When you’re out and about, do you ever find yourself so preoccupied with your own thoughts that you tune out the talk around you? Not me. Without even trying, I hear snippets of all kinds of conversation. I’m not listening deliberately, but I hear anyway. Perhaps it’s the curious writer in me.
Once as I walked behind two students on a university campus sidewalk. I caught snatches of what they were saying, but it was when they got ready to go their separate ways that I heard the words that stuck with me. The young woman told the fellow she was with, “Take it light.” English teacher that I am, I found the slangy usage unusual yet interesting, and when I thought about it, what that student said bordered on the profund, something of a metaphor applicable to life. Taking it light seems to me like a good thing for all of us high-octane people to do. It’s similar to the well-worn cliche, “Take it easy, ” but the young woman put a creative shine on it to encourage her friend not to worry, not to get stressed about the hundred-and-one things that can unsettle a university student’s life.
Today we don’t have to eavesdrop on our fellow travelers on life’s sidewalk since what they’re saying comes through loud and clear, and we’re unlikely to hear an upbeat suggestion to take it light. Wherever we go, complaints tend to filter into everyday conversation–and there is a lot to complain about these days: inflation at an all-time high, gas prices giving us “pain at the pump,” and food prices shaving our weekly budget. And beyond our personal reasons for complaint, a war rages on in Ukraine when we’d expected it to be over in a short time; supply chain tangles cause shortages, now including baby formula; the stock market’s wild swings threaten us with financial whiplash; and the COVID virus is stubbornly resisting our efforts to leave it behind. The problems are enormous, leaving us feeling like Atlas in Greek mythology, destined to hold up the heavens on his shoulder.
We don’t have to ignore the pressing problems in the world in order to take it light, however, but dwelling on them is the easiest way to guarantee that we’re miserable. Fixating on the problems can only create anxiety, even deprerssion, as we constantly monitor society’s scale to see which way it’s tipping. Well, the scale will always be tipping one way or the other, sometimes on the good side, sometimes on the bad. That’s the way life works, and if we understand this, we’ll begin to take it light, because a lot of the things we may be anxious about are beyond our abiility to change anyway. So let’s choose to concentrate on what we can change—for one, we can monitor our spending habits to help us deal with the escalating prices; and we can keep our consumption of the news to a manageable level that will not unsettle our emotional well-being. We can also endeavor to nurture our relationships with our family and friends, and, realizing that others live in the same world that is bombarded by stressful circumstances, we can make time to speak encouragement and grace into their lives. We can care deeply about what’s happening in our world, but do so without worry and without anxiety.
Life’s landscape may look calamitous, but do not worry. Long before we came into this age of anxiety, Jesus gave us the formula for dealing with the situation. “Come to Me,” He said, extending an invitation to all “who are heavy-laden,” or burdened. He holds out the attractive promise that “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). We’re invited to throw off the suffocating yoke of life’s perplexities that we cannot solve by ourselves and take on His easy one. When we do, we’ll find that even in the midst of the stresses, we can take it light.
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow,
but only empties today of its strength.”