I felt scattered. I woke up and the anxiety started almost immediately. I needed to write, but I couldn’t focus and didn’t think I had any good ideas. So, I decided to clean the house a little bit because I needed to be productive. I picked up a scrap piece of paper with some notes that I’d jotted down for a previous writing piece. I intended to throw it out when I noticed a reference to the Bible story about Zacchaeus that hadn’t made it into the earlier writing. And that got me thinking.
Jesus was passing through Jericho. Zacchaeus was the wealthy chief tax collector and considered a sinner by the people. “He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.” I imagine that Zacchaeus felt pretty scattered that day. He knew he wasn’t popular with the people, and yet he wanted to see this man who stirred the interest and admiration of the people. He ran ahead of everyone and then shimmied up a tree because he knew he had no chance to see Jesus if he didn’t. I bet he didn’t climb trees very often. I can see him breathing hard, the sweat dripping off him, possibly scraped and bruised, feet slipping, hanging on as best he could. Completely uncomfortable and awkward. Despite his short stature, he probably felt even smaller emotionally in those minutes waiting for Jesus too.
And then Jesus arrived and approached the tree. I’ve always assumed that Zacchaeus would be thrilled that Jesus noticed him, but I wonder if at first, he was scared. Did the adrenaline of fear shoot through his body? He knew he’d cheated people out of money. Would this man Jesus, whom the people loved, condemn him, call him out, turn the crowd against him while he was trapped up in the tree?
But then Jesus “looked up and said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” After his encounter with Jesus, Zacchaeus gladly offered to give half of his possessions to the poor and repay those he’d cheated with four times the amount. Jesus told everyone that salvation had come to Zacchaeus’ house that day. Jesus declared that he “came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:1-10).
When Zacchaeus was scattered and lost, Jesus told him to come down out of his precarious position, get out of his own head, and ground himself in the presence of Jesus. I think God calls us to do the same. And yet, sometimes, when I’m feeling scattered, I do almost everything else before I pray about the situation. When I stop and realize I need to tell God about my state of anxiety, God begins the process of centering me, bringing my focus back to God. I usually find I become the most grounded when I write out my prayers. I always have a journal at the ready and pour out my thoughts and emotions to God in letter form. When I empty myself on the page, it’s as if Jesus stands at the foot of the metaphorical tree I’ve climbed up and tells me, “Come down immediately, look at me, calm down, let’s figure it out.”
God sees us. God seeks and saves the lost and the anxious. Let us ground ourselves with God in prayer when we feel scattered. God will meet us where we are and help us regain our footing.