This reading gives me fits.
I'm not exactly an extreme worrier. I let my kids fall on the playground and occasionally eat cheerios off the kitchen floor. I manage our money carefully but try not to get wrapped up in every penny. But I am concerned about things. I do get a little (sometimes more than a little) worked up about outcomes and how I can change them. I do get worried about how my bad parenting choices will negatively impact my kids. A lot of this is silly. But not all of it.
On one hand, the idea of not worrying what to wear or what to eat is really appealing. I'd love to be able to just let it go, to not worry about whether I paid the credit card bill on time, whether I remembered to schedule the pediatrician appointment, whether the squeak in the car's brakes is normal or an expensive/dangerous problem. I would love to be free of that.
There is a part of me that gets angry at Jesus for this one. He didn't have small children or a mortgage or global warming. Not worry? How in the world can I even begin to manage not worrying? And how am I supposed to manage the worry I am now experiencing about the fact that I worry too much?!?
But last night, I heard a great little sermon-nugget from a seminarian. He pointed out that, though we are made in the image of God, we are also human and so worry is just part of who we are, part of our DNA. Perhaps Jesus' instruction was not for the individual, but for the beloved community. What if, instead of worrying so much about how much we worry, we concentrate instead on removing worry (when we can) from others?
This has made me reflect on all of the times when I have been cared for, that is, when someone has taken the burden of worry off of me.
- When our son was tiny and collicky, my mother came over and walked with him one afternoon to let me sleep. While I was asleep, she also washed two loads of laundry and folded them. I still remember the feeling of all that clean laundry after that good nap. Two loads less of worry.
- Right in the middle of my marathon last summer, my husband and two of our friends-- unbidden-- texted me reminding me of how strong I am. A few miles of less worry.
- When I was dealing with some rough discipline problems with one of my kids, a parishioner and seasoned mother looked me straight in the eye and said, "He's a smart, loving, beautiful kid and you're a great mom. There will be bumps, but you'll be okay." A few moments less of worry.
I also indulged myself in remembering the times I have tried to reduce someone else's worry and anxiety. I've cooked meals for new moms, said prayers before surgery, fed other people's kids.
I like this idea that it is up to us to help one another with our burdens of worry. And, if you check out the list above, you'll notice that none of the things I've listed are particularly brilliant, expensive or time consuming. I would love to be able to wave my wand to help a friend out of a difficult and perilous home situation. But I can't. What I can do is pray for her and her family. And I do, regularly. I can also bring over my awesome baked spaghetti or watch her kids when she needs more hands than she has available.
We can all do this. It might not reduce our own personal worry baggage. But it will impact the Body, as everything we do in love does. The favor might be returned. It might not. It doesn't matter. What matters is that we are living the Gospel, we are taking in this difficult teaching in this difficult world and we are making it real in our lives and in the lives of others.
Update: the preacher's name is Lee Curtis. Credit where it is due!