When I’m stressed out and overwhelmed by anxiety, I picture the red parlor piano my grandparents had in their basement in New York. It was always out of tune but my cousins and I couldn’t resist it. They actually knew how to play the piano, but no matter what they played it always sounded kind of creepy, even a little demonic because the wires were warped.
Then I’d come in with no piano skills whatsoever and just pound on the keys until my hands hurt or my grandmother yelled at me to shut up from the top of the stairs.
Sometimes I feel like that piano is sitting on my chest and the creepy music could be the soundtrack of my life. I feel it squeezing my rib cage, pushing on my heart, making it harder for it to beat. I don’t get a little cranky when I’m stressed, I get crushed.
Then, just when I’m about to accuse God of being an absentee father, I hear something or read something that jars me out of my own head and shoves me away from my pity party in the making and I realize someone else in the world has problems, too.
I can’t always stop that wave from hitting me and I can’t always immediately fix the circumstances that are turning me into an emotional pancake! But it’s really hard to baste in my own misery when I turn my time and attention to others. When I’m stuck on me, it’s time to start praying for someone else. It doesn’t have to be a long, flowery prayer. (Thank goodness because I’m not the long, flowery type.) “Lord, please help Bob” is plenty effective. God knows when we’re having a hard time. If God digs obedience when we’re doing great then I have a feeling He appreciates it even more when we’d rather eat a tub of Nutella, spoke a pack of cigarettes and curse the day we were born.
My dear friend and mentor, Shaunti Feldhahn, has always tried to instill this little wisdom nugget in me. It’s biblical, obviously, but I haven’t always thought of prayer as being beneficial for both sides. I suppose I always thought God told us to pray for others so we don’t become selfish jerks, and while I’m sure that’s at least a little bit true, I simply couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that praying for another person actually helps us, too.
You’re at home watching (fill in some random Netflix series) in your pajamas with the hole in the crotch. You’re covered in orange Dorito cheese. You have $3 till Friday and your cell phone got turned off. WELCOME TO MY SATURDAYS! Anyway…
You could stay home and…
…feel sorry for yourself
…hate your neighbor because he has a pool
…tell yourself you will always be poor and you should just move into a box and give up trying to be an adult
…lick the cheese off your fingers
…turn off that smut you’re watching
…ask God to help and bless someone else
…realize that someone out there might need you
…stop isolating yourself and meet up with a friend who needs a listening ear
…improve your own mood just by being unwilling to wallow in your problems
Here’s the other thing: if you make an effort to do this ALL THE TIME, you might just PREVENT yourself from being squashed by a giant red piano that plays devil music and wants to eat your soul!
Look up and outside of yourself and take a step towards healing and prevention.