December 10, 2014

I know that part of this is physiological… you know, the whole “getting older thing, our bodies changing….” But not all of this is about my body reacting to things in ways it didn’t used to do. So, what is the “this” I speak of? The sleepless nights; the things that cause me to lay awake and fret and worry; obsessions that run through my mind that cause my fingers to forever tap, tap, tap… And please don’t remind me about what the scripture says about worrying… I KNOW! And frankly, that’s simply one more reason to fret.

I know about the birds and how God cares for them. I get the flower thing. (See Matthew 6:25-34, if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) Why can’t I get this “worry” thing under control! What’s wrong with me? Am I simply destined to live a life filled with lack of faith? I mean I can’t even conjure up a tiny mustard seed!? Matthew 17:20 He replied “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” And it doesn’t help knowing that a mustard seed is about as big as the period at the end of this sentence.

I remember a lady from years ago, a wonderful Christian woman. She had numerous 3×5 cards held together with gum bands (That’s “rubber bands” or “elastics” for those of you not from Western PA) filled with prayer reminders sitting on her kitchen table that she prayed through every day. Got that? EVERY DAY! And yet I had a troubling conversation with her on numerous occasions. She would fret about everything and anything. If all was well – her children were well, her husband was well, her life was fulfilling – she would go back years to find something that she had done that she regretted and… well… fret about it! I remember at the time thinking with my most pastoral and sensitive heart: “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU? You are one of the most gracious and kindly women of God I have ever known! You are a model of Christian faith… and yet you can’t get past this worry thing?!”

It is one of the many things that I understand now that I am a little more seasoned that I just couldn’t understand back then. Well, maybe I don’t exactly “understand it” but I can now sympathize with it. I wish I couldn’t. I would love it to not be a part of my life. And yet…

I have had people over the years tell me that I shouldn’t share these sorts of things. “It may cause lay people to question their own faith, or question your leadership as a pastor.” Hey, guess what? This is not something I’m going to worry about! Seriously, your faith journey is YOUR faith journey. If it’s based on my faith… well, see the little dot at the end of this sentence.

Years ago a well known pastor and author was speaking to the graduating class of Princeton Theological Seminary. He said something like this: “You all think you’re a bunch of theological hotshots because you have been to seminary. The truth is, you are likely going to go pastor a small church with a group of little old ladies who have more spirituality in their little fingers than you have in your whole body.” He was right.

So, next time you’re awake at 2:00 am, give me a call… I’ll likely be fretting about something or tapping my fingers while irritating Ellen at the same time. On second thought… maybe no phone call.

Oh, sorry… were you looking for a solution to the “worry” problem. I’ll get back to you on that one.



2 thoughts on “Fretting

  1. I came across this a few years ago, a prayer from Rafael Cardinal Merry del Val (1865-1930). Perhaps this litany is worth considering? I too struggle with “obsessions that run through my mind that cause my fingers to forever tap, tap, tap”…
    Todd (from the August retreat)

    O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
    From the desire of being esteemed,
    Deliver me, Jesus. (repeat after each line)
    From the desire of being loved,
    From the desire of being extolled,
    From the desire of being honored,
    From the desire of being praised,
    From the desire of being preferred to others,
    From the desire of being consulted,
    From the desire of being approved,
    From the fear of being humiliated,
    From the fear of being despised,
    From the fear of suffering rebukes,
    From the fear of being calumniated,
    From the fear of being forgotten,
    From the fear of being ridiculed,
    From the fear of being wronged,
    From the fear of being suspected,
    That others may be loved more than I,
    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. (repeat after each line)
    That others may be esteemed more than I ,
    That, in the opinion of the world,
    others may increase and I may decrease,
    That others may be chosen and I set aside,
    That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
    That others may be preferred to me in everything,
    That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

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