Lord we need
A new redemption day
All our worries
Keep getting in the way
Won’t you help us please
Help us find the words to pray
To bring redemption day
“New Redemption Song,” words by Linford Detweiler, performed by Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist (Over the Rhine)
My husband and I are finishing up dinner preparation while our daughter plays with her 2-year-old brother upstairs. A loud crash stops me in my tracks. I take the stairs two at a time, fully expecting to find damage, disrepair, possibly blood.
I am in the shower on a random Sunday morning. My kids are piled in my bed with their dad, reading books and playing games before it’s time to get ready for church. Suddenly I hear screaming. I fling open the shower door and grab my towel, certain I will encounter a major crisis in the next room–head injury, broken bone, more blood.
It is 2 am. I am both forced awake and utterly exhausted by worry. It is mostly vague and self-manufactured and related to my husband and kids: what if someone gets sick, what if someone breaks into our house, should I get up and DO something?
I worry. A lot. My fears are like the plastic overlays in those giant human body books: turn this one over and you see the nervous system against the skeleton; flip this one and see how the red and blue veins and arteries criss-cross the length of your body. Except my overlays come from news reports and “Pray For ___” Facebook stories, and in my wild wide awake state they are superimposed on my kids, my husband, my friends. Myself. There was a time when it was worse at night; daytime found me calmer, more rational, more capable of relying on my faith. But in these post-election days that is sadly less true.
Last month, a few days before Election Day, I wrote about staying positive regardless of the winning candidate, about doing all things with love no matter the state of our country. I will confess to you that I was expecting a different outcome, one that would have made following my own advice much easier (for me, anyway). As it turns out, I am struggling to walk my own talk. I am afraid of the repercussions of this election, of the people who are gleeful that their candidate won and of the people who are angry and scared because theirs didn’t. I am afraid of emotional parties on both sides of the divide, who might suddenly wake up one morning hellbent on making some sort of statement that looks a lot like hate or violence or death. I am terrified for my children, my husband, for the crossfires and wrong places at wrong times they might find themselves in on a random Thursday. At a time when I should be stepping out of my comfort zone to extend comfort to others with actual pain and despair, I really just want to hide in my house with my family and never leave. There. I said it. Let me tell you, it is difficult for a stubborn, independent, compassionate Jesus-following 42-year-old woman to admit this kind of worry.
Jesus Himself instructs us to stop it already with the worrying, and so I know it’s worth my time and energy to get a handle on my anxiety–but Jesus was no easy teacher. It’s not the first time I’ve looked at a red paragraph in the Bible and exclaimed, “DANG, Jesus. Really?” You’ve probably seen the popular meme on Facebook that features an exasperated Jesus with the caption, “DID I STUTTER?” But in my imagination his response to me is non-verbal, a mere expression that leaves no doubt that yes, really, you need to lay off the worrying. Worrying is one of those passive sins we forget about, like gluttony and boastfulness. We get very caught up in matters of sexuality, death, fidelity, theft–we argue very vigorously about gay people, financial greed, terrorism, and murder, and then we go home and close our doors and commit laziness and apathy while overeating or overspending on Amazon to deal with–yep, worry.
I wish I had some easy solution to the problem of worry, like an app on my phone similar to the ones I use for running and yoga that introduce skills over time and gradually increase in length and intensity until a PR is achieved or a pose is mastered. But God knows that wouldn’t really work for me (it has been 9 days since my last training session). God knows about PTA meetings and soccer tournaments and ridiculous family drama. He knows about wildfires and pipeline protests and questionable political appointments. We are easily distracted by these things. He knows we mean well, but that we fall short most days, and so He gets our attention however He can: that Veggie Tales episode you watched with your toddler about Daniel the Cucumber having pizza with his new lion friends, an Anne Lamott quote about hope in your Twitter feed, your digital Bible verse of the day that was obviously selected for you and you alone, that song that keeps beckoning you to just let it go, let it fall already. God is no amateur. He created All The Things, and He will use them to teach us over and over every day until we die, because that is what being human amounts to: we are perpetual students, never masters. We will all of us struggle with some stuff.
A friend told me recently that worrying about the state of the world is not fully trusting in God. I do not disagree with her, but here I am anyway. I am convinced that my own children will meet certain dismemberment while playing in our home, so being chill about the world is a hard sell for me. For the record, that crash we heard upstairs while making dinner was the toy kitchen being overturned, and no one was even trapped under it! And that Sunday morning shower interruption was the sound of my daughter taking my son’s dump truck video away from him. I believe this is God speaking to me, reminding me in everyday ways that this moment right in front of me is manageable, and it is all I’m supposed to “worry” about, and if tomorrow happens to be unmanageable–well, it will be dealt with tomorrow. “Don’t worry about tomorrow,” Jesus said. “Just this, right here. We’ll handle tomorrow tomorrow. Let it go. Let it fall.” This is what I tell myself when wake suddenly at 3 am consumed with dread for no reason in particular. Let it fall. Let it go.
I think again about Jesus’s instructions, so simply stated and so damn hard. “Really?” I say, and I picture Him looking me up and down, staring directly into my eyes with equal parts compassion and steely persistence. “I did not come here and endure persecution, abuse, abject denial by my friends, and then suffer a hideous, painful death, just so you could live a life of worry,” His expression seems to say. “You’re just going to have to trust me.”
Have you been trying too hard
Have you been holding too tight
Have you been worrying too much lately
Whatever we’ve lost
I think we’re gonna let it go
Let it fall
“Let it Fall,” words by Linford Detweiler, performed by Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist (Over the Rhine)
“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matthew 6:34 MSG