Monday, February 20, 2012

What If?

I have this reoccurring fear about my husband’s schooling.

Since Jeff is nearing the end of his second master’s degree, I have moments when I’m afraid all of the education will be for nothing. The most entertaining worry is that he will get in a car crash the week after graduation, suffer amnesia, and not remember a bit of what he learned in either degree.

I will then be forced to sit by his bedside and attempt to read James (his favorite book in the Bible) in Greek or list the various personality disorders found in the DSM-IV, hoping that it all comes back to him.

This fear that his education will be worthless rarely leaves me. It happened again at 5:30am one morning last week. I lay in bed for nearly two hours filling my head with worries that began with the phrase “What if….” The first one was “What if Jeff went to seminary for no reason?” I’m not entirely crazy. We found out two months ago that our primary goal for entering seminary shifted due to circumstances beyond our control.

Aw, yes. Beyond our control.

Isn’t that the fear that plagues each of us?

We will waste hours of our life devising ways to make unknown situations certain or at least create alternate plans should the unthinkable happen when we aren’t looking. I know this. I’ve thought it for over seven years of my life.

What did all that worry get me? Nothing except a few headaches and sleepless nights. Yet, it seems as if it’s my life, given the numerous hours I devote to it.

Last Friday I had another meeting with my spiritual director. As I talked and processed, I thought about all the good things God is doing in my life lately. My creativity is higher than any other time in my life. I have more ideas than I know how to implement. I’m loving it, and life is seeping into places of my heart I didn’t even know existed.

On the other hand, I hate that Jeff has yet to experience this fully in his life. He has his own journey. But, as his wife, I long for him to be able to use his gifts to the fullest or to see a clear path for how that can happen. That is what keeps me up at strange hours.

I’ve been reading Lauren Winner’s newest book, Still: Notes on a Mid-faith Crisis. Lauren relates many of her stories to the church calendar. In one chapter, she shares how she gave up anxiety for Lent.

Her choice came to mind as I was praying last Friday. What if I gave up my “what ifs” for Lent this year? What if I replaced those moments, especially in the wee hours of the morning, with a breath prayer of trust to God that He is good and that he offers me rest and life like no other. My director suggested something from Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

It may sound wrong to give up something other than food for Lent. Last year I read a blog that was adamant one must abstain from a type of food, instead of something like Facebook or television. But I don’t exactly see it that way. Giving up something for Lent means we give up the things we think offer us life and prepare ourselves for the restoration that comes with Easter. Fasting is an act of trust.

It’s amazing how worry is a crutch to me. I know it’s not good, but I do it anyway. Over and over. Jesus asked his followers in Luke 12, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Worry replaces my trust in the God who has it all under control.

Simply being able to give up something this year is an encouragement to me. This time last year, we were closing in on the second baby’s due date, the day between Good Friday and Easter. I couldn’t bring myself to give up anything for Lent. I felt as if it had all been taken away already. I was hurting on a daily basis. I lived “dust to dust” with the reminder of death on my mind every morning.

I knew the whole time that God’s goodness was true. I just couldn’t speak of it or sing of it for months. I trusted Him. I just couldn’t show it through an act of fasting. I feared facing death again on that Friday and Saturday before Easter.

This year, I look forward to being able to verbalize my trust out loud through a breath prayer. I’m coming with my “what ifs” and asking Jesus to give me rest through His yoke down in the valley of Lent.

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