I have a sweet little grandmother who is currently in her 91st year. For all my life, I have seen her worry and pray. I picture my younger self sitting in her honey scented kitchen, sipping a cup of tea:
She rubs her forehead and says, “I know we aren’t supposed to worry, but someone has just got to.” She tells me about a stray cat she had been feeding but hasn’t come back for three days and how worried she is about it. A story about a neighbor she is worried about in the hospital follows this. And she constantly worries about “what is this world coming to?”––What grandmother doesn’t worry about that?
Does someone have to worry? I saw a meme recently which read: “Mothers don’t sleep. They just worry with their eyes closed.” As a mother, I teeter on the tightrope of concern, fear, worry and planning for future chaos. That kind of instability is not what I want for my life, and Jesus flat out tells me not to live like that:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:25-27, NIV)
In just thinking over last week, these are some things I have encountered as a mother:
My oldest son accepted a place for this coming August at a university over 4,500 miles away. I am planning now how to get him care packages across the Atlantic.
My youngest has been crying most days when we drop her off at school.
My daughter wants to be a surfer, and wetsuits and boards are expensive.
I am having trouble locating enough individually bagged popcorn for a movie night fundraiser at school.
My second son has a strange lump on his head. He doesn’t know how long it has been there. He’s almost a foot taller than me, so I haven’t noticed the back of his head until now, but I am still kicking myself over it.
Are we out of bananas again?
We have a new driver in the house. Are we going to be ok with them driving all our kids to church?
I think we have all settled well in England until one child seriously asks if they can move to the US when they are 16.––“Um, no, and now my heart is just a bit broken because you asked that.”
What’s for dinner? With two teenager boys in the house, gone are the days when I can wing it with grilled cheese for dinner.
We try on last year’s coats, making sure we are ready for when it gets cold. Thankfully, only one child needs a new one now, but I suspect we will need another before winter is out.
A dozen tabs open on my browser; I compare different Airbnb options for our family to get away for a few days after Easter. It is six months away, but I know if I don’t book now, the good, affordable places will be snatched up. This is our last year with my firstborn at home and I want to make some special memories. What will our family dynamic feel like when he is gone?
Is there a better way? Jesus’ command not to worry about your life feels contrary to good mothering. If I don’t worry about what might happen, how can I prepare? My purse always holds a snack and a lollipop in case we need to convince my youngest to be quiet or brave. Foreseeing chaos, mishaps and disasters is what mothering is all about, right?
If I am upfront with myself, there is no precaution available to avoid 99% of what I worry about:
I worry. . .
. . . my kids will get sucked into this world and the toxic messages it wants to whisper in their ears will ruin their lives.
. . . my kids will grow up to resent us for moving to England. It was a rough road. There are “normal” aspects of American life of which they have missed out. When my son goes to university in the States next year, will he feel like he doesn’t quite get American culture after not living there for four formative years?
. . . my kids will walk away from their faith. For their entire lives, intensity characterizes Sunday mornings. As church planters, we handle much of what makes the Sunday service happen. Will our kids have a skewed view of church because of our work? As they grow older, they know more about what makes church hard. Will they inappropriately pin that on God, not people, and consequently turn from him?
. . . what emotional, spiritual and mental effects has the pandemic had upon my children? Will they feel paralyzed to make plans and to dream because of the cancellations and disappointment they have faced in the past two years?
. . . and the list goes on and on. . .
Something in me believes if I worry about it, I am prepared to face it. Perhaps I think I will do better when my child breaks a bone, tries marijuana, or leaves for college if I have first imagined the tensions, ramifications, and implications of those situations. Jesus offers us all something better:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31, NIV)
We must shift our gaze from what is happening around us to the birds. These little creatures flit about without a care in the world. They literally find what they need each day on that very day. “Don’t be afraid,” he tells me. My perfect Father knows how many hairs are on my greying head and He is caring for me and my family no matter if we experience some falls. He has us.
My grandmother got it wrong about someone having to worry. What she got right is the way she takes all of those worries to God. She learned this practice while raising three daughters on a shoestring, caring for her aging mother most of her adult life and becoming a widow over 30 years ago. Every time we talk, she says, “I do not know how people make it without the Lord. He is everything to me.” We face timed on her 91st birthday and she talked about how she never expected to live this long and how there is not much left she can do. “But, I can pray, so that is perhaps why I am still here,” she smiled. I believe she is right. I cannot imagine my life without the steadiness of her prayers. My precious “Mom-Mom,” as we call her, still battles worrying each day, but she experiences the beautiful, transformational truth of Psalm 84:3:
“Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
Lord Almighty, my King and my God.”
Living in the presence of God is the only way to experience freedom from the worry and fears of motherhood.