Have you ever had a conversation with God where you have your fingers crossed behind your back?
“Lord, I want to learn to be patient.” (Fingers doubled crossed behind my back!)
(I always have this little kid inside of me that thinks I can hide what’s really going on from God.)
It’s a bit of a paradox. I truly want to be more patient… but I don’t really want to go though the frustrating, exasperating, annoying situations that are going to lead me to need to be patient. (Like that old saying, “Lord, make me patient… and do it right now.”)
That’s the same way I felt when I decided to give up worrying for Lent.
I told God that during Lent I was going to give up my worrying, focus on Him, and replace the false anxiety-producing pictures in my head with positive uplifting images.
The moment that offering went from my heart to God’s ears, I knew without a doubt that I was going to face circumstances that would show if I really was sincere or not about my “sacrifice.”
Now, I have to say that I really do believe that God has my best interest at heart… maybe not my most comfortable interest, or my most enjoyable interest, but I do believe He has my best interest at heart.
That said, do I believe God will always keep me from experiencing bad things? Of course not. (Although as I have said before, I did naively buy into this thinking at one point in time when I was younger.) We live in a fallen and broken world. God’s job is not to keep me comfortable.
But He purposes to conform me into His likeness, to love and serve well.
But I digress…
I had made this commitment to follow the three R’s in dealing with the anxious images in my head: refuse, replace, and repeat.
I was in a meeting where there were some very difficult matters being discussed when my phone rang. Well, it didn’t exactly ring. It quietly vibrated and flashed. I looked to see who was calling and it was my daughter, Steph.
Now it was the middle of the afternoon and she never calls me at that time of the day, especially while she’s at work. I felt this little creep of anxiety inching its way up. My mind went where it usually goes when she calls at unusual times… that she was by the side of the road in a car accident (this is my worse fear so it is the one that pops up the most).
As I said, the meeting I was in had a number of people in it who were discussing some very delicate issues. It would have been totally inconsiderate for me to excuse myself to take the call. So I didn’t.
I took a deep breath and let it go to voicemail. I said to myself, “No. I don’t want this horrible picture in my head. I’m going to think of her sitting at her desk, working at her computer, and she’s just fine.”
It was hard but I did it. “Okay,” I thought to myself, slightly smugly, “that wasn’t so bad.” And I went back to my meeting.
Five minutes later I looked down and saw the phone ring again. It was Steph.
Now, I was in an internal panic with lots of thoughts racing through my head and my heart starting to race.
“Why was she calling again so soon? I wonder if something really is wrong.” (There are lots of reasons I react this way and I’ll let you in on them at another point.)
My mind immediately had her in a disastrous situation calling with bad news.
Now I had a choice to make: Was I going to worry – would I give in, run out of the room and take her call? Or would I refuse the image and ask God to quiet my head and my heart?
(I hate to admit this but it wasn’t an easy choice.)
I decided to focus on the present, where I was right now, and not the imaginary – what could be happening.
I looked normal on the outside. Nobody in that meeting could tell by looking at me that there was a war going on in my head and my heart. But inside, I was really struggling.
I made a decision: I decided to choose to not worry; to be okay with the uncomfortable feeling and be present where I was. I truly was uncomfortable but I kept praying and repeating, “No. I don’t want this picture in my head. I am picturing her as okay.” And when I saw the bad picture pop into my head again, I changed it back to another good picture, like changing channels on TV.
Now, could there have been something tragically wrong? Absolutely. But this is where crazy thinking comes in: I usually think it is more likely that something bad is happening rather than something good. I decided to choose the opposite: if it were just as possible that she was calling about something good as something bad, I was going to focus on the good.
The 20 minutes until the meeting was over seemed like forever. I prayed and God helped me focus on the task at hand. When it finally (!) ended, I stepped (not ran) outside and listened to her voice message.
“Hey mom, it’s me. I wanted to see if I could borrow something for work so I didn’t leave a message. But then I thought of something else I wanted to tell you so call me when you get out of your meeting. Love you.”
I silently prayed a prayer of thanksgiving…and I decided next year I’m giving up chocolate for Lent.
(As my quest to give up worrying for Lent continues, I have had more circumstances where I have been challenged to not worry. I’ll tell you more about them next time. It’s been good but not easy! But I’m taking it one day at a time.)