A look at today’s readings gives me the perfect word:
David is beset with problems—his own deeds, Shimei heaving rocks and dirt at him, and his precipitate flight; the Psalmist’s lament (“Nobody likes me! Everyone hates me! HELP!”); Legion and his collection of unclean spirits. Who among us is not “beset”? Who hasn’t felt completely overwhelmed? Sometimes the overwhelmingness is of our own making (bad or nonexistent scheduling, discipline, choices); sometimes it seems that we’re being nibbled to death for no apparent reason. It’s amazing, really, how today’s three readings touch such a chord in all of our hearts; by the simple fact of being a human, we have all had these feelings.
Sometimes we want, in these situations, to strike back, or out, to heave the rocks and the dirt back in the direction they came from; other times we wish our own problems on others (lacking a herd of swine). When I have these experiences, I try to do something my father told me to do a long time ago:
Take a deep breath.
That’s right, I take a deep breath, and I look for the center of myself, the calming influence. At that center we can find God—He for whom the Psalmist calls. It seems that at the center of things—and we have to look, and we have to work at it—we can find a core—sometimes a tiny core—of peace and reason. We hang on to that core, that seed of peace and reason, for dear life, and it gradually expands, and we see things as they are, as they can be, and/or as they should be, and it gives us perhaps just the littlest bit of strength to go on, or a new perspective. That, really, is what faith is largely about—helping us overcome being “beset.”