Courage does not eliminate anxiety, but bears it without fear. The opposite of fear is trust. If in the midst of anxiety we trust in life, life will lead us through any tight spot into a new birth.
+ Dear Friends,
Greetings and all good wishes to you at this season! It is a sacred season for many spiritual traditions, celebrated in many different ways. When i was looking for one theme that might be common to this variety of celebrations, the theme of birth stood out: the birth of new light in the darkest night of winter, the birth of joy, one candle at a time, the Christ Child’s birth at Christmas, or the birth of a New Year with all its hopes and promises.
Birth is being celebrated everywhere on Earth as a joyful event, and joyful it is indeed. But let us not forget at what price this joy must be bought. Every mother knows the agony that goes with birth, and the newborn, too, must pay a high price. My own poor mother was in labor with me, her firstborn, for two days and a night, and what finally appeared was not my head, but my right hand. Poor mother! Poor me! And yet, we made it. This, in fact, is something all of us can say with gratitude as we look back on our birth: We made it! Even our newborn lambs at Mount Saviour, still wet and shivering next to their mothers, seem to bleat, “We made it through all this anxiety!”
The word anxiety comes from a root that means narrowness, choking, and constriction. No wonder: Is not the prototype of every anxiety our original passage through the narrow birth canal? At our first birth we accomplish this passage with instinctive fearlessness; later in life we must consciously practice not to fear in spite of anxiety when the road gets narrow, not to fear when anxiety tightens its grip on us. We must distinguish between fear and anxiety: Anxiety is unavoidable in life; fear is optional. Yes, we can choose between fear and courage. Fear puts up resistance against anxiety and so gets stuck in it; courage accepts anxiety as a given and confidently passes through it. This doesn’t mean that the anxiety is now gone. Courage does not eliminate anxiety, but bears it without fear. The opposite of fear is trust. If in the midst of anxiety we trust in life, life will lead us through any tight spot into a new birth. Experience proves this as we look back at anxious moments: The more frightening the anxiety we had to pass through, the more liberating the new life that emerged.
Remembering this gives a boost to my courage amidst the anxieties we must confront on every side these days. There’s no denying that we have created a frightening world, but we can soberly face our anxieties and trust in life, nevertheless. Our world is in labor pains and the child to be born is a new humanity on a higher level of consciousness. If we labor as if everything depended on us and at the same time know that everything is gift, we may with trust in life anticipate the day when we can say, “So this is how true humanity looks!”
“Fear not!” says Saint Augustine, “All is grace.” This fearless trust, this openness for surprise is what i wish each one of you and all of us together at this Season of New Birth,
Your brother David
Brother David is the founding advisor of A Network for Grateful Living. He is a Benedictine monk, interfaith pioneer, author, and teacher. You can read more about him and find his extensive online archives here.
If you would like to offer a brief reflection on this Christmas Letter or a short holiday greeting for Br. David, you may do so in the space below.
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Thank you Brother David for this message of 2016. On this first and always hopeful day of a new year, had a huge surprise and disappointment of trust. I prayed for grace…that, is now seeping slowly back into my soul.
And, one of the things that I want to learn from you this year is understanding, as a believer in Christ as the son of God who was crucified for our sins and rose again from the dead, how you can embrace the teachings of Buddha?
From Lesa Zuehlke: Thank you Brother David for your blessed insights and guidance for everyone! You are a gift of light in the world. I can pass this wisdom on to my thirty music students so they can enjoy your gifts also. Love and blessings for a wonderful Christmas season and very happy and blessed New Year! Love, Lesa
Thank you brother David for your special wishes, and my best wishes to you for these days and the new year.
Your words and your calmness help me, in my own anxiety.
God is with you.
Merry Christmas Brother David. You have become my beacon back to God in this crazy judgmental world. You help me remember Martin Luther’s teaching and to show by example. You also embrace the meditative silence that I practice daily to calm my anxiety. Thank you. Abby
¡Feliz Navidad, Hermano David! Thank you for always helping us funderstand sacred words that are just labels without attaching them to our hearts. Jim
Brother David, I came upon your work recently as I was searching for a way to make sense of the chaos plaguing my life. Listening to your calm voice and seeing your joy in life was inspiring. Thank you and merry Christmas!
Merry Christmas to you dear brother David! Your voice has accompanied me through the years encouraging me to open my eyes to the miracle all around me. This letter is an especially helpful reminder to look at the many events in our world with more heart. Joyful birth for each of us.
Hug and appreciation to you,
Thank you very much for your so nice words. Your message sounds like a sweet melody for my heart. Gave me up courage and hope to continue believing in life.
All good wishes to you at this season!
“All is grace”
Fraternal hug, Cintia
And I would like to wish all the best for gratefulness family: Kristi, Margaret, Saoirse and Katie
Thank you for your kind wishes, dear Cintia. Blessings and warm gratitude to you!
Thank you, Brother David, for this beautiful and thought-provoking letter! This year it will be harder for many to find the peace we all long for. We are very much in need of the fearless trust you talk about!
An abundance of blessings to you this Christmastime and in the New Year!