Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Shrimp nets, waiting rooms and today's dreadful meeting.

Shrimp nets, waiting rooms and today’s dreadful meeting.

I worry more than you. I know, right now some of you think that’s impossible, but it’s true. Promise. My level of worry makes you look like Cool Hand Luke, like the calmest person on the planet.

For instance, did you lose thirty pounds before your wedding out of sheer terror? I did. Did you wake up every night in a cold sweat for three months? I did. Were you living in a trailer home in a retirement community slowly becoming like an old person with a rocking chair, foot massager and unusually strong affection for the show “Everybody Loves Raymond?” I was, but that’s beside the point.

I heart worrying.

Over the years, I’ve become like a Doctor of worry. I have a waiting room and anytime I feel the big, scary emptiness of peace descending upon my life, I go out into it and interview a few new worries. “Ohh, two people unsubscribed from the Prodigal Jon’s mailing list, interesting, that’s an OK worry. Not going to be able to attend our small group’s couples retreat, disappointing some friends? That’s not bad, but wait what’s this? A coworker is upset and wants to have a meeting with me and my boss. Bingo, this is the one.”

That is where I find myself this very morning. In a few hours I will have that meeting which makes me want to throw up a little or maybe a lot. This coworker is right, I probably have been rude or had a bad attitude with her. That is another, perhaps bigger issue to address, but this is about worry. So I sit here early in the morning with that future conversation dominating my thoughts.

Why do I do it? Why worry? Two reasons: I want the distractions and I want to get high.

Worry, is like wrapping yourself tightly in a burlap blanket. It’s uncomfortable, it doesn’t feel good, but it still cocoons you from the outside world. Instead of focusing on my marriage and the relationships in my life that require real work, I can focus my time and energy on this morning’s meeting. Instead of dealing with real big, gross issues, I can magnify this little one and get lost in it. I can create a black hole that will drown out all the real issues.

And best of all, when this massive worry does not come true, I’ll get a little endorphin rush. I’ll feel excited and a little bit intoxicated by the sense of peace that sweeps over me after my catastrophic vision of the future does not come to fruition. But it’s a short lived high and I am forced to immediately start interviewing another worry.

So how can I stop worrying? The truth is that I hate when people say to me, “You’re having a problem? You should read the bible more.” That’s such a pat, empty answer but in this case, doing what a Bible verse suggests has actually helped me.

In 1 Peter 5:7 it says:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

I used to think that just meant saying, “God help me with all this worry. Ugh, I am afraid of this meeting this morning. Amen.” But then I started to think about what “casting” really meant.

When I was a child, we used to vacation at Sunset Beach in North Carolina. We’d always rent a house on the canal so that we could fish. Sometimes we’d use a small net to catch shrimp and minnows for bait. The net was about ten feet wide when flung open correctly and had small weights at the bottom that would sink in the water as soon as it hit.

It looks easy to do. When you see someone that is good at it, this tight ball of mesh net will open and flare into a wide circle that cuts through the air and covers the water. But when you don’t know how to do it, the net stays closed, and a heavy clump of uselessness hits the water.

I decided that verse was not asking me to just casually throw big clumps of worry at God, it was asking me to cast them, to spread them wide and really look at what I was giving him. Like a master with a net, I needed to be deliberate in my confession of anxiety, to take my time. My prayers became longer and more honest as I detailed out what I was really afraid of:

“Lord, I’m having a hard time working with this person. I feel ineffective. I don’t feel good enough for this job and I am afraid when they tell me what I’ve done wrong I will rush to agree since I don’t really believe in myself. Take this anxiety Lord, take this meeting and make it yours not mine for I am powerless and fearful of ever leaving your hand.”

Do I still worry? Yes, but by casting my worries out in detail, most of the time I am able to see they’re not that big. They’re just not as scary as when they’re hidden in shadows.

I don’t know what will happen this morning. I still feel a little sick to my stomach about the whole thing. But I threw a net last night and I threw a net this morning. I no longer have to carry these worries around. They’re somewhere out in the ocean that is God. And that’s all the reason I need not to fear.


Meeting was great. My coworker was kind and courageous in sharing her concern with my attitude. And she was right. I was being a jerk to her. I need to work on my attitude because I can’t stand the idea that I write blogs about God and then treat the people in my life like that. All in all it was an experience I hope to learn from.

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