I am an artist freshly out of seminary, so one might think me most qualified to speak on art and spirituality. I do have plenty of resources using art to facilitate a closer encounter with God, but today I want to talk to you about something that's been even more on my mind for 2 years. In fact, probably for a cumulative 20 years of my 40 year life.
OCD. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
A counselor diagnosed me with it a couple years ago in the form of "Relationship OCD" but it has taken several forms throughout my life that I can now look back at and recognize. It is usually triggered, and takes over when a very scary decision is before me about my identity and/or what people think of me.
It has always been a part of my dating. In about the second month of dating someone I end up in a counselor's office because I've worked myself into such a tangle of anxiety that all I know is that I just need help. My head goes through reason after reason why maybe this person is the right person or maybe they are not. It's a very threatening decision knowing that my likely two options include possible misery and divorce, or loneliness and the awkward searching again for love.
But OCD also reared its head when I had doubt about God. My mind worked overtime trying to explain away my doubts that seemed to threaten my faith, and therefore my standing in my church community (which was the majority of my community).
And there have been stages where I felt confused about my sexuality. That was also a very threatening future.
In all these times I just get this knot in my stomach and my head just can not put the question down. Some days, even when I try to think of something else, the threat pounds thoughts at me like waves every ten seconds. I have to figure it out because it feels like there's so much at stake and thinking is all I know to do to solve it. It's in our genetics. People with OCD have a larger analytical part of their brain than others, so they turn to what they know when they feel a tension they need to solve.
Once I realized that I had diagnosable Relationship OCD I went to a secular counselor designated for that. Her main instruction was just to practice dropping the thoughts over and over. Practice it over and over. It worked, if I was really able to force my mind to do this. But the worry would bring it back up again and just seemed like a bandaid.
But about a year ago something new came into play that seemed to change the game.
I started treating it like Philippians 4:6-8 instructed me to. It says:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Instead of just dropping the thought, I started offering each one up to God. I ask for help. I ask for faith and trust. And not only does it short circuit the worry loop, but it also takes the pressure off of me. The act surrenders what I had been carrying.
And was surprised that I found I can also do this with angry thoughts, and annoyed thoughts, and mean thoughts too. We have more control over our mind than we thought.
Now it's just a matter of practicing that over and over, until he has completed his good work in us.
Raw Spoon, for the website Shepherdheart.com