Thursday, March 20, 2008

How to Stop Worrying

I have always struggled with worry and fear in my life.

As a young girl, I learned the hard way that girls my age were wrapped up in their own cliques and cattiness. Even the church girls. Actually, especially the church girls. Looking back, I thought I was shy. I was wrong. I was introverted, yes, but not exactly shy. I just didn't have the opportunity to shine in my own way for most of my school years. Up until 4th grade, I was fearless and just assumed that everybody loved me. But then I woke up to the realization that every girl but myself in Sunday School had a group of friends that she sat with, while I sat alone. It was a startling revelation. From that day forward, I longed to belong and be admired by my peers. It was a futile desire. The few friends I had were equally ostracized by the popular group. I was ignored by most of the rest of the kids I knew, and even bullied by a few. While I worried away my school years, wondering why nobody liked me, I was wasting precious time in developing my character to become more like Christ's ... not like Lisa's or Michelle's or Nicole's or Ann's. It took until my freshman year of college to understand how wrong I was to base my worth on the opinions of others.

Then, when I gained some weight in Bible College (stupid pizza bites and pre-plated brownies in the cafeteria!), I worried about how I looked to other people ("fat" was a new thing for me... I had been too gangly until college) and got into an obsession with comparing my body shape to every other girl's around me. It was like an addiction; I couldn't make myself stop. Do I look like that? Am I fatter or skinnier than her? Am I uglier or prettier than her? If she is less attractive than I am, will I appear more attractive when I am around her? Finally, I felt so guilty, I asked my resident assistant to call me out on the issue and hold me accountable for breaking the cycle of negativity and--let's face it--covetousness. With a lot of prayer, God's grace, and a few uncomfortable accountability sessions, I did finally overcome my unhealthy obsession.

After college, I walked into my dream job. A dream that you who have followed this blog for the past four years know turned into a nightmare. Once the nightmare began, I felt overwhelmingly incompetent and stressed. My body turned against me. I felt sick to my stomach every morning I went to work. I had nightmares and sleepless nights by turn. My health deteriorated. I went through what was probably a clinical depression. When at last I realized something was terribly wrong, I took immediate action: I quit my job, broke my lease, and moved in with my parents while starting over and going through a healing process mentally and emotionally. Once again, it took a lot of prayer and guidance and clinging to scriptures to bring me back into balance.

The past two years have been ones of positive change for me. I moved back out of my parents' house, found a job in which I can excel, and formed some friendships that challenge, inspire, and encourage me. Slowly, slowly, the worries slipped away.

Yet, recently, I have found myself caught in a cycle of worry and confusion. Part of it is simply that so many parts of my life are up in the air at the moment ... in a good way. Is it time for me to move on and find a better paying position in which I will continue to be challenged? If so, should I consider applying to jobs in other areas of the country? Should I continue to take graduate classes, or should I hold off for awhile? If I decide to move to advance my "career", what will happen to my parents while they try to sell the townhouse? Will the decision I make put my roommate in a bad position? What about other people?

And, perhaps the worst question of all: what if. As in, "what if I make the wrong choice?!" or "what if _[random event]_ doesn't happen?" or "what if _[random person]_ thinks I'm crazy for this?" or "what if they don't understand?" or "what if I offended her/him/them/it when I said what I was thinking?" or ...

What if ... what if ... what if. I could worry for a lifetime about those whats and ifs. But today, while taking some time out to pray and take a few deep breaths (Thank goodness for ladies' rest rooms in offices!), I realized, yet again, that my cycle of doubt and confusion and worry was completely against the commands of God. Seriously. As in:

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’" Matthew 6:30-32
"Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthymeditate on these things." Philippians 4:7-9
"... bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ ..." 2 Corinthians 10:4-6

Friends: hold me accountable in this area. I am really struggling. The future is so complex, and I am such a control freak that I want everything to be absolutely perfect, which I know is not only unrealistic, but also a dangerous attitude to hold. In essence, when I worry like this, I am operating in fear and accusing God of not being in control. AND I am putting more value on the opinions of others than of His. What a slap in His face.

Wow. This post sounds a little more negative than I intended it to sound. I'm happy to have come to this conclusion today. I'm more than a little glad I took some "time out" sitting on the floor in the bathroom with the door locked and my head in my hands, praying to God. I know it is going to be a struggle for me, but I am excited about clinging to my Father's arm when I slip and stumble along the way. I know He will catch me and lead me in His way.

And so, to end this lengthy post, may I quote that wisest of the wise men: Bobby McFerrin ... "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

1 comment:

Mom said...

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths." Prov 3:5-6