And it’s quite embarrassing now.
In third grade, I worried about getting braces like all the other kids. All my friends were getting them. I didn’t want to be left out. Me and my friends who didn’t have them yet turned paperclips into “fake” braces. Every day I made sure to slide my little paperclip onto my bottom jaw like a retainer. I had to feel like I wasn’t missing out.
Well…I never got braces that year. I actually never got them. And if I recall correctly, no one said a word to me about it – or any of my friends. I wasn’t left out at all.
In fourth grade, I worried about my portable classroom not having a bathroom in it. What if I had to throw up? I wasn’t just worried – I was terrified. I was nervous as all get out, every single day before school started. What if today was the day I had to throw up? How would I make it to the bathroom in time? How could I ever show up to school again if I didn’t? How mean would the other kids be to me when I threw up in front of everyone? I begged my mom and dad to transfer me to another teacher’s class that year – in a classroom where the bathroom was just a few steps to the back, rather than a teacher’s permission, a hall pass, and a long walk outside away.
Well, I never threw up that year. I was completely fine. And by the end of the year, I wasn’t even scared of throwing up anymore.
In fifth grade, I worried about who my real best friend was. I mean, me and this one girl were best friends since we had both already told each other, but why was she acting like she had another best friend besides me? We were supposed to be each others’ ONE and ONLY BFF. That’s just the rules.
Well, I graduated fifth grade with several really great best friends and realized it was definitely fun to have more than one.
In sixth grade, I worried about not making good enough grades in math and science. My first few report cards had a few B’s and even a C one time. Why were these subjects so hard for me? English and reading were a breeze. Why couldn’t I be good in all of the subjects? I had to make good grades! I knew I could do a great job in school. I knew I was better than this. I cried more than a few times.
Well…I so nervously opened the last report card of my elementary career and saw straight A’s.
In junior high, I worried about why my crush didn’t like me as much as I liked him. I only saw him once a week for only a few months – but I couldn’t stop thinking about him every day. Would I EVER see him again? WHEN? I had to know when! And if I did, would he EVER ask me out? Why did I have to have such strong feelings? Why couldn’t I just get over him? How could I stop thinking about him?
Well, he never asked me out, and I never saw him ever again. I was sad for a while. And then I stopped being sad. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it was. There were other boys along the way.
In high school, I worried about what I was going to do after high school. Was I going to move somewhere? Where? Was I going to school? What about my friends? Would we lose our friendship? What if we all moved? What career was I called to? What did God want me to do with my life? Why was I just OK at a lot of different things, but not REALLY GOOD at just one thing – like you’re supposed to be? What if this boy didn’t want to marry me like I wanted to marry him? What if I never saw him again after high school? What was he called to do? Maybe we weren’t called to the same things. Why was he acting like he really liked me one day – but then ignoring me the next day? How could I stop thinking about him? I felt like I loved him. What if he didn’t feel the same way? Or worse – what if he found another girl? What if he …. got married…. to someone that wasn’t me. ? What if my heart was broken?
Well, I did not figure out what God wanted me to do for the rest of my life. I did figure out though, what He wanted me to do for the next couple of years. And the boy I thought I was going to marry…he found another girl, and he married her. And I went to Haiti, and my heart was broken – in more ways than one. And I cried for months. And my worries and fears were manifested. They came true. And after a few months… I was actually completely fine.
In my 6-month internship, I worried more than I’ve ever worried before. I was 20. I was already 2 years out of high school. I still didn’t know what I was doing. I kept trying to figure out my life, but God wouldn’t tell me what to do next. He just kept saying, “Be 100% here, now.” I worried and stressed so much about what was going to happen afterwards. I had a billion dreams in my head and no idea where or how to start making them reality. I knew that after the next few months were over, I’d be back where I started with no job, no money, no car and no idea what to do. I didn’t know where I should move, or if I should go to school and where, or if I should join another program, or where my husband was, or if my new amazing friends and I would even get to still be together after these few months. I pretty much did nothing but worry and stress out.
Well…the internship ended, and all my friends and I were scattered to various places across the USA. I had not figured out my life. I had not figured out my next “plan”. I had not met my husband. I had no job, no money and no car. I had absolutely no idea what to do next. I bought a one-way ticket back home. Back to the drawing board. Back to Florida where I’d spend tons of time trying to figure out what to do, and why I kept jumping…and then landing. And then jumping…and landing again. Why couldn’t I fly? God was silent for 2 months, and these were arguably the hardest 2 months of my life. Because I felt aimless. I felt like a failure, and I felt I had no purpose and was just wandering around. And then He spoke. Go to Africa, He said. I didn’t want to. I’d so attached myself to the last season and the people who were in my life and, once again, another guy I thought was my husband.
I cried almost every day, and then I boarded a plane. I did what He said – even though I was terrified of what I kept doing – leaving, and coming back. Jumping, and landing. Leaving, and coming back. If this was my life, I’d never have relationships that stayed – long term relationships. They’d have to all be temporary if I kept doing this. Was God going to ask this of me? Was he calling me to be a pilgrim who kept coming and going and never had a home? How could I do it? It seemed impossible. My heart cried out for family – for people around me who’d be permanent, not just for a season. I didn’t want to be alone.
In Africa, I worried about those very things almost every waking moment. I cried every day. I did cling to Him, and found myself on my knees all the time, surrendering again and again and again until all I knew how to say was “Yes.”
I came back home, and still didn’t know anything. I was still a mess of tears and passion and surrender and doubt and anxiety and fear and some faith. But also… I was completely fine. He had been holding onto me the whole time.
Back home, I worried if I would ever find someone who would love me, and choose me. I was already 22 and had never had a boyfriend. I thought I’d at least have one by now. But I didn’t. Every guy who I thought was the right one, wasn’t. So I worried. I worried that I would never get married. That there wasn’t a man for me. And if there was, how much longer it was going to take. Didn’t God KNOW that I needed to be married before 25, because that was what you were SUPPOSED to do?
Well…I’m 25 now. I’m not married. I didn’t get my first boyfriend until I was 24. But, yes. This one was the right one. He’s going to be my husband, but it didn’t happen the way it was supposed to. It didn’t measure up to the expectations that were put on me. And right now, I’m completely fine.
And now, you see – I’ve begun to see a pattern. I worried so much. I worried about many things. Some of the things I worried about never happened, and some actually did. God was holding on to me through every season of my young life, in every single year of the 25 I’ve been alive. He showed me how ridiculous worry is. Because I had lots of imagined scenarios and potential terrible disasters and crazy fears, and most of them did not happen. And He held me tight right on through the ones that did – and they weren’t even as scary as I thought they’d be.
And I’m realizing something so true, so profound: Worry is a lie. Fear is a lie. It’s a thief. It’s a great big lie that also steals my peace and my joy. Worrying robs today of its strength. It takes away the goodness that is this day, this time, this season, and this moment.
I missed a lot because I was worrying.
And I’m not letting it happen again.
I’m not missing any more.
I worried my way through 25 years of my life, and that’s stopping now. My next 25 years, and however many more I have left after that, will be full of peace and joy and laughing at the future.
I can laugh at the future, and laugh in the face of all my fears, because there is Someone who is so very faithful, who is holding on to me so tight, and is never going to leave. My fears and worries shrink in His presence until they are nothing.
There’s lots I could worry about right now. Right now I could make a long list of all my potential fears and they’d all be somewhat legitimate and wouldn’t be seen as ridiculous like my petty 5th grade worries.
But, you see, the thing is – that’s not how God wants any of us to live.
Living in defense mode every waking moment, always afraid of what may happen or might occur, is not peace. It’s not trust. It’s not joy. It’s not hope. And it’s not life, abundant life. It’s the opposite of all those things.
I’m laying down the heavy burden of anxiety and picking up the joyful peace of trusting Him and I will wake up tomorrow morning and throw open my curtains to the daylight and live offensively. Because we’re not on the defense, always trying to duck and cover from the enemy’s offense. No – we are on the offense. We take ground, we march forward, we don’t shrink back. We rise up and are fearless.
Because really, there’s nothing to worry about. Nothing to be afraid of.
He is so near.
What seemed to be an enormous mountain on the road way up ahead was actually only a small hill when we got there.