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  • Writer's pictureMaj-Britt Johnson

Be the Anxious Presence

I continue to be astounded by how similar working in real estate is to serving as a minister. I don’t know why I’m surprised, people are people, right? And both jobs involve interacting with people at crucial junctures in their lives.

Here’s one way that being a real estate guide (a.k.a. an agent) has turned out to be similar to being a minister. Coach Claire, I’m going to start calling her St. Claire if she keeps on saying all this ministerial stuff, said to our coaching group: Remember, you are the calm presence. Let your clients freak out if they need to. And they will. You are the calm in the storm. That’s your job. Remind them that they have time to make decisions.

The sentence that carried me across the choppy waters of my first year in ministry was essentially the same. Your job is to be the non-anxious presence. Countless mentors have passed that wisdom on to their ministerial interns. At some point I adopted it as my core job description. Three years of intense academic work, and hundreds of hours of internships, instantly distilled into one simple phrase, the one that allowed me to let go of performance anxiety. Over and over again. In my first year of ministry, when I felt wigged out internally, that sentence would rise out of my psyche like a lighthouse in a fog: Your job is to be the non-anxious presence. I’d breathe into it, and then I’d “act as if” I were non-anxious. Which made me feel as if I really were, and then I really was. Most of the time.

So, if you’re a minister, or for that matter if you’re any kind of human doing in the world, let your realtor be the non-anxious presence, for once. It’s totally natural to be anxious when you’re buying a house. Buying or selling a house is a big, big deal. It’s about big finances, big dreams for creating a home, and it's even about your identity. So go ahead and let yourself be the anxious presence. It’s someone else’s job, this time, to hold the still space for you. Let them. Relax into it.

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