Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The absurdity of Worry

I have decided that the topic of worry needs 2 posts in a row.  Who knows what God will tell me today, maybe there will be 3!

When I was in middle school back in the '80's I had a pair of ballet flat style shoes that were gray, pointy toed and had holes all over them.  They were the height of style at my middle school and I felt like one of the cool kids when I wore them even though I was anything but.

I grew up in Minnesota.  It gets cold in Minnesota in the winter, snow falls, frostbite warnings are given.  The people who set fashion trends do not live in Minnesota.  They don't know what frostbite is.  They decided the cool way to wear these shoes was barefoot.  And since I wanted to be cool, I wore them barefoot.

One day I wore them barefoot to my grandma's house in the middle of winter.  A few days later my mom got a call from grandma who had been up all night with worry over me going barefoot in the winter.

Let's ignore the obvious fact that I have horrible circulation problems in my toes and they regularly go numb in the winter, I am sure as a result of these very shoes. Let's ignore the fact that my grandma was right.

I specifically remember my mom telling me about this and thinking it was ridiculous.  Why should my grandma be up all night worrying about me?  And I was FINE.  It isn't like I tromped around in the snow.  I walked 1/2 block to the bus, got on and walked into a heated building all day and then home to my heated house.  (Until that day the bus got stuck in a snow storm 3 blocks from my house...How do I even still have feet?)

Right or not, what did my grandma's worry accomplish?  Nothing.  It made her life miserable and did not change my circumstances at all.

Now that my mom is a grandma I see her doing the same worrying her mom did.  Seeing little things happening in the grandchildren's lives that are concerning.  Things that could go wrong.  And what can she do but just sit around in her retirement, worry about it and call her daughters to share her worry.

As moms we are in the middle of it.  Back in the '80's I am sure my mom would have loved it if I put on socks but in the grand scheme of parenting that just wasn't a battle worth launching.  Today as a mom I must confess I don't care what my children wear.  Sometimes I will go to battle but most of the time it just isn't worth the effort.  On the bigger things that grandma's worry about like faith and relationships, parents are in the midst of it gently directing their children through and around the challenges.  Grandparents are just sitting on the sidelines watching with no control or sense of what is happening on a day to day basis.  So they worry.

Lately I am feeling a little like a grandparent.  My parents have been in Atlanta for several weeks helping my sister who is going through a difficult divorce.  Then last week my dad ended up in the hospital down there.  I am up here in Minnesota getting the overview but with no control over what is happening, not aware of the day to day directing of events and nothing to do but sit and worry about all of them.  Add to that my son and future daughter in law have decided to get married this Christmas.  While I understand the decision to get married this year it does bring about some challenges going forward in their life and marriage.  And since I am not involved in any of this I have nothing to do but sit back and worry about how they will problem solve each thing.  (My friends have been coaching me that the mother-in-law job is to keep her mouth shut.  How will I survive?!)
"Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" Matt 6:27
The thing is that I have my own problems.  It isn't as if I have nothing else to worry about, but here I am worrying about other people's problems.

Yesterday for some reason I was thinking about all this worrying I was doing and the absurdity of the activity sort of hit me.  What was I accomplishing?  Absolutely nothing.

Maybe that is how the song should go.  "WORRY.  huh, What is it good for?  Absolutely Nothing!"  (instead of WAR?  Are you with me here?)

Last week I was literally having an anxiety attack all day one day.  I felt like all the things I was worried about were pressing down on me, crushing me and I was about to pass out at any moment.  (I am being a little dramatic here but seriously I was having an anxiety attack all day.)

The thing is I don't generally spend a lot of time worrying, I don't engage in a lot of political discussions.  Not because I don't have opinions or concerns but generally I am not interested in raising my blood pressure to discuss things that I have limited power over and that I am trusting God to lead me through.  Same with friends, I love my friends and am always available to listen, encourage and help but generally speaking I leave their problems with them.

But when it comes to family it is hard to stay rational.

Since having my anxiety attack I have realized that I have to separate myself from this worry and feeling of responsibility.  While I love my sister, nieces, parents, son and future daughter in law, I cannot take on their problems.  I can love them, encourage them, give them wise counsel when asked but, I do not need to carry their burdens around with me on a day to day basis.  I am not responsible for them.

And suddenly as I was standing there yesterday the memory of my grandma worrying about me going barefoot in the winter came to me.  And I remembered how absurd her worrying seemed to me and I realized how absurd my worry was.

Now when it comes to the needs of my personal life and the things I can control, those I can worry about. Right????
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.Are you not much more valuable than they?" Matt 6:25-26
I guess not.

It is sort of like God knew we would be tempted to worry about our life and finances and how we would provide for ourselves each day.

Not worrying is not the same as not doing anything.  But I am starting to see that I spend so much time worrying about whether or not we will be able to make it that I don't have as much time as I otherwise would to actually do the work!
"Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?" Matt 6:27
This is the question Jesus asks after telling them not to worry.  Sometimes it amazes me how He reads minds and addresses the obvious problems of a topic.  After spending time worrying each day I do need a few extra hours added to my life to still get everything done.  And now here Jesus is telling me I am not adding time to my day or my life by worrying?!

So I guess I should dispense with all the worry about my own needs as well and get on with the business of watching for God and joining him in the work he is doing in my life.
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?  So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them." Matt 6:28-32
I am ready God.  Let's make this happen!  Isabelle needs a new winter jacket and I know you are on the detail.

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