Move slow. Don’t worry.
I repeated this to myself as I hiked wooded trails a few days ago. I stopped for a moment and took a deep breath, filling my senses with cedar and pine. I don’t remember ever being able to smell the forest so strongly before. The day was clear. Dry. Warm. There might be snakes…
Move slow. Don’t worry.
I started walking again, frustrated at the low-grade anxiety that had been present for a year and a half now, creeping in at any given moment. I am weary of it. Weary of waking at night in a panic from frightening dreams. Weary of the invasion of “what ifs” that distract during the day and keep me from being grounded in the reality of the moment. What ifs like, “What if my kid gets sick…really sick?”, “What if my husband gets in a car accident today on the way to work?” What if something happens to me and my family is left grieving? Weary.
A weary world rejoices.
I realize I’ve started walking fast again…
Move slow. Don’t worry. Move slow. Don’t worry.
As I walk, I pray for peace and joy. ’Tis the season. Peace…serenity. Joy…Exuberance for life. Am I exuberant for life? No. I’m worried about life. Always worried. “Trying to get ahead of the curve” my spiritual counselor called it when I sat in his office the day before. Trying to plan now for what might be coming. Trying to be prepared for disaster. Sounds good. Sounds responsible. Sounds exhausting. Sounds impossible.
Move slow. Don’t worry. Peace and joy. Peace. Joy.
Where is Jesus in the worry? Where is the peace and joy? Where is the freedom from fear? I need to encounter Jesus. I need him to speak into the waves and wind of my soul and bring peace.
As I walk, I think on these things. I cast all my cares on him because he cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). I look down at the bruised needle prick in the crook of my elbow. Blood drawn that morning to check my nutrient levels, hormones and thyroid. The doctor is looking for the why behind the sleeplessness, anxiety and elevated blood pressure. I try to explain I am a mother of four. That is why I don’t sleep. That is why I am anxious. That is why my blood pressure slightly simmers. Makes sense, she says with a smile.
Still the nurse comes in with her needles and vials. She tells me she is a mother of three. She looks so young. Did I look that young when I was was a mother of only three little ones? She did her job efficiently, chatting cheerfully about her three-year-old and eight-month-old twins. Twins? Holy moly. I wondered if she worries. She didn’t look worried. She didn’t have dark circles under her eyes. She had the alertness of a good night’s rest. How?
Another mother comes to mind. One that had more reason to worry than any other mother that has have ever lived. The mother of Jesus. The first woman to encounter Jesus in Motherhood. Also, so young. Fourteen maybe fifteen-years-old. My daughter just turned twelve. She smiles shy when grown-ups talk to her. Arms and legs longer than she can handle. Smooth brow with no lines etched from decades of worry. No bags of sleeplessness under her green eyes. So young. So…unworried. How? How could this young Mary not be afraid?
The angel told her not to be afraid. A messenger from God with some startling news -and his command was all it took to wipe away worry? She asked one question. How? How could it happen? She was a good girl. A woman of good repute. A virgin. How could a new life grow full in her belly?
By the Spirit, the angel told her. Oh. Ok then.
“…blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:45 - Mary believed God’s words were true. She believed the reality of the truth. She did not create other scenarios in her head and then fret over what might happen. She believed all the things that the angel said and then what? Praised God. She sang a song of praise. She believed then she praised.
Move slow. Don’t worry. Peace. Joy. Believe. Praise.
I stopped walking and took another deep breath. Cedar. Pine. Belief. Praise.
What do I believe? Do I believe that I can really get ahead of the curve? Do I believe that disaster is waiting to consume me? Do I believe that God is good? Do I believe that he cares for me?
“My burden is light,” Jesus said. It doesn’t feel light. I feel weighed down by the four little women I am raising. Every time I jolt awake in the early morning hours and stumble through dark hallways to their rooms to make sure they are still safe in their beds and breathing, it feels heavy…so heavy. Where is peace? Where is joy?
I cast my cares on him, then I pick them back up again. Could I leave my cares here on the trail with the cedar trees and the falling acorns? I don’t think so. They are too important to me. If I leave my cares, who will worry about my loved ones? So I pack them back up, tucked in close where I can find them easily.
How could Mary not be afraid? I would have been terrified to birth and raise the Son of God. I would have fretted about a premature delivery (no NICU then), proper nutrition (how would I know if his iron levels were good?), the best education (Yale? Harvard? Not even options), protecting him at all times, maybe with bubble wrap (not even a thing yet). These are just some of the worries, the cares and concerns that empty the heart of belief and silence the lips from praise.
Not Mary though. She believed and then she praised God. Praise preceded by belief. She believed there would be fulfillment of God’s promise, and then she herself was filled full with the promised Messiah. The miracle of salvation, carried in the womb of a teenage girl, extending grace that has produced thanksgiving in many to the glory of God. The “light and momentary affliction” of her ruined reputation did not outweigh the glory of God’s Son. She had eyes to see the unseen and knew it to be an eternal gift from God (2 Corinthians 4:7-18). She understood something I can’t seem to remember when my eyes first open blurry from sleep. The wonder of the glory of God. The joy of his mercy. The gift of his salvation. The person of Jesus. The reality of hope shining light into the darkness. She knew that God was making all things new, and she had been chosen to participate. She would play a most important role. The words of this young teenage girl are incredible.
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
The doctor just called. Blood work came back. Slight elevation in the white blood cells. Nothing to worry about. Continue to monitor blood pressure. Come back for another test in a month. No big deal. No need to panic. No need to over-dramatize. You are in good health, says the doctor. No need to worry…
Can I believe the truth? Can I trust the reality of today? Can I accept the truth without fear of what is to come? Can I praise God for his mercy today and trust his goodness and care for whatever may come tomorrow?
I want to. I really do.
Belief precedes praise.
What keeps you tangled in fear? What care weighs you down, threatening to crush you, to take your breath away? What concerns race through your mind as you lie in bed at night? What has you walking the dark hallways of your home in the early morning hours? What doubt keeps your lips from praising God?
My prayer for you and me today is that we will believe the truth of who Jesus is and what he has done on our behalf. May we sing God’s praises with Mary. I pray our souls will magnify the Lord. May we trust his care for us in the trenches of motherhood, as we love and serve the ones he has entrusted to us. May the generations whom we have birthed call us blessed, because he who is mighty has done great things for us! May we call his name holy, and pray for his mercy to be poured out on all the generations who fear him. May we praise him for his strength that brings about his plan and purpose when the darkness threatens to overwhelm us. May we praise him for the gift of hope he gives to all who suffer and hunger for goodness. May we rejoice in the God whose pierced hands bought our salvation and whose wounds bring our healing (Isaiah 53:5) I pray for belief. I pray for peace. I pray for joy.
And as I do, my soul does indeed magnify the Lord. May yours as well, my Friend.
I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the LORD heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Psalm 34:1-8
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:27, 32-34
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. John 1:1-5, 14