At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Anxious for Nothing

It was my fifth grade year, and my book report was due the next day. I confess memory failure that I cannot recall what book at was, but I was in a deep scramble because I was certain I was going to screw it up. My teacher, Miss Harrell, had given out an outline (what we called in those days before the word "template" came into vogue) and I had followed it, but I was throwing a fit. I believed I had messed it up by writing the report in regular prose and "forgetting" to put the outline headings before each section of my report. My parents looked at me like I had three heads, likely wondering how this child could have been thrown into such a frenzy over a little thing. Dad even told me the outline was something to be followed, not a skeleton to display in my work. As I still disbelieved him, standing there with tears on my face and snot bubbles in my ten-year old nose, Dad finally called Miss Harrell, who assured me through him that the way I had done my report was fine and she looked forward to reading it the next day.

I blew a worry gasket for nothing.

The next morning at breakfast, Dad got out his Bible and--in a rare moment of going off script--handed it to me. The presence of Holy Writ next to our cereal wasn't bizarre--we always had devotions of some sort before going to school in that day--but the strange thing was that Dad asked me to choose a passage of the Bible to read out loud.

I flipped toward the back of Dad's well-marked Scriptures and landed in the First Epistle of Peter. It made sense to me...I always felt Peter's writings got short shrift and went largely overlooked (Today, that's the way I feel about my favorite underrated epistle of Jude). So I chose the fifth chapter of I Peter and read, when I got to the words of verse seven: "Cast all your anxiety on Him, because he cares for you."

To which my mother, never one to miss making a point on the spur of the moment, said, "Now that would've been a good verse for you to read last night!"

There's a good bit of that we all can pull into our own lives. Even if you're an atheist or agnostic and God has no place in how you approach the concerns of your life, you can probably affirm that out of every ten things we worry about, nine of them never happen.

I'm not talking about clinical anxiety, the type that can occur in reaction to past trauma or other issues and must be battled with medication, so don't think I'm saying everyone in that camp just needs to buckle down and try harder. I'm talking about general reaction to situations. Exam week at school. Making sure your family can meet budget this month. And such and such.

Some of these things we control to a certain respect. We can study for exams. We can control spending. But there are other things that vex our minds and hearts. This past week I was sent my edited manuscript for Litany of Secrets and needed to look it over...all 380-plus pages. Lots of work. Friday night we had a tornado slice just a mile south of us and were without power for some time. I talked with a friend who is in the throes of what looks like it may be a fairly painful divorce, and my heart went out to this friend. We have a vacation to Atlanta in July to plan for. And on and on it goes.

It's at times like these I have to pull back and realize that my life and my very self are bigger and more important than all of my circumstances, emotional reactions, and restorative attempts put together. If God exists, then he is the sounding board to whom I have access. I can dump my reactions on him, knowing he can absorb them but also that he can help me see a way through everything. And no matter what, that's a lot better than obsessing over things I have little (if any) control over in the long run.

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