As I was mulling over this week’s FMF prompt of ‘Five’, I realised I was staring at my open hand. Five fingers seemed a too obvious association but then I remembered the Calming Hand. For those who don’t know, this is a technique to help people control panic attacks with each digit a prompt for each action. It’s one of the techniques we teach our patients who suffer with anxiety and/or breathlessness.
But then I fell to wondering if the five principles of the Calming Hand could be applied to our Christian lives? Could they be used as prompts to cope better with spiritual stress? So here goes:
- THUMB: RECOGNISE the signs. We can’t change what we don’t acknowledge. Learn the early signs of not coping and act then.
- FOREFINGER: SIGH OUT (FLOP AND DROP SHOULDERS). Relaxing our shoulders enables us to take better breaths. So whatever we’re carrying on those shoulders, whatever’s weighing us down, drop it at Jesus’ feet. Sigh – tell God how we feel. He won’t be fazed – He already knows anyway and loves us beyond measure so we can tell Him exactly how we feel.
- MIDDLE FINGER: INHALE slowly and gently. Inhale God’s love. Inhale His strength. Inhale His peace. Take our time and be gentle with ourselves (no falling into the familiar and far too easy trap of self recrimination).
- RING FINGER: EXHALE longer than you inhale. Inhaling is a reflex action and will happen automatically so if we want to relax, better to do a long breath out than take a deep breath in. Imagine exhaling all our pain and unhelpful habits – exhale resentment, jealousy, bitterness, despair. Remember ‘perfect love casts out fear’ so as we inhale God’s love there will be less and less space for these opposites.
- LITTLE FINGER: STRETCH HAND AND RELAX. Stretch those spiritual muscles and start acting out truths we know even if we don’t feel them yet. Remind ourselves of reassuring words from Scripture. Follow where God is calling us. Stretch our hand out to others and look beyond ourselves. And relax – know that our Father never leaves us nor forsakes us, that He will never reach the end of His patience with us, and that nothing can separate us from His love in Christ Jesus.
And it’s worth bearing in mind that it may be necessary, likely even, to repeat the Calming Hand for it to work.