Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Letting Go (of Worry)
The first time I remember worrying about something was when I was four years old. We were moving to a new house in a new subdivision, with a lot of undeveloped woods right across the street. I rode with my father back to our duplex to retrieve kitchen stuff like pots and pans. I didn’t want to leave my mother by herself at the new house, and I asked my father, “Will the bears get her?”
When I was 8 and in the third grade, I accidentally brought a book home that we were absolutely forbidden from taking from the classroom. I was horrified. I was too afraid even to mention it to my parents. That night, I went with them to a little theater production of “The Music Man,” and fretted about that book all through the evening.
Tests. Exams. Going to college. Girlfriends. Surgery. Getting my first job. My first run-in with organizational politics. New job. Bad boss. Decision to change cities. Trying to sell a house. Chaotic first two years in a new city. Wife’s surgery. Raising two sons (full-time worrier’s job). Fifteen years of layoffs at work. Laying people off. New job. Worst boss ever. Layoff. Upheaval at church. Running my own business. New job. New job again. More responsibilities. Laying someone off. Boss goes weird. New boss. Recession.
Worry is a theme here. I can look back and see that I worry about the kinds of things we all tend to worry about – generally, the things I have little or no control over. That, to me, is a lesson to keep learning. Just because I understand what I worry about doesn’t mean I won’t worry ever again. It doesn’t me “go ye therefore and don’t worry.” But I recognize it for what it is – a response to circumstances I think I can control better than God.
Many of these situations were serious. My wife’s surgery, for example. She had had our firstborn three months before the doctors decided she might have thyroid cancer. She didn’t, but it was scary. And we were worried. I’d like to say we cast all our concerns on God, and we did, but we were still scared. Being human isn’t something you can flip on and off light a light switch.
I can’t fling my worries to the wind. Neither can I embrace my “inner worry.” But I can understand it for what it is, attempt to keep it from consuming me, pray like a crazy person when I think I’m being overwhelmed with it, and gain perspective by talking to others.
And no, nothing happened when I quietly and unobtrusively slipped the book back into my desk.
And my mother didn’t get eaten by bears. She’s still living in that same house, and the most exotic thing that wandered into the neighborhood was the leg bone of an elephant someone discarded in an empty lot.
Over at Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray is hosting a blog and comment discussion of “keeping faith fresh.” Last week’s discussion was on unexpected encouragement. This week’s is on letting go of worry.
Painting: Morning Sun by Edward Hopper, Columbus (Ohio) Museum of Art.