Thursday, April 21, 2011

Worry and Trust

From Matthew 6 - You of little faith ! 31 "Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will wear for clothing?' 32 "For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things ; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 "So do not worry about tomorrow ; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. [you can start reading the passage from verse 25 to get the full effect]
I am not a worrier by nature. I don't lose sleep in anticipation of how circumstances might play out in the future. I don't imagine worst-case scenarios, fretting over the myriad of what-ifs.
But I am a planner. I proactively manage my time and relationships nudging my future towards more favorable outcomes. I develop routines that serve me well, albeit sacrificing some creative latitude. I leave the same time every morning, walk to the train along the same route and sit in the last car every day. In that sense, maybe I am just more active in my worrying – trying to head off trouble at the pass.
I have to say that I love that about me. That thinking ahead, planning, mending the holes in my life have been a survival mechanism for me since childhood, and I believe that it has served me mostly well. It is so core to who I am that any other approach is difficult for me.
For me, worry is alleviated by preparation. In fact, when I was diagnosed in the fall of '08, I was inadvertently in a fairly good position to deal with the unimaginable – somewhat ready for the rainiest of days. I was in prime physical shape having just completed training for another NYC marathon. I had achieved everything I needed to be happy in my life – a wonderfully loving and supportive wife, two beautiful children, a comfortable home and more than adequate material security. I was emotionally fit after years of self-examination. And last, but ultimately of most importance, I had enough spiritual strength to know that I had much more than all of the above going for me.
Given that we can't know what life will serve up to us, I wholeheartedly embrace the Boy Scout motto of always being prepared. Nonetheless, I readily recognize that it is not my preparedness but the grace of God (and further the expertise of several exceptional doctors) that allows me to stand here today.
There is, then, an entirely other aspect to this passage from Matthew. Throughout my challenging time (and in life in general) – beyond prep, there is this question of trust. I see it as the underpinning of all that Jesus asks of us and religious faith as a whole. This is my greatest opportunity because preparedness does not trump trust.
I can "trust" God regarding my health. Since my own vigilance can only take me so far, I have little choice but to trust. When it comes to other aspects of my future – i.e., my livelihood and the things that go with providing for those around/beyond me (those I love) – my trust is shakier. That's what I worry about. I prepare by earning a generous salary - to avoid having to trust. Making that need less primary requires more trust.
Yet, having been shown God's love and grace so unequivocally, I still struggle mightily with that degree of trust. I recognize that the bridge between worry and trust is God. Trusting is active. It means taking a risk. It means listening to what others have been telling me throughout my life. Trust is a spiritual discipline. Trust requires us to depend on others. Trust is what I am reaching out to God for most in my life right now.
It sure is a leap of faith.