Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Why worry?

This past Sunday I preached on worry, worry on all levels and at almost every magnitude.

First and foremost, let me offer up this confession. I worry, really almost to a fault. It's not a virtue. My penchant for worry is actually a result of a toxic combination of my own tendency to procrastination, my desire to avoid conflict and my deep need to not have crises disrupt my restful and reflective (and false) "zen" of daily life. So it bascially boils down to the fact that when things don't go along with how I expect them to unfold, or when I am confronted with a challenge I did not choose (again, like we can choose...really), I pitch a fit of worry. My worst quality, among quite a few others that populate my shadow-side.

That manifested for my sermon in recounting a recent experience my wife and I had when our basement was slightly flooded during the last thaw we had in early February. There was not a lot of water on the floor, at its deepest it was just over a couple of inches. For the most part, there was a light skim of wet across the floor. All due to a malfunctioning sump pump, the clean up went apace until we found a box that had been left on the floor after our we "finished" moving in a couple of months ago. The box had a varied assortment of pieces of art and framed mementos from our house in PA that we had kept in storage this past couple of years.

In that box, now damp, was a calligraphy print given to me by one of my professors when I was first ordained. It is a simply decorated quote by Irenaeus of Lyons, a quote that has over time become a touchstone of my life as a priest of the church: "The Glory of God is the human being fully alive." On the back, my teacher had written a note.

The water had soaked into the bottom third of the print.

I freaked. Not my finest hour, among many ignominious moments, believe me. The sad thing is that once again my wife had to remind me that God was offering me a lesson, not only with regard to the impermanence of life and "things;" but also in that the piece of artwork now affected by flood was a PERFECT invitation to live out that very motto. I had been given the opportunity to be fully alive in God. Instead, I had chosen to allow worry to dominate my life.

In the end? She took the print and hung it (after drying it out) next to my closet, directly in my line of sight so I see it every morning. The yellow parchment has a slight watermark stain across it, above the slightly blurred citation and below the gilt of the border of the calligraphy. It is a reminder to me that not only can't I add one hour to my life by worrying (and/or crying over a spill); I can really mess up the journey in Christ of others around me when I do pitch a fit.

It isn't easy, not to worry. For so many people who struggle with depression or anxiety (at whatever level) as a clinical disease, it is a state of being. As I ponder it, the truth is that worry is standard byproduct of being mortal, created and self-aware of our place as "already, not yet" in the arms of a loving God who restores all things.

In the blink of an eye, I can let almost anything get in under my skin. Sometimes, I go out seeking those proverbial burrs in order to stuff them up under my own saddle blanket. Just for the effect, the sensation. It is a toxic practice, worthy of repentance, and represents a sad commentary on modern life. How much miasma must exist in our nerve endings, that we should set our souls on fire with worry just to feel something?

Jesus exhorts us to set worry aside. Why? Because God loves us, keeps a promise and follows through on deliverance. We can't force God to give us a peekaboo into the future (to assure ourselves that there is a happy ending before the credits roll on the movie of creation). We can't change what is past. We can only fully and mindfully inhabit the present moment and do with it all we can to glorify, serve and honor God and each other.

Now, if I can just remember where I put my keys.....

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