I am a born worrier. As a child, I would obsess over even the most obscure possible outcomes in nearly every circumstance. I can remember lying in bed awake fretting that my parents would die. This condition persisted through to adulthood, and got even worse once I started having children of my own. Of course I loved my parents, but the love I felt for my children was immensely greater than I previously knew I had the capacity for, magnified by a sometimes overwhelming sense of responsibility for their well-being. Talk about lying awake worrying!
By the time I reached my early thirties, my nearly constant apprehension had become almost unbearable. Knowing my mother was also a worrier and one of the wisest people I knew, I decided to seek her advice so I could get some peace (and some sleep!). I asked her how in the world she kept from going crazy with anxiety about her children; it must have been even worse for her, as all of her children were adults and most of the time she had no idea where they were. At least at this point in my life I was still more or less in control of my children’s whereabouts.
Mom told me that many years prior her worrying had gotten so bad that she, like I was now doing, decided something had to change. Through much prayer and counseling, she finally came to the realization there was simply too much she could not control and all she could do was place all of her cares, especially her family, into God’s hands. She explained this requires accepting that God always knows what is best and has a plan for our lives, even when we do not understand and EVEN IF IT MEANS LOSING A CHILD.
This was over 25 years ago. Now my children are adults and, like my mother before me, I rarely have any clue where they are. It was not instantaneous for me, but I can say that I no longer lie awake at night (not every night, anyway!) worrying about things I cannot control.
I have had many opportunities to put my mother’s advice to practice, most notably with my daughter Miranda. Miranda is our wanderlust child. I’ve heard there is one in every family. She is the one who likes to rock climb, bungee-jump, travel to exotic lands and I’m sure many other things I’m better off not knowing. Miranda has lived abroad in four different countries—Kenya, Finland, Israel and South Korea—and plans an extended stay in Germany later this year. I believe I would have literally lost my sanity had I not learned to release her into God’s huge hands.
One Christmas break a few years back, Miranda traveled to Europe for a cross-continent train trek. Her adventure ended at Athens, Greece, where she spent a couple days before returning to the USA. On her first day in Athens, she noticed she kept seeing stray dogs, dozens of them. They seemed to be everywhere and appeared to be well-fed and tame. She finally asked a restaurant waiter if he knew who owned these dogs. He told her they belonged to the community and that everyone pitched in and took care of them. She thought, how very cool and unusual. Stuff like this is why she is so fascinated with other cultures.
The next night, Miranda had a flight out of Athens in the middle of the night, about 3:00 AM. She was staying at a hotel roughly a mile from the nearest bus stop for the airport shuttle. Being the minimalist that she is, she decided the most efficient use of her resources would be to walk to the bus stop. So at about midnight, she departed her hotel for the 20-minute walk through what had seemed like a perfectly good neighborhood during daylight hours. She immediately heard a blood-curdling scream coming from a female across the street. There were sirens in the distance and other intimidating sounds of an urban night. Just as Miranda was beginning to realize that perhaps this wasn’t her smartest decision ever, she saw a hooded figure cross the street and begin approaching her. Filled with fear, she clutched her can of pepper spray and began to pray. The instant the person was upon her, one of the cherished street dogs, a Saint Bernard no less (think about it), suddenly emerged from a dark doorway and got between the man and Miranda, going berserk on him, snarling and growling fiercely up in his face. I guess you could say it was gnashing its teeth in the true Biblical sense. The man mumbled something that was, well, Greek to Miranda, and he scurried away into the night.
This mutt, this surrogate from God, this man’s best friend, escorted my baby uneventfully all the way to the bus stop. Meanwhile, over 5,000 miles away, oblivious to my daughter’s situation but safe in the knowledge that I would be slumbering in those same hands that were caressing her, I prepared to retire for a peaceful night’s sleep.
“Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you…” (Psalm 55:22).