We all want to be validated and praised, and that’s a big part of what publishing commercially can do for a writer.

One of my lessons in contemplative prayer has been to go through my fears, to face them in all of their menacing power and to seek God on the other side. This is very counter-intuitive for a person like me. I have anxiety issues, and the last thing I want to do is to face the source of that anxiety. However, facing the source of my anxiety has been much better than reacting to the sensation of anxiety itself, and once I face the root of my anxiety, I actually have something to pray about.

So I faced my fear about going out of print. What would it mean?

Honestly… not that much. The book wasn’t being promoted. Why did I care about an official listing with a publisher if I could actually promote it better myself?

I was shocked to see how fast my fears melted away. As it turned out, my fragile ego had been fueling all of my fears and anxiety. I didn’t want to be found out as a fraud if my book didn’t stay in print, even if something like that could never determine my identity or worth.

How often do we give such tremendous, absolute power to fleeting, fickle things? Do I really want the business team at my publisher to hold the key to my identity as they debate black and white dollars and cents related to my book?

Once I faced the worst of my fears about going out of print, I started to find new energy for this book. I started looking into which chapters I could revise, and I lined up a college professor to help with the revisions since he’s been using the book for a seminar class for several years.

I still believe in this book, and I wanted to do the work to send it back into the world better than ever.

My agent and I decided that we would ask for the rights back after we got back from a major publishing conference. As it turned out, the publisher sent the official letter offering me the rights back a week after I returned from the conference.

Instead of wallowing in despair, I was delighted to see that the process was already in motion.

Before the files arrived from the publisher, I already had an order for 40 print copies.

There is life on the other side of our fears. Oftentimes, we just need to face them, bringing the root issues before God. The process isn’t neat or pleasant. I’ve certainly had enough devastating failure and struggles to make me desperate enough to find another way forward.

Perhaps you’re living in fear of something today that has power over you. Remember that God has not given you a spirit of fear, so if you’re under the power of fear, it’s not from God. There is healing and renewal for us, and we could end up in a place of freedom and hope that we never ever imagined.

We are loved. God is for us and desires our healing and freedom.

Perhaps today you need to read the words of Psalm 131:

O LORD, I am not proud; I have no haughty looks. I do not occupy myself with great matters, or with things that are too hard for me. But I still my soul and make it quiet, like a child upon its mother’s breast, my soul is quieted within me.
Psalm 131:1-3

May we find God’s rest on the other side of our fears.

 

Read more about the basics of contemplative prayer and Christian spirituality in my latest book:

Flee, Be Silent, Pray: An Anxious Evangelical Finds Peace with God through Contemplative Prayer

On sale for $2.99

Amazon Kindle | Amazon print | Kobo | B&N

 

The Hidden Danger of Business for Creative Workers

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“I just want to create things. I’ll let someone else handle the business and marketing side of things.” I hear this all of the time. I thought the same thing for a very, very long time.

That mindset may have been the most damaging mistake for my creative work. It laid a foundation for a myriad of other mistakes, resulting in hours and hours of work for books that suffered from my ignorance. Had I actually understood the business of publishing, how the industry has evolved, and where I fit into it (the hardest piece to sort out), I could have invested significantly more time in projects that would have been both creatively fulfilling and financially sustainable.

I’m not alone with my mistakes when it comes to the business side of creative work. I’ve seen friends literally lose control of their books because an inexperienced agent made a bad publishing deal with a new publisher who went out of business right after the book released. I’ve seen colleagues get more of less dropped by their publishers before or during their book releases, with publicists offer very vague, limited support.

Other professional writers and bloggers have suffered from SEO changes that hurt their websites or social media shifts, such as changes to Facebook’s author pages, that sent their click-throughs and ad revenue diving.

There are so many things that I wish I had done differently 5-6 years ago that could have helped myself immensely today. That isn’t to say that I wish I had given myself over completely to the business side of the publishing and writing industries. Rather, I wish I at least knew what I was missing and had been more intentional about the direction of my creative career.

Creative workers can mistakenly think that ignorance of business is a virtue that makes their work pure. 

Ignorance of the business end of creative work is by no means a virtue. It may actually hold your work back, deprive you of opportunities, and even prevent you from being generous with your work. For instance, some publishers make it very difficult to share a high quality eBook with potential readers and reviewers. You would think publishers understand the value of putting books in the hands of reviewers who can help improve your ranking on Amazon by putting your book over the 50-review threshold. However, there are many, many cases of employees at publishers shipping PDF’s of the book’s print file to reviewers, which appear as a mangled garble of words and punctuation in most eReaders.

The more you know about business and marketing going into creative work, the better off you’ll be in choosing the direction that is most sustainable and consistent with your values. I have taken one self-directed crash course after another in the publishing business and marketing. I’ve made enough mistakes over the years that I’ve been very motivated to sign up for industry publications and blogs such as Digital Book World, Jane Friedman’s blog, Writers Digest, Joanna Penn’s podcast, and many more. I’ve read books about the craft of writing, the business of writing, and how independent authors make it work. I’ve read about the marketing strategies and tactics that are available.

None of this has taken away from my creative vision. I’m not changing my plans dramatically. Rather, I’m learning where my creative work can overlap with the strategies that work best today.

Here’s the ironic part of this shift: the more I understand the publishing business and where I fit into it, the more I’ve been able to invest in the kind of work that I love. Back when I was completely ignorant of the publishing industry, I wasted so much time on social media, chasing influential people, and more or less wringing my hands about the things that didn’t work out.

With a better picture in my mind of what works and what doesn’t work, I’ve invested in tools that make my work time more efficient so I can focus on my creative projects and the freelancing that will help pay the bills.

Understanding the business side of my creative work means I can choose what to ignore and compensate for the gaps that creates. For my independent books I spend very little time courting endorsements or reviews on top blogs. Rather, I focus on sharing guest posts and give out the books liberally to all who will read and review them. It runs against some of the industry advice, but it feels like a good path for my work. It’s a choice that I’ve made with full awareness of my options.

These are the decisions that no one else could make for me. I couldn’t just “trust” the experts to tell me what to do. The experts can tell you what has worked for them and for other people, but they can’t tell you how to chart your creative career.

Most importantly, if you don’t set your own course with the backing of research and self-knowledge, you could end up running from half-baked ideas to half-hearted projects over and over again. It’s far better to spend time focusing on what you need to do and then jumping in with both feet and playing the long game. It’s a risk and you’ll certainly need to make adjustments along the way. However, it’s far better to give yourself to a particular plan in order to know with a fair amount of certainty that it doesn’t work than to dabble in three different directions without a clue about what would actually work if you give yourself fully to one of them. 

There’s a danger for creative workers when it comes to the business side of their work, but the danger in most cases is ignorance of business, rather than selling out. I only have my own network to go on, but I think the number of sell outs to business are far fewer than those who flounder because of ignorance of the business side of their work.

Authenticity and integrity do not demand ignorance of business.

If you value integrity and your creative vision, there’s no harm in learning about the business side of your creative work. Dig in and sort out which advice rings true and which doesn’t. Take a look at how you fit into your industry and how your creative work can either reach more people with this knowledge.

If any particular practice in your creative industry strikes you as troubling or unsustainable, no one will blame you for avoiding it. It’s better to see the opportunities and obstacles with clarity than to avoid them both in ignorance.

 

 

The Worst Has Already Happened and It’s Going to Be OK

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Failure, rejection, isolation: these are just a few of the things I fear on a day to day basis. Perhaps I don’t even take the time to reflect on what I fear the most. Fear can simmer in the back of my mind.

In our work, in our relationships, and in our spirituality, we often fear the worst happening.

I fear that no one will care about my next book.

I fear that the people I respect will reject me or, worse, ignore me.

I fear not having close friendships while everyone else has tight-knit communities who rally around them and cheer them on.

Writing has pushed me to face these limits in so many ways on a regular basis. On many occasions the worst has happened. I’ve faced all of these fears, and without a doubt they have left me devastated, sad, and despairing about the future.

Then something unexpected happened: the sun rose on another day, and another after that.

I didn’t really have any choice in the matter. I had to figure out what to do next.

I may have endured some of these struggles quietly, but don’t mistake that for handling them gracefully.

Facing failure, seeing my worst fears come to life again and again, and staring into the vast expanse of loneliness for long seasons pushed me to also see all of the unhealthy ways I’d relied on flimsy crutches to keep myself standing. Things such as the validation of the crowd or of specific authors and editors were given far too much weight in determining the value of my work and my progress in my calling.

Rejection today does not mean it’s inevitable for next year or five years from now if I keep working and try something different.

Most striking, the perspective I’ve gained after facing my worst fears revealed to me that so many of my worst fears were already realized long before I thought I was facing them. In many cases I lived in either delusion or ignorance, and it took falling on my face dramatically to finally remove my own blinders.

I saw the hard truth: while I feared that readers would be apathetic about my work, I could finally see in hindsight that very few people cared about my writing when I started out, and rightfully so. I needed a lot of time to work on it and to build deeper connections.

I don’t know how to avoid starting off so fragile. I know that the number one fear of bloggers is that no one will read their posts. So many don’t start because of this fear. I worked at my blog for several years without seeing much traction. It was the worst.

Then the sun came up again and again and again. I tried something different, and things finally started moving forward. I could point to several different factors, but perhaps I most needed to fail before I could figure out the right way forward.

With so many things in life we have to ditch the narrative of steady progress. Writing has showed me that it’s more like a series of wrong turns, crashes, and stretches of progress. I’ve been all over the map, and I don’t think I could truly move forward until I finally felt stuck, lost, or banged up beyond usefulness.

I had to be jarred from my daydream. It took failure to make me realize just how tough things were at the outset. And yet, once I saw how bad things were, I finally saw that things could may be OK if I kept moving forward.

I have no doubt now that the bad days will come again and again. I also know that there will be good days and even days of slow, incremental progress. I know that I have a calling to write, but that doesn’t guarantee a smooth trip forward.

Writing has served as a kind of lab for living. It has given me a much higher tolerance for pain and failure in other areas of my life. I am learning that I may fail others at times in relationships, but I can make progress in being more considerate or less controlling. I may really hate the first three months of running, but at a certain point I’ll start to crave my weekday runs. I may really struggle to focus for five minutes during prayer, but if I keep failing and trying month after month, I can build myself up to 20 minutes of quiet meditation that feel far more natural—and needed.

I still fear plenty of things. Worry is a lifestyle or habit that I’m learning to break. Some days I fail dramatically at trusting God with my worries and cares. I’m grateful that I’ve failed enough to know that tomorrow promises another day to take a step forward.

What Saved My Faith: A Synchroblog about Christian Survival and a Big Book Discount

 

synchroblog

I wrote last week about my doubts that arose when I didn’t receive any obvious manifestations of the Holy Spirit and God felt distant whenever I tried to pray. Much to my dismay, there wasn’t a quick fix to my faltering faith. I’m writing a follow up post as part of a synchroblog this week: What Saved My Faith? Synchroblog details are at the end of today’s post: 

 

When God felt distant throughout my early 20’s, I felt like my faith was completely breaking down. The only way to save my faith was to ask the question that I thought would mean losing it:

“Why has God abandoned me?”

What did my lack of charismatic experiences mean about my faith or about God?

 

I couldn’t figure out a way to make prayer work until I acknowledged that I’d hit a dead end. I had to admit that I was struggling to connect with God. In fact, one word sums my experience up:

SILENCE.

 

 

While I wouldn’t describe myself as particularly charismatic at the time,  I was used to spiritual experiences. I’d had many moments where the words of scripture seemed to jump off the page, and I sensed either an intense joy or sorrow. I’d felt conviction to make major life changes. I’d felt God’s presence while praying int he past.

However, one day it all just fell apart. I can’t say what exactly happened. It’s not like you plan for prayer to stop working or for insecurity to become the norm. Prayer, which had just flowed before, was riddled with uncertainty, doubt, and fear.

The Bible describes a present God who is able to meet people when they pray. That was not my experience.

I quickly became an anxious Christian. I wanted my spirituality to work, and if it didn’t work the way I expected it to work, then I feared that I’d been abandoned by God.

It’s not that I didn’t believe in God. I’d experienced too much. Rather, I just feared abandonment. All of the promises of scripture couldn’t squelch the burning anxiety that God had abandoned me.

“Where are you God? Why won’t you come near?” I asked each day.

I knew so many people who heard God speak, who experienced God, and who sensed God’s direction in their lives.

Why not me?

 

I had to start believing something without personal proof: What if God was near even if I couldn’t sense God’s presence? What if I had to remain faithful without any assurance that God saw me?

I had to learn how to wait on God.

I’ve been surrounded by Christians who talked about victory and breakthroughs, but I didn’t have any concept of a dark night of the soul. One thing pulled me out of my downward spiral into darkness: I relied on the prayers of others. 

First, I asked for prayer.

I asked for a lot of prayer, in fact. Each time I received assurances. I gave God every opportunity to tell me what I was doing wrong through the people praying for me. It turned out that I wasn’t living in sin or on the brink of being cast into the flames of hell or anything else.

In fact, my father-in-law sensed that God had imparted the Holy Spirit to me. If God wasn’t angry with me, I decided to take a different approach to prayer.

I prayed the prayers of others.

When you can’t find your own words to pray, the words of the Psalms and the historic church can serve as a real life saver. In fact, as I struggled with doubts and uncertainty during my dark night of the soul (or whatever one calls these things, I’m a Protestant, remember), I relied heavily on the daily prayers from the Divine Hours (buy the books or pray online).

The Divine Hours exposed me to all kinds of prayers: petitions, laments, praise, etc. I saw that doubt, dark nights of the soul, fear, and uncertainty came up quite a bit while praying. The majority of the readings were short passages of scripture, and I saw that waiting on the Lord comes up quite a bit in the Bible and especially in collected prayers in the Hours.

Psalm 5:3
In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.

Psalm 27:14
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Psalm 130:5-6
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

The Psalms are full of waiting, in fact.

So I started to wait. I started to rely on the prayers of others. Slowly, gradually, I learned to wait and trust God on my own.

The more I relied on the prayers of others, the more I say that my prayers were full of pushy petitions and demanding deadlines. I was asking God to show up in the time, place, and manner I specified. Perhaps my season of silence was God’s way of shutting down the ways I’d been trying to exert my control over prayer. Who knows.

I started waiting and praying the prayers of others, and I eventually began to sense God’s presence and voice again. In silence and in the recitation of scripture, I found a new path to God that didn’t rely on crafting clever prayers. In fact, prayer became peaceful and restful, inviting God to come and simply paying attention to however the Spirit would move.

I don’t think I could have figured out how to pray on my own. I had to experience the prayers of others and copy the prayers of scripture and fellow Christians. That felt like cheating. It made me feel like a failure, as if I wasn’t smart enough to sort this out on my own.

Rather than failing, I was actually learning what faith looks like. I was learning to stop relying on my won wisdom and to seek the wisdom that can only come from God alone.  By relying on the prayers of others, I finally learned what it means to pray in faith, waiting and trusting in the presence and direction of God.

The things that feel like threats to our faith are often just the necessary failure of flawed faith that must break down and shatter before real faith can take their place. 

 

This post is part of a synchroblog for the release of A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth  that’s answering the following question:

What saved your faith? 

Write a post this week answering that question and then scroll down to learn how to join the synchroblog.

 

A Christian Survival Guide is also being offered at a steep discount this week.

On Monday, August 18th, it will be offered as a free eBook at select sites:

Amazon and B&N

Tuesday-Friday, August 19-22, it will be offered for $2.99. (See also the Publisher)

Print Copies: Get $3 off on Amazon this week.

Survival Guide Order Button

 

How to Join the Synchroblog:

1. Write a post for your blog during the week of August 18-23.

2. Begin or end your post with something like, “I’m joining the synchroblog for the release of A Christian Survival Guide: A Lifeline to Faith and Growth by answering the prompt: ‘What saved my faith?'”

3. End with a link to today’s post.  (This is the short link: “http://wp.me/p36rtR-k5”). Add the link up information to your post, the synchroblog image, and end your post with a prompt like this: “What saved your faith? Write your own post answering that question and then visit www.edcyzewski.com to learn how you can join the synchroblog or to read additional posts to celebrate the release of Ed’s book A Christian Survival Guide, which is discounted on Amazon this week. “

4. Link to your post in the comment section on Ed’s blog post and tweet with the hashtag “#SavedMyFaith”. 

5. Read other posts by checking the comments or the #SavedMyFaith hashtag on Twitter. Then comment, tweet, or share the best posts you find!

My Post for A Deeper Story: Things Will Not Get Better and That’s OK

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This week I’m writing over at a Deeper Story about the ways anxiety has become a habit and how being a parent has helped:

It’s bath time for our son Ethan. I’ve taken over most nights this summer during the final weeks of my wife’s pregnancy. He’s splashing in the tub without a care in the world, tossing his tugboat out of the tub along with the bird-shaped water scoop. He’s been a one-toy guy lately, focusing on a bottle that fills up with water, shooting a stream of bubbles to the surface.

I gather his pajamas, toothbrush, and towel while he chirps and splashes. Most nights I just sit next to him while he plays. We’re both at peace as the day nears its end.

I’m often soaking wet by the end of the bath thanks to his splashing and the exertion of scrubbing him, wrangling him with his towel, and dressing him. He knows the routine, and doesn’t need much prompting to charge into his room for his lovey, plopping onto his bed, and waiting for my wife to join us for a few books.

I rarely turn on the lights during the bath or story time if the sun is still up, preferring the peace of the muted evening light. For once in the past five years, my mind and heart match the tranquility of our home…

Read the rest at A Deeper Story.

Why I Avoided Christians Who Lost Their Faith

When faith is uncertain and clouded

This week I’m sharing a story from my Christian Survival Guide book about the time I avoided a man who was a former Christian:

From the post…

I had a lot of reasons to hate Clark.

We were polar opposites in every way. I’m a driven, self-starter who would rather die than break the rules. He was the atypical slacker who did the bare minimum to get by, letting others, namely me, do the heavy lifting for him. He’d chat up anyone near his office, and when company proved hard to find, he’d wander the building in search of anyone willing to kill a half hour with him.

When I didn’t cover for his deficiencies, Clark snapped that I’d better do my job.

I stormed away, swearing just loud enough for a co-worker to hear me.

Clark brought out the worst in me, and I let it happen rather than seeking to understand him or at least have a frank conversation about our differences. Over the years, we maintained an uneasy truce with our parallel careers within a small business of no more than ten employees.

At a company event, we happened to end up sitting next to each other. Seeking any kind of conversation topic, I asked him about his family who lived a few hours away. He mentioned that they were Christians, and he couldn’t stand the people at their church.

No surprise there. I was sure they felt the same way about him.

Clark went on to share that he had, in fact, been a Bible study leader and church elder before leaving the faith. I can’t tell you what we talked about after that. I just remember being shocked and then suddenly quite afraid.

Clark had a significant amount of Bible knowledge. He’d been taught everything that I knew. For some reason it stopped working for him.

Why? Why did he leave the faith? Honestly, I didn’t want to know.

Seeing Clark as a fallen Christian suddenly opened my eyes to my own hypocrisy. I had failed him greatly by hating him for his work habits. And when I learned that he had left the faith, I only wanted to write him off all the more. I didn’t want to wrestle with any of the questions or issues that wrecked his faith.

Fearing the fate of my fragile faith, I distanced myself from doubters like Clark.

Isn’t that something we’re all tempted to do when we meet someone who has left the faith?

Read the rest at A Deeper Story.

Two Years Ago I Had an Anxiety Attack And Then We Had a Baby

Ethan birthday with Ed CyzewskiTwo years ago I was losing my mind. Fifteen years of dreading my (limited) role in the labor process and exponential fear about parenthood culminated in an evening when we wife walked into our bedroom at midnight and told me, “It’s starting.”

“Dear God, help me,” was about all I could pray as I writhed in the grips of an anxiety attack. My chest tightened and I puffed out my breaths, the prospect of sleep all but gone at that point.

This moment was the culmination of many, many anxiety attacks and public faintings.

Learning about the birth process in college?

Out cold in my desk.

Talking about having a baby four years ago?

Panic attack.

Going to Bradley birth class with my pregnant wife?

Panic attacks.

Infant CPR class?

Panic attack.

Thinking about birth?

Panic attack.

I nearly lost my mind anticipating the birth of Ethan. It was nine months of living in fear of what I wanted the most. I really wanted to have a child. I was just terrified of the labor process and of being a parent to a helpless little baby.

The fears kept invading my mind:

I was going to drop the baby, suffocate the baby, or expose the baby to innumerable dangers. I would surely do something to hurt our child.

And even if our child managed to survive my incompetence, I could also be a terrible father. Here’s the thing: I get bored around other people’s kids. I mean, they’re great. We interact and play. It’s a great time for 30, even 60 minutes. But could I survive an entire day of attentiveness to my own child? Would I just end up praying for him to leave me alone or take a nap or something?

My pounding heart aside, we couldn’t stop labor.

So this is what happened, we took a lot of walks. I tried to control my anxiety, and when things got totally insane and my wife went through transition in the car on the way to the hospital, I got my head in the game, guiding her through a calming breathing procedure that calmed myself as well.

We were in this amazing rhythm and kept it going on the way up the elevator to the delivery floor even as a nurse chided me for not “encouraging” her.

It was otherworldly to think that a baby would soon come out of my wife. I was relatively calm, and I had to keep telling myself that I wasn’t the one actually in labor. In fact, it helped to remember that I had a role to play as support for Julie.

The closer we got to the actual birth, the calmer I became, more focused, more aware of the moment. Anxiety didn’t have any space in my head to inject worst case scenarios. Soon we had a little baby snuggled against my wife’s chest as she said, “Oh sweetheart, sweetheart!”

When the nurses weighed him, I stood by his side and let him grip my finger, rubbing his head and belly.

Everything in the past two years has been wonderful and exhausting. Having my own child was completely different. It’s always a wonder to see your own child develop and change from day to day, learning and experimenting, improvising in his own ways.

You never know what he’s going to put in one of the pots in our kitchen. He may just as likely help me stir an egg as plunge his hand into the bowl. Some days he’ll throw a ball right to me and other days he’ll turn away from me and throw the ball as hard as he can.

You wonder, what is he thinking?

We’re anticipating our next son any day now. He’s due on July 22nd, but my wife has already had a few strong contractions that ended after she sat down for a while. On Monday she was exhausted and had a few contractions, and the old anxiety returned. I could barely focus on my work all morning.

What brought on the anxiety?

I’m not sure. I didn’t really have any concrete fears that morning. Just the waves of anxiety rolling in the pit of my stomach. Perhaps I feared change and the unknown. Perhaps I had no good reason for all of the anxiety.

I thought of Ethan and how wonderful the past two years have been.

He’s had his bumps and bruises that no parent could prevent. He’s stolen hours and hours of sleep. He pooped on me once. That’s about it. Generally speaking, there most likely isn’t anything to fear at all. It’s just one big unknown cliff I’m jumping off, and I don’t get to say when the leap begins.

When you leap into the unknowns of parenthood, you fall into the wonder of praying over your child and finding that it connects you with the heart of God like nothing else. It’s like getting baptized in the Holy Spirit every time for me. I’ve fallen into the joys of watching him play in his pool where he dumps after from one boat to another, seeing him build train tracks and push his trains around for hours, and reading books together that he later picks up to “read” on his own with crossed legs.

There are many unknown blessings that you land on if you leap into parenthood.

I know that my wife is healthy, the baby is in great shape for a safe delivery, and friends will care for Ethan’s every need. We don’t have much to fear.

Two years ago our life changed forever. Besides the lost sleep and the pooped-on t-shirt I threw out, I learned that the majority of my anxiety has no basis in reality. It’s just an exercise in my mind shadow-boxing, flailing against the impossibility of controlling the future.

After my anxiety attack this past Monday, I stepped back and saw all that has been wonderful and joyful about parenting Ethan. I saw that anxiety may come, but it doesn’t have to stay.

It took the arrival of a beautiful little boy two years ago with a perfect head of hair to show me that fear of the unknown cannot compare with the ever-expanding love of parents for their children.