Daily Meditations

The Age of Anxiety

Our age has been called the age of anxiety, and I think it’s a good description for this time. We no longer know where our foundations are. When we’re not sure what is certain, when the world and our worldview keep being redefined every few months, we’re going to be anxious. We want to get rid of that anxiety as quickly as we can. Yet, to be a good leader of anything today—a good pastor, bishop, father or mother—you have to be able to contain, to hold patiently, a certain degree of anxiety. Leaders who cannot hold anxiety will never lead you to anyplace new.

Expelling what you can’t embrace gives you an identity, but it’s a negative identity. It’s not life energy; it’s death energy. Formulating what you are against gives you a very quick, clear, and clean sense of yourself. Thus, most people fall for it. People more easily define themselves by what they are against, by who they hate, by who else is wrong, instead of by what they believe in and whom they love.


Christians indeed have a strange image of God: a naked, bleeding man, dying on a cross. It’s not what you would think the image of God could be or should be. Is God eccentric here, or is it we who have not diagnosed the human situation correctly?

Jesus receives our hatred and does not return it. He suffers and does not make the other suffer. He does not first look at changing others, but pays the price of change within himself. He absorbs the mystery of human sin rather than passing it on. He does not use his suffering and death as power over others to punish them, but as power for others to transform them. He includes and forgives the sinner instead of hating him, which would only continue the pattern of hate. Amazing that people cannot see that!

It’s interesting that Jesus identifies forgiveness with breathing (John 20:22-23), the one thing that you have done constantly since you were born and will do until you die. He says God’s forgiveness is like breathing. Forgiveness is not apparently something God does; it is who God is. God can do no other.


The cross is how to work for the answer without becoming part of the problem. The cross is about how to stand against hate without becoming hate yourself. How can you stand against hate without letting it frame the question? How do we oppose the evil, the hurts, the betrayals, the abandonment, the rejections, and the disappointments in our lives, the people who let us down, the people who turn against us, and the people who tell lies about us? How do we stand against that in a way that we do not become a mirror image of the same thing? In the end, this is the essential spiritual question.

The cross is a geometric image that you can hold onto and draw life from, a visual metaphor for the paradoxical nature or cruciform pattern of reality. Reality is filled with contradictions. Jesus was killed on the collision of cross-purposes, conflicting interests and half-truths that all of life is. The people who live and hold the contradictions, in fact, are the saviors of the world! These are the people who are the agents of all true transformation, reconciliation and newness.


Adapted from Richard Rohr, Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis in an Age of Anxiety