Giving Up Worry for Lent

This first appeared in Jackson Citizen Patriot on Friday, March 26. Still relevant, still worrying!

We are now in the season of Lent, a time for giving up certain vices, making sacrifices and striving to do good. This year, I decided to try something different for Lent: giving up worry.

Worry is hereditary, they say–you get it from your children.

Actually, there have been studies that indicate there is a genetic link to worry. Worriers have children who worry. It is connected to a certain part of the brain. I don’t know about genetics, but I do know I learned to worry at the feet of a master, my mother.

Jesus tells us not to worry. But then, he wasn’t a parent. He also died at 33, so he never had to worry about retirement or any of the problems associated with aging which confront our society. And just look where not worrying got him.

All of my life I’ve heard Jesus’ admonition to not worry. I’ve struggled to let go of my worries and chided myself for my lack of faith.

The events I worry about rarely happen, whereas events it never occurred to me to worry about do happen. Therefore, I reason, If I had known to worry about the latter events, then I could have prevented them. However, there have been times when events I’ve worried about did happen–so much for that theory. But at least, after having worried sufficiently, I was prepared for the worst. So worry does have some benefits.

I engage in anticipatory worry, meaning I worry about future events so much ahead of time that by the time the event arrives, I’m relatively calm. If I have already faced the worst possible scenario in my mind, then I’m ready for anything.

I’ve been preparing for my children’s graduations since the day of their birth. By the time the actual day arrives, it should be a cakewalk. Whenever my children have gone away for any length of time, I use this technique. In February, my daughter spent two weeks in Mali, Africa, helping to build a school. After imagining all the worst possible situations, from headhunters to hijackings, months before she left, those two weeks were relatively peaceful.

I worry months in advance in order to be calm when it happens, as opposed to those less skilled worriers who wait until the day is upon them and panic. That’s why I need to have lots of time to prepare mentally for any big event in my own life and my loved ones’ lives.

If I don’t have adequate time, I worry that I’ve forgotten something or just haven’t prepared myself sufficiently. It’s quite an elaborate system that I’ve constructed.

Of course, I recognize all of this is craziness, but that doesn’t make it any easier to stop this process. It’s like an addiction. If I’m not worried it doesn’t feel normal–it feels crazy. So this Lent I decided to admit my powerlessness over worry in my life, turn it over to a higher power and go on with more important aspects of life.

So far this Lent, I have been sorely tested by numerous invitation to worry and have failed miserably. however, our God is a God of forgiveness and second chances. There’s always tomorrow to begin again. In the meantime, I’m counting the days until Lent is over!

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