Yesterday, Second Mile prayed about personal and relational clarity. The big theme for me was kind of a new one for me to process through: worrying. I’ve never really been a worrier, but I’ve experienced a significant increase in weight on my shoulders over the past few years, and I’ve noticed I’ve developed the strange and unenjoyable habit of tending to play out negative scenarios in my head.
I don’t come by that naturally. School is the best example of my modus operandi: I was the student who just went to class, took notes, learned what I could learn, took the test or wrote the paper, and trusted the entire process to end with a positive result. I didn’t play out What Ifs in my head concerning this question or that grade. I just did it.
But all that depended on me at that time was me; now, it’s not. I have a wife and two daughters. I help lead a community group of a dozen or so, a core spiritual community of roughly fifty, and larger church network of somewhere around 100-120*. Professionally, I teach 92 students spread across five classes (68 sophomores learning about English, plus 24 freshmen in my Bible class).
I can’t really explain why I started to anticipate problems, and I can’t pinpoint when the inclination began, but I became aware of it while asking God about clarity for me in the here and now. My brain tends toward picking about the Whys and Hows of any given situation, and I guess I started to see an exponential increase in the number of situations, and, most importantly, realize that negative results were a) more possible and b) further from my control.
In school, I could directly handle results: listen, study, work, answer, done. As life expanded, I saw that it was more difficult to cultivate positive outcomes, but I still tried to retain the same amount of control. I tried to work a much more complicated system with the same mindset, and that doesn’t work. God has been taking me through a process that culminated yesterday in me acknowledging that I rely on myself, not on him, to handle many difficulties that (might) arise.
That does not result in joy. It results in feeling like the Titan depicted above, Atlas, he who was sent to hold up the celestial spheres. Some say that Atlas symbolizes endurance, but I worship a God who says to let him help with burdens, not one who banishes me to hold them up forever, hoping to find someone to pawn them off on.
The key to this thought process is that I know God has given me responsibilities. He’s not a God who invites people to slack off while he takes care of everything. I know that he says not to be anxious, to bring life to him and live in peace from him. It seems like the “where he’s taking you”** for me is living in his peace while I live in responsibility for the network of people I help lead.
The strange thing about the above paragraph is that I wrote, “for me is a journey to understanding” before deleting it. The passage I linked to, a chunk of a letter from Paul to the church in Philippi, specifically says the peace he was talking about, God’s peace, “surpasses understanding.” It doesn’t necessarily make sense or have anything to do with living in peace because of logical reasons. It simply says to make the pattern of my life one of prayer and thankfulness, and peace from God will protect my heart and mind—that which worrying damages above all else—from the chaos that life can be.
He doesn’t say there will be no difficulty. He doesn’t say that I will not need to face responsibility. He says I can talk to him and he will rescue me and delight in me.
That does not result in burdens. That results in joy.
*With different levels of actual personal engagement, of course, but I do feel the importance of all those levels of church leadership.
**From Monday’s prayer guide: “Ask God to remind you of where you have been and where He is taking you. Pray that God would continue to refine your character. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you a fresh perspective of the transformation that is taking place because you are a child of God.”