I need to start going up to the front of the church for Children’s Time. Maybe children’s messages have gotten better since I was a kid, or maybe I’m just in that developmental phase where mid-life people can only digest 2nd-grade style messages. But I get a lot out of what we should probably be calling Parables for Adult Dummies.
Yesterday’s children’s message was about carrying more worries and burdens than we should. Big, heavy books about things like school and parents and friends and college went into a backpack that wasn’t designed to hold that much. Then the backpack wouldn’t close properly and the children took turns trying to lift the backpack, but they couldn’t. They couldn’t lift it because it was too heavy for them.
One of the things I am really, really not good at is doing nothing. The whole idea of casting cares goes against every instinct in me. And I realized as I’ve given more thought to the children’s message that I have a deeply-rooted belief that casting cares really equates to doing nothing – and it’s for people who are lazy or not accountable or not strong or all of the above.
I am a project manager. A person who manages projects. A person who by nature organizes things into categories and lays out a plan of action. A list maker. A worker of puzzles. A builder of schedules. I’ve project managed pretty much everything in my life: thousands of work programs, house-hunting, lemonade stands, storm preparedness, marriage, divorce, and even Christmas decorations. If you think I’m kidding I can show you my three-tab divorce tasks spreadsheet or the last 5 years worth of Christmas preparation docs (which I keep for historical reference so I don’t repeat gifts and to ensure I remember all of the decorations that now won’t fit into one attic space).
The point is, I like to have a plan. And casting cares seems like no action plan. And even more than that, casting cares seems like an inaction plan.
I realized yesterday and today that just like with any work project, I examine my cares and decide which ones I’m going to handle – which ones go into the backpack – and which ones I’m going to delegate. I manage my cares. Things I think I can control or fix on my own, I keep. And things I believe are outside of my control I talk to God about.
Prepare for a hurricane? I got that. Buy water, take pictures of valuables, get the generator running, have a just-in-case evacuation plan.
Prepare for flooding? I got nothing. If water is 10 feet high, I have no control. Dear God, it’s me Beth, and I need you to take that one.
Medical procedure? I got that. Check references, check stats, research possible outcomes and options to decrease recovery time.
Mom has a blood clot? I can’t heal people and surgery doesn’t fix that. Dear God, it’s me Beth, and I need you to take this one, too.
I’m pretty sure that this is not at all how I’m supposed to be doing it. Peter doesn’t say cast your care when you run out of options, or cast the cares you can’t do anything about, or hey, you should just cast the most scary cares. He said cast ALL your care.
I think of myself as a person who really has faith in God. But now I wonder if I have a lot more faith and trust in people and in myself than I do in God – that it’s only when I feel like I can’t really rely on me or some person or thing I trust that I actually cast my care. I think maybe handling things makes me feel brave, and maybe that’s not brave at all. Maybe that’s just competent.
What if the absolute bravest thing I can do is to relinquish more and trust more, or even all? That doesn’t mean I don’t do what I can do – like gas up the generator before a storm – but it does mean I make a decision, or even repeated decisions, to fret less.
What if the absolute bravest thing I can do is come to grips with the fact that really not much of anything is actually within my control?
What if the absolute bravest thing I can do is make a decision every day, or even a hundred times a day, to enjoy my life even though not everything in it is going as expected?
Remember that feeling of glee and freedom on the last day of school when the kids all got off the bus and started chanting “no more pencils, no more books…”
What if the absolute bravest thing I can do and the way to be really free is to toss those remaining books out of my backpack?