POSTED ON MARCH 16, 2011:
Not to Worry
Anxiousness amounts to emptiness
It was my last year in college and lots of things were taking shape. I was engaged to be married, finishing the most important course offerings in both my major and minor and in the process of choosing a graduate school. My life was as good as it had ever been, and the future seemed to be promising some great things.
A succession of events took place over a matter of months, however, that sent my confidence spiraling down into a chasm of doubt. It all started with a serious knee injury during a game of basketball. There are many physical activities I am capable of performing at a decent level. Basketball is not one of them. My knee injury led to surgery, which led to more pain, limited mobility and time away from classes during the most significant time of my final fall semester.
As I began to recover from the knee injury after Christmas break, everything seemed to have slowed down. My bride-to-be and I had been leaning towards one particular graduate program in the Windy City and we set off to visit. This program was, without a doubt, the number one place I wanted to attend. The best part was they really wanted me too. Entrance into the particular degree program that I had chosen was quite exclusive and to be eligible was a real honor.
When we visited the school and suburban Chicago, however, we had what I like to call a "grounding experience." For me, it was like taking off in a hot-air balloon without untying the ropes, only to be pulled back down to earth after a very small amount of time above the ground. We were overwhelmed by a number of perceived barriers to thriving, or even surviving, in such an environment. The growing disappointment from our trip was compounded by a major conflict back home, between the two of us and also with some beloved members of our family. Soon after, the graduate school in Chicago told me that I had to make a decision. When I asked them to be patient with us because we were not yet ready, they informed me that my delaying had taken too long and my spot was given to the next person in line. I was shell-shocked and keenly aware that application deadlines for any other school were approaching quickly.
I understand none of these things were major tragedies. On the contrary, they were just strenuous enough to cause a nagging sense of worry to develop that would haunt me for quite some time. Most people know this kind of worry. It's the type that starts in your brain, moves to a heaviness in your chest, and eventually grows to affect your entire body.
It's the type of worry that stays with you everywhere. Even if you push it out of your mind, it seems to always be hanging around, waiting to remind you of its presence. I like to compare worry of this nature to the tickling sensation in the throat that accompanies sinus issues ... you can try to ignore it, drench it, and medicate it, but eventually it will make you cough. For months, I was utterly consumed with worry accompanied by several questions. Where will I go to school? Will the degree program be as good as the one I left behind? Will we, as young newlyweds, be able to support ourselves without our parents' help? Where is my career headed, anyway?
I can remember clearly the day that my accumulating worries evaporated. I was sitting around a table with some friends who shared my major and were also in their last year of college. As I shared my concerns about graduate programs, young-married life, and career options, I found that I was not alone. Most of the young men at my table were dealing with many of the same issues.
There was a young woman sitting with us, however, who had become a good friend to me in the previous months. To be honest, she put most of us guys to shame in terms of intellect and maturity. Her words to me were simple: "Just be willing to go where God leads you and you will always be in the right place." Upon hearing this simple axiom, I had another "grounding experience." This time, however, it felt really good. I was reminded that the feeling of control is often an illusion. Instead of being paralyzed by futility, I chose to remember my belief that a more powerful being has total control. If I would simply follow Him, I had no reason to worry.
What my friend was saying, in effect, came straight from the words of Jesus: "Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? ... But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matthew 6:27, 33-34, NIV).
This month marks 10 years since my dear friend spoke those potent words to me. In just a decade, my life has taken a course that I could never have predicted. It hasn't all been easy, and some of it has been painful. But it's been very sweet. Had I been in complete control I am convinced it would not have been nearly as fulfilling. In fact, it probably would have been disastrous.
I wish I could say this was the last time that worry consumed me. I was barely in my twenties back then! Adulthood is fraught with concerns and their gravity only increases as new responsibilities emerge. I am often tempted to try and take back whatever control I think I've lost. When I do so, however, I remember my friend's words and come back to the words of Jesus.
Worrying profits a person nothing. If we seek the life that God has for us, the life that follows in step with His leadership, everything we need has already been provided. Amazingly, God has a way of allowing us to enjoy the ride at the same time. If you are willing to be led by God, you will always be in the right place.
-(Eric Costanzo is Minister of Community Ministries and Teaching Pastor at First Baptist Church in downtown Tulsa.)
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A36993