It’s 3:34 a.m. and I’m blogging. Why up so early, you ask? Well, at 2:50, when my husband’s stupid early alarm started whining, instead of rolling over and slipping right back in dreams, I started worrying. Instantaneously upon awakening, I found myself consumed with anxiety that I might one day develop urinary incontinence.
I have no logical basis for developing this particular fear. There have been no warning signs of incontinence, no other conditions that might lead to such a thing. The fear just suddenly overtook me in the wee hours of the night.
I do happen to know that incontinence is caused by a stretching of the muscles in the pelvic floor and can be combated by exercising those muscles. And so, as a precaution, I started doing kegels. Clench. Unclench. Clench. Unclench. Clench.
As you can imagine, there was no going back to sleep after that, so I hauled myself out of bed, donned my ratty pink bathrobe, and headed to the living room to spend some time with Daddy.
And, within minutes, the Lord laid it on my heart that my constant need to worry and the way I react to my worries, are just more symptoms of my little control problem.
I scrawled across the top of my notebook, “Worry=Control?” and stared at it for a bit.
Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? ~Luke 12:25-26
See, I have a little confession to make. I’ve had a lot of doctor’s bills in the last few years. Ironically, I am actually in excellent health. All of them have been for tests, diagnostic tests. Tests that invariably have come up negative.
There were all the bills I’ve racked up when convinced I had colon cancer. Doctor’s visits and screenings. Turns out all I needed was fiber.
Then I found the lump in my chest. Three office visits, two ultrasounds and a chest x-ray later, a very kind radiologist broke the news to me that the mass was, well… my sternum, simply more prominent after weight loss.
The skin cancer that I was sure was slowly devouring my face turned out to be just a mole after all. The dermatologist made a few hundred on that 10-minute removal.
I don’t have ovarian cancer either, just irregular periods and a $500 bill for an ultrasound.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~Matthew 6:34
It’s not just my health I fret over; I lose sleep wondering if I’m working too much or working too little; if I’m too strict with my daughters or too lenient; if I am failing all the friends I’m so lousy at communicating with; if I could have somehow taught that last class a little more clearly; if I will ever manage to finish my wedding thank yous; if there will be enough money this month to pay all the bills. And, why, O sweet Jesus, why did I say that one thing to that one person? Of all the people!
I spend so much of my time consumed with worry.
My preferred weapon to combat this constant anxiety? Control. The more uneasy I become, the more iron my grip upon the steering wheel of life.
My head spins constantly, whirring with plans, schemes and strategies. As I poured my coffee this morning, it was money on my mind. I chanted 10% tithe, 10% savings, double up on car payments, get out of debt. When I realized that there wasn’t enough time in the day to teach all the students I wanted to help, I developed a Youtube channel to enlighten the whole world about long division. After the publisher at the writing conference I attended in February admitted that writers don’t get published without a social media platform, I’ve been abuzz dreaming of ways to increase my following: twitter accounts, sharing to groups, and more frequent postings.
This need of mine to control doesn’t stop at my life, it spills over into the lives of my family. Jason needs a job in his field; I’m constantly brainstorming out loud regarding job boards he should check, connections he should make, changes to the way he presents himself in interviews, and not so subtle suggestions on how to reword his cover letter. My eldest daughter works in an art gallery and I am a veritable wealth of information on how to dress professionally in such an environment. From the ideal outfit, to hair-style, to lipstick shade, I’ve got an opinion I’ll share, often sending her back to her room for adjustment a few times each morning. And no complaining! In fact, not one of my daughters can get away with an attitude for very long. You better fix your face, Miss Thing. Do you know how blessed you are? Mom is just trying to teach you how to act in this world. Lucky girls.
Oh, and my lists! I’ve got lists everywhere. To-do lists, shopping lists, chore lists. At work, sitting on my keyboard there are lists stapled to lists of things I must accomplish no later than last Thursday. An action list glares at me from the kitchen counter of all I had hoped to tackle this Spring Break. I downloaded a handy little app that automatically recalls my “five most important tasks” of the day each time I try to open a new tab on my computer. This morning it sweetly reminded me that three of the items were added 72 days ago and have not yet been completed. My phone houses eight separate grocery lists to make sure we get each needed item from the store with the lowest prices. Frustrated by the state of the house, I spent hours contemplating another list this week designating exactly which child is responsible for which chores each day of the week. Why, right in the middle of my prayer time this morning, I was suddenly struck by the fact that I am a horrible slacker auntie who doesn’t buy birthday presents for all her nieces and nephews, so I took a break to itemize a couple dozen kids, their birthdays, and the books I think they might be interested in. I scribbled across the margin the plan, “One book per paycheck?”
Yet, as capable a planner as I may be, control is not the way God calls me to deal with my fears.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7
As if I’m a little slow to catch on (I am), a bit bull-headed (guilty), and in need of constant reminders (yup!), scripture lists the same response to worry three times in one verse, Philippians 4:6. Prayer. Petition. Present your requests to God.
But, Lord, I’ve got an idea.
Father, you know what they need to do!?! They just need to…
Hold up, Daddy, let me just make a list.
Present your requests to God.
The best news? Unlike all my fruitless lists which result in more guilt than accomplishment, bringing my worries to the God who can move mountains, the one who created the heavens and the earth by His word, the Alpha and the Omega, always produces results.
When I furtively prayed, “Lord, make a way for me to go back to school,” He responded by doubling my property value and enabling me to sell out right at the top of the market, funding my education.
After hearing all my broken-hearted daddy prayers, God answered in a mighty way by healing my relationship with my earthly father. In a few short years, I’ve gone from the black sheep to the apple of my father’s eye.
When I jokingly requested “Lord, please drop two extra rooms from the sky, gently, and in such a way as that it adds property value,” in anticipation of my family enlarging, He did exactly that. Unaware of my little prayer, my mother dreamed up the idea and my father flew out to build two extra bedrooms in our backyard.
All my prayers for a husband were perfectly answered in Jason, who has literally every attribute I begged God for, plus dozens of others I didn’t even hope to ask.
Dear Lord, help me loosen my grip on this life. I honestly want to let you have control. Life is infinitely sweeter when I let you lead.
The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still. ~Exodus 14:14
Photo Credit: Driving Woman by Mattia Panciroli on Flickr; used under Creative Commons License.