But relaxed isn't a word you hear a great deal in discussions of Christian virtue and character. And yet, I think relaxation is key, a foundational issue.
Non-violence flows out of relaxation. Kindness, gentleness and mercy all flow out of relaxation. Joy and gratitude are rooted in relaxation.
And by relaxation I mean being physically and mentally at ease. Being non-anxious. Peaceful and calm in body and mind. Non-defensive. Non-neurotic. Unselfconscious. Emotionally quiet and still.
Most of us are not relaxed in this way. We are constantly being triggered by the successes and failures of others. We are emotionally reactive--always being angered, disturbed or upset by other people. Our fuse is short. Our nerves are on edge. Our stomachs clench and turn. Our heartbeats race. Our thoughts swirl and obsess.
We feel jerked around by events, small and large. We feel pushed and pulled by every little thing. We feel knocked off balance.
We crave. We desire. We worry. We obsess. We ruminate. We rant. We self-medicate. We despair.
We are not relaxed.
And it's difficult to be a human being if you aren't relaxed. It's difficult to be emotionally available to others if you aren't relaxed.
So how do we become relaxed?
Religious traditions differ in how they answer that question. The stoics have their approach. So does Buddhism.
Jesus's answer is twofold.
First, trust. Trust that God will take care for you. Consider the lilies and the birds.
Second, place your heart in a location where moth and rust do not destroy or thieves break in and steal. Your heart must be "hidden in Christ" in a place where death has no dominion.
Trouble is, these recommendations strike us as pious platitudes. Trust. Lay up your treasures in heaven. These are the sorts of things we tell children in Sunday School. These are recommendations we find in inspirational books and on bumper stickers.
Trust. Lay up your treasures in heaven. We are way, way too sophisticated for that. Life is too dark and too hard for such saccharine recommendations.
But hold on, just for a second. Put your cynicism and your education aside for a moment.
Seriously, stop and consider the lilies. Consider. Consider the birds.
What would it mean to live like that, if just for a moment, today? What would it look like to live like the flowers and the birds?
And what would it mean that my heart was hidden in a place where what I treasure couldn't be lost, broken or destroyed? What would it mean to "seek first the Kingdom"?
Might I become more relaxed? More natural? More at peace? More awake? More aware? More free?
True, we have our doubts about all this.
It all sounds so childish and childlike. Like a lesson we've heard before but never learned.
It's almost as if one must become like a child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.